The Great American Road Trip: Guide to Yellowstone National Park
Wyoming has been the most beautiful state thus far. Today we spent 11 hours in the car on our way to Yellowstone via US-16, I-90, US-16 again, WY-31, WY-30, and then I-14. Let me just say wow! We are in big sky country and I’m experiencing a vastness I never have before. There is nothing to block your view and the eye stretches so far here. So much so that you can see whole weather fronts pass through and the exact line where they start and end.
We’re all giddy as we pass into the Yellowstone borders and are soon met by a Buffalo traffic jam! They are majestic beasts, larger than I ever imagined and very fluid-like in their movements. I also am overly entertained at how they appear to be wearing furry pants on their front legs.
We are staying at Canyon Campground, in the north eastern quadrant of Yellowstone. We chose this site to be close to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the Grand Loop Road, Yellowstone Lake, and Mammoth Hot Springs. Note that the campsite is at 8,000 feet above sea level and we felt it! Give yourself time to adjust when planning out hikes. We, for example, planned to drive the Grand Loop Road for our first full day, giving ourselves time to adjust before our day hike.
Hallelujah we have water! You forget how much of a luxury it is to have access to drinking water, sinks and flushing toilets. And the best part is…we have showers!! Happy dancing going on over here. The showers are attached to the check-in office/ranger station and you are given tokens to use them when you check in to your campsite. Two showers per day. We had three people so we pooled out tokens for the three nights and each had two showers. Either way, if you feel so inclined to shower two times a day or maybe you slip and fall in mud on your walk back from your shower and need another one, you may pay for extra showers.
See & Do
Well all of it duh! But since you most likely are only here for a couple of days I would say these are your top 5 musts
- The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Do an all day hike here!
- Mammoth Hot Springs
- Lower Geyser Basin and surrounding hot springs. This includes Old Faithful but to be honest I didn’t enjoy it. (gasp!)
- Hike the Union Falls trail. It is 15.6 miles out and back and lets you explore the southern region of the park.
- If you find yourself here for a long stint, hike the Thorofare and South Boundary trails for an immersive and varying Yellowstone experience. It is an 8 day trek.
For more information on a Grand Canyon hike, the Grand Loop Road, the geysers and the hot springs, check back next Monday and Wednesday!
It is cold here at night. We’re here the last week of July/first week of August and the nights are 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Our pajamas weren’t cutting it and we stopped somewhere off I-90 to buy matching sweatsuits…yes matching and yes we acted out a lot of 90s boy band dance moves in them. Judge away.
Go to the Ranger talks! We went to one and learned that the Magma below Yellowstone is 2 to 7 miles below the surface. In the rest of the world, magma is usually 25 to 50 miles below the surface. We learned that Yellowstone is home to over 50% of the world’s geysers. We learned that scientists have only discovered 3% of microorganisms in the park. To put this in perspective of what is yet to be discovered and harnessed; Yellowstone is where scientists discovered the enzyme to replicate DNA. And last but not least, we learned to not veer from the path when hiking by the canyon. (This is very important information we could have used a day prior! Read next Monday’s post to see why).
You will want to buy everything in the Canyon Village market/gift shop. Or at least I did. Beautiful ceramic mugs and coffee table books and locally made jams and jerky and beers and goodies. Plan your budget and suitcase accordingly.
Every day around 5:00pm you will encounter Buffalo traffic jams on the road through Hayden valley. It’s both awesome and annoying. Also keep your eyes peeled when driving through this valley for bear and wolf sightings. Lamar Valley is great for wildlife spottings too.