Yellowstone National Park, the oldest national park in the world, has lost none of its magic since it was founded in 1872. On the contrary: Millions of visitors are drawn to the almost 9,000 km² park every year, which shows the wonder of the earth like no other. Around 300 active geysers and waterfalls are lined up in an area as large as Corsica or Puerto Rico. Vaping, hissing and simmering on every corner, up to 3,000 small earthquakes shake the park every year, biting sulphurous smell burns into the nose and the park seems to never end. The incredible vastness of this landscape will be remembered forever. And what seems so hostile to life is still the habitat for countless bird species, bears, elk and bison.
# 1: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
The eponymous Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is our favorite place in the park: the orange-yellow-reddish gorge is between 500 and 1,000 meters wide and between 200 and 400 meters deep. The Upper (approx. 33 m) and Lower Falls (approx. 94 m) are the world famous waterfalls in the gorge. The Lower Falls in particular (almost twice as high as the Niagara Falls) offer a unique panorama from various viewpoints on the North Rim and South Rim! Every viewpoint is signposted; our favorites are these:
Brink of the Lower Falls (North Rim):
Over a good kilometer you overcome about 180 meters in altitude through the forest down into the canyon. Arrived below you, the mighty Lower Fall rushes into the depths. Incredible: You are right next to the edge. Definitely one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the park! (Photo was taken in the morning).
Lookout Point (North Rim):
You have the best panoramic view of the Lower Falls from Lookout Point. The path leads a few hundred meters via a boardwalk to this viewpoint. (Photo was taken in the morning).
Inspiration Point (North Rim):
At the end of the North Rim, a few steps lead down to Inspiration Point. Here you have a great view of the canyon and maybe even spot a piece of the Lower Falls in the end. (Photos taken in the sunset)
Artist Point (South Rim):
The Artist Point is one of the most popular vantage points on the entire canyon. From here you have beautiful panoramic views of the entire canyon including the Lower Falls at sunrise and sunset.
Uncle Tom’s Trail:
Uncle Tom’s Trail offers the most beautiful views of the Upper and Lower Falls. Unfortunately, this trail was closed when we visited. You go down a few meters via metal steps and then have different options for tours. Guided ranger tours also start from here (either 1.5 or 4.5 kilometers long).
# 2: Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs is THE highlight of the Northern Yellowstone Loop and shows once again how unreal this national park looks. Extensive sinter terraces made of deposited minerals characterize the northernmost point in Yellowstone. Water at around 70 ° C cascades over the terraces. Small lakes, steaming springs, larger and smaller deposits can be reached via extensive boardwalks (plan at least 1 hour). The area is divided into the Upper and Lower Terraces (the latter can also be reached by car). So if you don’t want to run from the bottom up, you can first reach the lower section and then the upper section by car. About 2 kilometers there is a paved road running counterclockwise to various highlights around the Upper Terraces.
# 3: Norris Geyser Basin
In the south of the Northern Loop we reach Norris Geyser Basin: an extensive network of boardwalks that leads to various geysers and hot springs. We were only here late in the evening and spent the sunset here. Porcelain Basin (approx. 1.5 km) and Back Basin (approx. 3.5 km) are home to the most famous springs in the park. At a late hour we hiked part of the Back Basin Loop and marveled at the Porcelain Basin from above. As always, you can find a precise overview of the hiking trails on the official website of the national park.
# 4: Yellowstone Lake
The largest mountain lake in North America is located at a spectacular height of 2357 m – no wonder that many roads in the park are closed in winter because there is simply too much snow. Yellowstone Lake still seems to be the “most normal” body of water in the park. Here is just ice cold but clear water. Only on the southern edge of the lake are some hot springs bubbling away. Unfortunately, you cannot rent kayaks or boats in the park. If you still want to paddle you have to bring your own boat or z. B rent a kayak in Jackson (about 160 kilometers south of Lake Yellowstone). Several Jackson operators also organize guided kayak tours from Grant Village.
OARS: Half-day tours on Yellowstone Lake from $ 79 or multi-day tours in Yellowstone and Grand Teton
Geyser Kayak Tours: Sunset Paddling (3 hours from $ 125)
# 5: West Thumb Geyser Basin
At the southern end of the park is the somewhat hidden West Thumb Geyser Basin directly on Yellowstone Lake. If you are coming from Grand Teton this is your first stop in the park. A 1 km long boardwalk takes you around a dozen hot springs and boiling pots.
Yellowstone Lake Overlook Trail:
The 2 km circular route to the viewpoint over the West Thumb Geyser Basin and Yellowstone Lake takes about an hour. The trail starts at the West Thumb Parking Lot.
# 6: Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring is the third largest hot spring in the world and the largest in the United States. That sounds impressive and it is! The source measures approximately 75 x 90 meters and is almost 50 meters deep. From the air, Grand Prismatic Spring looks like a huge watery eye from which an average of 2000 liters of hot water run out every minute. Incredible shapes and colors mix here: depending on the content of bacteria and outside temperatures, the colors vary slightly. On particularly cold and windy days, it is difficult to see some of the dimensions and colors of the boardwalks. The hot water evaporates immediately and hardly allows a clear view.
You have the most beautiful view of Grand Prismatic Spring a bit above the path. To do this, drive a bit back south from the parking lot and follow the signs to the Fairy Falls Trailhead. From here you walk straight for about 1.5 kilometers and then up the hill to the viewpoint. This path was unfortunately blocked due to bears early in the year.
# 7: Old Faithful
THE attraction in the park should be the Old Faithful. The geyser spits a fountain skyward about every 90 minutes. You can find outbreak forecasts and corresponding times in the Visitor Center, which is also very worth seeing with several small exhibitions around the Yellowstone. An outbreak lasts between one and five minutes. The water column shoots up like a jet up to 55 meters. The only downside: you can only watch the outbreak from a very, very long distance. This makes the fountain almost unspectacular. Anyone who has ever seen the Strokkur break out in Iceland will probably be disappointed by the Old Faithful. Benches circle around the Old Faithful over hundreds of meters so that the tourist masses can also sit comfortably.
# 8: Upper Geyser Basin with the Morning Glory Pool
Nowhere in the park do you have as many hot springs and geysers as in the Upper Geyser Basin near the Old Faithful. The individual geysers are connected by wooden walkways. Something is always bubbling and splashing – a truly unreal place. Some of the geysers erupt regularly, others have been slumbering for decades. A total of 17 signposted stations accompany you on the way to the Morning Glory Pool, one of the most beautiful hot springs in the park.
# 9: Watch Wildlife | Safari in Yellowstone National Park
As on every safari: early in the morning and late in the evening you have the best chance of watching the animals. At 7am in the morning we saw bison grazing peacefully in the Hayden Valley (between Yellowstone Lake and Canyon Village). Even late at night you could see animals (bears in the distance). The wide grass areas offer ideal conditions here. And above all: the tour buses are not on the road before 8:30 a.m. The best spots for wildlife in Yellowstone are:
Black bears: In the forest and meadows. In summer, especially in the Northern Loop around Tower-Roosevelt and Mammoth Hot Springs.
Grizzly bears: In the forest and meadows. For sunrise and sunset especially in the Hayden Valley
Bison: On the wide grassy areas. Especially in the Hayden and Lamar Valley (in the northeast of the park).
Elk: In damp, swampy areas, on lakesides and rivers
By the way, Ranger also offers safaris to selected spots. Always have a look at the current parking program (available daily at the entrance). The rangers live their jobs with great passion and tell you many anecdotes and interesting facts about the park.
Be sure to stick to the distances given by rangers to the wild (!) Animals. At least 100 meters from bears and wolves and at least 25 meters from bison, reindeer, deer, elk etc. Sometimes it is not that easy, especially when bison are used. B. graze in front of your accommodation in the meadow. They are very used to humans, but never come up with such wild thoughts as: “I’m going to take a selfie with the bison” or “I’m going to stroke it” (no joke: such observations are made on site!) With bison there are far more dangerous accidents than with moose – be especially careful when you encounter a herd of young animals.
# 10: How much time do we need for Yellowstone National Park?
Very simple: it will always be too little! In any case, it should be 2 full days:
1 day for the Northern Loop (70 miles / 113 km)
at least 1 day for the Southern Loop (96 miles / 155 km
With the Northen and Southern Loop, we not only took the highlights with us, but soon every lookout point and every little boardwalk loop. We started early in the morning and often didn’t come back until after sunset. In between there is always the opportunity for snacks in the Visitor Centers – otherwise the park is really sparsely populated. Be sure to plan your overnight stays in advance and reserve your accommodations. Hotels in Yellowstone National Park may a. be reserved through the park’s official booking platform. If you want to save money, you can also go outside the park, e.g. B. Stay overnight in West Yellowstone. But then consider the long journeys every day (this is valuable time that you will lose in the park)!
Infrastructure in Yellowstone National Park
Internet and telephone network are in short supply in the extensive Yellowstone Park. Even if the park is fully developed for tourism, you can only hope for WiFi in the Visitor Centers. Even expensive hotels like the Yellowstone Lake Hotel only offer WiFi for an extra charge. In the visitor centers there is usually also a small supermarket where you can stock up on essentials. Of course, there is a larger selection and cheaper prices outside the park, e.g. B. in West Yellowstone.
The best overview of Yellowstone National Park is provided by the English-speaking lonely planet “Yellowstone & Grand Teton”. Practical: The neighboring Grand Teton is also dealt with in detail there. On 287 pages you will find detailed maps for each part of the park, hiking tips and route recommendations for a thoroughly successful visit.
With the camper to Yellowstone National Park
On a motorhome trip through Yellowstone National Park, you can explore the home of bears, bison and moose, as well as countless bird species and see the well-known geyser Old Faithful up close. The park has a total of five entrances through which you can drive the camper.
You can reach this street via the north entrance near the town of Gardiner in Montana. This entrance is open all year round. The Grand Loop Road runs south from here and first leads through the Golden Gate Canyon. You follow the road to the three main geyser fields: the Lower Geyser Basin, the Midway Geyser Basin and the Upper Geyser Basin.
Spend the night in the Yellowstone National Park with your motorhome
Camping in this park in the Rocky Mountains is only allowed on the campgrounds intended for campers. Which campgrounds you choose depends on what you want to see in Yellowstone National Park. The Grant Village Campground is located on the shores of Lake Yellowstone and you can explore the Old Faithful from here.
If you would like to spend the night in a motorhome where the bison herds and long grain sheep graze and where coyotes and bears are at home, you should choose a campground near the fascinating Lamar Valley, often referred to as the Serengeti of Yellowstone.
At the north-east entrance to the park, the Slough Creek Campground and the Pebble Creek Campground are a short distance from the valley. In both places it is advisable to arrive early in the day to get a place.
In Yellowstone National Park you can experience camper holidays in all seasons. Park enthusiasts particularly appreciate spring and autumn. In autumn you can see the changing color of the leaves of the deciduous trees and in spring you can see the blossoming awakening of nature.
If you still feel like taking a camping trip and you still lack the right equipment for your camper or tent, you can take a look at our shop, where we have a huge selection of practical camping accessories for you.
Have you ever been to Yellowstone National Park or are you planning a trip there? Let us know your experience here and share it with other interested readers!