In The Caldera: Our Journey In Yellowstone National Park

Although we were sad to leave The Tetons, we were definitely excited to explore Yellowstone National Park!

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Yellowstone

Although we were sad to leave The Tetons, we were definitely excited to explore Yellowstone National Park!  It was only about an hour and a half away from Shadow Mountain which made for an easy, quick drive. We arrived at the south entrance on a Friday afternoon in August and were surprised that we didn’t have to wait very long to enter the park.  We stayed at Grant Village Campground. After staying in such a quiet, kind of secluded spot for two weeks it was a bit overwhelming to be surrounded by other people. However, we were ready for crowds and knew that the park would be busy since we were visiting during peak season.  We got settled in to our pull-through site, ate some lunch, and decided to explore.

Hayden Valley and Mud Volcano

We enjoyed a drive out to the Hayden Valley and Mud Volcano areas.  There were SO many bison on and near the road as we got close to this area.  It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. We even saw a few males butt heads!  The Mud Volcano area had several mud pots, fumaroles, and hot springs. A boardwalk guides visitors to all of the geological features in this area.  We really loved Dragon’s Mouth.

We thought it was one of the most interesting features in the park. Although not well known, it was actually Matt’s favorite feature because it reminded him of a Dungeons and Dragons adventure.  While exploring this area we were lucky enough to see a bison cross over the boardwalk nearby! Everyone stood in silence waiting for this massive, magnificent creature to decide which way he was going.

We continued our drive into Hayden Valley. This area was absolutely beautiful. There were herds of bison grazing and rolling hills. There were lots of pull-outs available for photo opportunities and wildlife viewing. Definitely take precaution when walking around the area–bison are walking around and can appear out of nowhere. Something you wouldn’t think would be true for such a large animal!

 

 

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Our next stop was Artist Point in the Canyon Village area.  This point offers views of the Lower Falls, opposite is an amazing view of the canyon below.  There is something striking about the quick change in landscape that the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone exhibits.  The multi-colored canyon seems to appear out of nowhere amidst the dense, rolling forest. From a distance, the lower falls are magnificent.  It was difficult to tell the water is falling an astonishing 308 feet. We found it impossible to capture the beauty of this landscape with a photograph- you have to see it for yourself!

We started driving to Old Faithful only to realize we hadn’t run our generator all day.  We were almost there when we decided to turn around to get back in time to run it before quiet hours began.  Lesson learned: Different areas in Yellowstone are further apart than you might realize.

On Saturday, we had to take care of laundry at the facilities near the campground before heading out to explore Old Faithful, Upper Geyser Basin, and Midway Geyser Basin.  

Old Faithful

We knew this was one of the must sees in Yellowstone before arriving.  We got to Old Faithful around 1:20 and didn’t have to wait long before seeing it erupt because it erupted at 1:44!  It was amazing to see the display of power our Earth demonstrates. It was cool to see such a famous landmark that millions of people flock to each year.  However, it was a little too crowded for us. From there we decided to explore the Upper Geyser Basin.

Upper Geyser Basin

This is just as much of a must see as Old Faithful!  This boardwalk was considerably less crowded than the paved path to Morning Glory Pool.  We found there were more geothermal features along the boardwalk than the paved path. Some of the features make you feel like you are walking on a different planet.  It was amazing to see the differences in the features along the walk. While reading the information along the path we learned that the color of the water indicated the temperature and the kinds of microorganisms thriving within.  

The boardwalk led us to Morning Glory Pool, a multicolored hot spring that reminds us of a smaller, less crowded version of the Grand Prismatic Spring. Sadly, we learned that park staff have to remove lots of trash, coins, etc. that people throw in the pool each year.  This is causing the vibrant blue-green colors to fade to more orange and brown colors. It took us about an hour to walk along the boardwalk and view all of the geothermal features. The boardwalk is not long or difficult to walk, however there is no shade and no water fountains.  We regretted not carrying our water bottles and bringing extra sunscreen with us. We briefly explored Old Faithful Inn to grab a drink of water and check out this historical site. The inside of the hotel is filled with beautifully carved wood. There were giant fire places (not being used) and a huge clock.  There were restaurants, cafes, and shops in the hotel too. 

Midway Geyser Basin

This area is home to the well-known Grand Prismatic Spring and the crowds are there to prove it.  The boardwalk is bustling with people from all over the world trying to capture the perfect photo.  This area is also home to Excelsior Geyser, Turquoise Pool, and Opal Pool. All of these pools and geysers were colorful and beautiful and make you feel like you’re on a different planet.  

The Grand Prismatic Spring was amazing! The colors are so vibrant! You can feel the heat and steam blowing off of it when you stand in front of it. There is an opportunity to view the spring from above by utilizing a trail nearby.  Unfortunately, we were both too hot and tired to do this and decided to head back for the evening. 

We would definitely suggest hitting this early in order to avoid large crowds. The narrow boardwalks quickly get overcrowded. The parking lot also was filled when we arrived and we had to park on the side of the highway. There was a nice trail leading to the boardwalk through the forest though!

West Thumb

This is another geothermal area created 174,000 years ago.  It offers visitors lots of colorful geysers and pools alongside Lake Yellowstone.  There is a nice breeze in this area that combats the heat from the geothermal features.  

We planned to return to the Mud Volcano area in Hayden Valley to spend time watching the bison on our last full day in the park.  We were surprised to see far fewer bison and we quickly realized how fortunate we had been our first day here to see so many of them.  

On our way to Montana we drove towards the north entrance of the park to get a glimpse of the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs. While driving we saw a small grizzly bear near the road and a mountain goat outside of the Mammoth area! The sights, sounds, (and smells) of Yellowstone made us feel like we were in a different world.  It was truly fascinating.

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