Utah was great, but we soon were on to something new. From Salt Lake City, we traveled to the town of West Yellowstone. We spent a little over a week here. If you haven’t been to Yellowstone Nat’l Park, I’ll fill you in on what it’s known for. Yellowstone has 60% of the world’s hot water geysers. You’ve likely seen pictures of, or heard of the geyser Old Faithful. Well, Old Faithful’s in Yellowstone. Also, Yellowstone is known for its wildlife population. It’d be hard to go to Yellowstone without seeing either buffalo, bears, wolves, or some other hard-to-find animal.
We actually pulled into our Yellowstone campground only to leave the RV there for a few days while we rented a small condo in Jackson, Wyoming, a mere 2 hours away. We went to tour Grand Teton National Park. I’d like to mention that the condo was MASSIVE! I had an entire room to myself (as you know, in the RV I have a small, maybe 20 sq. ft. loft), we had a living area with square footage the size of the RV’s, and 3 bathrooms!
Anyways, back to Jackson. Jackson is a very touristy town, and has many shops, restaurants and attractions. We enjoyed some time at Snow King Mountain, which is a sort of amusement park. I say amusement park, but before you get all excited, there weren’t that many things to do. However, we rode their ski lift up to an “alpine slide”, and rode a mountain coaster down the hillside. Snow King Mountain was a lot of fun for sure.
Also while in Jackson, we attended a rodeo. I did a Stories Behind the Pictures post on this one, and it deserves to be in 2 of our posts. We really enjoyed watching the cowboys get bucked off horses and bulls, roping young calves, and navigating their horses around barrels. It was one of those shows that you can't take your eyes off of the contestants. We were very pleased with the Jackson Hole Rodeo, and would definitely recommend it if you are staying in Jackson.
Grand Teton National Park is tiny compared to Yellowstone. However the hike we did, called “String Lake”, was totally worth it, and we enjoyed views of a crystal clear lake (you could see the bottom of it!), the 3 Tetons, and an amazing variety of landscape.
After spending a couple of days in Jackson, we returned to our Yellowstone campground. Yellowstone is split into 7 areas that each have unique landscape. I’ll list them here with a short description, then later I’ll go into more detail. For now, you need to get a general idea of the layout of the park. The travel time between adjacent areas is between 25-45 minutes.
1. Old Faithful: Old Faithful is the site of the famous geyser, along with a few other lesser known geysers. It’s here that you can visit one of the parks larger visitor centers and learn about geysers, Yellowstone Nat’l Park in general, and get some souvenirs at the gift shop. Old Faithful is actually a small town, so they have restaurants, a clinic, hotel, campground, etc.
2. Mammoth Hot Springs: Mammoth Hot Springs is an area that we actually didn’t spend much time in. We (my dad and I) visited Mammoth Hot Springs’ Albright Visitor Center to inquire about a hike, but other than that we didn’t do much in this area. Mammoth Hot Springs is also like a little town, with accommodations and dining options.
3. Canyon Village: Canyon Village is situated right next to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the reason that Yellowstone Nat’l Park got its name. The canyon walls are a pale yellow color, and its definitely worth seeing. Canyon Village has hotels, restaurants, a visitor center, etc.
4: West Thumb: West Thumb is an area of Yellowstone Lake with a good boardwalk to check out steaming hot springs, and is a great place to start off your trip if you are entering from the south.
5: Tower/Roosevelt: Tower/Roosevelt is the one area in the listed 7 that we actually didn’t visit. I know that it has gas, restaurants, lodging and activities, but not much else. This was one of the farthest areas away from our RV park.
6: Norris: Norris doesn’t have accommodations, and is one of the smaller areas on the list. It’s a fairly good “central point” if you want to visit all of the areas of Yellowstone.
7: Madison: Madison served as our sort of “gateway” into Yellowstone as it is close to the West entrance. It’s probably the smallest area on the list, and has an “information station” and a campground.
I’ll recount our Yellowstone experience in this order: Viewpoints, hikes, wildlife, and other interesting things to note. However, due to the massive amount of information that we have, I’ve split all of our happenings into 2 blog posts. The second will come out next week.
VIEWPOINTS: Yellowstone roads have a ton of pullouts, and we took many of them. We saw Gibbon Falls, a massive cascading waterfall, which was very incredible and unique. We really enjoyed seeing, from multiple viewpoints, the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. The Lower Falls, the taller of the two, can be seen from both sides of Yellowstone Canyon (which the river runs through), and is absolutely stunning from both sides. Another pullout that we found interesting was one that led you straight to the brink of a (at least) 40 foot waterfall. This was amazing, since you could literally stand on the edge of a cliff and look down (with no railing) and see the water hitting the bottom below you. There were many viewpoints, but I think that I’ve pointed out the ones that stuck out to me the most. I’ll mention that there were a lot more that were interesting, but that I’ll mention in the “wildlife” section in a minute.
HIKES: I started off the “viewpoints” section by say that Yellowstone has a ton of pullouts. Did I also mention that it has hundreds of trails? It has over 1,100 miles of trails over a 3,472 square mile area. Wow. We took many hikes, and I’ll skim over them here:
Bensen Peak: My dad and I hiked this 4.5 mile trail that leads you up very steep switchbacks with an elevation gain of over 1,000 feet to get to the top of a mountain that provides you with amazing views of the surrounding countryside. We took a while going up this trail, since there is no flat part on any of it, but when we got to the last 100 or so yards, we ended up finding a massive snow patch leading up to the finish. This snow patch wasn’t just any snow patch, however. It was on a 45+ degree slant. And climbing up it was one of the best experiences of my life. It took us about 10 minutes to scale it since it involved a lot of “path finding”. We dug our walking sticks into the snow, and found that the snow was over 2 feet deep!
Artist Paint Pots: I went to this trail with my mom, and we really enjoyed it. Artist Paint Pots, near Norris, takes you to a very strange, unearthly site of boiling hot goop. Ok, maybe not goop. The Paint Pots are made up of extremely acidic mud and are very, very hot. It’s not a difficult, nor long trail to get to them, although climbing a few (maybe 20) fairly rugged stairs to get to the top is necessary. It’s definitely one that I’d recommend.
Fairy Falls: This (approx.) 1 mile hike took you to an amazing view of the Grand Prismatic Springs, which is near Old Faithful. Grand Prismatic Springs is an extremely colorful hot spring, and you can’t see many of the colors from the official “Grand Prismatic” pullout. But hiking Fairy Falls gives you an incredible view of it. We (my mom and I) had a fun time on this one, however it’s definitely not for people who would consider themselves “seriously out of shape”. It requires climbing a pretty steep hill that’s around 75 yards long, and will really take the breath out of you.
So you may have been wondering why, on the hikes, I mentioned that “me and my mom” or “me and my dad” did “this” or “that” hike. I’ll clear that up for you. Nate is younger, and doesn’t do very well on lots of hikes. So we decided to leave him with one of my parents on some of the days that we were in Yellowstone, while the other went with me to explore the park. It just so happens that most of the hikes that we did in there were not with him.
Well, now you know a lot about what we did in Yellowstone. But what we have in store for the next post is also phenomenal, so stay tuned!
Will is 15, and enjoys running track, writing,