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By Bryanna Royal
Yellowstone National Park. The park of parks. We had the awesome opportunity last year to spend five weeks in this beautiful haven of wilderness and wildlife. Now it is my personal mission to inspire as many people as possible to visit. Yup, it’s that great.
Yellowstone is full of world famous sites as well as hidden treasures. During our time there, we were able to see a lot of them. I think it would take a lifetime to really see everything Yellowstone has to offer.
Here are some of the more iconic sites to see in Yellowstone.
This is the most well-known geyser in the park and for good reason. Like clockwork, you will be able to see the most majestic geyser eruption the park has to offer!
I would suggest visiting Old Faithful several times. Watching it erupt at different times throughout the day is really special. You should even stay after sunset to watch it erupt under the stars.
Check out our post for some other great ideas on things to do in the Old Faithful area.
Near Old Faithful is another well-known place to visit: the Grand Prismatic. The Grand Prismatic sits in the Midway Geyser Basin and is the largest hot spring in the park.
Here you will see colors that you didn’t even know existed. There is a boardwalk through this thermal feature because the entire area is just a crust that would give way to the boiling water below if someone stepped on it.
Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs seems like a little city within the park. Driving in, you see actual houses, a gas station, restaurant, and a hotel. I think one of the houses even had a trampoline.
Well, you see that every day, so bring on the thermal features!
In Mammoth, you can see the Hot Spring Terraces. These are really cool. They look like something from the planet Krypton. There are different levels to the terraces and you can walk up the boardwalk to see them all.
You can also tour Fort Yellowstone in Mammoth. This is an actual fort used by the U.S. Army to help control poaching, vandalism, and other problems that were going on in Yellowstone.
We really liked seeing the Roosevelt Arch, which is about 5 miles north of Mammoth Hot Springs and serves as the north entrance to the park. It’s a great photo opportunity!
You can also check out the town of Gardiner, Mont.. There are some wonderful restaurants that you can actually eat on the roof and overlook the hills of Yellowstone.
There are many things to do in the Mammoth Hot Springs area.
You can definitely make a day of visiting the Canyon Village. There is an education center where there are several ranger-led programs including the Junior Ranger program for kids, great hiking, and definitely great scenery.
There are upper and lower viewing areas for the canyon and falls as well Artist’s Point, which is a famous spot for viewing the Grand Canyon. Can you say selfie?
Now, on to some of the off-the-beaten path things to check out in Yellowstone. Here are a couple of our favorites.
Between Mammoth Hot Springs and Gardiner, just on the Montana border, there is a spot called Boiling River. This is where the Gardiner River, which is usually ice cold, meets up with a hot spring. The result is great place to get in the river and feel that perfect combination of hot and cold.
The Gardiner River moves quick, so beware. Keep a tight hold on small children and watch your footing as you go. There are some larger boulders in place to block some of the current, but navigating the river can be tricky.
The other thing I would suggest is wearing some type of toe-covered water shoe. The rocks in the river hurt our feet and you don’t want to stub your toe while trying to stay upright.
Firehole Swimming Hole
Another really cool place to swim is in the Firehole River. There is a place known as the swimming hole that is also fed from a hot spring, so it the temperature of the water is very comfortable.
Again, be careful of the current. It doesn’t look like a rushing river like the Gardiner River, but there is definitely a current that can take you down river if you aren’t careful.
There is a really interesting little cave up river a bit that is worth swimming up to. There may be some dare-devils cliff jumping near the cave, so watch out for them.
It may look like a fun experience, but you could get hit with a $100 fine by the rangers, at best, or land on a rock just below the dark water. It’s probably not worth the risk
Nez Perce Ford Picnic Area
Just down the road from the Mud Volcano, Dragon’s Mouth, and Sulphur Caldron thermal features is Nez Perce Ford picnic area. This is a great little spot that is right on the Yellowstone River.
We had a nice little picnic here and then splashed around a bit in the river to cool off.
There are grills at the picnic area, so you could fire up the barbecue and have a great afternoon. After lunch, go check out the thermal features right up the road.
The Yellowstone valleys
The other great thing about Yellowstone is that it’s like vacationing inside a zoo. During our visit, we saw HUNDREDS of buffalo roaming the beautiful landscapes in Yellowstone. We also saw a few grizzly bears, otters, elk and other animals during our visit.
A couple of the best places to see these animals are the two valleys in Yellowstone. Hayden Valley is right in the heart of Yellowstone and has several pull-outs off the road where you can stop and gaze at animals. This is a great place to bring binoculars and just watch the beautiful animals.
The other great spot to animal watch is Lamar Valley, which is toward the northeast end of the park. Here you’ll see loads of buffalo and, in the spring, you may even be able to spot a wolf hunting here.
One thing to keep in mind as you are in the park is that as docile these animals may seem, they can be extremely dangerous. There are very specific distances you must keep from wildlife, so please follow these rules.
To really enjoy the park, your first concern should be the safety of you and your family.
Here is some more information on staying safe in Yellowstone.
For any other information on Yellowstone, visit the National Park’s website at www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm