Yellowstone National Park has been a major tourist destination for decades, and welcomes an average of 4.2 million visitors every year. Spanning a 3,500 square mile area that covers parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, there is so much to do and see at Yellowstone that it can be a bit overwhelming!
Aside from being the location of stunning natural features including geysers, hot springs, and lakes, Yellowstone National Park is home to hundreds of species of wildlife; You are certain to see bison, bald eagles, grizzly bears, and elk during your visit if you know where to look!
If you love hiking, there are thousands of miles of trails to explore, or you can easily enjoy the park from the comfort of your own vehicle! And whether you want to rough it in the great outdoors during your stay at Yellowstone or would prefer to stay in a full-service hotel, there are plenty of options to choose from.
No matter what type of experience you hope to have on your vacation, Yellowstone National Park has exactly what you’re looking for!
Old Faithful is not only the most well-known landmark in Yellowstone National Park, but the most famous geyser in the world! An eruption at this iconic geyser is something everyone should have the opportunity to see at least once in their lifetime! Old Faithful was named for the regularity with which it blows off steam; While it’s eruptions have become slightly less predictable in recent years, you can still count on seeing this beloved American geyser in action once every 35 to 120 minutes.
While Old Faithful isn’t the park’s largest geyser, it is certainly your best chance at witnessing the beautiful natural occurrence of an eruption. Typically, Old Faithful puts on a show for tourists every 92 minutes and spurts columns of water 90 to 184 feet in the air; This usually lasts anywhere between a minute and a half to five minutes, giving you plenty of photo opportunities!
While the visitor’s center in the park, or the Yellowstone National Park app can give you an estimation of when Old Faithful is predicted to erupt on the day of your visit, these times are not certain. Make sure to arrive early to get a good spot for viewing this event; After all, it is a major tourist attraction for visitors to the park and the area is usually packed!
If you’re not thrilled about crowds but enjoy an adventure, you can go on the mile-like hike to Observation Point for a bird’s-eye view of Old Faithful’s historic eruption. The site is wheelchair accessible, making it view-able for all. Make sure you don’t miss out on this incredible experience on your trip to Yellowstone!
The Upper Geyser Basin
This incredibly scenic area of Yellowstone National Park should be enjoyed by all park visitors! The Upper Geyser Basin is home to the highest concentration of geysers anywhere in the world. This area is home to Old Faithful, Castle Geyser, the Black Pearl Geyser, Grand Geyser, the Giantess Geyser, the Beehive Geyser and more!
Also in the Upper Geyser Basin, you will see many stunning natural features such as the many vibrant blue pools of the Biscuit Basin including the Sapphire Pool, which was once a geyser! The Morning Glory Pool, located on the northern edge of the Upper Geyser Basin, closely resembles the flower for which it was named. Make sure you don’t miss out on all of the incredible natural wonders the Upper Geyser Basin has to offer the visitors of Yellowstone National Park!
The Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring, located in the Midway Geyser Basin is the largest hot spring in America! This incredibly unique hot spring has vibrant yellows, deep reds, and crystal clear blue colors; The yellow and red edges of the Grand Prismatic Spring are not typical, and are caused by the pigmented bacteria located there. This surreal site is unsurprisingly one of the most photographed features of Yellowstone National Park, and it’s no wonder why!
The Castle Geyser is a cone geyser, and is the largest of its kind in Yellowstone National Park! Located in the Upper Geyser Basin area of the park, this geyser erupts every 10-12 hours, with long eruptions lasting approximately 20 minutes and shooting water up to 90 feet into the air! The Castle Geyser is known for creating quite a ruckus when it erupts; The sounds are caused by water transforming into steam, and can be a bit startling! If you’re looking for an intense eruption, stop by the Castle Geyser before or after you visit Old Faithful- these two iconic geysers are located conveniently close to one another!
Mammoth Hot Springs
The Mammoth Hot Springs is one of the more unique attractions tourists can visit on their trip to Yellowstone National Park. This sculpture-like formation, created by Mother Nature, gives the appearance of a cascade of ice and is created from limestone, thermal water, and natural chemical reactions. This surreal site is absolutely not to be missed on your visit to Yellowstone National Park! Additionally, the Mammoth Hot Springs area is frequented by herds of elk who inhabit the site. There are plenty of great hiking trails in the area so you can take a long walk and enjoy all the natural beauty and wildlife that this other-worldly site has to offer!
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
This 20 mile long canyon measures 4,000 feet across and is a must-see on your next trip to Yellowstone National Park! This feature was formed around 10,000 to 14,000 years ago which is considered “young” for a canyon! There are many scenic hiking trails in the area where you can get a good view of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, or you can enjoy the view from one of the park’s scenic overlooks!
Yellowstone Lake is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in sea level anywhere in North America and the largest body of water located in Yellowstone National Park! The diverse plant and animal life found in and around Yellowstone Lake make it the ideal destination for birdwatchers, fishers, and anyone who enjoys immersing themselves in the beauty of nature!
This lake has an interesting history, having first been visited by John Colter, who served as Lewis and Clark’s scout. Researchers are especially interested in this natural wonder, as it is believed to have countless canyons, geysers, and hot springs resting at the bottom. Most visitors suggest viewing Yellowstone Lake by car, which might be a good idea! After all, grizzly bears have been known to hang out in this area of the park!
The lush Hayden Valley is one of the most serene areas of Yellowstone National Park and is your best bet at catching a glimpse of some of the park’s incredible wildlife. Grizzly bears, bison, elk, and coyotes frequently gather in this spot! Seeing a bison in real life is a truly magical event that everyone should experience; Spend a day in Hayden Valley and you are sure to see a whole heard of these majestic creatures!
Bison have inhabited the Hayden Valley area since prehistoric times; Tragically, they were hunted to near-extinction in the 1800’s, but have since made a come back in Yellowstone! Today there are over 5,000 bison who have made Yellowstone National Park their home. Additionally, this area is home to several type of birds including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, northern harriers, geese, pelicans, ducks, and shorebirds.
If you are traveling by car, you can get a good look at Hayden Valley from Grand Loop Road, but it is best to get out of your car for the most stunning sites Hayden Valley has to offer! The two hiking trails in the area- The Hayden Valley Trail and the Mary Mountain Trail- are best for experiencing the wildlife!
The Lamar Valley is often referred to as “America’s Serengeti” due to unbelievable abundance of wildlife that have made this area there home! It is an absolute must-see for any one who makes a trip to Yellowstone National Park! In fact, aside from Old Faithful, Lamar Valley may very well be the second largest draw to the park.
When you visit this scenic location, you are sure to see bison, bald eagles, grizzly bears, wolves, pronghorns and more! Make sure to keep an eye out if you are driving on Beartooth Highway in this area, as the wildlife are known to cross the road often! Lamar Valley is by far, one of the most exciting areas to visit in all of Yellowstone National Park!
The Best Camping Spots at Yellowstone National Park for Tent and RV Camping
Bay Bridge Campground (Tent and RV Camping)
Bay Bridge Campground is one of the largest campsites in all of Yellowstone National Park. It is home to many creature comforts (as far as camping allows for, anyway!) with flushing toilets, and sinks with running water. The accommodations at Bay Bridge Campground make it the perfect place for families, groups, and individuals who are unaccustomed to “rouging it” while on vacation.
The camp sites at Bay Bridge Campground cost an affordable $23.50 per night; Reservations are required to secure a spot at this location, and they fill up fast, so it is highly recommended that you make them far in advance of your trip to Yellowstone National Park! Here you will enjoy stunning views of Yellowstone Lake and the Absaroka mountain range (as well as the flushing toilets, of course)!
Norris Campground (Tent and RV Camping)
This campground located near the Norris Geyser Basin is just a short distance from some of the world’s most magnificent geysers! And it’s home to flushing toilets; A huge plus for any camp site! With 111 camp sites at the Norris Campground, only 7 of them are available for RVs, so keep this in mind when trying to book your reservation! The Norris Campground will cost you $20 per night; Each site here has its own picnic table and fire pit- perfect for families or groups of friends!
Slough Creek Campground (Tent Camping Only)
This remote campsite has only 23 camping sites, making it perfect for people who want to get away from it all and truly immerse themselves in nature. This site is located in a sage meadow along Slough Creek, between the scenic Lamar Valley and Tower-Roosevelt. The Slough Creek Campground is not for everyone- you’ll only find the most basic necessities here such as clean pit toilets and water pumping stations! No generators are allowed, keeping this area incredibly serene at night. For only $15 per night, this site is ideal for experience campers on a budget!
Fishing Bridge RV Park (RV Camping Only)
The Fishing Bridge RV Park is perfect for wildlife lovers, located just a short driving distance from Hayden Valley. This site hosts a dump station, water, sewer, and electrical hookups, and is the only campsite in Yellowstone that offered full hook-ups and a dump station for RV campers. Only hard-sided campers are allowed here as grizzly bears are known to roam the area; Make sure to keep this in mind if you plan to stay at Fishing Bridge RV Park and plan appropriately! Reservations are required and there is a $50 fee per night to park your RV at this site. While there are showers available, only two per night are included in your reservation. Additionally, this area has flush toilets and laundry facilities, but campfires and portable fire pits are strictly prohibited!
Your tent is your safe space when you’re out camping, especially in the backcountry. An expensive tent is not necessarily a good tent. If you’re looking for the perfect tent for your needs, check out our article about the best tents for camping where we have compiled a list of the best tents available in the market today.
Cabins and Lodges in Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins
Don’t let the name fool you! This full-service hotel in Yellowstone National Park is open all seasons. From mid-December until early March, you can take a snow coach from the hotel to see some of Yellowstone’s stunning natural features, or rent cross-country skis or snowshoes! If you stay at the hotel between early May and mid-October, you can enjoy a pleasant hike to Morning Glory Pool or Fairy Falls. The lodge’s close proximity to Old Faithful make this the perfect place to stay if you want comfy accommodations, and a chance to see the iconic geyser in action!
At Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins, guests can enjoy breakfast and dinner service in the Obsidian Dining Room; The menu features delicious options such as wild Alaskan salmon and bison. If you’re craving a burger or looking for faster service, the Geyser Grill is also conveniently located right in the hotel. Both the cabins and lodge feature a cozy western-inspired design. After a long day of exploring Yellowstone National Park, you can sit back and relax by the fireplace at the Firehole lounge.
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins
The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins is located at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park and overlooks the historic stone structures which were once Fort Yellowstone. Although the hotel was renovated in 2019, it was originally constructed in the year 1936; The design stays true to the elegance of that time period to this day. “The Map Room” of the hotel features an impressive wooden wall map which was designed by architect Robert Reamer at the time of the hotel’s opening.
Wind down after a full day of taking in all the sights Yellowstone National Park has to offer by enjoying dinner at the Terrace Grill, or visiting the small bar in the Map Room which offers alcoholic beverages and coffee to guests of the hotel. Some of the quaint frontier cabins even have an outdoor hot tub that can accommodate up to six people! The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins will take you back in time while offering you all the modern amenities!
Yellowstone National Park is definitely one of the top national parks that you need to visit in your lifetime. This national park is home to numerous scenic locations, miles upon miles of hiking trails, thriving wildlife, and of course, spectacular geysers.
Planning a trip to Yellowstone NP can be quite challenging because of the amount of sights to see and activities that you can enjoy in the park. To be able to make the most of your trip, we highly suggest that you spend a couple of days to explore everything that the park has to offer. If you’re short on time, visiting the main attractions should be enough and you can check out the rest of the park on your next visit.