After I got my Junior Ranger badge from the Grand Tetons, we headed back up to Yellowstone National Park! Mike decided to bike from Flagg Staff in Grand Teton to Grant Village in Yellowstone. We were originally going to meet at Old Faithful which is a little further than Grant Village. However, I drove there and was beyond overwhelmed with the sheer number of people and madness. It felt like I was at Disney World. So, I drove back a little ways and picked up Mike at this much more chill visitor center. We got my junior ranger book (it cost $3 here!) and made a game plan to try and avoid people as much as possible.
The main road in Yellowstone is a big figure eight, spanning 142 miles of scenic drive. The lower west portion of the park is the most popular as that is where most of the geyers and famous attractions are. We decided to drive north on the east portion that gave us beautiful views of Lake Yellowstone. It was still lots of traffic but that was in part of some road maintenance as well. Our first official stop was the National Park Ranger Museum and we made it right before they closed at 4pm. It is in a small cabin that was for Army soldiers that were the first unofficial park rangers. It was a wonderful place, especially for aspiring Rangers.
As it was getting later in the day, we decided to brave the popular section in the lower loop. We stopped at the Norris Geyser basin, which is where the Steamboat Geyser is. It’s actually a much larger geyser than Old Faithful, but much less predictable. We waited for about 20 minutes, but sadly nothing happened.
On the road to Lower Geyser Basin, we took the little turnoff road, Firehole Canyon Drive and viewed the beautiful Firehole Falls. Once we made it to the Lower Geyser Basin, we walked around and viewed the Fountain Painted Pots. When I first visited this park as a kid, I giggled a lot here because it sounds like a lot of farts from the bubbles. 20+ years later… I still giggled.
We headed back to the Old Faithful Visitor Center for a Ranger Talk about Wolverines. Ranger Mike was definitely super in love with these creatures…. It turns out they’re wicked smart and figure out traps easily which is one of the reasons they are still not understood very well…. researchers can’t capture them to study them! There are only about 1200 of them left though, thanks to humans limiting their areas more and more and more.
After the Ranger talk, we walked outside and joined the hundreds of others to view Old Faithful explode right before sunset. It was just as spectacular as I remembered it, and pictures or videos can never do it justice
We skeedaddled off to our campsite at Lewis Lake campground… we had learned our lesson at Grand Teton and had reserved a spot as soon as we drove into the Park. It was around noon when we got one of the last open sites! On our drive back to the campsite, it was crazy how many a-hole drivers were out. One even flashed his lights, rode our bumper, and honked a bunch at us… Mike was already going 10 over. I totally understand though… once you’ve had enough nature, you just have to get the hell out of that gross environment. It totally makes sense to speed though and ignore the nature all around you, just to get to the nature attraction 4 minutes before everyone driving the speed limit.
We woke up early and drove north again during sunrise to try and view wildlife in Hayden Valley and hike Mount Washburn but it started storming right as we got to the Valley and all the critters were hiding. I didn’t want to hike in the storm, but we did still stop at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and viewed the Lower Falls, which are the biggest in park. We continued driving the north east part of loop and got to drive/see the mountain section of the park. Beautiful views and a super fun winding road! We did stop at the Petrified Tree “attraction”…. not worth your time.
We made it to the Mammoth Hot Springs visitor center for my Junior Ranger badge. It was an adorable and much more chill area. There were three elk that had little nap spots by it and just chilled right by all the visitors. We definitely didn’t explore this park too much, but it just wasn’t our jam with the number of visitors. When we go back, we’ll choose a different season, and spend some time backcountry to experience nature without thousands of others.
- This is the first National Park in our country, and the world. It is busy and crowded, for good reason. Planning in advance is key. Reserve your campsite/lodge, figure out what all you want do do, take your anxiety pills if needed, and if you want to have any solitude, sunrise and sunset hikes are going to be your best friend.
- Oh hey, you’re in bear country. Don’t be those people. Get your bear proof food storage and bear spray.
- Wildlife is most active around dusk and dawn. Also, anytime you see a traffic jam, that most likely means there is an animal spotted. Try not to park in the road and be a jerk, stay 25-100 yards away (dependent on the type of animal), take your picture and keep going so others can see her.
- Drive the speed limit. It’s for your safety, the wildlife’s safety, and for your enjoyment! The views from the road are often just as beautiful as the overlooks.