Yellowstone national park has the most admiring landscape among all the national park. It is famous for its thermal pools, and it attracts more than a million tourists per year. In this post, I have listed the best things one can do in this amazing national park. Yellowstone is known for its geysers, but it has quite a few other landmarks worth visiting such as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Yellowstone Lake. You can visit my itinerary here 3-day itinerary of Yellowstone National Park. I would recommend at least sparing one week of your time to enjoy the beauty offered by the oldest national park in the USA. Following are my recommendations for must to have in your Yellowstone bucket list.
The best things to do in Yellowstone
1. Most popular Geyser, Old Faithful
Old Faithful is most popular among all geysers in Yellowstone National park. This geyser named after its frequent and predictable eruptions. For the eruption predictions, check the visitor center. Secure your spot by reaching to the eruption viewing area before half an hour to get a better viewing spot. This place gets super crowded.
2. Mind-blowing colors of Grand Prismatic
I call it colorful geysers. One must have studied in school about the prismatic effect. You will see the same principle in action at Grand Prismatic Spring. To get the best view of the spring, you need to hike to the Grand Prismatic spring overlook point. From the Midway geyser basin trail, you will not be able to enjoy the colors compared to the view from the overlook point.
3. Mammoth Hot Spring
Mammoth hot springs are different compared to other geysers. The limestone is a relatively soft type of rock, allowing the travertine formations to grow much faster than other sinter formations. Mammoth hot springs have two terrace boardwalks. I would recommend doing both terraces. You can park at one of the terrace loop parking lots and hike through the boardwalk and do both the loops. The upper terrace loop parking lot is small and gets full easily, so it took us some time to find a parking spot. We did both the loops separately. The whole trail has a boardwalk and is accessible via stroller & wheelchair except few stairs. For the lower loop, we parked on the grand loop road near Liberty cap. Plenty of parking space in addition to proximity to the village.
4. Spot bison on your way to Lamar Valley
Yellowstone is the best place to explore wildlife. I heard Bison are one of the most popular animals to be seen in Yellowstone, and I wanted to spot one. There are good chances to spot a herd of this animal on the route from the tower junction to Lamar Valley drive. We got so lucky to see a huge herd of Bison strolling in the valley area. Besides Bison, we saw a golden bear, Elk, and deer.
5. Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
The grand canyon of Yellowstone is approx twenty miles long. The canyon is 1,500 to 4,000-feet wide and 800 to 1,200-feet deep in places. The canyon attracts artists and tourists due to the colors spotted on the canyon walls. The mineral stain marks on canyon walls show the location of hot springs and steam vents. Also, this was the reason the rocks turned yellow, pink, and white. The canyon is truly a piece of art painted by mother nature.
6. Mud Volcano
The name itself gives a hint that this geyser has something to do with mud. Yes, Mud volcano is an area of the muddy spring. Though Mud volcano is not as active as earlier, worth checking out. There is a short boardwalk hike, where you can see Dragon’s Mouth spring and remains of Mud Volcano. If you have more time, you can do a longer hike, which is less than a mile loop to explore Grizzly Funmarole, Sour Lake, sizzling basin, etc.
7. Experience Moonrise
Let me admit I didn’t know about Moonrise at all. When we pull over our car in Mud volcano parking lot, I saw the orange circle popping through dark blue skies. My husband pointed it and told me to look at the Moonrise. The tricky part is moonrise time changes from day to day and location to location. It makes it difficult to see. We got lucky to experience it the first time in my life.
8. Sapphire Pool in Biscuit Basin
The Sapphire pool is a resemblance to an Oriental sapphire which was once a calm hot pool. It is part of the upper geyser basin and popular Geyer in biscuit basin. The Biscuit basin loop is half-mile long and doesn’t allow pets.
9. West Thumb basin
The West thumb is the largest geyser basin on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. A large volcanic explosion has formed the west thumb of Yellowstone. The view from the central basin is picture-perfect. You can see Yellowstone Lake in the backdrop of the geysers.
10. Upper and Lower Falls of Yellowstone
Take a scenic drive to North rim drive road and stop by at lookout points to view the Lower Falls of Yellowstone. Grand view and inspiration point provide the best possible view of the Lower Falls and the grand canyon. The North rim drive is a one-way loop, and you end up exiting at canyon village. Follow the same road and enter at the south rim drive. You can stop by at the upper falls viewpoint or directly head to artist point. Don’t give yourself a chance to regret by missing the artist point. Artist point gives an amazing view of the canyon. You can see that the Yellowstone river divides the canyon into two parts.
11. Yellowstone Lake
Yellowstone Lake has 140 miles of shoreline with a scenic backdrop. You can drive by the lakeshore or hike along. The lake also offers water activities like paddle boating, renting a boat and fishing. If you want to lay back & enjoy the view, then board on a scenic cruise from Lake village. Lake Yellowstone hotel dining room offers delicious meal as well.
12. Enjoy the scenic drive from the East entrance to Lake village
In my opinion, East entrance to Lake village is the most scenic drive in the park. The road starts with mountain range and valley and ends at Yellowstone Lake. The road called Hwy 20, and it’s closed in Winter. You must stop at Nine-mile post to admire an outstanding view of the valley. On our way to Lake village, we drove through Sylvan Pass, Avalanche peak, Top-notch peak, Grizzly peak, and lake butte overlook. After Lake butte overlook, the highway runs parallel to the shore of Yellowstone Lake. I will recommend you to add this drive in your Yellowstone itinerary.
13. Cliff Geyser at Black sand Basin
The Black Sand Basin is less than a mile away from Old faithful village. In 1872 Geologist Hayden Expedition named this geyser a cliff geyser because of its cliff-like walls formed around the crater. Also, this geyser is located on the edge of Iron Creek. How does one know the eruption is about to take place? It is when this crater is filled with boiling water, that is the time eruption is about to take place. The eruption duration varies from a few minutes to a couple of days. When we visited, it was quite active, and we saw an eruption. The eruption was almost 20 feet high.
14. Lunch at rustic old Faithful Inn
I am a big fan of old rustic architecture. Although the place is old but very well maintained. The moment I saw it, I fell in love with it. The rustic architecture has a charm of the country-themed movies. You will feel you are part of a movie set. I have seen this type of architecture in movies, but this was my 1st experience visiting such a place. The food was delicious too. They had minimal vegetarian options, but their buffet is quite popular.
15. Enjoy camping in one of the 12 campsites
I couldn’t do camping this time due to shortage of time. Also, I didn’t want to take chances with a baby. I would definitely have it on my itinerary during my next trip to Yellowstone’s. There are five campsites which you can reserve well in advance. Other seven campsites are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you don’t have experience of camping and don’t know what to carry. Here is my guide for Camping Essentials.