Yellowstone National Park is America’s park. As the oldest national park in the world, it draws tens of millions of visitors, both domestic and international, every year. Rightfully so, as the park is known far and wide for its geothermal features, stunning scenic views and wildlife.
Old Faithful Just Goes on Erupting
Old Faithful is the most visited attraction within the park, seen by 80 percent of the visitors. The eruption is graceful, though over the decades the time between eruptions has been increasing steadily. Once erupting every hour, now more than 90 minutes elapse between eruptions. A sign in the visitor center lobby tells when the next eruption is expected, but Old Faithful doesn’t always go off on the National Park Service’s schedule. Visitors should plan to be at the geyser 10 to 15 minutes before the estimated eruption time, perhaps even as early as a half hour before if they want a front row seat for this spectacular show.
Geothermal activity isn’t just limited to Old Faithful. Colorful Mammoth Hot Springs is located at the northwest entrance of the park. Natural chemicals found in the hot springs color limestone formations in various shades of orange at the lower level, which is reached on foot. Visitors can walk or drive through the upper level.
Visitors will see hundreds of other geysers as they travel the west side of the park between Mammoth and Old Faithful. They include Norris and Black Sand basins that have boardwalks so visitors can walk out among the hot spots. Yellowstone has more geothermal activity than any other place in the world.
Wildlife is the biggest draw to the park after the geysers. Animals roam freely throughout the park, allowing visitors to see them in their native habitat. Yellowstone is truly the place where the buffalo roam, with thousands grazing on the plains or causing “buffalo jams” as they cross roads or even lead a parade of vehicles down the road. These huge shaggy beasts have the right-of-way at Yellowstone. Elk also are a common sight in the hills.
Depending on the time of year, visitors may also see bears and wolves; animals which are more frequently seen in late spring and fall. Visitor centers have maps showing the best places to see specific animals.
Don’t get too close, however; these are wild animals that can charge at any moment. Park rules require visitors to stay 25 yards away from all animals except bears and wolves, which must be admired from at least 100 yards away.
When it comes to spectacular scenery, it doesn’t get much better than Yellowstone where the Rocky Mountains run the length of the park. The mountains are at their highest at the north end of the park. The drive been Mammoth and Tower Junction, and then on to Canyon, has vistas where one can literally see for miles. South of Canyon, take time to drive along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. After Old Faithful, this is the most photographed feature in the park.
Yellowstone is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Visitors should plan on at least two days inside the park. Accommodations, including campsites, can be difficult to get in the busy summer months, so make reservations as early as possible. Snack bars and restaurants are located near the eight visitor centers, but why not pack a lunch to eat while savoring the view? Temperatures can change rapidly inside the park, so dress in layers.
This article was written by Kevin Caldwell for www.chicagorivernorthhotels.com. They specialize in helping people find hotels near River North in Chicago at affordable rates.
Image | (c) Leon Jenson Photography