A trip to Yellowstone National Park

Sujatha R
7 min readJul 24, 2019

Nature’s Array of Geysers, Wildlife and Incredible beauty

Yellowstone National Park unfolds an array of incredible beauty at every corner of the park. Located in the United States in the state of Wyoming, it spreads across Montana and Idaho. On the western front, the Super Volcano fuels the world’s largest array of Hot Springs and Geysers. While the Lamar Valley at the East is home to bison, elks, deers, and bears grazing in the fields, the mid-south is home to the artistic canyons, meandering rivers, scenic waterfalls, and lakes. In the year 1872 Yellowstone National Park was established as the world’s first national park.

We made a crazy trip with parents and another family together with 3 teenage boys and another 4th grader who happily sponsored the Park entrance with his 4th-grade credentials. Sharing pictures, experiences, a few insights, plans, and mistakes that we made that you could avoid.

The Super Volcano that fuels the largest set of Thermal Features on Planet Earth

About 600,000 years back there were a series of volcanic eruptions in this basin. Sitting on top of a huge volcanic crater, the hot magma underneath is the source to a variety of thermal features. Depending on the connection with the Magma source, there are Hot Springs, Geysers, Mud Pots & Fumaroles.

Hot Springs are like little ponds of water that are heated from below. The vibrant colours are from the array of microorganisms that can survive in such extreme conditions. Mesh of different microorganisms thrive in different temperature gradients and hence the spectacular rings. The Grand Prismatic, Biscuit & Black Sand Basin is full of Hot Springs.

Colourful vapours, Streaks & Rings of the Grand Prismatic Spring

Hot Springs from the Norris, Biscuit & Black Basin

Hot Springs from Norris, Biscuit & Black Sand Basin

When there is a narrow construction and opening between the magma and the surface of the earth, the pressure builds up and eventually causes a periodic brief eruption like in the Old Faithful Geyser.

Old Faithful Geyser

In the Mammoth basin, the hot water containing carbonic acid trickles down the lime and carves beautiful terrace step like formation known as Terrace springs.

Mammoth Terrace Springs

In the mud pots, sulphuric acid generated from the microorganisms slowly dissolves the hard clay making it look like a guey monster self making the mud pots.

Fumaroles are like little escape vents for the steam inside and best seen in the Roaring Mountain.

Vivid Hot Springs & Geysers at the West Thumb basin adjoining the Yellowstone lake

West Thumb Basin

A view of the Colourful & Artistic Yellowstone Canyon

Artist Point @ Yellowstone Canyon
View from Lower Rim Trail

Water Rafting @ Gardner, abundant rivers & waterfalls & serene wildlife at Lamar Valley

A scenic drive to the neighboring Teton National Park @ the South

Schwabagar Landing & Leeks Lake @ Teton National Park

Trip Suggestions

If you are planning a trip in near future, a few tips & resources.

Important Maps

Yellowstone has 5 entrances. Which one to choose? https://www.yellowstonepark.com/park/yellowstone-park-entrances

West Yellowstone hosts most of the Thermal features. From Bay Area, it may be a good idea to do a road trip. We did fly to Cody airport on the East and it was very inconvenient apart from the obvious distance factor. both the legs, the flights were delayed.

There are mainly 5 segments as indicated in the ribbon above — Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, Canyon Area, West Thumb & Lake Village. Make sure you save the maps offline due to poor connectivity across the park.

This handy google map from full scooter has the 4 segment plan indexed by different colours.

Scenic loop drive @ Tetons

https://www.bestofthetetons.com

Must See Attractions

  • Grand Prismatic Spring, Overlook viewing, Biscuit Basin & Black Sand Basin
  • Old Faithful & Geyser trail
  • Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
  • Mammoth Spring Terrace
  • Lamar Valley / roadside spotting of Bisons, Elks, deer and bear.
  • West Thumb Spring basin
  • Yellowstone Lake
  • Teton National Park Lake Jenny or Scenic drive

Activities

  • Water Rafting at Gardiner (North)
  • Swimming at Boiler River in the North (Designated Swimming Area)
  • Rodeo Show (Was closed on Sunday evening and could not make it)
  • Historic Train Museum visit at WestGate
  • Snow Mobile (we did not try it)

Suggested Itinerary from West Side

Northern Circuit — Mammoth Hot Springs trial, Roaring Mountain stop, Boiling River Swimming, Tower Fall & Trail, Lamar Valley, Water Rafting at gardner North Entrance

Main Attraction at West — Grand Prismatic Spring & Overlook trail, Old Faithful Geyser & Circuit, Old Faithful Inn, Biscuit basin, Black Sand Basin

Yellowstone Canyon — Artist Point, Brink of the Lower Falls Trail, Inspiration Point

Southern Circuit — Lewis Falls, West Thumb Geyser basin, Lake Yellowstone

One Day Trip to Tetons — Boating at Jenny Lake or lunch at Leeks Marina. Scenic drive, Schwabacher Landing visit

Optional

  • Norris Basin & Artistic Mud Pot (needs bit of a walk, not super impressive)
  • Gardner to Cody — Lamar valley, Soda butte creek, winding through the Shoshone National Forest and through the Absaroka Mountains and spectacular temple like limestone slabs in Chief Joseph Scenic Highway.

I would recommend visiting following links from fullsuitcase.com for various options.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?ll=44.627722826795846%2C-110.51729790000002&z=10&mid=1kE6UV28nUATzLOQXM65innuHGQPtn_Bq

Tips

  1. Most of the reservations inside the national park are booked months ahead. In case you are very late like us, make a backup booking on the west side outside and a month or few days before travel, check for availability inside the park. Since cancellations are cheap, there are slight chances of getting the accommodation. The office is open from 8.00 am and accessible by Phone. Consider airbnb if you are visiting as a group.
  2. Download the offline maps and save screenshots of itineraries. There is hardly any network coverage at most places.
  3. We stopped for Lunch at Mammoth Springs, Old Faithful, Leeks Marina @ Tetons, Canyon Village and Gardner for the 5 day trip.
  4. Due to last minute planning, we made a flight booking to Cody which is on the East and our accommodation and points of interest was in the West.. It seemed to be a very small airport and the flight was delayed on both the directions. Jackson hole / Salt Lake seem to be bigger airports.
  5. Parkings are crowded in the morning and there is hardly any crowd in the evenings. Some of the lesser spectacular ones that need a bit of walking like artist paint pots, Norris basin can be planned for afternoons or avoided.
  6. Make sure to check the geyser eruption timings of Old faithful in the website. There are quite a few other geysers in that area. If needed, pack lunch at the Old Faithful entrance to accommodate waiting for Old Faithful eruption and tour of other Geysers in that trial. We sadly had to skip the Geyser trial as kids were not willing to travel back and forth and settled for lunch after the Old Faithful Geyser wait and eruption instead of geyser trial.
  7. Start early for enjoying the walks and traffic. Photographs are best in the morning light.
  8. The herds can be best seen grazing at the evening time. Whenever there is a traffic pile up, be assured to spot an animal and keep the camera ready.
  9. Make sure to secure your hats and apply sunscreen. It can be quite windy.

Handy Links

16 Absolute Best Things To Do in Yellowstone

https://fullsuitcase.com/grand-teton-np-jenny-lake-boat-hike/

National Park Lodges

Accomodation Reviews

Yellowstone Maps

Yellowstone Itinerary Ideas from 1 to 5 Days

Old Faithful Geyser Activity Timings

Google Maps from FullSuitcase on 4 day circuit break

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Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns