As the first and oldest national park in the United States, Yellowstone has it all. Discover majestic mountains, verdant forests, stunning waterfalls, diverse wildlife, rolling meadows, serene lakes, a roaring river, colorful hot springs and hundreds of geysers, including the iconic “Old Faithful.” With so many natural attractions, it’s little wonder that Yellowstone receives millions of visitors every year.
Due to its popularity, it’s best to book your visit early—whether you want to see spring wildflowers, enjoy the warm weather of summer or see Yellowstone bursting with fall foliage. Here are some tips to help you start planning your 2020 trip to this amazing national park.
How to Get to Yellowstone
Located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, Yellowstone is roughly a six-hour drive from Salt Lake City, a nine-hour drive from Denver and a 13-hour drive from Seattle. Nearby, Yellowstone Airport offers the closest option for travel with limited flights landing just minutes away from the park. One of the most convenient ways to get here is via motorcoach. There are many multiday tours that not only comfortably take you to Yellowstone but include stops at top attractions such as the Grand Teton, Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, San Francisco and more. Or, if you prefer to take your own road trip, you can book a variety of guided Yellowstone day trips that will take you to top sights in the park.
Where to Stay in Yellowstone
At nearly 3,500 square miles (9,000 square kilometers), Yellowstone is so big that you’ll want to spend at least a couple days here. While there are a variety of hotels outside the park, staying in one of Yellowstone’s cabins is an ideal way to experience it. This not only helps you save time wasted in long lines at the entrance each day, it will also give you longer hours to experience the park. Enjoy waking up to the sound of birds chirping and the sight of deer or bison grazing just feet away. Or, watch “Old Faithful” at sunset when many of the crowds have left for the evening.
If you’re interested in staying in Yellowstone cabins, be sure to book early before they sell out for the year. There are many tours that will also arrange accommodations inside the park for you, subject to availability.
What to See in Yellowstone
Another amazing attraction is the Great Prismatic Spring, the largest source of hot springs in the United States. Although its size is part of what makes it magnificent, its vibrant rainbow colors are what make it one of the most photographed natural phenomenon in the park. Another not-to-be-missed hot springs is the Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin.
Mud pots are another common geothermal feature in Yellowstone. Although not as beautiful as the hot springs, these unique landscapes are interesting to see. Essentially, they are a sort of hot spring with limited water. Acid and microorganisms reduce the surrounding rock into clay and mud, creating unique bubbling “mud pots.” Notable sights include the Artist Paint Pots just south of the Norris Geyser Basin and the Fountain Paint Pots in the Lower Geyser Basin.
Safety Tip: When visiting these attractions, please remember to always stay on the path. Falling into Yellowstone’s geysers or hot springs is almost always fatal. Temperatures below the surface can be as high as 459 degrees Fahrenheit (237 degrees Celsius) and contain naturally occurring acids.
Wildlife in Yellowstone
Home to one of the largest concentrations of mammals in North America, Yellowstone offers ample opportunities to spot a wide variety of wildlife such as bison, elk, moose, deer, bighorn sheep, bears, wolves, coyotes, mountain goats, foxes, marmots, rabbits and beavers, to name but a few. If you like taking pictures of wildlife, be sure to keep your camera ready (at a safe distance, of course).
You can usually see some type of wildlife any time of year. But summer is considered the peak season for seeing the largest variety of wildlife. Around March and April, the bears start to wake up from hibernation and roam the park. Sometimes they even cause traffic jams on the roads known as “bear jams.” In spring, you can spot baby animals, especially bison calves and deer fawns. Winter is the best time to see wolves.
Safety Tip: It’s best to stay at least 100 yards (91 meters) from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards (23 meters) from other wildlife. This will not only protect you, but it also helps to keep the animals safe by not encouraging them to become comfortable around people.
Where to Eat in Yellowstone
Yellowstone offers dining experiences of all kinds within the park—from snacks and fast food to cafeterias and fine dining. The historic Old Faithful Inn is a particularly popular place to eat. Enjoy sitting in its lodge-style dining room. Dining options include lunch and dinner buffets. No visit to Yellowstone is complete without trying one of the many foods and beverages flavored with the native wild huckleberries.Throughout the park you’ll find items such as huckleberry pie, huckleberry jam, huckleberry martinis and huckleberry syrup on a piping hot stack of pancakes.
This is just a brief guide to the vast and amazing Yellowstone. For more information, visit the national park’s official website. For Yellowstone tour and travel ideas, find a wide variety of affordable options at Tours4Fun.com.