The Top 10 Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is spectacular and unique. It was established as the first national park in the world in 1872. Most of the park is in Wyoming, but there are small parts in Montana and Idaho. The park sits on top of an active super volcano with one of the world's largest calderas (45 x 30 miles). Yellowstone is home to over half the active geysers (500+) in the world and over 10,000 hydrothermal features.
The park is home to many different kinds of wildlife including bears, bighorn sheep, bison, eagles, elk, gray wolves, moose, mule deer, pronghorn, and more. Yellowstone is like a zoo without cages. Wildlife can be seen just about anywhere in the park. Be alert when driving.
My family and I love Yellowstone. We have been blessed to have visited two different times. There are so many things to see and do there. Here is a look at the top 10 things to do in Yellowstone National Park.
How Big is Yellowstone?
Yellowstone National Park is larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
1. Watch Old Faithful Erupt
Old Faithful Geyser is incredible and a must-see when visiting Yellowstone National Park. It erupts faithfully about every 94 minutes or so. It averages eruptions of 130 feet high but can vary from 106 feet to over 180 feet. It is best to check with the Old Faithful Visitor Center for Old Faithful eruption times. It is a good idea to arrive early or later in the day as this is one of the busiest areas of the park. There are other geysers and hot springs in this area that are worth checking out as well. The Old Faithful Lodge is also a must see. The log architecture is beautiful. Old Faithful is in the southwest portion of the park.
My kids still remember the first time that we watched Old Faithful erupt. It was amazing. It is an awe-inspiring sight especially for families with kids.
2. Visit Grand Prismatic Spring
Grand Prismatic Spring is awe-inspiring. It is the third largest hot spring in the world at over 370 feet in diameter. A football field in comparison is 360 feet long and 160 feet wide. It is 121 feet deep. The spring has a deep blue center with rings of orange, yellow, and green on the edges. Thermophile (heat-loving) bacteria are the reason for the different colors. It is the most photographed geological feature in the park. Grand Prismatic Spring shows off the beauty of God's creation. It is indescribably beautiful.
3. Visit Lower Yellowstone Falls
Lower Yellowstone Falls is a towering 308 feet high. It is almost twice as high as Niagara Falls though not as wide. It is the best waterfall in Yellowstone and the second most photographed point in the park. There are four viewpoints to see the falls: Inspiration Point, Grandview Point, Lookout Point, and Artists Point. The great thing about all of these viewpoints is that they are only require a short hike. Visitors can even climb down 328 steps to the base of the falls, which is one of the best views. Lower Yellowstone Falls are a must-see when visiting Yellowstone.
4. Visit the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is very picturesque. The canyon is about 24 miles long and between 800 to 1,200 feet deep. The Yellowstone River carved its way through the rock layers. The coloration is due to the different iron compounds in the rocks (rhyolite). The best viewpoint, in my opinion, is Artists Point. It allows visitors to not only get incredible views of the canyon but also offers views of the Lower Yellowstone Falls framed between the canyon walls. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is another must-see in Yellowstone National Park.
5. Explore Lamar Valley
Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park is a great place to view wildlife. It is in the northeastern part of the park and home to bear, bison, pronghorns, and wolves. It is a great idea to bring binoculars or telescopes to spot the animals along the Lamar River. Bison are the most prevalent and routinely cross the road. The best time to go is early or late in the day when the animals are more active.
My family and I have been blessed to have seen bison, pronghorns, a coyote, and a black bear during our two visits to Yellowstone. It is cool to see the animals in their natural habitats. I highly recommend checking out Lamar Valley when visiting Yellowstone National Park.
6. Visit Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs is incredible. It is remarkably colorful due to the chalky white mineral deposits left on the rocks. The average water temperature is about 170 degrees Fahrenheit. It is cool to see the steam rising off of the terraces. The steam is at its best during the cooler parts of the day.
Mammoth Hot Springs is also the park's headquarters. Fort Yellowstone was built in 1891 by the Cavalry after it took control of the park after 14 years of bad civilian management. There is also a general store in Mammoth for visitors to pick up supplies and souvenirs. An insider note, this is a great area to see elk. They regularly hang out near the park headquarters.
7. Visit Tower Falls
Tower Falls is 132 feet high and surrounded by large volcanic formations at the top. There are two places to view the falls: an overlook and a trail that leads to the base of the falls. The overlook is a short hike around the back of the Tower General Store and offers beautiful views of the falls. Visitors wanting to go to the base of the falls can take a short but steep trail that is about a half mile long. The hike is worth it. The view at the bottom is spectacular. I highly recommend checking out both viewpoints. Tower Falls is a must see when visiting Yellowstone.
8. Visit Yellowstone Lake
Yellowstone Lake is the largest high elevation lake in North America. It is about 132 square miles, 390 feet deep, and has over 140 miles of shoreline. The geology of the lake is much like the rest of Yellowstone. There are underwater geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles.
Yellowstone Lake offers fishing, boating, and hiking. The lake is home to the largest wild cutthroat trout population in North America. Boats, canoes, kayaks, and sailboats require a Yellowstone Boating Permit. The lake's average temperature in the summer is only 41 degrees Fahrenheit, so swimming is not advised. Yellowstone Lake is a must-see when visiting Yellowstone.
Hottest temperature recorded in Yellowstone Lake was 252 degrees Fahrenheit
9. Visit Hayden Valley
Hayden Valley is in the heart of Yellowstone National Park. It is a great place to see grizzly bears, elk, wolves, and herds of bison. There are several places to turn out for tremendous views of the valley floor as the Yellowstone River cuts through it.
My family and I had a nice picnic lunch at one of the overlooks. We saw a couple of guys fly fishing in the river below. The views are incredible. We saw herds of bison, a couple of elks, a grizzly bear, and a couple of black bears. I highly recommend this area as well.
10. Visit Upper Yellowstone Falls
Upper Yellowstone Falls is 109 feet tall and quite impressive. There is a great viewpoint at the brink of the falls. The Upper Falls is about a quarter of a mile from the Lower Falls. The volume of water plunging over the falls is especially impressive in the spring runoff. Many times there is a rainbow in the midst at the base of the falls. Upper Yellowstone Falls is a must-see.
Don't Miss a Chance to Visit Yellowstone National Park
From its rare geological features, impressive waterfalls, and abundant wildlife, Yellowstone National Park is incredible. It is a large park. Visitors should plan on spending a full week there because there is so much to see and do.
My family and I fell in love with it the first time we visited. We have been blessed to go back again in 2018 on our way back from the Pacific Northwest. We cannot wait to go back again.
Map of the Top 10 Things to do in Yellowstone National Park
© 2019 Eric Cramer