Very few places provide as many opportunities are Yellowstone National Park does for outdoor enthusiasts. You can partake in everything from camping and fishing near the countless rivers, lakes and streams to bicycling along century-old paths to see the beauty and splendor that only a trip through Yellowstone can provide.
Let's explore everything Yellowstone National Park has to offer, what it's like to visit, and why you should start planning a trip to visit Yellowstone today.
The most interesting thing about the park is that it's both large enough and varied enough in terms of geography to support almost every outdoor activity you could possibly want to partake in while on an outdoors-centric vacation.
To go through what you can do at Yellowstone, let's start small.
You can take your camping gear, pack your fishing equipment and bring a satchel full of food along with you as you start out on a simple hike. You can walk for a good part of the day until you finally reach one of the many hospitable campsites designated by the park authority.
You may then decide to take your fishing equipment and head to the nearest body of water. You can catch around 16 different species of fish, most of which are both beautiful and delicious to cook. Nothing quite compares to roasting the spoils of a fishing trip over an open flame when you return to camp while the starlit sky resides above you.
If you decide that you want more than a simple picnic or fishing trip, then you can hike along some of the 1,600 kilometers of trails that Yellowstone has. You may even decide to do so while on a bicycle, which will allow you to see even more of the beautiful nature that Yellowstone has to offer without detracting from the scenery.
Depending upon the time of the year when you visit, there's several other unique ways to explore Yellowstone. Boating, snowmobiles, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are among some of the most popular season-dependent activities that Yellowstone has to offer.
Yellowstone National Park also offers horseback riding and llama packing. Participating in these two types of activities can give you yet another unique perspective to the beauty that Yellowstone has to offer.
Lastly but certainly not least, there are several ranger-led programs that run every season. You can join a park ranger for hikes, walks and even campfire programs to learn more about the history of Yellowstone National Park and the amazing biological diversity that it has to offer.
If a park ranger isn't available, then you may opt to take a guided tour with one of the many companies that are licensed for everything from fishing to hiking and backpacking.
There are plenty of places to stay both near and in Yellowstone National Park. You may decide to stay at one of the nearby lodges or hotels that are just a stone's throw away from one of Yellowstone's entrances until you're ready for that back-to-nature camping trip.
For example, the Clubhouse Inn is just two blocks from the west entrance of Yellowstone. It offers an indoor pool, wireless Internet connectivity and an astounding view of Yellowstone.
The Fairmount Hotsprings offer another unique place to stay in terms of lodging. Kids and adults whom are children at heart love staying here due to the extremely relaxing atmosphere it can provide.
If you want something rooted more in American history, then The Irma Hotel is one place you'll have to stay. It was constructed in 1902 by Buffalo Bill and named for his daughter, Irma. It's a beautiful hotel that has been used as lodging by famous figures like Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane and Frederic Remington.
While there are countless reasons as to why Yellowstone National Park is famous, the most important likely resides with what Yellowstone is and what it represents.
Yellowstone was the first and largest federally preserved area in the continental United States. The park became a symbol of preservation when the United States Congress declared that the 5,470 square kilometer area constituting Yellowstone National Park was off-limits to settlers and businesses alike. The park itself stretches far along a natural plateau. It's such a grand place that it runs along Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, the latter of which has more than 90% of the park within its bounds.
Though Yellowstone was first officially explored in 1870 by General Washburn, numerous historic figures have journeyed through it. John Colter is one such person that traveled through Yellowstone in 1807 while part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Another component that makes Yellowstone Park famous is just how far back it goes with human history. Evidence that dates back 12,000 years has shown that humans have traversed Yellowstone, which makes it an irrevocable park of history.
The unique geographic features that Yellowstone presents also makes it famous. The geysers, referred to as hot artesian springs, are some of the most concentrated in the world. There are 500 geysers alone in Yellowstone, which means that half of the world's geysers reside in this park alone.
The geysers in Yellowstone are just one unique feature that the park has. It has over 10,000 naturally occurring thermal springs. Some are made from alabaster and marble, while others are made from obsidian.
The last major distinction that Yellowstone carries is its high biodiversity. It carries with it the most diverse population of megafaune in all North America. Bisons, elks, grizzly bears and wolves are just a few of the creatures that call Yellowstone National Park their permanent home.
Yellowstone National Park is officially 5,470 square kilometers in size. It stretches along three states: Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. This makes it one of the largest preserved areas in the world.
The park itself has over 1,920 kilometers of road that is designed specifically to allow tourists to travel through the park, but there are still more plentiful pathways that tourists can take. Three rivers come together in Yellowstone National Park: Missouri River, Snake River and Yellowstone River.
These rivers come together to form amazing waterfalls like Yellowstone Falls. Yellowstone River even runs through the Grand Canyon, an attraction that almost everyone is familiar with to some degree.
Another unique characteristic of Yellowstone National Park is that the park tends to change depending on when you visit it. You may be greeted by hot, pleasant days or freezing days filled with ice, snow and cold winds that can make Yellowstone even more of an adventure.
The most common time to visit Yellowstone National Park is during the Summer. The temperatures are generally mild during the day, as they stay around 25 Celsius at most elevations with a maximum temperature of about 30 Celsius at some of the lower elevations contained within the park. Temperatures during the night stay relatively comfortable, but they do require you to pack the right clothing and gear. They can sometimes drop below freezing at higher elevations. You may also see some showers during the day or thunderstorms at the night.
If you visit during the Winter, then you'll notice that Yellowstone is as different from Yellowstone during the Summer as night is to day. Daytime temperatures can range from -20 to -5 Celsius on average. Nighttime temperatures are typically far below freezing, as the lowest recorded temperature in Yellowstone is a jaw-dropping -54 Celsius.
Snowfall may be present. The average amount of snowfall during the year is 150 inches throughout most of the park, but higher elevations can have double that amount.
The Spring and the Fall seasons in Yellowstone are fairly similar. The daytime temperatures will range from 0 to 20 Celsius, while the temperatures may drop to -5 to -20 Celsius during the night. Snow is one of the more common features of these months, as it's not uncommon for 12 inches of snow to accumulate in as little as a day in Yellowstone.
One thing to keep in mind about Yellowstone National Park is that the temperature can change rapidly. You may be presented with a sunny day with the sun shining down upon you one day, or you may find that you have a large amount of snow the next.
This unpredictability to Yellowstone's weather means that you should carry a variety of gear with you. There's no telling when you may face frigid weather or heavy rain while you're out on a trip that was planned while the weather in Yellowstone was supposed to be heated and clear.
The best way to get to Yellowstone is to make your way to Wyoming. You may decide to do so by air or by car hire while traveling through the rest of the United States, but your destination should always be near Cody, Wyoming.
If you plan to reach Yellowstone by air, then the most direct route is to take a trip to Yellowstone Regional Airport. This will give you a direct route to Yellowstone, which in turn will make it even easier for you to access the nearby lodging and even the main park entrance.
Airports in Jackson, Wyoming, Bozeman and Billings, Montana, and Idaho Falls, Idaho will also provide for easy access to the park. It's worth noting that each airport is located near a different entrance of the park, which may have an effect on your Yellowstone experience.
If you travel by road to Yellowstone, then your destination may differ slightly depending upon what direction you plan to start your trip in relation to Wyoming. You may end up taking Interstate 15 or Interstate 90 to Route 89, 191 or 287. These paths will offer access to different entrances of Yellowstone Park, so plan accordingly.
If you plan to take a car that utilizes alternative fuels like ethanol, then you can do that on your trip to Yellowstone National Park. There is a plentiful abundance of alternative fueling stations located along most of the major routes that lead in to Yellowstone National Park.
With regards to taking trains, there is no train that travels directly to Yellowstone National Park. The nearest train depots are located in Idaho, Utah and Montana. If you want to take the train, it's recommended that you take one to southeast Idaho or Salt Lake City, Utah before making the rest of the way using a bus or car.
The most amazing part of Yellowstone is a toss-up between the beautiful scenery and the variety of wildlife that you can find in the park. Bears, bison, birds, moose and wolves are just a start of the animals contained with the boundaries of Yellowstone. The most famous wildlife of Yellowstone are likely the grizzlies and black bears. Yellowstone is one of the few places to see them in their natural habitat, though they do occasionally cause problems with being too "friendly" for unwise tourists whom choose to feed them or leave food out in places where these bears can reach.
The gray wolf is another of Yellowstone's wildlife worth mentioning. It took a concentrated effort to return their population to a stable amount after they went extinct in the area.
The bison are yet another of the animals most people think of when they think about Yellowstone. They're one of the most prevalent species in the entire park, which is why they're also one of the most recognizable.
Besides these animals, wild horses, bald eagles and trumpeter swans make for the most noteworthy wildlife mentions in the park. There are still countless other animals in Yellowstone, which is why taking a trip with a park ranger as a guide is a wonderful idea.
The last but arguably most important part of planning any trip to Yellowstone is knowing what camping parks exist. There are currently 12 established campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park.
Xanterra Parks and Resorts operates five of those grounds, which contain in excess of 1,700 sites for you to use. The most popular camping sites within these grounds are Bridge Bay, Canyon, the Fishing Bridge RV Park, Madison and Grant Village.
You must make reservations by calling or writing Xanterra Parks and Resorts.
The National Park Service operates the other seven camping grounds available in Yellowstone. The 450 or so campsites in this category are operated on a first-come, first-serve basis, which means that campgrounds may be filled by other campers as early as 11 a.m.
The most noteworthy of the sites in this category are at Indian Creek, Lewis Lake, Mammoth, Norris, Slough Creek and Tower Fall.