Yellowstone National Park is not only the United State’s first national park, it is the world’s first national park. It covers land in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and 2,219,789 acres. This is an area larger than the combination of Rhode Island and Delaware. Yellowstone is home to a variety of wildlife, 300 geysers and almost 300 waterfalls. Yellowstone is a place that time has left alone. It offers a glimpse into what the Wild West used to be. There is something for any visitor to explore and discover.
Yellowstone is home to 61 different mammals including bears, wolves, deer, elk and bison. Most visitors hope to see a grizzly bear. The best time to spot a bear is early in the morning or in the late evening. Most bears are spotted in the Hayden and Lamar Valley. Wolves are most likely to be spotted in the same area and around the same time.
Unlike bears and wolves, elk are easy to spot in the park. There are over 15,000 elk, and herds of elk are always in meadows along the road. During the fall (mating season), bulls challenge other bulls. They charge each other and wrestle with their antlers. During the spring, playful newborns entertain visitors. There are over 4,000 bison in Yellowstone, and they cause more injuries to visitors than any other animal. Moose are harder to spot, but they can be found along lake shores and rivers.
There are over 1,100 miles of trails. Hiking offers a view of Yellowstone not seen from the car. Wildlife is also more likely to be seen while hiking. Hikes range from easy to difficult and short day hikes to overnight trips. Mystic Falls, located in the Biscuit Basin area, is a short, easy hike. The waterfall falls 70 feet and the trail continues up to an observation point. From the observation point, you can see Old Faithful erupt. Other waterfall hikes include Fairy Falls, Osprey Falls and Wraith Falls. There are other hikes that lead to lakes or offer panoramic views.
There are seven different kinds of fish in Yellowstone: rainbow, lake trout, cutthroat, brown, mountain whitefish, brook and grayling. There are hundreds of lakes and miles and miles of rivers and streams to fish from. With so much area to fish in, it does not get crowded.
The most famous geyser in West Yellowstone is Old Faithful. Old Faithful lasts 1.5-5 minutes and erupts every 45 to 90 minutes. While it erupts, it can reach a height of 185 feet and shoots up 3,700-8,400 gallons of boiling water. Although it is not the largest or tallest geyser, it is the most predictable.
The largest and tallest geyser in Yellowstone and the world is Steamboat Geyser. However, Steamboat Geyser is impossible to predict. It has erupted eight times since 1991. It last erupted on May 23, 2005.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
The Grand Canyon in West Yellowstone draws thousands of visitors every year. It can be as deep as 1,200 feet and as wide as 4,000 feet at some points. Hiking trails along the canyon offer different views of the canyon and waterfalls. The Lower Falls is 308 feet tall and the Upper Falls is 109 feet tall. This is one of the most photographed areas in the park so be sure to bring your camera.
What to Expect
During the summer, temperatures are usually in the 70s and nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing. Thunderstorms occur often during summer afternoons. Before going hiking, always check the weather. Thunderstorms can roll over the mountains without warning and you do not want to be caught at high elevations during a storm. Bring a jacket and sunscreen since the weather can change rapidly and the sun is more intense at higher elevations.
Spring and fall temperatures stay within 30-60 degrees. Temperatures can drop to the single digits during the night so pack warm clothes. Snow is common and can dump twelve inches in twenty-four hours. Winter temperatures reach a high of 20 degrees, and the record low is -66 degrees Fahrenheit.