Yellowstone National Park
Established in 1872 and situated in Wyoming (primarily), Montana, and Idaho, this is America's first national park. Preserved within it are Mammoth Hot Springs; Yellowstone Canyon; Lake Yellowstone; and, of course, Old Faithful Geyser—one of the world’s most extraordinary hydrothermal features amid what is also the world's largest single collection of geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mud pots. Volcanic activity through the millennia is also evident in the park’s extraordinary mountains, intriguing hardened-lava masses and other land forms, with news rolling in all the time about what’s brewing underground (don’t worry—scientists don’t think there will be another major eruption for millennia). The park’s incredible nature includes abundant wildlife too, like grizzly bears, wolves, bison, elk, peregrine falcons, and bald eagles.
Tackling this multistate, 2.2-million-acre park, with its 1,000-plus miles of trails, takes some planning—and your plans could vary based not only on your interests but also on seasonal road and other closures. The main north entrance (actually in the park’s northwest corner) is at Gardiner, Montana, and is the only entrance open year-round to wheeled vehicles. It’s also closest to Mammoth Hot Springs and its lodgings, museums and visitor center.
Entering via the northeast entrance is the shortest route to Tower Roosevelt and Canyon Village. Travel southward to take in Old Faithful, or enter at either the west entrance at the Idaho-Wyoming border, or the south entrance in Wyoming (also nearer to Grant Village and West Thumb on Lake Yellowstone). There are several lodging options near Old Faithful, and the visitor center has a daily schedule of when it’s likely to erupt (generally, about every 60-110 minutes). The east entrance, near Cody, Wyoming, is closest to Fishing Bridge, Lake Village, and Bridge Bay.
Regardless of where you enter or explore, stay on one of 1,000-plus miles of trails, some of which have boardwalks, and follow all rules and guidelines to stay safe and to minimize your impact on the fragile ecosystems. And, given the park’s unique geology, be sure to look into the many interpretive programs and ranger-led walks and talks offered in summer in the various areas.
There are 12 front-county RV- and tent-site campgrounds (five of which take reservations) as well as more than 300 back-country tent sites. All told, the park has nine guest lodges, two of which are open year round. The oldest lodge is the Lake Hotel and Cabins, opened in 1891 and on the National Register of Historic Places. There are also many dining options, from snack bars to full-service restaurants. The park has myriad recreational outfitters and general stores. In summer, options for touring (guided and self-guided) include not only scenic drives and hikes but also llama or horseback treks, boating (non-motorized) expeditions, and biking excursions. Fishing is also an option. In winter, you can snowmobile, cross-country ski, or snowshoe.
495 Old Faithful
- Wyoming, United States of America 82190
- 44.51622600, -110.49190500
- Entrances and visitor centers open seasonally and dependent upon weather. Albright (Mammoth) Visitor Center (at north entrance) open year-round; summer, daily 8--7; winter, daily 9--5.
- Visit Website
- (307) 344-7381