Many superlatives can be applied to Yellowstone National Park; it’s the oldest national park in the US and possibly the world, it has the world’s highest concentration of geysers and bison, it’s a part of the world’s biggest remaining intact, temperate-zone ecosystems and at its heart, Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-elevation lakes on the continent, centred over the Yellowstone Caldera – the largest super volcano in North America. It’s no wonder that this is one of the most popular and well-known National Parks in the country.
Yellowstone is a wilderness recreation area of nearly 3,500 square miles covering a constantly bubbling volcanic hot spot. Above the ground, you’ll find dramatic canyons, fast flowing rivers, huge expanses of forest and hundreds of animal species including bears, bison, wolves, antelope and elk. Below the ground, active volcanic and hydrothermal systems create hot springs, mudpots, steam vents and half the world’s geysers.
So what can you do in this preserved wilderness? There are lots of options for getting out and exploring, whether you want to don your walking boots, take in the view from the water, saddle up and ride some trails on horseback or join a guided ranger tour. This last activity allows you to learn about the wildlife and geology of the park from an expert. You can even take an evening tour and learn about the spectacular night sky.
Yellowstone is mostly in Wyoming, but also stretches into Montana and Idaho. The whole ecosystem encompasses neighbouring Grand Teton National Park and portions of five national forests. To explore more than a fraction of this area will take at least a couple of days’ visit. But be prepared to find that once you visit Yellowstone National Park, you’ll leave wanting to come back.
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Yellowstone National Park is home to some 300 geysers. Old Faithful Geyser was named by an expedition in 1870 and referred to as ‘Eternity's Timepiece’. However it is not the most frequently erupting or largest geyser in the park. It is simply the most famous, exploding into the sky on average every 35 – 120 minutes. Old Faithful is part of the Upper Geyser Basin, which features an astonishing 150 geysers.
Grand Prismatic Spring
This is one of the most photographed of Yellowstone’s hot springs and it’s clear to see why. The largest spring in the park (and the third largest in the world), it’s also the most colourful with red, orange, yellow, green, and blue rings framing the steaming water. The spring is located in the parks Midway Geyser Basin.
Mammoth Hot Springs
This large complex of hot springs is one of the most visited areas of the park, boasting many individually named geothermal features including Poison Cave, Paperpicker Spring and Little Burper. Also in this area is the historic Fort Yellowstone and the newly renovated Albright Visitor Center.
Geologists believe that large volcanic eruptions have occurred in Yellowstone on an approximate interval of 600,000 years. The most recent of these happened around 600,000 years ago and ash from the massive explosion (a thousand times the size of Mt. St. Helens) has been found all across the continent. The magma chamber then collapsed, forming a large caldera. Part of this caldera is the 136-square mile basin of Yellowstone Lake.
The Other Grand Canyon
Formed by erosion over thousands of years due to wind, water and other forces of nature, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone stretches around 20 miles long and half a mile wide. This is one of the most popular hiking areas in the park and you can stop for photos of the dramatic cliffs and roaring water at various look outs along the way. Artist Point is the favourite of these.
Grand Teton Self-Guided Tour from West Yellowstone
Your Grand Teton National Park tours begin in West Yellowstone, Montana, and will take you to Jackson Lake, Jenney Lake, Teton Village (Jackson Hole), Mormon Row, Glacial View Turnout and Oxbow Bend Turnout. Don't be surprised if you see grizzlies, elk, moose, buffalo and antelope along the way! It's the perfect way to explore the incredible scenery of Grand Teton Park at the comfort of your own pace. From just £28 per person.
Self-Guided Driving Tour of Yellowstone Upper Loop, Cooke City-Silver Gate, WY
Your self-guided driving day tour of Yellowstone Upper Loop starts in Cooke City, Montana and takes you to Lamar Valley, home to an array of wildlife. You will then drive to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Norris Geysers, Obsidian Cliff, Huckleberry Ridge, the Petrified Tree and more. Along the way you may run into elk, bears, wolves and buffalo! From £20 per person.
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