Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the US. It is considered by many people to be the best national park and frankly, Yellowstone is AMAZING. It took my breath away on more than one occasion. All National Parks have stunning scenery and Yellowstone is no exception: dramatic mountains, beautiful lakes, roaring rivers, picturesque waterfalls and deep canyons. Add into this mix the wildlife (we saw bears, bison and elk) AND the incredible, other-worldly geothermic spectacles and you have the most wonderful experience. Yellowstone has everything! But where does one start? What are the highlights of Yellowstone?
The Highlights of Yellowstone National Park
Grand Prismatic Spring
First up in the list of highlights of Yellowstone for me is Grand Prismatic Spring. This is a giant pool of vibrant minerals and geothermic activity. It bubbles away gently, a vivid spectrum of constantly changing colour. A multi-coloured mist wafts upwards, adding to the performance. It is stunningly beautiful and does not look like it belongs on planet Earth.
A walkway has been erected around the spring for visitors to see it safely. Like many areas in the park, the surface is not only fragile but dangerous because of the boiling water and the naturally occurring chemicals. It is also possible to hike up to a viewing point and look down upon this spectacle. One of my regrets is that we were not able to do this because of the difficulty in parking in a 28′ RV in the carpark here.
Mammoth Hot Spring
Another highlight of Yellowstone is Mammoth Hot Spring. This is at the north end of the park and is quite different from Grand Prismatic Spring. The hot water bubbling up from underground trickles over rocky terraces, leaving colourful mineral deposits behind. Again, it is a constantly changing scene.
It was at Mammoth Hot Springs that we saw a newly born elk with its mother. It was not yet on its feet. We have no pictures though as, quite rightly, a ranger was moving people away via a different route in order to give them some space.
The Norris Geyser Basin
The Norris Geyser Basin is another highlight of Yellowstone. There are two routes through the basin, a long one and a shorter one. We took the long one and it was very quiet in terms of people visiting. Perhaps it was less popular because it was longer as it was certainly no less interesting or picturesque! Geysers, steam vents and springs are everywhere in this basin and they put on quite a performance, accompanied by the sound of boiling water bubbling beneath the earth. Norris Geyser Basin is a strange but energetic wasteland, dotted with patches of vivid colour.
We were passing Vixen Geyser just as it decided to blow!
We also walked the shorter route in this Basin. It offers a vista over the valley floor, with more springs, geysers and colourful mineral pools. Again it is quite spectacular, a real alien landscape.
Old Faithful has to be on the list of highlights of Yellowstone for any visitor, although a word of warning; this area is mobbed! As the name suggests, this is a guaranteed opportunity to see a large geyser blow up to 180 feet into the air. Old Faithful erupts approximately every 90 minutes. When we were there it probably reached about 100 feet and blew for almost 5 minutes.
We waited about 40 minutes for the main event, but whilst waiting, we were treated to two other, smaller geysers blowing. And then Old Faithful let rip! That is kind of special.
There are lots of other interesting facts and background information about Old Faithful.
West Thumb Geyser Basin
There are several Geyser Basins in Yellowstone and they are all different in character. West Thumb, on the edge of the lake has its own distinctive flavour with bubbling mudpots, boiling springs and spurting geysers. It is colourful and quirky and definitely worth seeing.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River
The canyon is yet another highlight of this park. The canyon is deep and rocky, as canyons are, but this one is special because of the colour, particularly at the area called Artist Point. The rainbow of mineral deposits here is remarkable and makes the canyon very picturesque. The waterfalls tumbling into the canyon provide another spectacle in this memorable landscape.
And a final highlight of Yellowstone: The Wildlife
Seeing wildlife by chance in the wild is very special and this is definitely one of the highlights of Yellowstone. In addition to the newborn elk we saw at Mammoth Hot Spring, we saw bears twice whilst we were in the park.
Yellowstone has hundreds if not thousands of bison. Sightings are frequent and people stop to admire them.
The bison highlight for us though was seeing these two young ones having a head to head. Unusually, we were the only ones there to see it!
So Is Yellowstone worth visiting?
The short answer to this is “Yes, absolutely.” I was being provocative in suggesting that there might be a different answer!
There is only one downside to Yellowstone: it is very busy at all times of the year. Tourists flock to Yellowstone by the busload – literally; the roads jam up because of the volume of cars (especially when any wildlife ventures close to the main thoroughfares); and even in mid-June when we were there, the campsites are full to bursting. So why visit?
Yes, there are crowds and congestion – we were part of them! – but it is worth tolerating these: everyone should see Yellowstone at least once in a lifetime.
Related articles in which you may be interested:
Exploring Death Valley: hike it, bike it, love it!
Trip the Hike Fantastic: unforgettable hikes in the US
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You really outdid yourself with the photos in this post, Jane! Yellowstone really is such a wonder. And even though you described the crowds, the photos make it feel like you were all alone in the wilderness 🙂
Thank you so much Lynn. I was hoping to present a realistic picture. Yellowstone is awesome.There is no arguing with that. However, in recommending that people see it, I wanted them to be aware that there is this one slight downside.
What a wonderful place! Thankyou for sharing those incredible photos!
Excellent work Jane. Your photos are stunning throughout, especially love the colours or the grand Prismatic Spring. You hit the right angle that’s sure. The whole trip seems like such a wonderful and memorable experience.
Thank you John. Yellowstone really does have the wow factor. It is one of the most memorable travel experiences I have had.
Your photos are incredible! The colours of those hotsprings remind me those found in New Zealand.
Thank you for sharing. Added to the bucketlist ????
Absolutely loved reading this Jane I’m mesmerized by the beauty that exists in this park from the grand prismatic spring to the mammoth hot springs and the old faithful ..how amazing!! I hope that we can find the time to visit this beautiful national park.
Thank you Zarina. I always hesitate to recommend places to others as their experience may be different, but I really do think everyone should visit Yellowstone at least once in a lifetime.
I haven’t yet been to Yellowstone and now you’ve just cemented it to my Bucket List! The Grand Prismatic Spring looks mesmerising to watch. In fact all of the geysers and pools are really intriguing – especially Ye Old Faithful. Definitely worth sitting around waiting for that to blow. It certainly looks like another planet.
You are so right! There are times you feel you simply cannot be on planet Earth.
This just punctuates the fact that I need to visit Yellowstone! It’s so beautiful and alien looking at the same time. Thanks for sharing your gorgeous photos of the diverse landscapes. 🙂
Thank you Kit. It is difficult to take a bad photo in Yellowstone as there is so much wonderful material to work with!
There are a lot of national parks in the US I would love to visit but I have to say, Yellowstone (alongside Yosemite) is the one that is right up there in terms of which one I would head to first and this post confirms that. It just seems to have everything in one place really and offer some truly magical experiences.
Absolutely! Yellowstone is such a memorable experience and there is so much to see. I have visited Yosemite briefly and loved it. Planning to spend more time there in the autumn.
I visited Yellowstone years ago, and it is one of the most stunning places on Earth. We saw many of the same sights, and my favorites were Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. We ended up a little too close for comfort to a bison while touring the geysers. They are beautiful but a bit scary, too! Your post makes me want to plan a return trip.
I know what you mean! We came across a herd of bison whilst we were on the motorbike. They came very close and it was quite unnerving. They are enormous – and those horns!
Yellowstone is like the Old Faithful of the park system. You know it’s always there and never disappoints. Between the geysers and animal world, there are just so many beautiful things to see and do. Summer weekends get a little tight, but it’s still a magical place.
Yes, magical just about sums it up!
So lucky you got to see the Bisons and crazy you were the only ones there given the fact that this national park is extremely busy. I hope to visit this gorgeous park soon. This year I’ll be heading to Yosemite, but Yellow Stone is on my list. I also want to see the Old Faithful let rip!
Thanks Candy. Yes, I have unfinished business with Yosemite and am hoping to visit again in the autumn.Enjoy!
No wonder Yellowstone is busy all year; every attraction you write about looks truly amazing! I’m especially intrigued by the Grand Prismatic Spring. It’s too bad you weren’t able to see it from above! Even Beartooth Highway is such a cool preview all the amazing things inside Yellowstone. I just hope that the crowds of tourists are responsible about litter and as you mention at the spring, safety.
That’s a good point Kevin. Even with all the crowds of people there, I do not recall seeing any litter or anyone behaving irresponsibly. One would hope that that is the case when people have taken the trouble to visit this wonderful place. Thank you for reading.
The Grand Prismatic Spring seems unreal. The rainbow coloured mist looks fantastic and makes me wonder how strange nature could be! The mud pots look beautiful. You have got some great clicks. Thanks to this wonderful guide on Yellowstone National Park.
I know! It’s strange to think of “mud pots” being “beautiful” but they truly are.
Yes, interesting and beautiful at the same time.
Yellowstone looks and sounds amazing Jane. Your photos are stunning. It’s definitely on our list!
Thanks Wendy. You will not be disappointed. Yellowstone is truly breathtaking.
Having just been in Yellowstone, it was fab seeing your pics and remembering the beauty! It wasn’t that busy by September, so I’d definitely recommend visiting in May or Sept instead of June-Aug – takes the pressure off slightly 🙂
Good to know! We will definitely be returning.
Great guide for Yellowstone. Thanks for the wonderful pictures. It brings back memories of going there a couple years ago.
Alien landscape sums it up so well. It’s just amazing what nature can do. I’m shocked by how much snow was on the roadside in that drive. In June! Guess it never melts does it.
I think you’ve nailed it and I’m completely jealous of the bear sightings, I’ve yet to get that clear of a look at one. Gorgeous pictures, they really capture the beauty of Yellowstone!
I so need to visit Yellowstone! Gorgeous pics!
We’re so glad you had an excellent time at Yellowstone. How special was it to see a newborn elk!
Would love to visit there one day! The Mammoth Hot Springs are so cool!