Location: Wyoming, United States of America
Arriving in Yellowstone was pretty surreal after the long drive west from Minnesota, and driving through the gates was pure elation! I never thought I’d visit but was glad that we managed to get ourselves over to this side of the States.
The best way to experience the park is with your own car and at least a long weekend, the park is really big and driving for over an hour between sights isn’t uncommon. Give yourself at least three full days, but four or five days would be better; and if you can do a week or more you’ll get to do and see a lot more of the park and at a easier pace than most people. There are a lot of accommodation options, however, be mindful that cabins and hotels can be booked out for some time in advanced. Camping in the park is a good and cheaper option ranging anywhere between $21.50 and $47.50 depending on your site and facilities. We camped at Canyon Campground which is really close the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and was the most central of all campsites in the park. There was an information centre, general stores, gas station, restaurants, pay showers, a coin laundry and an RV dump station available.
Of the sights my favorites included the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was beautiful, and we went to view it from two different vantage points early in the morning and at sun set. If your fitness is good then I highly recommend doing Uncle Tom’s Trail, located on the Southern Rim Drive towards Artists Point. The trail descends down 152 metres (500 feet) along a series of paved inclines and more than 300 steps where you can see, hear, and feel the power of the Lower Falls. It’s pretty incredible!
Standing in front of Old Faithful I felt like I was at a concert. There is seating all around it and it was packed with people all waiting for the old geyser to blow its top. I thought this would be really lame, but it was actually really cool to see it spray so hight in the air, and with the sunlight refracting through it there was a rainbow trailing behind it which was very picturesque.
My absolute favorite sight in the park was the Grand Prismatic Spring. It’s big and steamy and looks like a rainbow hole to hell. I won’t lie, I kinda wanted to jump in it and imagined myself falling like Alice In Wonderland in a scolding rainbow tunnel of boiling hot water, but instead I decided to hike up a nearby mountain for a better view. I have to warn you, this is off the trail and the slopes are steep and littered with logs which probably can dislodge at any time, so although the view was lovely, it was also very dangerous, so do it at your own risk!
The sights that I could have skipped included the Firehole Lake Drive and Great Fountain Geyser, as after awhile you get a bit geysered out, and after seeing Old Faithful it really pales in comparison. The Sulfur Caldrons and the Mud Volcano’s were cool but again, not really a must do in Yellowstone National Park if you’re short on time. On the other hand, Mammoth Hot Springs were a bit hit and miss as well, they don’t always flow and are very unpredictable so give it a try and see if it flows, and if it does it’s pretty nice to see.
A few more tips on camping in Yellowstone:
- Check dates for camp ground closures, as the smaller ones have a seasonal schedule.
- Book ahead in peak season, but you can turn up and book on the same day in shoulder season and find something.
- Check the weather before you go as heavy rains mean dangerous roads and heavy mist will shroud the sites, plus it’s not really much fun camping in stormy weather.
- Be aware if the wildlife, particularly bears, so leave no food or scraps lying around your campsite and pay attention to the designated wash up and garbage areas. If you come too close to wildlife you will be fined and the animal destroyed!
The drive is very long, but now that I’m at the halfway point of my road trip across America, I’m pretty excited to get to Colorado – bring it on!
Image 4 by Auyeung Photography, all others by Jelena Stipanicev.