I don’t know if it’s just me, but Yellowstone is the kind of name that is difficult to retain. You get confused with some other national parks’ names until you see a picture. Usually, it’s a picture of the Grand Prismatic Spring seen from above, but it looks so unreal, so colorful, so crazy, deep and powerful, that you think is fake. Then, perhaps zapping, you see a documentary about a grizzly bear, bison, wolves in this place and you are shocked because, not only the picture you thought was fake is not, but also you hear the apocalyptic quote about one of the biggest volcanoes on earth. With almost 9000 kilometers square (3472 square miles) Yellowstone the Supervolcano would be a disaster if it would explode. They say the ashes would hit Costa Rica! That sounds terrifying, right?
But, once you have overcome the mediatic terror and you give yourself permission to explore and discover this natural treasure, the only thing I can tell you is Yellowstone is one of the most impressive places we have visited. It is known for its wildlife and the variety of ecosystems: vast forests, lakes, canyons, rivers, mountains, and grasslands with unique species of plants, grizzly bears, bison, elks, wolves, birds, and of course the many geysers and hydrothermal systems the park has. All of this climate zones offer ghostly landscapes scorched by the fire and fog making the views of the park so fascinating. If Yellowstone could speak it would say “Baby! I’m on fire!”
So, let us share with you how to get the most out of this amazing park and what it has to offer among nature sites and wildlife encounters so that you do not miss anything:
1.Witness a Geyser erupt at The Old Faithful visitor center
Yellowstone is home to most of the world known geysers. The Old Faithful, in particular, erupts every 45 to 60 minutes approximately. It will give you outstanding views of vapor and hot water about 155 feet up in the air.
TIP: Get there early to avoid the crowd and find a good spot to watch the show.
2.Enjoy a rainbow of colors with The Grand Prismatic Spring
At Midway Geyser Basin you will encounter the Grand Prismatic Spring, one of the mains attractions of the park. You will be able to walk around it, pretty close to delight yourself with the number of colors you will see. The Grand Prismatic spring measure 113 metes (370 feet) across, what makes it the third largest hot spring in the world. The microorganism that lives in its 71 C degrees (160 F degrees) give to the pool a vivid red, orange and yellow tint.
Tip: For the best view of the basin, take a short but strenuous hike to the Midway Bluff
3.The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Relax in front of the waterfalls the Grand Canyon has. The Lower falls, about 91, 50 meters (300 feet) high, what makes them almost double than the Niagara Falls, the Yellowstone rivers that dump around 60 thousand gallons of water per second over the Lower falls.
Tip: Take the Uncle’s Tom trail and descend to see and hear the Lower falls closer.
4.Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley: Best places to watch wildlife
Of course, you will have the chance to see wildlife everywhere in the park (we saw a grizzly bear running in front of our car, about at 50 km/h after a group of elks. Also, before living the park, two wolves crossed the road in front of us about 10 meters away) and not to mention the many eagles, elks, bison we saw in Yellowstone. Lamar Valley and Hayden valley are places that animals love, so your chances to see them around those areas are higher. The park has today around 100 grey wolves, after their successful reintroduction in 1995, read the full story about them in here. In July and August, male bison do their dominance show.
Tip: Get there very early, animals are early birds, they love dawn and dusk, particularly, they love to avoid humans with their noise and their talking, so be there, silently, full of patience and when the sun is about to rise or to set get ready. Also bring your binoculars, since all those encounters are going to be at a very long distance. Also, is very smart to talk to the “wolvers” (wolves enthusiasts that follow the packs and know all the stories about them) to have higher chances to see wolves. We saw bears everywhere and many around the Artist point (nearby Canyon Village).
5.Enjoy a nature wonder at the Mammoth HotSprings
The Mammoth Hotsprings offers a spectacular view of what seems to be white melted paraffin falling trough terraces with hot water. In fact, what resembles as white paraffin is travertine, a form of limestone. Travertine terraces are waterfalls that have frozen trough thousands of years. These ones here were formed from the last glaciation (around 110,000 years before Christ). You will be delighted and speechless in front of these travertine terraces with pristine waters and the dazzling white of these waterfalls.
Tip: Elks love this area of the park, especially at the mating season, where they will fight for supremacy and you may enjoy from a far distance the battle.
Yellowstone is an incredible nature sanctuary who bewitches and seduces you spontaneously. It gives you such magical moments it is hard to imagine, so just be aware and keep your senses alert. Your eyes will pretend to see what moves in the meadow or hiding behind a tree, your ears will seek to understand what’s that sound that resembles a call from the elves of The Lord of the Rings movie, your skin will feel the warm temperature of a boiling haze. Close your eyes, get the smell of sulfur or fresh pine forest and enjoy the moment. Enjoy the taste of being there, Yellowstone is there for you.