Year after year, Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park is named among the best vacation destinations, and we certainly agree. However, if Old Faithful is the only attraction you’re familiar with, you might wonder if you can build an entire vacation around visiting the park.
The truth is that there are loads of amazing things to do in Yellowstone. Yes, definitely be sure to catch Old Faithful while you’re there, but plan on seeing any or all of these other dozen attractions in Yellowstone.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Old Faithful Inn
The Old Faithful Inn is a historic hotel so, even if you're not staying there while in Yellowstone, it's worth the time to visit. The inn is palatial, though the lobby, halls, and rooms are more like rooms in a massive log cabin than the Taj Mahal. It's within walking distance of Old Faithful, so why not stop in to look around and have lunch or dinner in the dining room before setting off on the rest of your Yellowstone adventure?
2. Norris Geyser Basin
The main attractions at Yellowstone have to do with the geothermal activity, so Old Faithful is far from the only geyser on the block. According to YellowstoneNet, Norris is the hottest geyser basin in the park, and it's constantly changing. Old geysers fizzle out, new ones spout up, and several colorful and bubbling thermal springs are visible from the miles of wooden walkways that wind through the basin.
3. Hayden Valley
If viewing wildlife is one of the top priorities on your Yellowstone list, Hayden Valley is the place to go. Once full of water from the Yellowstone Lake, the valley is now marshy ground made up of lake sediment. It's an inviting environment for waterfowl such as Canadian geese, ducks, and pelicans. You're likely to see bison and elk, and occasionally a few grizzly bears, too.
4. Yellowstone Lake
Yellowstone Lake receded out of Hayden Valley, but it's still plenty big and worth the time to visit. As one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the country, it's a sight to behold. There are miles of shoreline to hike along, and a visitors' center and museum offer interesting and historical information on the area. The fishing bridge on Yellowstone Lake used to be the prime spot to fish for cutthroat trout but has been closed to fishing since the 1970s. Still, it's a terrific spot to observe fish, as well as the scenic lake and surroundings.
5. Lower Geyser Basin
Visiting the Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone is like taking a trip to another world. It's the biggest geyser basin area in the park, and it features hot springs, regularly-erupting geysers, and some of the most easily-accessed mud pots in Yellowstone. If you've been looking forward to walking the Fountain Paint Pot Trail, the Lower Geyser Basin is where you'll find it.
6. Mount Washburn
The Washburn Mountain Range is one of only two mountain systems that are entirely within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. If you're into hiking, whatever your skill level, you've got to take on Mount Washburn. With wide, easy trails as well as steeper, more challenging ones, there's something for everyone. The summit is found at 10,000 feet in elevation, but if you make it up there, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the park.
7. Lamar Valley
This picturesque valley is another must-see for wildlife watchers. It's a top destination for viewing wolves, but you can also catch glimpses of coyotes, elk, bison, and grizzly bears. Situated in the northeast corner of Yellowstone, it's a bit off the beaten path, but the landscape, animal life, and stellar fishing make it worth the trip.
8. Grand Prismatic Spring
This strikingly colorful spring is the largest hot spring in the country, estimated to have a surface area of 250 by 300 feet and a depth of 160 feet. The Grand Prismatic Spring sports most colors of the rainbow, but in more vibrant hues from bright orange, yellow, and fiery red around the edge of the spring to vivid turquoise and brilliant blue toward the middle. You'll find this amazing attraction in the Midway Geyser Basin on the Grand Loop, south from the Lower Geyser Basin.
9. Grand Canyon Of the Yellowstone
Not as big as Arizona's Grand Canyon, Yellowstone's natural wonder is still pretty grand. Estimated to be about 20 miles long, 1,500 to 4,000 feet wide, and 800 to 1,200 feet deep, you will find endless natural beauty everywhere you look. Hike along the numerous hiking trails, visit the lower falls, and be sure to stop by the Canyon visitors' center to learn more about the geology of the canyon and the rest of Yellowstone.
10. Tower Falls
The hike to the base of Tower Falls is steep, but it's short, and once you see this 132-foot high waterfall up close, you'll forget all about the switch-back trail. Alternatively, an overlook offering a spectacular view from above is located a short distance behind the Tower Falls General Store.
11. Mammoth Hot Springs
This part of the park is steeped in history and boasts some of the oldest structures in Yellowstone. As for the non-man-made structures, the travertine terraces, Mother Nature has them under constant renovation. The hot springs activity causes continual changes so obvious you can almost see them happening before your eyes. With its museum and history exhibit, the visitor's center is the place to learn all there is to know about Mammoth Hot Springs.
12. West Thumb Geyser Basin
This geyser basin offers a variety of things to do. Many hiking trails begin in the West Thumb area, and it's a great place to see a number of thermal features. You can cop a good look at Yellowstone Lake here and, with bears, elk, and bison frequenting the basin, it's also a terrific area for spotting wildlife.