Monday, September 4, 2023

Yellowstone is a Volcano


I am probably the last person in the US to visit Yellowstone, and, as such, I am no expert. I did, however, just get back and if, by chance, there is another Yellowstone newbie out there, here are the things I learned and saw on my trip. If they help you in planning your trip to Yellowstone, then good. If I've gotten anything wrong, I apologize. 

First of all, Yellowstone is a volcano. Actually, the park sits on top of four overlapping volcanic calderas created by massive eruptions that took place 2.1 million, 1.3 million and most recently 640,000 years ago. When you enter Yellowstone National Park, you are quite literally stepping onto one of the world's largest active volcanic systems. I say this because we were stopped by a visitor wanting to know where he could find the volcano. Ummm, right under your feet! It is easy to understand why he asked. The thing is so big, it's not like looking up at a cone shaped mountain. But once you start to smell the acrid odor of sulphur, see steam rising from the ground all around you and spy more than 500 geysers, some spouting hundreds of feet into the air at any given time, you realize the ground you are standing on really is alive. 

There are 5 entrances into the park. Before you plan your trip, find out which entrances are open. Then be flexible, because by the time you leave, your entrance may be closed. I know because this happened to us. We planned to fly into Bozeman and had rented a place near the north entrance in Gardiner, MT, because that is the closest entrance to the airport. However, flooding closed the north entrance before our trip, so we canceled our Gardiner reservations and found a new accommodation near West Yellowstone (actually in Island Park, ID which is about 30 minutes from the West Yellowstone entrance). As I said, you need to be flexible. Make sure your reservations can be canceled if, for some unforeseen reason, the entrance you plan to use closes. As it turned out, the north entrance opened back up by the time of our trip, but our place in Island Park turned out to be a blessing. We had a huge house with 4 bedrooms, 5 beds, and 3 baths set on a private lot surrounded by tall pine trees. It was a mountain oasis.

West Yellowstone is a cute little western mountain village with plenty of restaurants, grocery stores,  bakeries and shops. We packed up coolers with drinks, snacks and sandwiches to take with us into the park everyday, so we would have something to eat without having to interrupt our adventures to find food. Once you enter the park, the driving trail is a figure 8, with an upper loop and a lower loop. The upper loop takes about 2 hours to drive without stopping. The lower loop is slightly larger and takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes to drive. The West Yellowstone entrance is probably the most centrally located of all the entrances, so you can decide whether to head north on the upper loop or south on the lower loop. The West Yellowstone entrance is also the most convenient if you are heading to Old Faithful Geyser or the Grand Canyon of  the Yellowstone. 

The north entrance in Gardiner is going to take you to the Roosevelt Arch, Mammoth Hot Springs and Lamar Valley. Lamar Valley is one of the best places in the park to see wildlife.

The north east entrance at Cooke City will also take you to Lamar Valley, as well as Beartooth Pass. Beartooth Highway leading into the Pass into Yellowstone is considered one of the most scenic highways in America.

The nearest town to the East entrance is an hour away in Cody, WY. We didn't make it to Cody, but JD has been and he loved it. He had a lot of fun shooting a real Gatling gun. This entrance is convenient if you plan to go to Yellowstone Lake.

The south entrance in Jackson, WY is a great spot to start. First of all, Jackson is a beautiful little western town. With its iconic antler arches on all corners of George Washington Memorial Park,
which sits right in the center of the town square, Jackson is a perfect place to take your group pictures. Jackson also has some nice restaurants (our favorites were The Bunnery and the Jackson Drug Company). I really want to come back to Jackson with my girlfriends. I think it would be a perfect spot for a girlfriend getaway. We actually stayed at a second airbnb, a townhouse, near Jackson in Victor, ID. We felt it was more convenient to explore the southern part of the park, which includes Grant Village (a great place to grab a bite, rest and shop), West Thumb, the geyser basins and Grand Prismatic Spring, from that location. Plus, we wanted to visit the Grand Tetons. The Tetons are spectacular! They are supposed to be the best place to spot moose. Sadly, we didn't see any.

In addition to the food at Grant Village, you can also find dining opportunities at Canyon Village, Lake Village, Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful Inn and  Roosevelt Lodge. We found the food in the park to be surprisingly good. Be sure to try huckleberry ice cream, cobbler, pancakes, soda and milkshakes (and anything else huckleberry). You can even bring some huckleberry jam home with you. We went through three jars of huckleberry jam while we were there!

Finally, be prepared for all weathers. It was hot, it was cold, it was windy. It rained, it hailed, it snowed. In fact, it rained for a little while almost every day we were there. Wear layers or bring a change of clothes in your backpack. You never know what weather you are going to get.

I hope you have a wonderful time in this amazing park. Please take care of it. Rob and JD picked up several grocery bags full of trash everywhere we went. We couldn't believe people would litter in such a beautiful place, but they do. And watch out for wildlife in the road (or cars full of wildlife gawkers stopping in the road). This land belongs to the animals that live there. We are just visitors.

"Visiting Yellowstone leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller."

Three Friends and a Fork
Three Friends and a Fork

This is a short biography of the post author. Maecenas nec odio et ante tincidunt tempus donec vitae sapien ut libero venenatis faucibus nullam quis ante maecenas nec odio et ante tincidunt tempus donec.

No comments:

Post a Comment