20 Reasons Why You Should Visit Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is paradise for fishermen. There are multiple locations within the enormous park that are great for fishing; including the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone Lake, and Slough Creek. The park is popular for fishing in general, but draws people from all over the world for fly fishing. I don’t personally fish, but I have seen a ton of fishermen loving life inside the park.
19. Tower Fall
Tower Fall is the third most popular waterfall in the park. Large rock minarets or towers rise up near the crest of the fall, giving the fall its name. The waterfall plunges 132 feet to the ground in one large drop.
18. Starry Skies
Despite Yellowstone being a busy, overcrowded park it showcases an amazing night sky (when it’s not too cloudy). There are no cities nearby, so there is minimal light pollution in the area. I’ve gone on a few nice walks through campgrounds without using a flashlight thanks to the light cast from the stars above.
17. Lamar Valley
The wildlife-rich Lamar Valley is located in the quieter northeast region of Yellowstone. It is popular for fly fishing and wildlife watching. People spend hours at a time trying to spot wolves and grizzly bears.
16. Shoshone Lake
This is the largest backcountry lake in the lower 48. It is about three miles from the nearest road, a bit west from Grant Village. I enjoyed the peaceful, level, and easy hike to the lake. The Tetons are visible from its shore.
15. Elk, Moose, and more
Yellowstone is teeming with wildlife. It’s like a zoo without cages. Elk are all over the place, especially in Mammoth Hot Springs. Moose, big horned sheep, foxes, bald eagles, and many other animals reside within the park. The aforementioned wolves are hard to spot, but you won’t have any trouble finding elk.
14. The Suspension Bridge
There is one pretty cool bridge you have to cross early on the Hellroaring Creek Trail in northern Yellowstone. When I first heard there was a suspension bridge I kept thinking of the one from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That worried me since I’m afraid of heights. Thankfully this suspension bridge is nothing like that one. It’s sturdy and easy to cross.
13. Upper Falls
The Upper Falls is a large and powerful cataract located in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It may not measure up to the nearby Lower Falls, but it is still an impressive sight that can be heard from afar.
12. Hayden Valley
Similar to Lamar Valley, Hayden Valley is popular among the parks’ wildlife. The valley, which covers fifty square miles, is home to a large herd of bison. Bears, elk, and wolves also frequent the area. I have had stop my car numerous times to wait for bison to cross the road through Hayden Valley.
11. Boiling River
Just a couple of miles north of Mammoth Hot Springs is an amazing and relaxing place to experience. Hot water pours into the Gardner River from a nearby hot spring. The hot and cold water mix nicely within the river. There are little rock coves built by visitors, which provide mini hot tubs for tourists to enjoy. I highly recommend a soak in The Boiling River after a long day of hiking.
10. The Old Faithful Inn
There are nine different lodging facilities, and while I haven’t actually stayed in any, I am a big fan of the Old Faithful Inn. The Inn is the largest log structure in the world and is the most sought after hotel in the park. There is an enormous fireplace surrounded by wooden balconies inside a cavernous lobby. Next time in Yellowstone, I’m definitely going to try to stay in the Old Faithful Inn.
9. Yellowstone Lake
Yellowstone Lake, like most things in the park, is humungous. In fact, it is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America. It covers 136 square miles. It is popular for boating, but is far too cold for swimming. The lake makes a great backdrop for photos of the thermal features at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. The Lake Hotel, the most elegant of the park’s lodges, is located at the north end of Yellowstone Lake.
8. Hiking with Bison
Like I said earlier, you will definitely see bison in Hayden Valley, but you also have a chance of running into bison on the trail. I got up close and personal with a bison (closer than I’d prefer) on the Slough Creek Trail near Lamar Valley. It turned out fine, but it was a little scary for a bit. I’ve also seen bison just off the boardwalk in a geyser basin and hot spring area.
7. Grand Prismatic Spring
At 370 feet in diameter, Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in North America and the third largest in the world. It is located in the Midway Geyser Basin, a few miles north of Old Faithful. The best view is from above, because of its immense size, but the colors are still mesmerizing up close (don’t get too close though, the water is 160 degrees Farenheit. It is orange, yellow, green, and blue.
6. Mount Washburn
This mountain is 10,243 feet tall. It is also my favorite hike in all of Yellowstone. There are two trails to the summit (one is five miles roundtrip, the other is six) with an elevation gain of just under 1,400 feet. There is a fire lookout atop the mountain where a ranger lives during the summer. Along the way to the top I passed wildflowers, mountain meadows, big horned sheep, and admired expansive views.
5. So Many Thermal Features
I’ve already mentioned Grand Prismatic Spring, but there are so many more thermal features than that. In fact, there are more than 10,000 thermal features in the park or about half of the world’s total. There are more than ten geyser basins. My favorites are the West Thumb Geyser Basin and Midway Geyser Basin. The Upper Geyser Basin (home to Old Faithful) is certainly the most popular one in the park.
4. Bear Sightings
There are a lot of bears in Yellowstone. Both grizzlies and black bears are abundant throughout the park. Unlike with wolves, bear sightings are not that uncommon in the park. I’ve been to Yellowstone three times and have spotted a few grizzly bears (those are the bigger, meaner ones with the humps near their shoulders). Keep an eye out for cars parked on the side of the road, it usually means there is some sort of wildlife to see.
3. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
The Canyon area of the park is my favorite. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is (unsurprisingly) yellow and gold in color and an amazing sight to behold. It is a steep-sided V-shaped gorge between 800 and 1,200 feet deep. It is about twenty miles long and is 4,000 feet wide at its widest point. The Yellowstone River slices its way through the bottom of the canyon and plunges over two enormous waterfalls. The waterfalls may draw the most attention, but the canyon itself is quite impressive.
2. Old Faithful
Anyone that makes their way to Yellowstone will undoubtedly stop to see Old Faithful. I’ve seen it on each of my visits. It is the busiest area of the park, and rightfully so. Old Faithful’s statistics vary a bit from each eruption to the next. On average it goes off every hour and a half, but can range between 60 and 110 minutes. It has reached a height of 184 feet, but averages closer to 130 feet into the air. The duration ranges from one and a half to five minutes. I recommend sneaking away from the crowds and watching from above at Observation Point.
1. Lower Falls
Above the wildlife, thermal features, lakes, rivers, valleys, and mountains the Lower Falls are my favorite sight within Yellowstone National Park. This magnificent waterfall is 308 feet tall, making it nearly 200 feet taller than the Upper Falls. The amazing canyon frames the waterfall, amplifying its beauty. There are several viewpoints showcasing Lower Falls. Artist Point is the viewpoint made famous by the painter Thomas Moran, but Lookout Point is my preferred vista.