Yellowstone National Park – At a GlanceOctober 24th, 2012 | Posted by in Parks | Slideshow Pictures | The Places We've Been | United States
I’m going to tell you something reasonably embarrassing about myself so bear with me here as I apprise you of my ignorance. Until last Thursday, when I thought of Yellowstone National Park, the extent of my mental picture could genuinely be described as Yogi’s Jellystone Park complete with trees and park rangers and cartoon bears stealing sandwiches out of picnic baskets. Of course, I’d heard of Old Faithful too, but that didn’t really impact my enthusiasm much. “Oh cool. That really big forest also has hot water? Neato.”
Man was I ever missing something (except for the park ranger part – Ranger Smith is a dead ringer). Yellowstone is an unbelievable expanse of beautiful American land filled with things you see in National Geographic but can’t even fathom a place on Earth where they might exist. Well friends, that place is Wyoming. It was like being in a store full of sweets and fancy deserts and then finding out that the fantastic treat in front of you was not a cupcake, but the Earth. Nature is amazing! Amidst the park’s ranging landscapes and regal wildlife lie harsh mineral formations, colorful bacterial mats, and incandescent steaming springs that resemble what you might imagine if you tried to picture the baby of the Caribbean and the Arctic. Though impossible to name a favorite part of the trip around the loop, two sections that found themselves among the days’ highlights were Norris and Midway Geyser Basins. For more specifics on the park and a slideshow of some of our pictures, check out Ian’s at-a-glance below.
Location: Northwest Wyoming, with small sections crossing into Montana and Idaho
Nearest Towns: Gardiner, MT (north entrance) and Cody, WY (east entrance)
Founded: 1872 as the first national park in the world
Area: 2.2 million acres (over 3,400 square miles)
Hours and Seasons: The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but only the park’s north entrance (from Gardiner, MT) is plowed during the winter. In winter you can travel via snowmobile, skis, or snowcat.
Entrance Fees: $25 per vehicle (valid for 7 days)
Description: Yellowstone National Park covers mountains, valleys, meadows, forests, grasslands, lakes, rivers, and canyons, but is perhaps most famous for its geothermal features. The park contains over half of the known geothermal features (geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles). In addition to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, fish, and reptiles, Yellowstone is home to one of the largest collections of megafauna in the United States, including bison, elk, pronghorn, mule deer, moose, coyotes, black bears, grizzly bears, and wolves.
Things To Do:
- Drive (or cycle!) the Loop Road through the park.
- Visit the too numerous to list here geothermal features. Some famous ones are Mammoth Hot Springs, Steamboat Geyser (the tallest geyser in the world), and Fountain Paint Pot.
- Take in the show at Old Faithful, perhaps the most famous geyser in the world. Old Faithful is called such because its next eruption is predictable to within 10 minutes around 90% off the time. Boards in the Old Faithful visitors center will show the next predicted eruption, giving you time to explore the exhibits and find a good spot.
- Camp in one of the park’s 12 campgrounds (over 2,000 camp sites). For the more adventurous, backcountry permits are available.
- Take a hike on the park’s 1,100 miles of hiking trails. If going through the backcountry be “beary” careful!
- Fish for trout in Yellowstone Lake or the area’s many rivers.
- Go on a horse ride or wagon ride. Some options include a cookout steak dinner.
- Visit the numerous visitor centers, education center, and museums.
- Check off as many wildlife species as you can spot.