The $25 pass to Yellowstone National Park is good for seven days but if you only have one, here’s a guide to what not to miss including buffalo jams, wild life photo opps and geyser eruptions.
From Avalanche Peak, drink in spectacular views of snowy peaks, vertiginous valleys, raw rock walls, cascading waterfalls and glimpses of Yellowstone Lake, one of the world’s largest natural fresh water lakes.
At Hayden Valley, and from a safe distance, watch a small herd of bison graze contentedly in a lush valley of grasses and sedges that have been home to bison for thousands of years and where they now roam protected and free.
Let a thunderous roar draw you down steps to the edge of Upper Falls where plumes of water are compressed into unstoppable raw power.
Drive towering descents that serpentine down to vast valleys where pockets of sunlight reveal lush havens for small black bears and where wildlife-spotting tourists create traffic jams as they eagerly film and photograph anything and everything.
With over 1,600kms of hiking tracks, pull off at trail heads and in just a few steps, be enveloped by silent forest and burbling waterways.
Watch nature in action and explore another steaming, hissing universe at Mammoth Hot Springs where for the last 8,000 years, glistening, mineral-laden water has been cascading down chalky white terraces, depositing up to two tons of limestone daily into small, scalding pools.
Late afternoon at Gibbon River, be prepared for a close encounter with a herd of bison as they cross the road from one river-front grazing pasture to another. Yellowstone is America’s center for buffalo recovery and there are around half of million in public and private herds spurred in part of Native Americans seeking to recapture the deep connection they once had with the mighty animal.
Walk the boardwalk trail to Fountain Paint Pot, an alien volcanic tableland where geysers shoot white hot plumes of energy into the ether, a vat of bubbling mud cities burp angrily and steam hisses across Celestine Pool’s bleached, gaseous soup of primordial ooze – an evolutionary landscape in perpetual motion.
Set your watch by Old Faithful, a geyser where eruptions are so reliable there’s a timetable! Watch for white puffs of steam before the furies unleash. At temperatures of around 204 degrees F, up to 8,400 gallons of white hot water vents high into the air in spectacular style. Nice job nature.
Cross the Continental Divide and head to West Thumb Geyser Basin by Yellowstone Lake, a thermal area percolating with geysers, hot springs and mud pots. A blow-out 150,000 years ago created a crater within a crater that’s still thermally active along the shoreline. With the focus on the grandeur and natural beauty of its scenery, it’s easy to overlook what a hot spot Yellowstone National Park is. As the sun sets, stroll the boardwalk past the Abyss Pool, famous for its sapphire blue water to the Black Pool. It might look like the perfect heated plunge pool but its shimmering turquoise waters would definitely flay you alive!
Go to www.nps.gov/YELL/planyourvisit/index/htm
Do not feed the wildlife
Be bear aware – keep your food secure
Fishing, boating, overnight camping, commercial filming and photography all require permits.
Stay on designated boardwalks and trails.
Travelling off-road by car or bike is prohibited.
Camp only within designated areas.
No spotlighting wildlife.
Give wildlife a brake – don’t drive over 45mph (73kph)
There are four main entrances to Yellowstone National Park. The East Entrance is 85km from Cody, Wyoming. The South Entrance is 91km from Jackson, Wyoming. West Yellowstone is accessible from Idaho Falls 160km west or Bozeman Montana, 144km north and the North Entrance is also 134km from Bozeman.