America the Beautiful. That name exists for a reason. There are so many stunning places right here in the US and in this National Park Series I am going to share some of our favorite parks and experiences in our own backyard. This weeks focus in on beautiful Yellowstone National Park.
The summer Logan and I got married we went on A LOT of weekend road trips. A LOT. We wanted to take advantage of our last summer in Colorado before moving to California. Colorado is in the middle of country, California is not. This was our summer of road trips, and my favorite of them all was a long weekend spent at stunning Yellowstone National Park.
Beyond Old Faithful I knew basically nothing about Yellowstone, but I have never been so blown away by somewhere I expected so little of. Yellowstone was one of those places I somehow felt obligated to go and as we looked at places easily accessible from our home in Boulder. It seemed irresponsible for me to miss the opportunity to visit one of the United States’ more well known National Parks.
Popularity Has a Cost
Because of it’s notoriety, it is EXTREMELY crowded, particularly in summer. We spent many hours cursing the “dumb tourists” (never us, of course!) for a range of behaviors that would be considered unacceptable, and at times illegal, outside of Yellowstone. The most common of our grievances against other park visitors was their habit of stopping in the road to take pictures of anything from a bison (cool!), to a geyser (also cool!), to a field of grass….
Umm, yeah. Yes, bison, and deer, and magical geologic springs bursting through the ground are all worthy of stopping and taking a photo, but you know who thought of that? The people who built the roads in Yellowstone. And they built parking lots and pullouts and walking paths for this very purpose. Granted, some do get full, but there are many places in the park where the crowds stop and mythic geysers still exist.
Sometimes stopping in necessary (like when there is a huge bison in your way), but most of the time it is just rude. There are more bison in the park where you can safely stop and take your pictures, I promise.
Okay, rant over. Back to more stunning photos of this breathtaking park.
Where to go?
Most of the park is located in Wyoming, but if you drive to the northernmost parts of the park you cross into Montana. If you keep driving you could end up in Glacier, another of my very favorites! I highly recommend spending at least two full days in Yellowstone. This will let you wander beyond Old Faithful. We were there for three days and I left feeling like there was so much to see. Keep in mind that the park is HUGE and driving through it is a slow business. So make sure you budget time to get to and from different points of interest.
There are hiking options in the park, but most of the main sights are easily accessible from the main roads and parking lots. One thing we did to avoid traffic was finding somewhere to park earlier in the morning and walking between the sights instead of driving.
Yellowstone is so much more than geysers. The prismatic pools, and waterfalls, and wildlife are all amazing. In my opinion, they are totally worth dealing with the hordes of people who flock here every summer. That being said, don’t go in summer if you can avoid it. Late spring or early fall when you can still camp would be great. Or opt for colder months when you can have the park to yourselves, although camping may be off the table.
Dollars and Sense
Entrance: $30 for a 7 day pass for a private vehicle (see the website for more info) OR get a yearly pass to all the parks for $80 and explore the United State’s natural wonders!
Camping: $20/ night (standard for National Park campgrounds)
We camped at one of the major campgrounds, Madison. These are the only ones to take reservations and we were there during high season. It was totally full and our tiny tent looked a tad silly set up amongst gigantic, tricked-out circus tents and RVs, but it was a decent place to rest our heads for a couple of nights. There are many smaller first-come, first-served campgrounds, but don’t expect finding spots to be easy during high season.
While you are in the neighborhood, check out Grand Teton National Park. We just did a drive by, but next time we go to Yellowstone we be sure to spend a few days in the Tetons.
Check out their website for tons of useful information.