Yellowstone, America’s first national park is big — 2.2 million acres. In addition to its size, Yellowstone divides into distinctly different regions and habitats that include geysers, fumaroles, and other geothermal features plus a canyon, a lake, and a series of limestone terraces as well as an abundance of roaming wildlife. With such vastness and variety, the park can be overwhelming. When you visit Yellowstone National Park, follow these insider tips to make the most of your vacation.
1. See Old Faithful in the early morning or in the evening
Almost everyone who enters the park heads to Old Faithful. For a more intimate experience visiting Old Faithful, explore the Upper Geyser Basin in the early morning before the day visitors arrive or in the late afternoon after they leave.
2. Visit Yellowstone Lake in the afternoon
While the day visitors view Old Faithful and the surrounding area, head to 136-square-mile Yellowstone Lake, the largest in the park. Consider signing up for a guided boat tour or rent a boat on your own.
3. Take a hike
Seeing Yellowstone shouldn’t be limited to marveling at wonders through your car window. One of the best ways to see Yellowstone is to hit the trails. Walking even a ½ mile on a boardwalk or trail offers you a more complete sense of Yellowstone’s features and landscape.
4. Look for wildlife at the right times
Your best chance of spotting the park’s legendary bison as well as other critters is in the early morning or evening. Check out The Yellowstone National Park Service article here for more tips on wildlife viewing.
5. Explore Lamar Valley
Often less-visited than other areas, Lamar Valley’s habitat draws wildlife and the open vistas create optimum viewing conditions. You may see elk, bear, coyote, bighorn sheep, and eagles, especially if you arrive early. Consider booking the park’s early-morning Wake Up to Wildlife Tour.
6. Stop at the Visitor Centers
The best way to visit Yellowstone starts with visitor centers. Each facility presents educational exhibits that focus on their particular region of the park. While at the centers, check for the ranger programs.
7. Look at the stars
Go outside after dark. Walk 100 yards from your lodge or drive a short distance to a turnout, then park, scan the lot for wildlife, and if none is present, exit your car to look up at the dazzling display of stars. With so little light pollution, the night sky is a wonder.
8. Carry a flashlight at night
Since the park keeps the outdoor lighting soft, bring a flashlight for comfort, especially when traveling with young children.
9. Bring binoculars
Stay a safe distance from wildlife. If you want to see what a bison or elk looks like up close, view them through your binoculars.
10. Pack for multiple seasons
Even in summer, low temperatures at night can hover near freezing, and daytime highs shoot into the 80s. Pack layers!!