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Yellowstone National Park
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Yellowstone National Park Tourism: Best of Yellowstone National Park
Bison roam, geysers mist, and hundreds of hot springs explode in America's first National Park
Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is a national treasure. Located primarily in Wyoming, the park is so massive that it extends into Montana and Idaho and has five separate entrances. Yellowstone is a real hothead: It contains half of the world's known geothermal features, including geysers, hot springs, and boiling mud pots. The most famous is Old Faithful, a geyser that has reliably erupted for decades. You'll need a vehicle to get the most out of the park, but its sprawling size doesn’t mean you’ll be in isolation. In fact, you'll be joined by more than a million visitors during the busy summer season. Prepare for traffic jams caused by humans and bison alike. Luckily, there are plenty of places to rest around the park, including nine lodges and 2,000 campsites.
Essential Yellowstone National Park
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My Ultimate Checklist to Yellowstone National Park
As an avid camper, I’m all about hitting the road for my next outdoor adventure. But Yellowstone is such a vast area with so many knock-your-hiking-boots-off sites, it pays to plan ahead so you can make the most of your time. Below are some of my favorite places that I visited during my last road trip, along with the ones I’ve earmarked for my next visit.
TA_ColleenS, Seattle, WA
- Beartooth Barbecue607Located near the West Entrance of Yellowstone in Montana, Beartooth Barbecue is a good spot for brisket, ribs, baked beans and Texas toast. It’s definitely tastier than most things you’ll find in the park, and the down-home food really hits the spot after a day on your feet.
- Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins2,425Camping is great, but so is, you know, an actual bed. If you’re yearning for the latter, rest assured that Yellowstone has several lodges in and around the park. My vote goes to Mammoth Hot Springs, which was recently renovated and is available even in the wintertime.
- Norris Campground74Forgot to make a reservation? That can be tough if you want a space in a park as popular as Yellowstone. But Norris Campground, located near the Museum of the National Park Ranger, is first-come first-serve for all of its 111 sites. Just remember, it’s not always open, so check the park’s website before driving up.
- Bridge Bay Campground253Another great spot for folks who brought their fishing gear or boats, Bridge Bay is located near Yellowstone Lake. While it’s incredibly scenic, it’s also a bit rustic—you’ll need to travel to another campground for a shower or electricity.
- Canyon Village Campground334If that “middle of wilderness” vibe gives you the heebie-jeebies, opt for Canyon Village Campground. This spot is centrally located in Canyon Village, with tent camping, RV camping, and lodges nearby—so you won’t feel abandoned or alone. It’s also an easy drive to the Upper Falls, Artist Point, and Inspiration Point.
- Canyon Visitor Education Center144Yellowstone’s beauty speaks for itself, but learning the history of the land brought my appreciation to an even deeper level. Canyon Visitor Education Center gives an engaging overview on that history and the people who lived there. Take in one of the center’s movies while you rest your feet, too.
- Slough Creek Campground26If you’re a fishing fiend, Slough Creek could be your trout heaven, a place where you can break away from the crowds and fly-fish till the sun goes down. You’ll need to hike two-and-a-half to six miles in order to access most of the meadows in the area, which in turn give access to the best fishing spots.
- Gibbon Falls219Unlike some attractions that require a serious slog (looking at you, Lone Star Geyser), Gibbon Falls is ultra-accessible. The best views of this gorgeous 84-feet-high waterfall are on an easy half-mile loop. And it’s right off the road, so it’s a quick stop on your way to Norris Geyser Basin.
- Lone Star Geyser131First the bad news: You’ll need to hike nearly five miles of paved road to reach Lone Star Geyser. Now the good news: It’s so worth it. This powerful geyser can rocket 45 feet in the air. And even when it’s not erupting, the 12-foot cone at its base is an incredible sight.
- Hayden Valley1,126Hoping for a glimpse of wildlife? Hayden Valley, south of Canyon Village on Grand Loop Road, is one of the best places to check off your animal-spotting list—elk, bison, coyotes, and grizzlies are all regulars here. Sunrise and sunset make the valley look especially romantic, too, with the Yellowstone River winding through it.
- Old Faithful General Store152The park doesn’t offer much shopping (it is a National Park after all), but the Old Faithful General Store is packed with goodies to remember your trip, like blankets, coffee mugs, and T-shirts, along with the usual provisions to keep campers fueled up. (Huckleberry ice cream, anybody?)
- Artist Point1,320One of the most iconic vistas of Yellowstone, Artist Point peers over the park’s own Grand Canyon. The lookout is on the south wall of the canyon—a super short walk from South Rim Road—where you can take in Lower Falls for the picture-perfect panorama. Pro tip: Come with a fully charged camera or phone so you can indulge in a lengthy photoshoot.
- Mammoth Hot Springs2,178If you’re coming from Montana, this spot might be your first stop in the park—and what an introduction. The tiered limestone formation of these hot springs feels otherworldly—a frozen moonscape in the middle of America. That said, even amateur hikers can cover this ground; it’s only a couple of miles along a boardwalk to see everything.
- Lamar Valley3,052Set in the northeast corner of the park, Lamar Valley is another excellent destination for wildlife encounters (at a safe distance that would make the CDC proud). It’s big, it’s flat, and if there’s an animal out there, you’ll be able to spot it. Wolf fans hightail it here to see two packs that call it home.
- Firehole Canyon Drive625Another fun drive, Firehole Canyon Drive is a two-mile detour off the Grand Loop Road that leads to a pretty waterfall as well as a swimming hole. (Bring your swimsuit and cannonball right in!)
- Grand Loop Road774I’m a sucker for a scenic drive. The 140-mile Grand Loop Road lets you do a figure eight around some of Yellowstone’s most popular attractions. Prepare for an all-day outing, since tourists and wildlife alike can slow the traffic down.
- Biscuit Basin460Start off with a multicolored bang! With cobalt blue water and rust-red dirt, Biscuit Basin is one of the most vibrantly colored areas of Yellowstone. Take the trail to Mystic Falls for another spectacular sight.
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