Guest Post by: R. Pines
The highlight of Jackson Hole area by far is visiting Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is mostly in Wyoming but also in parts of Montana and Idaho. It features dramatic canyons, rivers, forests and thermal features such as hot springs and geysers. There is no way to describe the awesomeness of being near an erupting geyser. YNP is also home to many animals including bears, wolves, bison and elk. Wildlife viewing is very hit or miss, we were lucky to see bison and moose, but didn’t see any bears. We also saw moose from our condo where we stayed at in Teton Village. On that note, it is very recommended to carry bear spray which is a spray that you use in front of you to create a wall between you and the bear. Generally, you should not be hiking alone and always make noise so that you don’t surprise the bears and they in turn shouldn’t surprise you! Don’t leave any food open and dispose of all food safely in bear proof bins. While hiking in the parks always bring enough water to stay hydrated and remember that you are on a much higher altitude, and closer to the sun make sure you protect yourself well against the sun.
Figuring out how best to use your time in Yellowstone is a challenge. Where to stay and for how long is the question. The benefits of staying in the park are that you can have an early start in the morning and stay out late. You save a lot of time not having to travel. The park lodgings tend to book a year in advance, but also get cancelled frequently. So, if you are persistent in calling a month in advance you can get reservations, you need to hold tight and be patient. Zantara parks and resorts book lodging within the park 866-439-7375. 307-344-7311. There are lodgings in 6 villages, Canyon (central) Grant (South), Lake (east), Mammoth Hot Springs (North), Old Faithful (southwest) and Roosevelt (northeast).
The park has 5 entrances. We stayed in Jackson and came from the south entrance and traveled 1.5 hrs before we reached the entrance to the park. To the east is the town of Codi. To the west is West Yellowstone in the state of Montana which has the most lodging options. The Northeast entrance of Yellowstone Park is near Silver Gate, Cooke City and Billings, MT. North is Gardiner, MT, which is the only entrance that is open year round.
The road in YNP is shaped in a figure 8. The most extraordinary collection of hot springs, geysers and mud pots on Earth are mostly in one square mile of Yellowstone. More than 10,000 hydrothermal features are found here, of which more than 500 are geysers. The lower section of the 8 has many of the thermal features with Old Faithful being the most famous. (7) Old Faithful isn’t the largest or best geyser, but it is faithful, it erupts approx. every 90 minutes. It is also close to the parking area. We parked near Old Faithful and checked out the schedule of eruptions. There are 6 geysers that are predictable. YNP has an app which we downloaded. It didn’t work a lot of the time because phone service is very spotty and works only near the lodging centers in the park. There is another option of a phone number to call in with updated geyser predictions. 307-344-2751 (option 2). We stopped a few park rangers to get their opinion because the schedule of that day had 5 of the geysers erupting at the same time. 3 park rangers said if you are going to see one go to the Grand and we did. We walked about a mile, waited for approx. 20 minutes and the eruption was stupendous! We stood and watched it for over 20 minutes. Most of the geysers don’t allow you to get as close as does the Grand. From there we ran to the Castle. It has an interesting shape and it erupted for over a half hour. We also saw a few small eruptions of others. You must stay on the walkways; the ground has hot water that bubbles and pops up all over the place and there are hot springs in many sizes and shapes everywhere!
We stayed in that geyser basin area of YNP for the whole day. Had we slept in the park, we probably would have gone back in the morning to catch another eruption. The geyser basin area is so different from other types of nature. It was fascinating and unforgettable.
The other amazing feature we saw were hot springs. Hot Springs have strong unusual colors that come from microorganisms that thrive in hot temperatures. (The orange has more bacteria). The most famous one was is the Grand Prismatic Spring. Which can be seen from the ground or from a hike from the Fairy Falls parking lot to a fantastic overlook. The cooler the weather, the better the colors, so do this early in the day.
The second day we spent on the eastern side of the lower loop. We saw some more thermal features and the Yellowstone Lake (16) which was really gorgeous. The water covered some of the thermal features which could be seen through the water. On the way we drove through the Hayden Valley (18) where many people tend to see wildlife, but we didn’t see any. We stopped at the Mud Volcano and Dragons Mouth (17) which was fascinating and different from other features we had seen. Be aware that the smells from some of the thermal features are anything but pleasant! Some of the kids refused to leave the car. We continued on to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone which was the highlight of the day. We explored the North side and the South side and walked up and down. Saw the falls from far and near and admired the colors of the rocks which were colorful and looked painted.
You can easily spend a week in Yellowstone National Park. We didn’t visit the whole northern part which takes a long time to drive from one place to the next, the roads on the northeastern side were closed the summer of 2020. We didn’t see the Lamar Valley (25) which is supposed to have the most wildlife or the terraces at Mammoth (1). Which was a real shame, but we had to weigh our priorities and fit everything into a schedule. We’re so glad we visited YNP.
Posted: January 10, 2021
Information, prices and hours posted here are current as of the posted or updated date. It is advisable to call ahead or check online to confirm hours and prices.
The Interagency Annual Pass is an annual pass that provides admission to any national park or any federal recreation area charging an entrance fee. The Pass costs $ 80.00 and is valid for 12 months. Where a “Per Vehicle” entrance fee is charged, the Pass admits the Pass signee and accompanying passengers in a single, private vehicle.
Interagency 4th Grader Pass: Free