Established on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the world’s first national park, now serving as a land-use model for many nations around the globe. Yellowstone National Park protects 2.2 million acres of land in portions of Wyoming (mostly), Idaho and Montana for the enjoyment and exploration of more than 4 million visitors annually.
This place is so huge, a rectangle roughly 50 miles by 60 miles, it takes at least three days to even explore the highlights of it. There are five entrances, each connecting to the 142 mil figure-eight road system within the park called the Grand Loop. Coming from Bozeman, MT and having some local knowledge about the significant road construction on the road from the North Entrance, we opted for the West Entrance located in West Yellowstone, Montana. What a beautiful 90 mile ride, passing the Big Sky ski resort, following the Gallatin River and Grayling Creek into this bustling tourist town. RVers, campers, hikers and bikers everywhere!
From West Yellowstone we followed the park road east to the Madison Junction, then north to the Norris area, then east again toward Canyon Village before taking the road south from there to the Fishing Bridge RV Park where we would be staying for the next three nights. Ok, maybe its just me, but I can’t understand why this place packs so many RVs into such a small space. Seriously, we couldn’t even open the awning on our RV because it would have hit the one next to us. This park has 2.2 million acres of land, can’t these RV sites be larger? Crazy!
We spent our first day setting up camp, checking out the Fishing Bridge Museum and Visitor Center, Yellowstone Lake (an alpine lake at 7,733′ above sea level with a maximum depth of 410′) and Lake Village including both the Lake Lodge and the Lake Hotel.
Solid advice from the Park Ranger got us on the road early the next morning to get ahead of the crowds. We traveled the Grand Loop park road past Bridge Bay (a marina on Yellowstone Lake) toward West Thumb where we saw elk munching on the grasses next to the road. We drove across the Continental Divide twice on our way to the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, arriving before it opened and in time for an early display by the Old Faithful Geyser. This area contains the world’s largest concentration of geysers so its almost always crowded but we arrived early enough to get a good parking space, something that was awfully tough to come by just an hour later. A short bike ride from here to the Morning Glory Pool at the end of the multi-use paved path brought us past many other geysers and pools. We even caught a glimpse of an osprey diving into the Firehole River to snatch a fish right out of the water. Wow, that happens fast!
The 16 mile stretch of the Grand Loop between Canyon Village and Little Village runs along the Yellowstone River through Hayden Valley, a great place to see bison. Many were visible off in the distance, however, we got surprised by one that just happened to crest the hill right next to our car on the side of the road. These critters are H-U-G-E! He couldn’t have been more than ten feet away from me and his triangular-looking massive head was just swaying back an forth, perhaps wondering what the heck I was doing in his path. I jumped back in the Jeep as Siobhan quickly made our exit. We later learned that it is a law to stay at least 100 yards away from bison (and bears) due to their unpredictable nature and the danger they present. Sure wish I had read that sooner. The last stretch of that road gave our olfactory senses a workout at the Sulfur Caldron and the Mud Volcano puts on quite an entertaining display. Mud bath, anyone?
Our last day we spent mostly in the Canyon Village area exploring the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. The Upper Falls are 109′ high and the Lower Falls are 308′ high and trails along either the North Rim Drive (where we were) or the South Rim Drive. Hikes to the Brink of Upper Falls and Brink of Lower Falls afforded us incredible views as did the North Rim Drive trail to Lookout Point, Grand View and Inspiration Point. These are all easy hikes on paved paths and well worth the time.
The Park Ranger told us that the best place for viewing wolves was the Lamar Valley in the northeastern area of the park. We made an attempt to get there on evening but bailed after we got just too tired of driving. Maybe on our next visit here.
This was a great place to spend three days, easily could have spent three more. We’ve got a very special visit coming up tomorrow so we will be on the road by 5AM…