I have traveled to over 50 countries on seven continents, more than half of which were visited solo. I love traveling, being outdoors, and hiking. I hope to inspire others to travel and explore further, even if that means going alone.
Hey, I'm Ashley!
With its vast expanses of pristine wilderness, diverse wildlife, and stunning geothermal features, Yellowstone is a unique destination that captures the imagination of millions of visitors every year. Established in 1872, Yellowstone was the first national park in the United States. It has since become a cherished symbol of America’s natural heritage. From the rivers and mountains to the bubbling mud pots and explosive geysers, Yellowstone offers something for everyone.
Yellowstone National Park is open year-round, but the best time to visit depends on your interests and preferences. The summer months (June to August) are the busiest and most popular months to visit Yellowstone. These months offer warmer weather and longer days allowing for more outdoor activities. However, this also means larger crowds, higher prices, and increased traffic.
If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting in the spring (April to May) or fall (September to November). At this time the crowds thin out and the weather is still pleasant. You may also have the opportunity to see unique natural phenomena such as blooming wildflowers, wildlife migrations, or the changing colors of fall foliage.
Winter (December to March) in Yellowstone can be a magical experience with snow-covered landscapes. However, some areas of the park may be closed or inaccessible due to snow. Temperatures can also drop well below freezing.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park depends on your interests, availability, and willingness to deal with crowds or weather conditions. It’s always a good idea to check the park’s website and weather forecasts before planning your trip.
Yellowstone National Park is located in the western United States, spanning across parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. There are several ways to get to Yellowstone, depending on your starting location and mode of transportation.
By Air: The closest major airports to Yellowstone are Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) in Wyoming, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) in Montana, and Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA) in Idaho. From there, you can rent a car or take a tour to the park.
By Car: Yellowstone is easily accessible by car, with several major highways leading to the park. The most popular entrances are the North Entrance (near Gardiner, Montana), the West Entrance (near West Yellowstone, Montana), and the South Entrance (near Jackson, Wyoming). The East Entrance (near Cody, Wyoming) is also an option, but may be closed in the winter due to snow.
By Tour Guide: Several companies offer guided tours to Yellowstone National Park from major cities such as Jackson, Wyoming. These tours typically include transportation, guided activities, and at times accommodations.
Many of the accommodations in Jackson are on the pricey side, but I stayed at Cache House for around $100/night. To ensure a reservation here in peak season, I would make sure to book well in advance.
I know it’s a hostel, but they have some of the most comfortable beds I stayed in all of last year. The bunks are also very cozy. There are reviews about it getting hot in the bunks. I didn’t have a problem with this and they provide a fan if needed. I would recommend bringing ear plugs though, in the event you get someone who’s not so quiet.
If a hostel isn’t for you, I can connect you with a hotel in the area that has been vetted for high quality and service. As a travel agent, I also get access to additional perks. Possible perks include food/beverage credits, breakfast daily, upgrades and extended check-in/out upon availability. Contact me for personalized recommendations for your next trip at no additional cost to you.
There is no need to have legitimate hiking shoes or boots. All of the viewpoints I’ll mention have relatively flat, well established pathways. However, bring comfortable shoes because you’ll be doing a lot of walking to/from each viewpoint.
Depending on when you visit, it could be very hot. Either way, make sure you stay hydrated during this long day.
Even on a cool day, you may be waiting 30 minutes or more in the hot sun for a geyser eruption. Keep your skin protected and try out Kinfield’s outdoor skincare products (use code DISCOVERINGDISTANCE15 for 15% off).
Obviously, you’ll want to document all your adventures. Take a camera with a good zoom if you want to photograph not only each sight, but also any wildlife you come across along the way.
So many visitors have thrown objects into the hot pools at Yellowstone that it has lowered the temperature of the water in the center, changing the colors of the pools from a blue to a mix of blues and oranges. Do not throw trash into the pools and hold on to your hats. If you were to lose something off one of the boardwalks, do not attempt to retrieve it. These pools are still extremely hot and can cause burns and death in addition to damage to the environment.
Additionally, be sure to keep an appropriate distance from all animals in the park. They may look cute and cuddly, but they can be dangerous. Stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards away from bison, elk, and other wildlife in the park.
To learn more about the seven principles of Leave No Trace, read more here.
Old Faithful is perhaps the most famous attraction in Yellowstone National Park. This geyser has been erupting regularly for over a century. It also draws crowds from all over the world to witness its impressive display of water and steam shooting up to 185 feet into the air.
Check with the Old Faithful Inn as to what time Old Faithful is estimated to erupt. The interval between eruptions varies, but is on average 90 minutes.
Old Faithful is located in the Upper Geyser Basin. This basin is actually home to over 150 geysers and numerous hot springs. Visitors can watch Old Faithful’s eruptions from several vantage points, including a viewing platform just steps away from the geyser. Additionally, the Old Faithful area offers a variety of hiking trails, boardwalks, and educational exhibits. These exhibits provide insight into the geology and ecology of the park.
Emerald Pool is a hidden gem in Yellowstone National Park that’s often overlooked by visitors. This pool was once blue with yellow thermophiles that caused its waters to appear green, resulting in its name. Like other pools in Black Sand Basin though, a drop in water temperatures has resulted in the pool being replaced as an orange, murky pool.
This small pool is located in the Black Sand Basin. Visitors can view Emerald Pool from a boardwalk that provides an up-close look at the pool. This pool may not be as large or as well-known as some of Yellowstone’s other geothermal features. However, it’s a beautiful and peaceful spot that’s worth visiting for those looking for a more tranquil experience in the park.
Pro Tip: If you discover you have more time than anticipated for the Old Faithful eruption, head over to this area of Black Sand Basin to kill time.
Cliff Geyser is a fascinating geothermal feature located in the Black Sand Basin of Yellowstone National Park. The geyser is aptly named for its location on a river bank of the Firehole River. Cliff Geyser has a varied history of eruptions. However, recently it has been following a cycle of draining, then minor eruptions while the area fills, ultimately resulting in a major eruption. The interval between these cycles can be up to 35 minutes.
Visitors can view Cliff Geyser from a boardwalk that passes by the geothermal feature. The Black Sand Basin also features several other geysers, hot springs, and colorful bacterial mats.
Excelsior Geyser Crater is one of the most awe-inspiring attractions in Yellowstone National Park. This massive crater measures 200 feet across and 300 feet deep. It also constantly releases up to 4,000 gallons of water per minute into the Firehole River.
Visitors are not permitted to approach the crater due to safety concerns. However, there is a boardwalk that offers stunning views of Excelsior Geyser Crater from a safe distance. The boardwalk also passes by several other geothermal features, including the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring and nearby Opal and Turquoise Pools.
Grand Prismatic Spring is another one of the most famous sights in Yellowstone National Park. This massive hot spring is the third largest in the world. It measures approximately 370 feet in diameter and over 121 feet deep. This spring has some of the most vibrant colors in the park, ranging from deep blues and greens to bright oranges and yellows.
Visitors can view Grand Prismatic Spring from a boardwalk that winds around its perimeter. Additionally, the nearby Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook trail offers a better overlook of the full spring.
Turquoise Pool is another geothermal feature located in the Midway Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park. This pool did not appear all that turquoise to me. However, the same boardwalk that passes by the nearby Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser Crater also passes by Turquoise Pool.
This pool is a beautiful and unique geothermal feature located in the Midway Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park. Opal Pool is approximately 20 feet in diameter and is surrounded by a delicate crust of silica. This crust has formed over time from the water’s mineral content.
Visitors can view Opal Pool from a boardwalk that winds through the Midway Geyser Basin, providing a glimpse into the park’s fascinating geothermal activity.
Silex Spring is a stunning geothermal feature located in the Lower Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park. This small but vibrant hot spring is named for the silica-rich sinter that surrounds its edges. This spring is much smaller than others in the park. Even so, its crystal-clear water makes it a stunning sight to behold.
This small geyser-like feature is named for the bright red mud that is ejected during its eruptions. Red Spouter formed as a direct result of the Hebgen Lake Earthquake in 1959. A vent opened up in this spot, which then turned into a mudpot. This hydrothermal feature does change seasonally. When the water table is high, it bubbles as a mudpot. When the water table drops, it turns into a fumarole.
Red Spouter is located on the Fountain Paint Pot Trail in the Lower Geyser Basin. Visitors can view Red Spouter from a boardwalk that winds through the Lower Geyser Basin.
Clepsydra Geyser is named after the Greek word for water clock because the geyser used to erupt regularly every three minutes. Since the 1959 Hebgen Lae Earthquake, Clepsydra erupts almost without pause.
Visitors can view Clepsydra Geyser from a boardwalk that winds through the Lower Geyser Basin on the Fountain Paint Pot Trail.
Hayden Valley is a beautiful and expansive valley located in the heart of Yellowstone National Park. This area is a popular destination for wildlife viewing. It is home to a variety of iconic species, including grizzly bears and bison. The valley is also home to the Yellowstone River.
Hayden Valley is easily accessible from several different areas of the park. The valley is especially beautiful in the early morning or late afternoon. At this time, the sun casts a warm glow over the landscape and the wildlife is most active. A visit to Hayden Valley is a must for anyone interested in experiencing the wildlife of Yellowstone National Park.
As I said before, be sure to keep an appropriate distance from all animals in the park. They can become defensive and dangerous.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the most iconic and breathtaking features of Yellowstone National Park. Carved over thousands of years by the Yellowstone River, the canyon is a stunning example of the power of nature. The canyon is miles long and 800-1,200 feet deep. It is especially famous for its vibrant colors, including yellow, red, and orange.
Visitors to the canyon can explore several different viewpoints and hiking trails. Each offers a unique perspective on this stunning natural wonder. One of the most popular viewpoints is Artist Point. This viewpoint provides a sweeping view of the canyon and the stunning Lower Falls. A popular hike is Uncle Tom’s Trail, which descends to the base of the 308 foot high Lower Falls.
The South Loop of Yellowstone National Park is a truly remarkable area. It offers visitors an unparalleled opportunity to explore some of the most iconic and breathtaking natural wonders in the world. Pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an adventure on the South Loop of Yellowstone National Park.
For more National Park destinations, check out these posts.
March 15, 2023
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