Robin Buck, a full-time RVer and travel blogger, shares all about her trip to Yellowstone National Park, America’s very first National Park.
Yellowstone National Park is an amazing RV destination filled with dramatic scenery, abundant wildlife, and numerous options for outdoor fun. Every year millions of visitors are captivated by the endless beauty that spans its 3,471 square miles across parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The park is so big that it has five separate entrances!
Established in 1872, Yellowstone holds the prestigious title of being America’s first national park. Its popularity consistently draws visitors during the summer months, but if you want to avoid the crowds you might try the shoulder months in the spring and fall. For the very hearty, parts of Yellowstone are even open in the winter, although you need to be part of a snow coach or snowmobile tour group for some areas.
There are campgrounds with many activities both inside the park and in the towns surrounding the various entrances. We stayed on Hebgen Lake, just 15 minutes west of Yellowstone where we boated, fished, and even went on trail rides and ate a great chuck wagon meal at a nearby dude ranch when we weren’t in the park. Whichever time you choose to visit, planning early is key in this popular spot. In fact, now is a great time to be booking for 2024!
Yellowstone sits in a 30- by 45-mile basin that was created by huge volcanic eruptions many years ago. An underground super volcano feeds the world’s largest collection of hydrothermal features, which involve heated water in the earth’s crust. The park is home to more than 10,000 of these natural wonders including geysers, hot springs, and steam vents. It is so cool to see plumes of steam floating skyward, giant water sprays, and bubbling hot pools throughout the area.
One of the park’s most popular attractions is Old Faithful. It is the most famous geyser and was so named because of its history of faithfully erupting at predictable times (about every 90 minutes). There is even a schedule so you can plan your visit. Although I had seen pictures, nothing compared to witnessing the geyser expel 8,000 gallons of boiling water high into the air!
My personal favorite sight at Yellowstone is the enormous Grand Prismatic Spring. Its colors are mesmerizing! The deep blue center is surrounded by steamy rings of vibrant green, yellow, orange and red. You don’t expect to see such brilliant colors in nature, which are due to temperature-dependent algae that thrive within the spring between a very hot 149 to 189 degrees. We first did a short hike on the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook Trail to get a great panoramic view of the spring. Then we parked near the spring to walk the wooden boardwalk out to this beautiful thermal pool where you can feel the heat and steam up close.
Yellowstone’s expansive wilderness provides the opportunity to observe an incredible array of wildlife in their natural habitats. The most abundant large animal is the elk which live in herds of up to 10,000! We spotted several as we drove on the main road into the park from West Yellowstone. The best animal views are during this early morning time when they tend to be more active.
Other popular animals in the park are bison, black bear, grizzly bear, wolves, coyotes, pronghorn, and moose. The Lamar Valley is particularly renowned for its abundant wildlife and is a great spot for photographers. It has even been nicknamed the “Serengeti of North America” for its numerous wildlife sightings.
If encountering animals in the wild makes you a bit nervous, there is a great nonprofit park and educational center in the town of West Yellowstone. The Grizzly Wolf and Discovery Center has a variety of animals, but the star attraction is the grizzly bears. These bears are unable to survive in the wild and now serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. A bonus is they do not hibernate so you can see them all the time. I loved watching them participate in testing “bear resistant” garbage containers as part of their play time.
In addition to the geothermal features and wildlife, Yellowstone’s landscapes are a photographer’s dream. The park spans over 2.2 million acres, featuring mountain ranges, dramatic canyons, pristine lakes, and alpine meadows. You won’t have to look far to find a picturesque spot here!
Situated in the northern section of the park, Mammoth Hot Springs is a captivating sight of beautiful travertine terraces. These stairstep-like formations are formed from deposits left after hot water rises to the surface. The soft white and beige terraces look like frozen waterfalls in a winter wonderland (even in the summer!). Boardwalks allow visitors a closer look at the unique formations and thermal features.
One of the most photographed views in the park is at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. From a place called Artist Point you will see water plunging 300 feet over the Lower Falls and then roaring down the 1000-foot-deep canyon. We did several hikes along the north and south rim trails where overlooks provide an up-close look at the powerful rush of water at the falls. These were moderate hikes because of the terrain, but well worth it.
If you prefer a more tranquil setting, visit the largest high-elevation lake in North America. Lake Yellowstone is 400 feet deep and has 141 miles of shoreline in the southeastern area of the park. The reflections of the surrounding mountains and forests on the lake’s surface create a mirror-like effect that is breathtaking.
Yellowstone is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with activities to satisfy visitors of all ages. Hiking trails crisscross the park, ranging from easy walks suitable for families to challenging backcountry routes for experienced adventurers. We enjoyed a morning hike on the Purple Mountain Trail where we climbed 1500 feet over 3 miles to be rewarded with a panoramic view of the Gibbon and Madison River valley. Much of the trail is wooded and there is a register to sign when you make it to the top. Hikes are a great way to escape the crowds on a hot day.
Fishing is also a popular activity in Yellowstone, with numerous rivers and lakes offering a great place to wet a line. Permits are required and park guidelines must be followed. Boating and kayaking are also popular on Yellowstone Lake, while horseback trail rides give a unique perspective from the land. You can even enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during the winter season of December to March when snow blankets the landscape.
Get Ready for Adventure!
From the awe-inspiring geothermal features to the diverse wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, Yellowstone is the perfect place to witness the beauty of this amazing area. With so many acres to discover, you will be sure to find sights and activities that enthrall you. After visiting many national parks, Yellowstone still stands apart as one of my favorites. Plan your trip soon and be ready to make incredible memories!
Robin and her husband, Mike, are Air Force veterans and empty nesters who have been traveling full-time in their Entegra Anthem motorhome for 5 years. Always ready to explore, they love nature and wildlife, meeting new friends and discovering America one stop at a time. Robin writes about their travel adventures, RVing tips, and the full-time RV lifestyle on her blog RVing with Robin.