Yellowstone National Park: A complete guide to traveling on your own
Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national parks. It’s a place where you can fully enjoy mountain life, breath taking landscapes, hiking, wild animals, geothermal areas and more. Yellowstone National Park is located in the west of the United States across three states: Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.
As the location of an active volcano, an eruption at Yellowstone could lead to the demise of the entire human race. With that in mind, you should go visit the park before the world ends…
Due to climate change, wildlife at Yellowstone National Park has suffered significantly and, in order to bring the ecosystem back to balance, wolves were introduced to the park to feed on the park’s deer population, which had gotten too abundant.
I think that’s enough apocalyptic talk for now! In the following I’ll review important information about the first national park in the United States and the world.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK VIDEO
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Strategically, the east of Yellowstone is important because there are Airbnbs (Up to $ 50 off) and you aren’t limited to the hotels within the park. If you end up staying at a hotel, you’ll likely have to eat at those restaurants or make camping reservations, in which case you would also have to take all your equipment to cook and camp. It all comes down to convenience and, if you’re into camping and cooking under the stars, that works too.
WHERE TO GO IN YELLOWSTONE?
As one of the largest national parks in the United States, you’ll have a lot of places to visit:
WHAT TO DO IN YELLOWSTONE?
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT YELLOWSTONE?
HOW TO GET TO AND EXPLORE YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK?
The majority of national parks in the United States are easily accessibly by car. Iif you’d like to see much of the park as well as Grand Teton, take a flight from the airport that’s close to Jackson Hole. However, if you only want to visit Yellowstone National Park, you can arrive via the airport close to Bozeman, about 121 km from the West entrance.
Thanks to US capitalism, you can get some great deals on car rentals ( Save 10% off the base rate on your next rental. Valid through 12/31/2020. ) or Rent an RV this September. Prices start at $99, and travel through Yellowstone National Park at your own pace and based on your interests.
The entrance fee to enter Yellowstone National Park is 35 dollars. With this fee, your car can enter the park with as many passengers as it can hold and is valid for 7 days.
*Bonus track: I recommend you set aside a few days to visit Grand Teton National Park.
FEEL LIKE TRAVELING TO THE GALAPAGOS?
If you ever dream of traveling to the Galapagos Islands, I wrote a few travel guides to help you plan your trip:
ES: Islas Galápagos
There are spots all over Yellowstone where you can go on short hikes (1 hour) and/or long hikes (up to 6 hours). Difficulty levels vary greatly and are indicated at the trailheads (where the trails start), as well as wildlife warnings about certain, often dangerous, animal you might encounter along the path.
The hikes we went on included:
» PLACES TO SPOT WILDLIFE
In the summer, there’s a lot of activity in Yellowstone’s valleys and mountains. Rivers become gathering spots for wild bison as they battle for female bison during mating season. Oftentimes the loser of these battles fall prey to bears and wolves.
My favorites spots in Yellowstone are:
» GEOTERMAL POOLS
There are four types of geothermal pools in Yellowstone: Geyser, Hot Spring, Fumarole and Mudpot.
Many of these thermal pools display incredible colors, among these are:
- Grand Prismatic (Hot Spring) – West Yellowstone
- West Thumb (Mudpot – Hot Spring – Fumarole) – South Yellowstone
- Great Fountain (Geyser) – West Yellowstone
- Mammoth (Hot Spring) – North Yellowstone
- Mud Volcano (Mudpot) – East Yellowstone
- Artist Paintpost (Mudpot – Fumarole) – East Yellowstone
- Porcelain Basin (Hot spring – Mudpot) – East Yellowstone
- Back Basin (Geyser – Fumarole – Hot Spring) – East Yellowstone
- Monument Geyser Basin (Fumarole) – West Yellowstone
- Biscuit Basin (Hot Spring – Geyser) – West Yellowstone
- Fountain Paint Pot – West Yellowstone
- Old Faithful (Geyser) – West Yellowstone
EXPLORING WEST YELLOWSTONE:
Information and photos about places you can’t miss in the west of Yellowstone National Park.
Old Faithful is Yellowstone’s landmark geyser, recognized across the globe. There’s also a beautiful hotel there. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen in my life. Old Faithful is the only geyser for which they know the exact time of eruption. You’ll also find a very large souvenir store.
Grand prismatic Spring is the most photographed hot spring in the world. The spectrum of colors that you observe from the lookout or along the path within the Prismatic is breathtaking.
Within the circuit called Firehole lake driver you can really appreciate the activity of the various geysers, among them:: the Dome White, Great Fountain and in the area by the lake.
I recommend you set aside enough time to see the sunset over the Great Fountain; it’s the only geyser that you can see up close as it expells its water. Its fountain can reach up to 100 ft, soaking everything around it. It only does so every 5 hours though!
In the visitor’s center, you’ll find a schedule of approximately when each geyser erupts. With that information, you can plan your day to appreciate this spectacle in the evening.
Monument Basin Trail is a trail that takes you to a summit where you’ll find various fumaroles. The landscape is full of contrasts and walking through it is like walking on the moon or another planet.
Don’t forget to take your water bottle and hiking shoes. The ascent is a little difficult as you climb 200 meters.
Biscuit Basin Geyser has a circuit where you’ll find some hot spring and active geysers whose eruptions aren’t nearly as large as the Great Fountain. However, you can also see these up close.
Fountain Paint Pot contains 4 active geothermal pools. You can see them while you explore the area. It also has a geyser that’s active throughout the day.
MAP OF WEST YELLOWSTONE WITH PHOTOS
EXPLORING EAST YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK:
Photos and information on places you can’t miss in the East.
The majority of hikes are concentrated in the east and northeast of Yellowstone National Park due to the location of its highest mountain, Washburn.
The tour can be done by car to visit the high region with the waterfalls that burst from the canyon and to see the different rocks that have been formed due to volcanic activity.
Places to view the Yellowstone Grand Canyon:
» Artist Point
» Upper Falls View
» Grand View
» Inspiration Point
This is the most visited hidden valley due to the hotel by Yellowstone’s lake. Along Route 89 to the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, you’ll come across various stops where you can observe bison, which are often battling it out for a mate.
The hike through Back basin will take you through the geyser with the tallest eruption in the world, called Steamboat. In 2019 it erupted 33 times at intervals of 5, 6 and 7 days.
Another hike you can do is called Porcelain Basin and is shorter. You’ll come across a hot spring with an extreme ecosystem. Most interesting about this hot spring is that it contains a fungus that might provide insight into how we might one day survive on Mars.
Mud Volcano is where you’ll find the largest concentration of Mudpot in all of Yellowstone National Park. It’s also a preferred spot for bison because the vapor emitted from the volcano repels the insects that irritate the bison.
The activity at each mudpot is continuously agitated. The tour to visit the Mud Volcano is about 1km long and is an easy walk.
MAP OF EAST YELLOWSTONE WITH PHOTOS
EXPLORING THE NORTH AND SOUTH YELLOWSTONE:
Information and photos of the places you can’t miss in the North and South.
Mammoth Hot Springs is another popular destination along with Old Faithful. You can cover this entire area in about an hour, coming across colorful perfect formations.
Lamar Valley is the place to go if you want to see Yellowstone wildlife at its best. Due to the river that runs through the valley, many bison concentrate here to eat and mate. During mating season, male bison will battle it out and the loser often becomes prey to grizzly bears and wolves.
In this area you can also go fishing in the Lamar River, there are numerous spots along the river. Since the river is quite shallow, you can fish from the middle of the river.
Invest in a good pair of binoculars because you won’t be able to get too close to any animal while you’re in the park. If you can, buy a folding chair so that you can patiently watch nature’s incredible displays.
The hike through Washburn mountain should be avoided during the months of September and October because that’s the season when bears are out foraging before winter. For instance, the day we were thinking of going on this hike, there had been a sighting of a mother bear and her cubs. We went on the hike the next day without any issues.
This trek is definitely the most recommended. Most importantly, it gives you some of the best landscape views as you climb the mountain. At the summit, you can stop by a small visitor’s center for travelers.
If you include a stop at the Grand Teton during your trip, you would enter through the south entrance of the park and, along the way, you’d find Yellowstone lake and West Thumb.
MAP OF THE NORTH AND SOUTH YELLOWSTONE WITH PHOTOS
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR TRIP TO YELLOWSTONE?
This park is considered nature’s Disneyland and receives around 3,000 visitors per day!
If you’d like to make the most of your experience at Grand Teton and Yellowstone, you should pack certain items to fully enjoy the ecosystem, plants and animals found in the parks.
Grand Prismatic Spring
♻ BE A RESPONSIBLE TOURIST
- Don’t litter in lakes, on trails or other touristic sites.
- Don’t collect plants, sand, insects, stones or any other specimen.
- Maintain a distance of at least 90 meters from the animals.
- Keep your food in a safe place, such as your car.
- Eat local and hire a local, community guide, if possible.
- After experiencing a global pandemic due to COVID-19 we realized that an entire trip can change in just a matter of days and, when faced with an emergency away from home, our clients (travelers to the Galapagos) should have access to travelers’ assistance that actually helps and works in a time of crisis. From now on, we strongly suggest you purchase good health and travel insurance.