I headed to Yellowstone National Park after a great visit to Glacier National Park as part of my #YourLead Adventure. We did not spend much time in Yellowstone National Park, so this post may be helpful to visitors looking for ideas on what to do/see in the park when you have a limited amount of time. It may also be helpful for visitors looking for an outline for longer trips.
Kam Goes To: Yellowstone National Park
After our stay in Glacier National Park, Alex and I made our way to Yellowstone National Park. It was a long drive and I am glad we decided to reserve a camping spot at the Yellowstone West Entrance KOA. We checked into our campsite, drove through the cute town outside the park entrance, and headed directly to the Old Faithful Geyser area to get our visit started.
Night 1: A Little Bit of Luck
Honestly, I was a little worried we wouldn’t catch any wildlife while driving through the park like at the beginning of Jurassic Park. Let me tell you this: if you go to Yellowstone National Park, it will be difficult to not see any wildlife. The bison are everywhere! We were barely into the park and there are plenty of signs warning drivers that there may be wildlife (bison) on the road and to watch your speed as you drive through the park. It was beautiful to see them off the side of the road grazing and resting in meadows and near the water.
Old Faithful Geyser
We didn’t check the predicted eruption times for Old Faithful before heading into the park, but we arrived 20 minutes before the next eruption! I browsed the visitors center and made sure to get my passport stamps, stickers, and postcards for my scrapbook. There are great viewing opportunities from inside the visitors center, but if the weather is nice, I suggest taking a seat on one of the long benches outside.
We walked around the Old Faithful viewing area to see the other geysers in the area and ended our walk at the Old Faithful Lodge, where we had dinner. The Lodge is worth a visit to see the incredible interior and learn about the history of the building.
Midway Geyser Basin
We drove up to Midway Geyser Basin to see the Grand Prismatic Spring and the other geysers after dinner. The Excelsior Geyser Crater is the first stop along the boardwalk and you’ll want to spend some time checking out this impressive spot. The steam coming off of the water makes the walk around the crater warm, so dress in layers! My top thing to do this trip was to see the Prismatic Spring, but the view from the boardwalk was obstructed by steam covered most of the area. What was really cool to see was the hoof prints from the bison who don’t need to follow park rules. They get to go wherever they want, including across the colorful rings of the Prismatic Spring! The entire Midway Geyser Basin is otherworldly and I’m glad we stopped so we could enjoy the less photographed, but equally stunning wonders of the area.
By the time we were done, we wanted to head back toward the West Entrance and enjoy the night air before heading back to camp.
Day 2: A Grand Tour of Yellowstone
Let’s talk about being crazy ambitious and really maximizing our time in the park. Alex and I did so much in one day that we decided to head to Grand Teton a day early so we could spend some time in Jackson, Wyoming. I had our Lonely Planet travel book to read information about the park as we drove from one area to the other, so we learned a lot about the park during our “driving tour” that felt like a friend giving us travel advice and tips on what areas of the park to explore.
We headed into the park bright and early on our second day. Our first stop was the Canyon Village area, where we took the South Rim Drive to Artist Point. I suggest this spot fantastic views of the Lower Falls in the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone”. Alex and I wanted to stretch our legs and get some time away from the crowds, so we knew a hike was in order. We took the well-marked trail from the parking lot toward Point Sublime, which allowed for great views and less crowds. It is only a matter of time before you leave crowds behind as move further along a trail in a National Park.
Antelope Canyon and Lamar Valley
After a quick pit stop at the Canyon Village visitors center, we drove north and found an empty pull out overlooking Antelope Canyon. This area is known for grizzly viewing, so we tried our luck as we watched a thunderstorm roll in while we ate lunch. We heard the park erupt with sirens from emergency vehicles, so we decided to hang out for a while to avoid getting in the way on the skinny roads. We found out later that night that the emergency was in the Norris Geyser Basin area.
I really wanted to see Lamar Valley, which is known for wildlife viewing. This part of the park was less busy people-wise, but full of animals! It would be so cool to come back to this area in the winter to see the snow. From here, we drove toward Pebble Creek view wildflowers around Trout Lake.
Mammoth Hot Springs
We caught another thunderstorm as we crossed the park to have dinner in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. We stopped once or twice along the way to stop and see the views, sometimes throwing on rain jackets and running through the rain to view points. We stopped in at the visitor center, walked around the historic buildings, and had dinner. You could see elk with their calves from the dinning room, which is better than anything on tv that night. More thunder and lightening rolled through the area while we ate, which made for dramatic views out the windows.
We wanted to get to the Norris Geyser Basin before heading back to camp, but due to the accident earlier in the day, the area was closed. We continued on the road toward the Artist Paintpots instead. The sun was starting to go down, so there were very few visitors there. We slowly walked the boardwalk to see the mud pots and geysers. This is the place to visit if you don’t have long in the park and you want to see awesome geothermal activity.
Day 3: West Thumb – Lake Village – Road to Grand Teton National Park
Another early morning! This time, we headed straight to West Thumb, where we encountered a ton of traffic as visitors ditched their vehicles to chase after a bear. Alex was a champ and navigated our way through the mess. We found another empty pullout near the side of the lake so we could open the sliding door and read/relax with a great view. Alex and I continued to the Lake Village to do our last bit of shopping and grab a snack before heading out to Grand Teton National Park. This area is popular for families looking to rent boats to take on the water and the weather seemed perfect for it.