Yellowstone National Park Day 1 Guide

Since we were heading to Yellowstone National Park from Billing, Montana, we decided to take the Beartooth Pass. The Beartooth Highway literally opened days before we were planning to drive the scenic route. After working in Montana for two months, I was so excited to finally see what everyone kept telling me about!

 

Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Highway, along US 212, is the closest you may get to feeling as if you are on top of the world. Every corner of the road presents a more incredible view than the previous.  As I mentioned earlier, the pass just opened before we decided to drive through. There was so much snow still! As you can see in my photos, it’s over 6ft tall. It was such an incredible experience and pictures don’t do any justice!

Red Lodge

We stopped in Red Lodge on our way to Beartooth Pass to grab lunch! Red Lodge is tucked into a mountain valley between glaciers and plains. It’s true western hospitality at its finest! We grabbed lunch at a small family owned café and browsed through the local shops before heading back on the road! It was a quaint little town.

Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone National Park

Since we chose to drive the more scenic and dramatic route to Yellowstone, the closet park entrance was the Northeast Entrance. Since we only had a few days to explore Yellowstone, we wanted to cover as much ground as possible without backtracking! Plus, the rumor was less people go near the Northeast Entrance so it was more peaceful and less crowded which was very true!

Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley will give you an overwhelming sense of what the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem looked like before white pioneers settled there more than 150 years ago. “Located in the northeastern corner of the park, the Lamar Valley, along the Lamar River, in is often called America’s Serengeti for its large and easy-to-see populations of large animals”.

Lamar Valley is stunningly beautiful, with views of mountains, a river, lush meadows, and tons of wildlife. We saw multiple bison herds and a bunch of pronghorn. Not too many people venture this far from the main highlights of the park so we were able to get out of the car and really enjoy it!

Wildlife

One of the most memorable things about Yellowstone was its wild animals. They were never afraid to be near and it was not because they were used to us (like animals in the park that always come to us because they would think we brought foods). At Yellowstone, the animals would go along with their usual activities because they considered us as parts of the nature, of their familiar environment. How wonderful is that!!!

No matter how many times we saw bisons, elks, deer, wolves, otters, chipmunks, bears, eagles, and many other kinds of animals and birds, the excitement was always maxed. And the best thing is that the maxed excitement would stay with you along your whole drive because you never know what you would meet ahead of you around the corner of the roads, in the woods, the valleys, the meadows, near the rivers, or up on the mountains.

As the largest land-dwelling animal in North America, the bison of Yellowstone National Park (often mistakenly referred to as “buffalo”) are nearly impossible to miss. Good thing too. These massive animals are definitely worth getting a look at! Known for their brown coats, curved horns and shaggy beards, bison are a central fixture on the Yellowstone landscape. Snap pictures, but don’t even think about approaching one of these docile-looking beasts. Bison are agile creatures that can run up to 35 miles per hour, and they are aggressive when disturbed.

Yellowstone is home to the grey (or gray) wolf, a large dog-sized canine with a large head, long legs, and, in the winter, bushy gray fur (although the color can vary from white to brown). They have been compared to a German Shepherd in size and appearance.The gray wolf is a pack animal that lives with a close-knit crew of 4-7 wolves. In Yellowstone there are several well-known packs including the Lamar Canyon Pack and the Druid Peak Pack named after the portion of the park they inhabit. All together there are approximately 75 different packs in the greater Yellowstone region.

Grand Loop Rd

The way the park is laid out, it is intended to be driven in a figure eight so you wind up back where you started. This is especially helpful if you are there on limited time but not as critical if there for several or more days where you can take your time and explore more at your leisure. We were lucky enough to spot both male and female elk.

Slow down and take your time. Keep your eyes open, you never know what you will see next. Besides all the natural beauty there is wild life to be seen. There were majestic sheets of snow along the roads, trails, and on the mountains when we went in early June.

Roosevelt Arch

Roosevelt Arch is located at the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, just outside of Gardiner, Montana. The Arch is an impressive landmark with the inspirational inscription of "For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People," which comes from the legislation that created the Park. It’s well worth seeing as it’s part of the history of Yellowstone. The cornerstone was laid by president Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.bIt’s named after President Teddy Roosevelt, who happened to be vacationing in the park and spoke at the ceremony to lay the arch’s cornerstone.

Back in those days, before the mass production of the automobile, vacationers traveled by train. Before 1903, trains brought passengers up to Cinnabar, Mont., where people would then get into horse-drawn carriages to enter the park’s sweeping landscape. That year, however, with the Northern Pacific Railway’s extension to Gardiner, Mont., visitors would now have easier access!

The Raven Grill in Gardiner

After driving from Billings, MT to Yellowstone and spending the afternoon soaking up Yellowstone’s beauty, we were starved. On our way to our hotel in Gardiner, we passed the Raven Grill. We were expecting grill food - burgers, sandwiches, etc - instead we found the menu loaded with entrees from duck to salmon to buffalo steak along with chicken and elk! We all ordered something different and we were all satisfied!

Downtown Gardiner

Want to experience some of the West’s most spectacular scenery in a town that can feel like a cross between Northern Exposure and Animal Planet, given its wild neighbors living up the street in Yellowstone National Park? Go to Gardiner!  The town is situated in breathtaking Paradise Valley with the Yellowstone River running right through town. Founded in 1880, Gardiner is a center of activity for visitors to the region, serving as the only entrance into Yellowstone National Park that remains open to wheeled-vehicle use year-round. Plus, it’s a little town full of shops, restaurants, and hotels!