It never ceases to amaze me how many Americans have not visited Yellowstone National Park. It’s a national jewel akin to Ireland’s countryside. We have stayed twice and will return. Hands down, this is my favorite place in the United States, other than Florida, where we live. Yellowstone places Montana on my list of favorite places in the USA.

Additionally, this place is also one of my favorite places in the world.  Long before I got to experience Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park, I imagined the richness that must fill this national park. I am obsessed with waterfalls (and whales), and Yellowstone National Park is full of waterfalls, among other treasures.

I’d always thought it to be safari-like, in that animals roam wild. Who would have expected it to be as breathtaking as it was? Yellowstone National Park spreads through Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.

Lastly, Yellowstone National Park is the first national park in the entire world, established as a national park in 1872.

Yellowstone National Park Cover

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure and privacy policy for more information.

First Reaction To Yellowstone National Park 

When we first drove through the West entrance of Yellowstone, the first mile was like any other forest.  A river, trees, and more trees. There was snow on the ground and an eerie fog hovering.  Then, from out of nowhere, a herd of bison emerges mysteriously and silently from behind the blanket of fog. Image being in the middle of nowhere, exposed to the elements, and the only thing separating you from the bison, is your car. It was beyond fascinating.  They seemed to know we were there but plodded on by giving us an occasional glance. Many times we had to stop to let them pass. 

Bison might not be exciting to all, but for me, it was mesmerizing! The sheer size, coupled with their number, makes for an electrifying experience. Both times we have visited, we went in April, and there was snow still on the ground. It’s the beginning of the self-entry season when we could drive ourselves through the park. Yellowstone is not accessible via car in the winter. Tours run during the winter using specialized equipment such as snowmobiles.

Yellowstone is a volcano. As a result of this, Yellowstone is the home to waterfalls, geysers, and hot springs that will take your breath away.

Trust me when I tell you that nothing in the States even comes close to Yellowstone’s beauty. I’ve heard people rave about the geothermal area of the North Island of New Zealand – Rotorua.  I can tell you from experience that you will be disappointed with Rotorua if you have been to Yellowstone. It cannot compete in any way. Iceland is the only other place to give Yellowstone a run for its money.

Wildlife At Yellowstone National Park 

When driving through the park, be on the lookout for wildlife. We have spotted wolves, bison, elk, bighorn sheep, moose, and antelopes! We have seen almost every mammal except the bears and that’s because they hibernate during April.

Yellowstone National Park is home to 67 different mammals.  Approximately 690 grizzly bears and 99 gray wolves, black bears, wolverine, and lynx.

Elk, mule deer, bison, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn,  nonnative mountain goats, and white-tailed deer also call Yellowstone home.

Then there are the birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles. If you enjoy wildlife, Yellowstone National Park will not let you down.

Bison at Yellowstone National Park 

For me, the bison is one of the star attractions!  This herd is one of the largest in the United States, with at least 4,800 bison. The Yellowstone Park bison herd is from the Plains bison subspecies. 

Where To Stay Near The Park

We used our timeshare for both of our trips. Seven nights cost us $199 total on both trips.

We stayed at Island Park Resort in Idaho on our first trip, about 15 miles away from West Yellowstone. We stayed at Jackson Hole Towncenter, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, during our second visit.

Both were equally charming accommodations. Nothing overly fancy, fireplaces, cabin style decoration, clean and roomy. I preferred Island Park. It was not necessarily the better of the two locations. I simply liked the proximity to the park’s West Entrance, where we had some random experiences that can’t be recreated. For example, I saw my first moose in the wild because the staff as Island Park called me to tell me there was a moose in a river nearby.

Stay At The Real Yellowstone Ranch From The TV Show!

Suppose you are a fan of the ” Yellowstone ” TV show and want to stay on the Dutton Ranch. Guess what, you can!

Yellowstone Ranch Cover

Stay At The Real Yellowstone Ranch From The TV Show!

Hotels and Resorts In The Park

We did not stay inside the park. However, there are many accommodations in the park for all budgets, including camping. All accommodation in the park book up quickly, so prepare ahead if you plan to stay inside. If you thrive luxury, be prepared to pay top dollar. While we did not stay at the resorts in the park, we stopped and checked some out. We had lunch at the Old Faithful Inn and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel which are both great.

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins

The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins. Named after nearby springs they offer summer and winter visitors a warm welcome.

Canyon Lodge & Cabins

Canyon Lodge and Cabins is a sprawling facility featuring the most accommodations in Yellowstone, with more than 500 rooms and cabins.

Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins

Completed in 1999, the Snow Lodge is the newest of the park’s full-service hotels and has been recognized with the Cody Award for Western Design and Travel and Leisure’s Inn of the Month.

Old Faithful Inn

One of the oldest, built sometime around 1903-1904 with local logs and stone, the Inn is considered the largest log structure globally.

Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Lodge Cabins

This historic cabin facility is located near Old Faithful Inn and includes a one-story main lodge built in the 1920′s featuring massive logs and stone pillars.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins

Upon arrival, the hotel’s massive white columns welcome you to a time of classic yet casual elegance. A flock of geese flies past a brilliant orange sunrise.

Bridge Bay Campground

The area is quite scenic, with wooded areas, open meadows, and limited lake views.

Canyon Campground

The Canyon Campground is a favorite due to its wooded setting and a relatively central location within Yellowstone Park. Families enjoy the sunsets near Black Pool in West Thumb Geyser Basin

Grant Village Campground

The campground offers a relaxing setting with easy access to many services and amenities.

Madison Campground

The area is known for its excellent fishing and closeness to Old Faithful and the Upper, Midway, and Lower Geyser Basins.

Roosevelt Lodge & Cabins

Roosevelt Lodge Cabins, built-in 1920 near Yellowstone’s Tower Falls area, is located near a campsite once used by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Grant Village

Constructed in 1984 and named after Ulysses S. Grant, Yellowstone became the world’s first national park in 1872.

Fishing Bridge RV Park

The newly remodeled Fishing Bridge RV Park is located near the mouth of the Yellowstone River as it leaves.

What To Do In & Around Yellowstone National Park 

Before we even get into what to do, you need to know that it’s impossible to see all that Yellowstone has to offer in a week. I’d go as far as saying you would be lucky to cover it all in two weeks. And, each season brings different treasures. Fortunately, this makes it a year-round destination worth visiting more than once.

Geysers In Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park has more than 500 are geysers and 10,000 hydrothermal features. 

Yellowstone National Park Gysers

Yellowstone Geyser List

  • Anemone Geyser
  • Beehive Geyser
  • Castle Geyser
  • Clepsydra Geyser
  • Cliff Geyser
  • Daisy Geyser
  • Echinus Geyser
  • Fountain Geyser
  • Great Fountain Geyser
  • Grand Geyser
  • Jet Geyser
  • Lion Geyser
  • Riverside Geyser
  • Sawmill Geyser
  • White Dome Geyser

6-Mile Geyser Hiking Tour in Yellowstone with Lunch

If you want to see most of the geysers, consider a tour. 

This tour uses the Biscuit Basin Trailhead to start the six-mile loop hike through Upper Geyser Basin and return to Biscuit Basin. This is the only hiking tour of its kind regularly offered in Yellowstone. You will encounter the bustling Old Faithful area as the mid-point of our hike. Sections of this hike are on the boardwalk. There are also sections on the dirt trail where there are few other hikers. Depending on the season, you may encounter wildlife from time to time, including bison and bear!

They are all beautiful in their own right, but if you can only visit a few, here are my favorites:

Old Faithful

Old Faithful might be the most well-known geysers of them all. It erupts every thirty minutes or so and does not disappoint.

Steamboat Geyser

The world’s tallest active geyser. This geyser has been in the news lately for unexplained eruptions.

There are many more to see, and these are just two favorites.

Springs Of Yellowstone National Park

With more than 10,0000 hydrothermal features in the park, these nine Yellowstone hot springs are just some of the most beautiful that should be added to your Yellowstone itinerary.

  • Abyss Pool
  • Beryl Spring
  • Canary Hot Springs
  • Egeria Spring
  • Grand Prismatic Spring
  • Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces
  • Morning Glory
  • Porcelain Basin Hot Springs
  • Thumb Geyser Abyss Pool

Grand Prismatic Spring

This is the most photographed spring in the park. You will recognize this one from the pictures. It’s a rainbow-colored spring that’s ten stories deep.  Unfortunately for us, we have never experienced it on a clear day. Whist beautiful among midst, you can’t see the full effect of the spring unless it’s a clear day. If you plan to visit Grand Prismatic Spring, shoot for a clear day.  Excelsior Geyser is in the same location as the Grand Prismatic Spring. A turquoise and opal pool that you can walk around and take in the view.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Hot Mammoth Springs

This is towards the North entrance, and I highly recommend the drive. You will see tons of wildlife, and you can exit the North Entrance to Gardiner, Montana. Gardiner is home to the Roosevelt Arch, built-in 1903. There is a scenic bridge that crosses the Yellowstone River. All followed by a quaint, old town.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Northern Entrance is the only one open year-round.

The entire park is abundant with springs. As you drive from one side to the other, you will come across random mud holes, springs, and geothermal activity.

Mammoth Hot Springs

 

Boiling River

An enormous hot spring enters the Gardener River, creating the Boiling River.  Consequently, the hot water mixed with the cool water, making the temperature ideal for bathing. In the Mammoth area, north of the town.  The site is about half a mile away from a parking lot on the side of the road.  In winter, many parts of Yellowstone are closed, but this area remains open.  You’ll need warm clothing for the half-mile hike to the swimming area.

Note: Swimming is not allowed in any of the hot springs mentioned in this post, with the exception of the Boiling River. 

Dog Sledding

We did this during our first trip. We used a company called  Klondike Dreams. Since our trip, they seem to have stopped operating. This was one of the most unusual experiences ever!

Brian got to “mush” the dogs, essentially preparing them for the ride. Brian brought all the dogs out and harnessed them on the sled.  Not only did we ride in a sled together, being pulled by dogs, but Brian got to ride solo behind the dogs! Brian fell off twice and broke a rib! If you are in this region and there is snow on the ground – you MUST dog sled. It’s half the cost of dog sledding in Alaska.

Here are other options for dog sledding in the area: Jackson Hole Dog Sledding Adventure

Check before you go and schedule this in advance. All operators have limited space. It’s not an activity you can show up for the day of.

Yellowstone Lake

If you drive from one side to the other (East/West or North/South), you will hit the lake. The lake has a mysterious appeal. It’s vast, barren, and charming. You can see your reflection in the lake if it’s clear.  The lake hosts typical attractions like kayaking and boating, but the backdrop makes this place.

Imagine snowcapped mountains framing a beautiful body of water. If you are lucky, you might spot wildlife swimming or drinking here.

Yellowstone Lake

Here Are Popular Tours At Yellowstone Lake

Waterfalls Of Yellowstone National Park

With Yellowstone having at least 45 named waterfalls and much more unnamed, you will run into random waterfalls as you navigate the park. Depending on where you will determine which ones you will see. Be sure to research them before you go to avoid missing your favorites. The Upper Falls, Lower Falls, and Crystal Falls seem to be the most popular. While there is snow or ice, added beauty awaits you if you are there.

Northeast

  • Birdseye Falls, 100 feet
  • Citadel of Asgard Falls, 150 feet
  • Crystal Falls, 129 feet
  • Enchantress Falls, 90 feet
  • Faires’ Fall, Amethyst Creek
  • Knowles Falls, 15 feet
  • Silver Cord Cascade, 1,200 feet
  • Tower Fall, 132 feet
  • Yellowstone Falls – upper Falls, 109 feet – lower Falls, 308 feet

Northwest

  • Firehole Falls, 40 feet
  • Gibbon Falls, 84 feet
  • Hidden Falls, 20 feet
  • Little Gibbon Falls, 25 feet
  • Osprey Falls, 150 feet
  • Undine Falls upper 60 feet, lower 38 feet
  • Rustic Falls
  • Silver Cascades, 80 feet
  • Virginia Cascades, 60 feet
  • Wraith Falls, 100 feet

Southeast

  • Crecelius Cascade, 75 feet

Southwest

  • Albright Falls, 260 feet
  • Cave Falls, 20 feet
  • Bechler Falls, 15 feet
  • The Cascades of the Firehole, 40 feet
  • Chasm Falls, Ouzel Creek
  • Childhood’s Dream Falls, 30 feet
  • Colonnade Falls, Bechler River – upper 35 feet – lower 67 feet
  • Dunanda Falls, 150 feet
  • Emerald Pool Falls, Ouzel Creek
  • Fairy Falls, 197 feet
  • Fern Cascades, 50 feet
  • Gwinna Falls, 15 feet
  • Hourglass Falls
  • Iris Falls, 45 feet
  • Kepler Cascades, 150 feet
  • Lewis Canyon Falls, upper falls, 80 feet, lower falls, 50 feet
  • Lewis Falls, 30 feet
  • Lily Falls, 15 feet
  • Moose Falls, 30 feet
  • Morning Falls, Ash Mountain Creek
  • Mystic Falls, 70 feet
  • Ouzel Falls, 230 feet
  • Quiver Cascade, 98 feet
  • Ragged Falls, 45 feet
  • Rainbow Falls, 55 feet
  • Silver Scarf Falls, 250 feet
  • Tempe Cascade, 30 feet
  • Terraced Falls, 130 feet
  • Tendoy Falls, 33 feet
  • Treasure Falls – Lilliputian Creek
  • Twister Falls, 55 feet
  • Union Falls, 250 feet
  • Wahhi Falls, Bechler River – upper 28 feet, lower 18 feet

Fly Fishing

We did this in April, and I must tell you it was freezing. The tour company we used included fly rods, flies, and waders. You must buy your license, and your tour guide will accompany you to a store that sells them.  We had no luck, but we had fun wading in the water. Oh well, we tried! 

Fly fishing is popular in this region, and the operators are numerous. Depending on where you are staying or where you are willing to drive to should guide your decision on who to use. We did it in Big Sky Montana. Suppose you are planning to fly fish prepare for sticker shock. It’s ~$200 per person per day. And, if you think about it, that is a lot because what’s essentially provided is instruction. For this amount of money in Florida, you would be on a private charter fishing the high sea! This being said, we would do it again. As they say, when in Rome!

Fly Fish Yellowstone

Fly Fishing Tour Operators

Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center

Located in West Yellowstone, this is your chance to get personal with grizzly bears and wolves. All the animals here are rescues and cannot be released because they would not survive. Or another way to think about it is this is not a zoo. Your visit provides money to care for the animals that have been saved. Visiting the center is educational. You will learn all about the wildlife of the region. There is also a fabulous gift shop in here. I bought the most unusual shaper that hands-on my wall that people often ask about. Vising to the center only takes a couple of hours. It’s not a full day of activity.

Snowmobiling

A favorite for the winter season that we were lucky enough to experience in April was snowmobiling! There are endless places that rent snowmobiles, or you can join a tour. We rented, or should I say, “borrowed” two from Island Park Resort and hit the trails. Therefore, if you go during the day and stay on the tracks, you can do this solo without being on tour.  I can’t speak to the scenery everywhere.  We were riding in Idaho, and it was spectacular. We rode up to Big Springs, the headwaters of the Snake River and home to Johnny Sack’s cabin. This spot is well known for feeding the trout, but you can only provide – no catch!

Snowmobile Yellowstone

Closing Thoughts

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit all fifty states. Florida will always be my favorite and my base. However, Montana is a close second. Indeed, West Montana holds a special place in my heart. 

You will never breathe air as pure as the air in Montana. Likewise, you will never experience a place with four unique seasons of marvel to discover like this. Yellowstone National Park is by far America’s best of the parks. There’s no comparison to the others. A blend of mind-blowing scenery, diverse wildlife, and insane experiences, this is a place that anyone will enjoy.

If you’ve not been – book it! If you have visited Yellowstone National Park, tell us about your experience below!

Looking for more posts to inspire you? Start here:

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Click Here To Subscribe
Subscribe to our newsletter now and get the best travel tips and inspirational stories delivered to your inbox every month. No spam, no sales pitches –  JUST TRAVEL!
Click Here To Subscribe

Ready to book your next trip? Use these resources that work:

  • Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels; use Booking.com for the best deals.
  • Book your Flights: Find the best deals and prices on flights; Expedia.com for the best deals.
  • Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the lowest prices on apartment rentals with Booking.com’s Apartment  Finder.
  • Travel Insurance: Don’t leave home without it. Review our Travel Insurance Guide on picking and deciding which travel insurance is right for you.

Want to earn tons of points and make your next trip accessible? Check out our recommendations for Travel Credit Cards.

Want To Take A Volunteer Vacation or a Working Holiday? Check out the complete guide to how here!

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our Resources Page, highlighting all the great companies we trust when traveling.

Share with others!