Yellowstone is such a large and popular national park so I had to organize my blog post for each day we spent at the world’s oldest national park. So if you read our Yellowstone National Park Day 1 Guide, we left off at Gardiner, Montana where we stayed the night.
We packed our cooler and headed into the park first thing that morning! Yellowstone is beautiful park and there is so much to see and since we only had two days to explore the park, we were determined to see as much as we could.
Mammoth Hot Springs
First one on the list for the day was Mammoth Hot Springs! We had created a route from our hotel to maximum our trip and since Mammoth Hot Springs is located in the Northwest corner of the park, it was first on our list! This is one of the oldest areas of the park and it has some of the first buildings that were ever built at Yellowstone.
The formations are in constant change and you can really see the changes if you compare photos of hot springs from years ago. You will spend at least an hour here as you make your way around the wooden boardwalk. It’s not a difficult path but they are make stairs along the way so make sure you take your time!
The place is truly unique and deserves a stop if you visit Yellowstone.
As we headed south from Mammoth Hot Springs, we discovered Rustic Falls. The waterfall was not listed on the park map but we could hear the falls from miles away. There was a parking area for drivers to pull over and enjoy the view so that’s exactly what we did!
It was a great way to stretch our legs but also to soak up the beauty of Yellowstone. The water was falling fast as the snow was just beginning to melt for the season. It was pure beauty.
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
We headed to the south rim drive, since the view was supposed to better, but Uncle Tom's trail (The classic view) was closed for renovation. However, we were determined to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone! We drove to the end of artist’s point and walked on the easy trail to the overlook. This was definitely one of my favorite views of the park. My brain couldn’t quite process all the natural beauty and wildlife… it was so grand and magnificent.
The waterfall was cascading down the steep cliff edge at full focus. The canyon itself goes up to 4,000 feet wide and 1,200 feet deep. Its 20 miles long and the Lower Falls cascade down a steep 308 foot drop. It’s truly a sight to behold. And if the canyon and waterfall weren’t stunning enough, the canyon walls are stained in pastel pink, yellow, and orange hues from the natural minerals as well.
Lower Yellowstone River Falls
By all means, make sure you see this view and hear the roar of these falls if you visit Yellowstone. The lower falls is hands down the most popular and well-known waterfall in the park. It was incredible to see all river water flowing over the falls and the stunning views of the valley.
Norris Geyser Basin Museum
As you head south towards Old Faithful from the Lower River Falls, you will pass Norris Geyser Basin Museum. The Norris Geyser Basin Museum is a small building at the beginning of the Norris Geyser Basin boardwalk with an information station inside and a knowledgeable staff of park rangers that can give you general information about the park and answer any questions that you may have. There is plenty of parking as well. While enjoying the Norris Geyser Basin boardwalk, you will see the Norris Geyser(of course), the Steamboat Geyser, and the Fountain Paint Pot!
Norris Geyser Basin
Norris Geyser Basin may be the hottest geyser basin in Yellowstone. Because of that, this place has a very barren landscape. There aren't many frequent active geysers but the colors of the geysers and hot springs here are still beautiful sights. Norris is one of the most active earthquake areas in the park & also one of the world's largest active volcanoes. It is unique in its own way.
The Steamboat Geyser is the world’s tallest active geyser! The last major eruption was in September of 2014; However, the geyser will have frequent minor eruptions almost daily. When Steamboat Geyser erupts, it can rocket a column of scalding water 90-120 meters into the air.
Fountain Paint Pot
This vat of bubbling mud contains the perfect mix of ingredient to create mudpots: heat, gases, water, volcanic rock, minerals acid, and even living microorganisms! Year after years, this huge mudpot – called “Mammoth Paint Pots” until 1927 – has changed with the seasons. Fountains Paint Pot spits thin, sloppy mud in spring. However, in drier conditions, thick bubbles of mud and gas ooze through cracks, then burst and collapse, forming cone-shape mounds.
Old Faithful is the most famous attraction in the park and the most well-known geyser around the world. The name “Old Faithful” comes from the fact that the geyser is so reliable with its eruptions, erupting every 45 to 90 minutes at over 100 feet. The temperature of the water is close to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. It is by far one of the more impressive and energetic geysers in the park. Old Faithful is just one of those things you cannot miss when coming to Yellowstone. Missing this site would be as insane as abandoning viewing the Mona Lisa your first time at the Louvre.
There is a brand new visitor center, that does a very good job explaining the science of the geyser and another that talks about the super volcano of Yellowstone. They also have an ice-cream parlor and gift shop for visitors. I recommend walking into the Old Faithful Inn. The building is absolutely beautiful and worth spending time in.
The Upper Geyser Basin
While waiting for Old Faithful to erupt, we headed around the walkways to view many other geysers and hot springs in the area. Approximately two square miles in area, this section of the park contains the largest concentration and nearly one-quarter of all of the geysers in the world. A variety of thermal features exist here: spouting geysers, colorful hot springs, and steaming fumaroles.
If you looking for geysers' eruptions while at Yellowstone, this is a place to be! You’ll find the Midway Geyser Basin, full of the most colorful hot springs in the park. I actually enjoyed walking around this basin more since it was slightly less crowded and the vibrant colors mixed in with the steam were mesmerizing.My favorite of the hot springs here was the Grand Prismatic Spring. I could barely tear myself away it was beautiful simply sitting there trying to pick out the reflective colors in the mist.
As I mention before, the snow was just melting when we made out visit to Yellowstone. Therefore, the Yellowstone Lake was still completely covered with snow but not totally frozen. The Lake is the largest body of water in Yellowstone National Park at 7,732 feet above sea level and covers 136 square miles with 110 miles of shoreline. While driving south towards the Grand Tetons National Park, we pulled over to take a quick look at the lake. Of course, I made a snowball to throw at Andrew!
Grand Teton National Park
As we excited Yellowstone National Park, we entered Grand Tetons National Park. The drive was absolutely beautiful and the snow covered mountains were stunning. If you plan to visit Yellowstone National Park, you must drive through the Grand Tetons to truly capture the full beauty of Wyoming. The park encompasses approximately 310,000 acres of wilderness and some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the western United States.
As we headed south for the Grand Tetons, we found ourselves in Jackson Hole. The town is located in Wyoming’s Valley and absolutely beautiful to say the least. We decided to stop into the charming town to grab dinner and stretch our legs. The town had a western feel to it with lots of local artist.
While staying in Billings, Montana, we saw Cafe Genevieve on the Food Network in our hotel. We decided that we couldn’t pass up the chance to eat at the famous wild-game restaurant. After a great day exploring Yellowstone National Park, we couldn’t have enjoyed a better restaurant in Jackson Hole! We sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather with a round of great cocktails. The food was excellent especially the fried chicken with macaroni and cheese! It was a great time.
There is a lot of variety in the park, from geothermal attractions, to vast amounts of wildlife, deep canyons, waterfalls, and everything in between. I also didn’t realize just how big of a park it would be, sometimes taking me over 2 hours to get to the other side of Yellowstone. The park itself is mainly in Wyoming but also covers parts in Montana, to give you an idea of its size.