Tips and Plans for a Weekend at Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is one of America’s oldest and most-visited national parks with hot springs, gushing geysers, colorful waters, and deep rock formations. If you find that your day-to-day routines and sights start to get monotonous, then Yellowstone will deliver an absolutely magnificent change of scenery with the added bonus of being social-distanced in the great outdoors. We’ve included some great tips for planning and sightseeing along with an itinerary plan so you can make the most out of this summer road trip classic!
Start out your trip by entering Yellowstone through the West Entrance, the first entrance of the year to open. This way you’ll be able to pass by the Madison River West Entrance Road for a scenic 13km drive. At the top of the peak you can view a large span over the park and do some bird watching!
Next you can drive over to Gibbon Falls for a light walk to explore the river and waterfall. It is a very easy paced trail leading to the glorious falls overlook that make this stop worth it.
The afternoon is best to visit the famed Norris Geyser Basin so you can see clear views and bright colors. The boardwalk trails allow you to discover the two areas, Porcelain Basin and Back Basin. Here, you will find the full immersive experience in sound, color, and smell.
After the hike, you’ll be glad to cool off at the Firehole River Swimming Area. A little bit off the main road, its beautiful drive rewards you with another waterfall outlook and swimming area. Come prepared and bring some waterproof footwear for water sports if you want to explore the small boulders and rocks in the river.
Luckily, the Firehole River isn’t too far from the Madison Campgrounds. You can safely camp in the mountain area with close proximity to the Madison River. Camping directly in Yellowstone allows you to wake up in the morning each day in the park ready to go set out on your day’s itinerary. It’s much easier than having to commute into Yellowstone and lets you beat some of the crowds. All you have to do is call early to make your reservation because spots can go fast!
The Grand Prismatic Spring is what Yellowstone is known for, multi-colored rainbow rocks and deep hot springs. It may even be the reason you decided to take this trip! Today is the day to fully explore the Geyser Basins and Old Faithful. Start as early as possible on Saturday and allocate at least 2 hours to spend at these springs and pools. As the day progresses, the colors of the spring get even brighter. By noon you can hike the overlook and admire more of the beauty from above.
Next up is the Upper Geyser Basin where Old Faithful resides. Stop by the Old Faithful Visitor Center to get the predicted eruption times of the geysers and a map of the area. This way you can embark on a self-led geyser-chasing journey. The further you go from Old Faithful the less crowded it will be, so don’t be afraid to venture out and discover geysers like the Grand Geyser, which is the tallest geyser on earth.
To end the day, it will be quite a drive out to Canyon Campground, but worth the time as you’ll be closer to all of tomorrow’s attractions. Similar to Madison Campground, you’ll need to call early to make a reservation for your camp spot. Yellowstone campgrounds are at very high altitude so it can get quite cold during the night. Since you’ll be camping for both nights, make sure you have everything you need to be weather-proofed.
Camping at Canyon Campground allows you to get up early and beat the crowd to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It is an absolute must-see, with its variety of colorful rock walls and gushing waterfalls. In the morning the best view is on the South Rim Trail, giving you an opposing view of the canyon. However if you have the time, you can admire the canyon from all sides including the North Rim Trail. The Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River is one of the best viewpoints on the South Rim Trail.
Mammoth Hot Springs is another must-see, largely because it is so different from the other thermal springs. Like many of Yellowstone’s other attractions, the hot spring is split up into two sections: Upper and Lower Terrace. The Upper Terrace has the best views overlooking the springs, village, and even the valley. Aside from the trail, you can also drive the Upper Terrace Loop Drive, which connects several springs so you can enjoy the scenic view and admire the uniquely shaped geothermal formations.
Lastly, after a long three days of hiking and camping, you can enjoy the 20 mile scenic drive of Fishing Bridge to West Thumb. This enjoyable drive lets you relax towards the end of your trip while still seeing new sights. As you drive further down this road, you’ll approach the West Thumb Geyser Basin. West Thumb is the perfect geyser to finish your trip on. It has no major geysers, is relatively uncongested, and has quieter, more peaceful waters. However, after a long and busy weekend of trying to check off every popular geyser from your to-do list, West Thumb offers its humble hot springs and cool pools to the unsuspecting traveler that stumbles upon its beauty.
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