- South Rim Trail along the Yellowstone River. Hikes past Upper & Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
- West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail (overlooks West Thumb Lake)
- West Thumb Overlook trail (Overlooks West Thumb Lake and valley fields)
- Storm Point Trail (overlooks Yellowstone Lake)
**Forgive the long post but we had so much fun here!!**
The drive from the Badlands to Yellowstone was absolutely gorgeous! The route took us through Bighorn National Forest, which was a sight to see in itself. The drive on Rt 16 takes you through a beautiful canyon cut deep between two towering mountains. The deep green of the pines dotted along the mountain sides with splashes of light green underbrush made for quite a beautiful palette! The stop here was a great surprise.
We continued on to our RV campground, which was located west of Cody in Wapiti, WY, a small town just east of Yellowstone NP. The last 30 minutes of our drive was quite exciting. We drove through a thunderstorm with some pretty heavy winds. The silver lining was that when we arrived at the campground the rain had passed and we were greeted with the most beautiful DOUBLE rainbow!! Good omen? It was definitely a great way to start our national park adventure 🙂
Yellowstone National Park, the nation’s first national park, is nestled in the caldera of a super volcano. You heard that right. A super volcano. The park holds some of the world’s most active hydrothermal features. From geysers, to hot springs, to mud pots & steaming fumaroles, Yellowstone is a place worth experiencing. (See pic for description of a fumarole & mud pot.)
Because of where we stayed, it took us about 2 hours to get to Canyon Village from our home base. Driving anywhere in Yellowstone takes time because of the sheer vastness of the park. It’s about 2.2 million acres! (We had plans to stay within the park but campgrounds were closed because of COVID19.) Canyon Village is where you’ll find the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone along with the Upper and Lower Falls. The canyon is about 20 miles long and was formed by the Yellowstone River. There is a great viewpoint of the Upper Falls along South Rim Drive. We hiked the South Rim Trail along the Yellowstone River toward Artist Point, enjoying beautiful views of the falls below as we hiked. We visited in early summer, so snow melt had filled the banks of the Yellowstone River. It moved so fast, crashing and flowing downstream. The South Rim Trail was beautiful and gave us vista after vista to appreciate the views below.
Our second day brought us to the famous geysers in the west end of the park. We started our day at the Lower Geyser Basin, which is where you will find the Fountain Paint Pot boardwalk loop. It brings you past geysers, fumaroles, mud pots, and hot springs, so it was a nice introduction to this part of the park. We moved on to the Middle Geyser Basin, which is where you will find the Excelsior Geyser and the iconic Great Prismatic Spring. The Great Prismatic is the 3rd largest hot spring in the world. It’s surrounded by the most beautiful browns, yellows, and deep oranges and has clear turquoise blue waters. Honestly, the clear waters of these springs looked so inviting! But don’t do it!!
Our last stop in this area of the park was the famous Old Faithful Geyser. Old Faithful is found within the Upper Geyser Basin, which holds many other geysers and hot springs to view. Old Faithful is called so because it erupts about every 90 minutes, like clock work. We arrived to the viewing area with about 15 minutes to spare, which was lucky because we had no clue when the next eruption would be. We were full with anticipation waiting for Old Faithful to erupt. You’re faked out by the geyser with a couple of mini-eruptions before it actually goes off. The geyser reaches around 180 ft and shoots up around 8,400 gallons of water.
Our last day was one of my favorites. We visited West Thumb Geyser Basin and went on two different hikes. West Thumb Lake is located within the basin and is an offshoot of the much larger Yellowstone Lake. The basin is very unique because it’s actually a caldera located within the larger caldera of Yellowstone. It’s very hydrothermically active and continues to pour 3,100 gallons of hot water into the lake every day. The Overlook hike was absolutely gorgeous. The trail takes you through the forest and up to a spectacular mountain top vista of the lake and fields below. The West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail took us through forest and right along West Thumb Lake, which was one of my favorite vistas. Our last hike of the day was the Storm Point Trail which took us through the forest to the sandy shore of Yellowstone Lake. The fields gave way to dramatic rock cliffs and hydrothermal features that seemed to fall right into the lake. It felt like Maine, Ireland, the Rockies, and the atlantic shore rolled into one beautiful vista. The last part of the trail gave us quite a surprise. We were maybe 1/4 mile from the end when the last part of our trail was blocked by a fallen tree. There was a creek to cross so, luckily, we found an alternate route across! There was a bison waiting for us at the end our hike. He was resting in the shade by Indian Pond enjoying some grass.
It was time for us to leave Yellowstone. We were on our way out of the park when, low and behold, we spotted a grizzly bear on our way out of the park. When you see a collection of cars pulled over there’s a good chance there’s wildlife. Seeing a grizzly (from the safety of our car) was a great way to end our visit. We had an awesome time in Yellowstone!