National Park Guide:

Yellowstone National Park

National Park Guide:

Yellowstone National Park

Destination: Yellowstone National Park, WY

Length of Stay: 4 nights (June 2018)

 

Lodging: Eagle Creek Campground ($3.50 - $7.00/night - no hookups)
Fishing Bridge RV Park ($53.61/night - full hookups)

National Park Service Fee:  7 day pass - $30 per vehicle | Annual NPS pass $80

Yellowstone was established on March 1, 1872 making it the first National Park in the U.S. and is also known for being the first national park in the world! It is home to about half of the world's active Geyser concentration, including most famous Old Faithful[1]. To be honest, we didn't quite know the extent of Yellowstone's history before we entered the park (rookie mistake). However, we quickly learned that this park holds significant historic value, which made for some pretty big crowds in some spots during the day. We visited in late June, which turned out to be during peak tour bus season. If you're traveling to Yellowstone during the summer months, be prepared for some waiting times at some of the popular sites like Old Faithful or Grand Prismatic Spring. Fortunately, Yellowstone is a huge park so there are some places off the beaten path if you want to avoid large crowds. Check out a quick hike below that takes you to an awesome overlook to get a better view than the higher trafficked Grand Prismatic boardwalk path just off the main road.

Best time to visit?

Looking for the best time to visit Yellowstone? Our friends at AllTheRooms have an excellent short guide to figure out when you should go. They cover which time of year has the best weather and when the park has the smallest crowds. Check out their guide here for more information!

Destination: 
Yellowstone National Park, WY

Length of Stay: 4 nights (June 2018)

 

Lodging: Eagle Creek Campground ($3.50 - $7.00/night - no hookups) Fishing Bridge RV Park ($53.61/night - full hookups)

National Park Service Fee:  7 day pass - $30 per vehicle | Annual NPS pass $80

Yellowstone was established on March 1, 1872 making it the first National Park in the U.S. and is also known for being the first national park in the world! It is home to about half of the world's active Geyser concentration, including most famous Old Faithful[1]. To be honest, we didn't quite know the extent of Yellowstone's history before we entered the park (rookie mistake). However, we quickly learned that this park holds significant historic value, which made for some pretty big crowds in some spots during the day. We visited in late June, which turned out to be during peak tour bus season. If you're traveling to Yellowstone during the summer months, be prepared for some waiting times at some of the popular sites like Old Faithful or Grand Prismatic Spring. Fortunately, Yellowstone is a huge park so there are some places off the beaten path if you want to avoid large crowds. Check out a quick hike below that takes you to an awesome overlook to get a better view than the higher trafficked Grand Prismatic boardwalk path just off the main road.

Best time to visit?

Looking for the best time to visit Yellowstone? Our friends at AllTheRooms have an excellent short guide to figure out when you should go. They cover which time of year has the best weather and when the park has the smallest crowds. Check out their guide here for more information!

Navigating Yellowstone

The park spans across the 3 states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming (97% of the park is in WY) with two main loops that to four main entrance roads making a lop-sided figure eight. Our first night, we stayed just outside Yellowstone at Eagle Creek Campground which is Montana's Gallatin National Forest, just over the border, so it was easiest to come in through the North entrance of the park. However, there was a lot of road work going on at the time, and the combination of the rain made for a pretty muddy drive down to our next lodging spot at Fishing Bridge RV Park. Thankfully we were able to find lodging at the only full hookup campground in Yellowstone since we only booked about a week in advance.

Once you're in the park, it's kind of hard to get lost. Like we mentioned, the park is just a big Figure 8 loop so if you know which direction you're going in then it's a piece of cake. Unfortunately, cell phone service in the park is very slow and spotty at best. We have Verizon, and even though our phones appeared to have service, it the data connection was painfully slow so Google Maps took a while to load. The only WiFi available in the park is in select spots, one being the Yellowstone Lodge, but be prepared to pay up to $5/hour if you want internet!

Depending on where you're staying inside (or outside) Yellowstone, it might be best to break the park up into the Northern and Southern loops in order to minimize the distance you drive between attractions.

Map Legend

Sites to See

Missed Sites

Lodging

Northern Loop

Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley is located in the northeastern corner of the park, lying along the Lamar River and is known for its vast openness that allows for easy wildlife viewing. It is not uncommon to see Bison (a.k.a. Buffalo) walking along the side of the road, some may not be too concerned by your presence. Remember to drive slow and keep your distance from wildlife, particularly larger species like Bison and Moose. A Bull Moose or Bison under stress does not make for a good situation to put yourself in, so be mindful that you are visiting their home and need to look out for them while in the park. Be sure to drive slowly and pass with caution because the last thing you should do is stop your vehicle in the middle of the road and cause a traffic backup. This creates a stressful environment for the animals and could cause them to be injured. There are plenty of pull-offs on the side of the road to safely view the wildlife. Once you're parked out of the way, you can walk up and down the road for your viewing pleasure.

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IMG_0659 - 540 4x5
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Cooke City

Cooke City is a hidden treasure just over the border in Montana. This small city is outside the Northeast entrance of the park and features a gorgeous mountain backdrop behind the handful of restaurants to choose from.

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Mammoth Hotsprings

Mammoth Hot Springs are a series of hot springs that lie on top of a hill close to the north entrance of the park. We drove past these on the way into the park while it was raining, but they were a bit out of the way from our campsite for us to make it back when the weather cleared. It's still a cool site to check out if you get the chance (and don't mind the smell of sulfer) because this site is home to roughly 70 geothermal features!

Mt. Washburn

Mt. Washburn has a couple different hikes allowing passage to the summit of this 10,000 ft mountain. The higher trafficked Chittender Road trail is roughly 5.6 miles, while the lesser travelled Dunraven Pass is a slightly more challenging route to the top. Unfortunately, with our limited time and unforgiving weather we decided to opt out of these in favor of driving to Cooke City.

Navigating Yellowstone

The park spans across the 3 states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming (97% of the park is in WY) with two main loops that to four main entrance roads making a lop-sided figure eight. Our first night, we stayed just outside Yellowstone at Eagle Creek Campground which is Montana's Gallatin National Forest, just over the border, so it was easiest to come in through the North entrance of the park. However, there was a lot of road work going on at the time, and the combination of the rain made for a pretty muddy drive down to our next lodging spot at Fishing Bridge RV Park. Thankfully we were able to find lodging at the only full hookup campground in Yellowstone since we only booked about a week in advance.

Once you're in the park, it's kind of hard to get lost. Like we mentioned, the park is just a big Figure 8 loop so if you know which direction you're going in then it's a piece of cake. Unfortunately, cell phone service in the park is very slow and spotty at best. We have Verizon, and even though our phones appeared to have service, it the data connection was painfully slow so Google Maps took a while to load. The only WiFi available in the park is in select spots, one being the Yellowstone Lodge, but be prepared to pay up to $5/hour if you want internet!

Depending on where you're staying inside (or outside) Yellowstone, it might be best to break the park up into the Northern and Southern loops in order to minimize the distance you drive between attractions.

Map Legend

Sites to See

Missed Sites

Lodging

Northern Loop

Lamar Valley
img_0660___540_4x5
IMG_0659 - 540 4x5

Lamar Valley is located in the northeastern corner of the park, lying along the Lamar River and is known for its vast openness that allows for easy wildlife viewing. It is not uncommon to see Bison (a.k.a. Buffalo) walking along the side of the road, some may not be too concerned by your presence. Remember to drive slow and keep your distance from wildlife, particularly larger species like Bison and Moose. A Bull Moose or Bison under stress does not make for a good situation to put yourself in, so be mindful that you are visiting their home and need to look out for them while in the park. Be sure to drive slowly and pass with caution because the last thing you should do is stop your vehicle in the middle of the road and cause a traffic backup. This creates a stressful environment for the animals and could cause them to be injured. There are plenty of pull-offs on the side of the road to safely view the wildlife. Once you're parked out of the way, you can walk up and down the road for your viewing pleasure.

img_0656___720_4x5
img_0644___720_4x5
Cooke City

Cooke City is a hidden treasure just over the border in Montana. This small city is outside the Northeast entrance of the park and features a gorgeous mountain backdrop behind the handful of restaurants to choose from.

img_0667___540_16x9
Mammoth Hotsprings

Mammoth Hot Springs are a series of hot springs that lie on top of a hill close to the north entrance of the park. We drove past these on the way into the park while it was raining, but they were a bit out of the way from our campsite for us to make it back when the weather cleared. It's still a cool site to check out if you get the chance (and don't mind the smell of sulfer) because this site is home to roughly 70 geothermal features!

Mt. Washburn

Mt. Washburn has a couple different hikes allowing passage to the summit of this 10,000 ft mountain. The higher trafficked Chittender Road trail is roughly 5.6 miles, while the lesser travelled Dunraven Pass is a slightly more challenging route to the top. Unfortunately, with our limited time and unforgiving weather we decided to opt out of these in favor of driving to Cooke City.

Southern Loop

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring measures 370 ft in diameter and is the world's third largest hot spring, with New Zealand's Frying Pan Lake coming in first. Its distinct rainbow color is the result of microbial mats surrounding the naturally deep blue water. There is a paved parking lot that brings you to the start of a boardwalk right up to the hot spring, however, if you drive a few miles down the road there is another large gravel parking lot that backs up to a trailhead leading to a hike above the spring. The top left picture is from the viewpoint. The top right picture is the viewpoint of the spring from the higher trafficked boardwalk at ground level.

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Old Faithful

This is without a doubt the most popular attraction in Yellowstone National Park. If you are planning on going here to see Old Faithful erupt, be sure to check the ranger schedule to see when it is predicted to go off. Unknowingly, we found ourselves getting there right as it went off and waited over an hour and a half for it to erupt again. It was cool to see, but it is definitely one of those on-and-done sort of visits.

img_0693___540_4x5
img_6240___540_4x5
img_0694___540_4x5
Yellowstone Grand Canyon

This attraction at Yellowstone seemed to be a pretty hot spot for tour buses to visit. Although definitely different from the real Grand Canyon, it features a nice water fall that plenty of people are fighting to take pictures of.

*Pro Tip* - Sometimes it's nicer to just enjoy the view than capturing it. Molly was physically pushed out of the way while taking these pictures by a park go-er so we decided to enjoy the scenery instead of snapping more pics.

Yellowstone Lodge

As we mentioned at the beginning, Yellowstone does not have very good cell-phone coverage and wifi is only available at select places. We had a video interview during our stay so we needed to get some wifi at the Yellowstone Lodge, which we were warned by staff that it was quite slow. At the rate of $5/hour, we made the use of our wifi time and decided it wasn't worth renewing.

Yellowstone Caldera

If you've heard of a volcano living inside Yellowstone, this is probably the feature you are thinking about. This supervolcano is technically a caldera, which according to Wikipedia[2] is "a large cauldron-like hollow that forms following the evacuation of a magma chamber/reservoir." When massive volumes of magma erupt in a short time period, the ground support for the chamber is lost and leaves a large depression in the landscape. The one in Yellowstone measures roughly 30-40 miles across.

Southern Loop

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring measures 370 ft in diameter and is the world's third largest hot spring, with New Zealand's Frying Pan Lake coming in first. Its distinct rainbow color is the result of microbial mats surrounding the naturally deep blue water. There is a paved parking lot that brings you to the start of a boardwalk right up to the hot spring, however, if you drive a few miles down the road there is another large gravel parking lot that backs up to a trailhead leading to a hike above the spring. The top left picture is from the viewpoint. The top right picture is the viewpoint of the spring from the higher trafficked boardwalk at ground level.

compress-image__IMG_6219__540 4x5
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Old Faithful

This is without a doubt the most popular attraction in Yellowstone National Park. If you are planning on going here to see Old Faithful erupt, be sure to check the ranger schedule to see when it is predicted to go off. Unknowingly, we found ourselves getting there right as it went off and waited over an hour and a half for it to erupt again. It was cool to see, but it is definitely one of those on-and-done sort of visits.

img_0693___540_4x5
img_6240___540_4x5
img_0694___540_4x5
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

This attraction at Yellowstone seemed to be a pretty hot spot for tour buses to visit. Although definitely different from the real Grand Canyon, it features a nice water fall that plenty of people are fighting to take pictures of.

*Pro Tip* - Sometimes it's nicer to just enjoy the view than capturing it. Molly was physically pushed out of the way while taking these pictures by a park go-er so we decided to enjoy the scenery instead of snapping more pics.

img_6195___540_4x5
compress-image__IMG_6201__540 4x5
Yellowstone Lodge

As we mentioned at the beginning, Yellowstone does not have very good cell-phone coverage and wifi is only available at select places. We had a video interview during our stay so we needed to get some wifi at the Yellowstone Lodge, which we were warned by staff that it was quite slow. At the rate of $5/hour, we made the use of our wifi time and decided it wasn't worth renewing.

img_0685___540_4x5
img_0681___540_4x5
Yellowstone Caldera

If you've heard of a volcano living inside Yellowstone, this is probably the feature you are thinking about. This supervolcano is technically a caldera, which according to Wikipedia[2] is "a large cauldron-like hollow that forms following the evacuation of a magma chamber/reservoir." When massive volumes of magma erupt in a short time period, the ground support for the chamber is lost and leaves a large depression in the landscape. The one in Yellowstone measures roughly 30-40 miles across.

See how this fits into the North American Road Trip:

Yellowstone Lodging

Eagle Creek Campground

This campground was probably the best bargain we have come across. It was $7/night for regular guests, and $3.50 for NPS Annual Pass holders (as of June 2018). This is no hookup campsite and is first-come-first-serve, but the views were amazing and the camp hosts made us feel right at home. It is located in the Gallatin National Forest outside Gardiner, MT which is just over the border from Wyoming where Yellowstone is located. The road leading to the campground is not paved so drive slowly if you are towing or driving a larger RV. To the right is a picture of our site at Eagle Creek, we had a beautiful view of the sunset from here.

Fishing Bridge RV Park

This is the only campground in Yellowstone that offers full hookup RV sites. The rangers informed us these sites are restricted to hard sided campers only (no tents or pop-up vehicles) due to frequent bear activity. It was quite chilly here in the middle of June and we lucked out by getting a site here after booking last minute. However, it is closed for the 2019 season for construction - hopefully to fix the pot holes that are all over the campground roads. The spaces were tightly packed together, but we were glad to have power so we could use our heater to stay warm.

Yellowstone Lodging

Eagle Creek Campground

This campground was probably the best bargain we have come across. It was $7/night for regular guests, and $3.50 for NPS Annual Pass holders (as of June 2018). This is no hookup campsite and is first-come-first-serve, but the views were amazing and the camp hosts made us feel right at home. It is located in the Gallatin National Forest outside Gardiner, MT which is just over the border from Wyoming where Yellowstone is located. The road leading to the campground is not paved so drive slowly if you are towing or driving a larger RV. To the right is a picture of our site at Eagle Creek, we had a beautiful view of the sunset from here.

img_0587___720_4x5
Fishing Bridge RV Park

This is the only campground in Yellowstone that offers full hookup RV sites. The rangers informed us these sites are restricted to hard sided campers only (no tents or pop-up vehicles) due to frequent bear activity. It was quite chilly here in the middle of June and we lucked out by getting a site here after booking last minute. However, it is closed for the 2019 season for construction - hopefully to fix the pot holes that are all over the campground roads. The spaces were tightly packed together, but we were glad to have power so we could use our heater to stay warm.

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By |2019-05-15T05:13:33-04:00June 16th, 2018|Destinations, National Park|0 Comments

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