August 2017 – We spent three nights in the park, sandwiched between visits to Grand Teton National Park. The scenery in Yellowstone was so amazing, it was hard to believe we were still on the same planet, let alone in the same country. We planned our nights so that we could circle the entire park and stop at pretty much every site. We began with a visit to the West Thumb Geyser Basin, which has a boardwalk surrounding the pools and geysers. It also borders the shores of Yellowstone Lake. This was one of my favorite stops in the park. We spent an hour or two walking around, feeling the heat from the pools and enjoying the intense colors.
Since we were spending the night in the Old Faithful area, we drove past it to come back to later. Our next stop was the Grand Prismatic Spring. We accidentally ended up on the side that has the viewpoint, but we were glad we did. It was a short, steep walk up to the viewpoint, and it was totally crowded at the top. The view was amazing, though. The colors of this spring are incredibly intense. After coming back down the hill, we backtracked to get to the entrance to the boardwalk. The boardwalk has no rails and was very crowded, to the point it was almost dangerous due to how easily someone could be pushed off. The spring was worth seeing from this angle too, though.
Next stop was the Biscuit Basin, which seemed a little less popular. At the opposite end of the boardwalk, there is a trail that goes to Mystic Falls. It was starting to get late, but we took this 2.5 mile out-and-back trail to a pretty waterfall. There were a lot of wildflowers growing along the trail, and we saw many chipmunks along the way.
Our final stop for the day was back at Old Faithful. We arrived back about 15 minutes before it was projected to erupt, and we were able to get a good spot to watch it. The sun was starting to set just as it went off, making the scenery even more magical. After the eruption, we walked the boardwalk around the other geysers and pools and got to see a couple of other eruptions. The sunset was gorgeous, and we saw a coyote on the edge of the woods.
The next morning, we headed north for Mammoth Hotsprings. This area of the park was probably my least favorite, simply due to the crowds. We spent as little time as we could, hitting the highlights here and along the way.
Heading east, we took Blacktail Plateau Drive, an unpaved road that is supposed to be a good place to see wildlife. We didn’t see much when we drove it, but the views were still pretty. We continued on though Tower Junction, stopping at viewpoints. We headed out into Lamar Valley for a bit, then turned around. We started running into bison traffic jams around this point. We made it to Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and walked the trails just before sunset. After a few more wildlife traffic jams, we checked into our cabin at Lake Lodge.
The next day we had planned to hike Mt Washburn, but the altitude had us feeling a bit under the weather. We decided to sleep late and then head east to explore outside of the park. We had not planned this and had no agenda, but we just drove until we saw something interesting. We were pretty amazed at the change in landscape in this area, which became rolling red hills. We stopped at a couple of state parks to explore and then ended up in Cody for dinner. We tried a Mexican restaurant that claimed to be “authentic” (far from it, but we expected that and still enjoyed it). Cody was a nice little, quiet town, and we explored some of the shops before heading back to Yellowstone.
This was our last night in Yellowstone before heading back to Grand Teton NP for two more nights. I think three nights in the park was just the right number for us. The altitude and crowds were really starting to wear on us. Overall, we found Yellowstone to be far more crowded than Grand Teton NP, and most of the visitors were obnoxious. The scenery was very interesting, though, and I would like to make a winter visit someday.