Yellowstone National Park

9/10/2018 to 9/14/2018

A Must See! There's a little bit of everything in Yellowstone

Be sure to watch the video at the very end of this post

Monday 9/10/2018     We left Livingston, Montana today and drove to our next campground near Yellowstone. We didn't take the direct route from Livingston to enter from the north because we are towing a 32" trailer. I read that the roads from that entrance to our campsite on the west side are too steep and curvy. Instead, we backtracked through Bozman and drove along the west side of the park.  It's amazing but forest fires seem to be everywhere we go.  We passed some more smoky areas on our way to the KOA located near West Yellowstone, but nothing was closed inside Yellowstone.  This KOA is a very large RV park and seems to be full of campers.  I checked other campgrounds in this area and this was the only one that had room for us.  I also checked into renting a car again to make it a little easier to get around the National Park but none were available.  I thought this was the "off-season". After setting up, we drove about six miles into West Yellowstone to get fuel and tried a restaurant called Wild West Pizzeria for dinner.  We strolled around the town after dinner, visited some gift shops and stopped at the visitor's center.  We got a few ideas of places we wanted to see inside Yellowstone and then we walked to the nearby IMAX theater and watched a 40-minute movie on Yellowstone. 

Tuesday 9/11/2018     We are discovering the world of “Yellowstone National Park” today. We left the trailer at about 8 am this morning and headed for the west entrance which is about eight miles from the KOA we are staying in. I didn’t realize that most of Yellowstone is in Wyoming and not Montana. Our first destination was, of course, “Old Faithful” which was 30 miles from the entrance and in Wyoming. We were amazed at all the steam coming from the ground as we drove along the road. Old Faithful is just a small part of this huge complex called The Upper Geyser Basin. There is a visitor’s educational center, a general store with a lunch counter, gift shops, a ranger station, a clinic, and a beautiful, rustic inn. There is a huge parking lot and we didn’t have a hard time parking in the morning but when we left in the early afternoon it was full and cars were circling. We were very lucky this morning for just as we arrived at Old Faithful it began erupting. There was a fairly large crowd watching the spectacle and the cameras were going full force. We took many gorgeous photos and a few videos. The geyser only erupts for about two or three minutes and then the crowd disperses and begins walking around the complex. We walked to the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center which I think is their newest structure. We watched a couple of short films on Yellowstone, walked through their small museum and bought some hiking trail guides. Old Faithful isn’t the only geyser in this location, there are many. Old Faithful erupts more frequently than any of the other big geysers, although it is not the largest or most regular geyser in the park. Most are small but there are at least three large ones. An eruption lasts anywhere from one and a half minutes to five minutes. The majority of the world’s active geysers are in this area. Ranger’s do a great job of predicting the eruption times of five geysers here – Old Faithful, Castle, Grand, Daisy, and Riverside. They post a schedule that is usually only 10 minutes more or less to the actual time of the eruption. There is a long wooden walkway throughout this area that takes you past many geysers, hot springs and boiling pools of beautiful blue water.

We followed the walkway to the Old Faithful Inn. This inn was designed and built by Robert Reamer in 1903 – 1904. It is absolutely beautiful. The woodwork is amazing and there’s even an old, huge clock on the stone chimney that has been there from the beginning. There is a wooden staircase that begins on the bottom floor and ascends to an area they named the Crow’s Nest. They used to have bands perform up in the nest. We were disappointed that we could only walk up a few floors because an earthquake many years ago made the Crow’s Nest unstable. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Before we left this large area, we watched Old Faithful erupt one more time.

Below is a short video that Rose took of Old Faithful

We left the Old Faithful complex and began driving down the road through the park stopped at every scenic viewpoint or place of interest along the way. Places like Biscuit Basin, Midway Geyser Basin, and Fountain Paint Pot. We saw many more small geysers, hot springs, more boiling pools, and even mud pots. (mud pots are just as they sound, boiling areas of muddy earth)

Further down the road, we detoured to a one-way road that took us by a fast-moving river and several small waterfalls. We began the drive back to the trailer but were delayed about an hour by “gawkers”. Cars came to a standstill on the road because they saw a few Elk or Bison on the side of the road and they all stopped to take pictures. Even though all the signs told you not to stop on the road, they did and it was a little annoying.

Wednesday 9/12/2018     We began the day early again driving back through the west entrance. We decided to drive the Grand Loop Road and stop at the various viewpoints and attractions along the way. We encountered another traffic jam on the road and this time it was a momma bison and her calf. The baby is so adorable. The first place we stopped was called Gibbon Falls. It was a short walk to the falls, they weren’t very large but we enjoyed the walk. After that, we stopped at Artists Paintpots. This was a fairly long loop hike and we viewed several boiling pools, fountain paint pots, small geysers, and a mud pot. Next was Norris Geyser Basin where we walked along a very long wooden planked boardwalk and we saw a large geyser called Steamboat. There was constant water and steam rising out of Steamboat but it had erupted very early in the morning and it was unknown when the next eruption would be. There were steam vents, other geysers, mud pots and other sites along this boardwalk.

Our next destination was called Canyon Village which had a small museum and a visitor’s center. We watched the end of another Yellowstone movie that was playing and walked around the museum for a while and then started our drive down the road again. We stopped at an area called The Grand Canyon Of The Yellowstone. We parked and got a glimpse of The Lower Falls. We took a hike on the North Rim Trail which led to a place called Lookout Point which was just a viewing area of the Lower Falls. There was also a trail called Red Rock Trail which went deep into the canyon. The trail drops 500 feet in .38 mile using many stairs and switchbacks until you come to a viewing platform which has a fantastic view of the Lower Falls. The way down was easy, the way back up – not so much. Next stop was Inspiration Point which is at the south end of the canyon. We had to walk down 78 steps to a viewing platform to view the canyon and river. We left Inspiration Point and drove to The Upper Falls Viewpoint. This was just a short walk to a viewing platform where we could see and hear the rushing river flowing over the Upper Falls. We were treated to a very rare sighting of a gorgeous rainbow above the river just over the falls. Everybody was excitedly snapping their cameras away. We stopped at a couple more scenic locations on the road, drove along the lake for a while and then returned back to the trailer. (but not before one more buffalo traffic jam) It was a wonderful drive with a great many attractions to enjoy, the only drawback to Yellowstone is the large crowds of people at every viewing point or attraction, we always had to search for a place to park. We were lucky and found a spot at every location mainly by waiting for someone to leave so it all worked out.

Thursday 9/13/2018     We are taking a drive today to an area called Mammoth Hot Springs, The Roosevelt Arch at the north entrance, and The Lamar Valley.  Yellowstone Park is gigantic - 2,219,789 acres.  It's larger than the states of Rhode Island or Delaware.  We ended up driving a total of 179 miles today.  Our first stop was Mammoth Hot Springs.  Mammoth Hot Springs is a large complex of hot springs on a hill of travertine in Yellowstone National Park adjacent to Fort Yellowstone and the Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District. It was created over thousands of years as hot water from the spring cooled and deposited calcium carbonate. It has been described as looking like a cave turned inside out.  We had our usual parking challenge and then we walked to The Terrace Grille and ordered a drink so we wouldn't feel guilty eating our packed lunch inside.  It was a pretty cold, windy day.  After lunch, we began the walk to the Mammoth Hot Springs and there sitting at the bottom of the hot spring was a small herd of elk.  We worked our way up to the head of the crowd and took several pictures.  Couldn't get the huge buck to turn around and pose, though.  We continued walking the long wooden boardwalk which went up hundreds of stairs to the top and looked down upon the hot springs.  We walked back down into the small village and went inside the hotel and visitor's center.  There were plenty of elk just hanging around the center of the village and around the other buildings.  No need to stop in the middle of the road and cause a traffic jam.

From Mammoth Hot Springs we drove further north to the original entrance of Yellowstone. This is where they built The Roosevelt Arch.  In the late 1800's tourists would take a train to Livingston, Montana and then take a branch line running some fifty miles south through Paradise Valley to, first the Cinnabar station and later to Gardiner, Montana. From there they would take a horse and wagon and enter through this arch. We took a few photos and then drove through the arch and took some more.  When you drive through the arch there is a little town with some shops and restaurants.

Next on our agenda was The Lamar Valley.  Lamar Valley is referred to as the Serengeti of the United States, because of the extraordinary diversity of mammals living there. It is the Lamar Valley that the first wolves were reintroduced to the park in 1995-97. This is a huge open flat area with a river for fly-fishing enthusiasts.  It is very beautiful but doesn't have any geysers, or hot springs, etc.  A lot of people come here with binoculars and cameras with long telephoto lenses and wait for wildlife to appear.  We did happen upon a group of buffalo on our way to the valley and we had to stop and wait for them to clear the road.  We continued driving down the road towards the northeast entrance but decided it was too far to go and we turned around and began the drive back to the campground.  We never know how long we are going to be tied up in traffic with the bison gawkers and wanted to get back before dark.  The sun was just setting as we neared our exit in West Yellowstone.

Friday  9/14/2018     In the last three days we saw just about everything we planned on seeing in Yellowstone so we decided to take a day off to just relax. 

Check out the video below. It highlights most of the things we saw in Yellowstone.

Saturday 9/15/2018     Today we packed up the trailer and are headed to Grand Teton National Park.