What to know before visiting Yellowstone National Park
For most of us, the call of the wild is hard to ignore. The tranquil restoration that a trip to the countryside offers is undoubtedly the perfect antidote to the clutter of urban life. Arguably one of the best places on the planet for nature excursions, Yellowstone National Park is somewhere that we guarantee will leave you feeling nourished in both body and mind. Our at-a-glance Yellowstone National Park travel guide aims to give you an overview of what to see and do in the oldest national park in the United States.
Where is Yellowstone National Park?
Yellowstone spans an area of nearly 4,000 square miles across the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, in the north-west of the United States. Pine forests make up the majority of the park, though Yellowstone is home to many different kinds of ecosystems, most famously its spectacular geothermal areas.
Established in 1872, Yellowstone is not only the oldest national park in the United States, it is the oldest in the world. Of course, the park’s story stretches back through millennia and Native American people have inhabited the landscape for thousands of years.
What are the best things to see in Yellowstone?
Geothermal activity in Yellowstone has given rise to some of the most unforgettable natural sights in the world. Visitors are spoilt for choice, from the exciting spectacle of geysers, hot springs and waterfalls to the sky above the park at night, an unbroken panorama of stars.
Among the most famous landmarks is Old Faithful, a giant cone geyser that blasts water 130ft into the air around 20 times a day. It's not the biggest geyser in Yellowstone, but it erupts more frequently than the other large geysers, so it's a great spot to add to your must-visit list.
Morning Glory Pool
Morning Glory Pool is another highlight. It's a multi-coloured hot spring named back in the 1800s after the flower that it resembles. Superheated water from below ground rises and cools, keeping the water in the pool at a toasty 70.7°C.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River
This miniature version of the Grand Canyon has been carved out by the Yellowstone River between the park's Tower Fall and Lower Falls. It's around 20 miles long and more than 1,000 feet deep in places. There are a number of different viewing points and hiking trails along the rim of the canyon. The surrounding area is known for its wildlife, so keep an eye out for bison, elk and bald eagles.
Can I take a guided tour of Yellowstone?
A guided tour of Yellowstone is an excellent way to get the most out of your trip. With an expert local guide by your side, you will be able to piece together the park’s history, spot the best wildlife – bears, wolves and herds of bison - and discover the best photo opportunities. Our escorted tours usually allow at least one day for exploring the park with a guide.
Trips around America’s National Parks are always popular - our Awe-inspiring National Parks tour is one of our bestselling itineraries, and has been for many years. Travel with us and you’ll be able to soak up the sights at a number of America’s national parks, from the bumpy forest trails of Bryce Canyon National Park to the arid splendour of the Grand Canyon. It's a favourite itinerary of one of our product managers, Cassie:
“The only way to describe this tour is that it is a magnificent adventure! Each National Park has its own special feature. A particular favourite of mine is Yellowstone's most famous geyser, Old Faithful.”
You'll spend two nights just outside Yellowstone National Park, with park entry and a full-day guided tour included. We’ll learn about the enchanting waterfalls and mountains, marvel at the volcanic ‘sideshows’ and try to shoot the perfect picture of the park’s ‘megafauna'.
When's the best time to visit Yellowstone?
There is no bad time to visit Yellowstone, as each season brings with it some incredible views and colours. That being said, it can be difficult to get around the park in winter with many roads closed due to snow. A spring trip gives travellers the chance to see young animals in the park, summer brings crowds and stunning weather, while autumn colours dazzle from August to October.
It is important to note that the weather in Yellowstone can change quite quickly, even during the course of a day, so be sure to check the forecasts close to when you are travelling. Take layers of clothing and waterproof clothes with you.
What to pack for a trip to Yellowstone National Park
Deciding what to pack when you visit Yellow National Park does depend on when you're going, how long you're staying for, and what you plan to do there. We spend a day in Yellowstone on our tours, so that's what we've based our list on - if you're staying longer or planning to do some hiking or camping nearby, you'll obviously need a few extras!
Binoculars - there's some fantastic wildlife and birdlife in Yellowstone
A camera - whether it's an all-singing, all-dancing DSLR or the camera on your phone, you'll definitely want to capture a few shots of this majestic landscape
Comfortable walking shoes - the ground can be quite uneven in places, so comfy shoes that support your ankles are ideal
Insect repellent - especially important if you're visiting in the summer months, when there are plenty of mozzies around
Appropriate clothing - check the weather on the day, but plan for warm layers and a waterproof, plus a sunhat and sunglasses if necessary - most of Yellowstone sits at an elevation of around 6,000ft above sea level, so the weather can be quite changeable
If our Yellowstone National Park travel guide has inspired you, why not have a browse of 'The Awe-Inspiring National Parks'?
Nicola considers herself very lucky to have had the opportunity to visit a number of places around the world and these experiences usually involve searching for as many kinds of wildlife as possible. Recent highlights include penguins in Antarctica, bears and whales in Canada and Alaska and sea otters in California - but there are always more animals to search for.
Nicola | About the author
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