Many people think you have to be an adventurer to take a Yellowstone vacation. While there is an abundance of natural trails to keep any outdoorsman’s appetite satisfied, Yellowstone is also the ideal vacation for families and couples to appreciate natural beauty from the comfort of paved lookouts and well maintained boardwalks.
Yellowstone National Park sits atop the Yellowstone Supervolcano, and is the reason for many of the geological features throughout the park. Here are some of the top sights you won’t want to miss:
1. Old Faithful and the Upper, Midway, and Lower Geyser Basins: Old Faithful is that iconic geyser that Yellowstone is famous for. Old Faithful isn’t the largest geyser or even the one with the longest eruptions. It’s known for its predictability… and signs posted will tell you when to expect an eruption, usually accurate within 10 minutes! Old Faithful sits in the Upper Geyser Basin, so while you’re there, I recommend that you take the time to visit the other hot springs, pools, and geysers throughout the area.
2. Grand Prismatic: It’s huge, and stunningly vibrant in color due to all the life that thrives in these hot conditions. The Grand Prismatic is located in the Midway Geyser Basin, but gets its own spot on my list because it’s not to be missed. Boardwalks bring you right next to the pool, but it’s so large, it’s often difficult to really tell what you’re looking at. For a better view, you can take a short walk from the Fairy Falls Trail. For the more adventurous type, hike/scramble up the mountain on the left instead of continuing on the trail (careful, it’s steep) to see a breathtaking view of the Grand Prismatic in its full glory.
3. Mammoth Springs: Located in the Northern area of Yellowstone, the Mammoth Springs look like they’re from another planet. Here you’ll see interesting white-as-snow rock formations, created as minerals have been deposited through the years by boiling hot water coming to the surface.
4. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: Centrally located, this 20 mile long canyon features waterfalls with a roaring river at its base. Here, you’ll get a glimpse of the Lower Falls, which are twice the height of Niagara Falls.
5. Wildlife: Two of the best places to spot wildlife are in the Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley. While on vacation I caught shots of some Elk and Bison!
6. Grand Teton National Park: OK, it isn’t in Yellowstone, but it’s so close that you really can’t justify skipping it. Grand Teton isn’t a large park, and I recommend that you at least take a quick drive past these famous mountains. Oh, and the view from Jenny Lake is stunning and serene.
Tip: If you haven’t guessed it yet, you can’t visit Yellowstone in a day, and it’s not a “drive-through” destination. In researching for my trip, I quickly learned that most travelers recommend anywhere from 3-5 days for first-time visitors. (I spent 6 days there to account for the extra photo time I always need, and it felt just right.)
Be sure to come back to the RCI Blog this week, where we’ll be sharing additional photos of Yellowstone from RCI subscribing members!