Travel: Yellowstone National Park - A Day of Awesome, Inspiring, Nature (Pics)

During a recent trip to Yellowstone National Park, before the historic floods washed away much of the north entrance, I was amazed at the majestic, inspiring, beauty and the volume of people, of all nationalities, also visiting the park.


Arriving at the west gate entrance, located in West Yellowstone, Montana, which I later found out was the busiest entrance of the entire park, I admit I was surprised at the tool booth style lanes with flashing signs directing traffic to lanes for annual or day passes.

Yellowstone National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

At the toll booth, visitors are given a small map and a phone number to call for an approximated time if they are interested in seeing Old Faithful erupt. The park is divided into an upper and lower section, a figure eight, and covers three states with most of the park in Wyoming, and parts in Montana and Idaho.

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Create an Itinerary

While both the lower loop and the upper loop have tourist attractions, it is challenging to see both, stop for pictures, walk, and in some cases, hike to the best designated photo op spot, and drive to the next stop, all in one day. Choosing a two-day trip or concentrating on one or the other for a day trip provides ample opportunity to enjoy the park and create memories to last a lifetime.

Continental Divide -Yellowstone National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

I chose the lower loop attractions: Old Faithful, the Geyser Basin, Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls and Yellowstone Lake, and decided to drive and at least see Mammoth Hot Springs. I also wanted to drive through Grand Teton National Park, so I needed to manage my time well. Publisher Janet Walker at Yellowstone National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

I noticed as I returned from Mammoth Hot Springs, later that evening, that the morning traffic jam encountered around Geyser Basin was non-existent in the afternoon as were most of the Lower Loop attractions.

Beware of the Bears and Bison

Like everyone, I wanted to see the bison. Once inside the park, the wide-open spaces are intoxicating and the idea of seeing bison roaming reminded me of Dances with Wolves, and up until that point, the expected bison were a no show.

Bison on the move - Outside Yellowstone National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

So, on my way north, I ended up seeing a couple of Bison just hanging out on the side of the road. I thought this was the extent of the Bison I would see. However, later that evening, I ended up the second car in a traffic jam as a herd of Bison were crossing the road and unsure which pasture they wanted, they decided to shuffle across the road, wait, and return.

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The other big animal draw for many is the Bears. Black bears, which for some unknown reason people equate as more approachable, can stop traffic causing visitors to leave their cars, set up their cameras, turn for the selfie, and never expecting the bears to become aggressive. For me, bears weren't a big draw, and brown coated Grizzlies were not even on my list of a glimpse, so when a grizzly ran across the road in front of me while driving, that was enough for me.

Yellowstone National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

Elk rounds out the big three of the animal kingdoms that visitors to Yellowstone are hoping to see. As it was July, they had not grown antlers yet, so while I was fortunate to stumble on herds, and they were beautiful, they lacked the cinematic flare of an eight-point elk in mid-winter.

Pay Attention

The most noticeable clue that you are approaching Geyser Basin are the plumes of steam arising from various areas across the landscape. The earth's temperature under this area is boiling, and these plumes of steam are the evidence.

Grand Prismatic Springs Yellowstone National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

The Grand Prismatic Spring, which is probably the most photographed as it is predominately blue, which is home to the Yellowstone Caldera, also known as the supervolcano, which was depicted in the movie 2012. To see the spring requires parking, and again in the morning, parking will be a challenge, and walking. Once one arrives at the beginning of the walkway, it is about another half-mile.

Grand Prismatic Springs Yellowstone National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

Each of the attractions have a destination notification at the entrance to help visitors gauge their ability to either walk the mile down and back to secure the best pictures, of if steps are an issue, all destinations have notice at the entrance.

Grand Prismatic SpringsYellowstone National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

These geysers are scalding, and the signs are clearly marked with warnings of not leaving the path. Each year someone, for some reason, discards the warnings, believing it won't happen to them and end up dying from the burns.

Old Faithful Has a Schedule

After this it was off to Old Faithful, now I didn't check the phone number for the approximate time, I decided I would just arrive, and leave it to fate. As it was, Old Faithful is located in Old Faithful Visitor Center, which is a mini village that features everything any traveler might need including medical and automotive services.

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As I was walking to the National Park store, I overheard a well-informed traveler telling his family to hurry and that they only had a few minutes. So, I followed and was fortunate to find a seat up front, and in a short time, the world's most iconic Geyser displayed its natural awesomeness and here I was seeing Old Faithful, a wonderment of movies, and history, erupting.

Old Faithful Yellowstone National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

After Old Faithful I was suddenly the tourist and felt the need to stop at each pull off point and take a few pictures. I stopped at Yellowstone Lake, which, while iconic and part of the grand tour, is essentially a lake. Next it was Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls.

Remember the three H's - Hiking, Hydrate, Hunger

By this time, it was afternoon and I had not adequately prepared for the day and did not hydrate throughout or bring enough energy producing snacks and with all the walking and hiking in the hot sun it nearly wiped me out.

Lower Falls Yellowstone National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

So, I would encourage even those who are "watching" their intakes bring plenty of water and energy producing snacks or sustenance as there are only a few full-service spots within the park.

I began the hike to the best viewing spot for Upper Yellowstone Falls, and midway down the pathway, to the viewing platform, I was depleted. So, it was back to the car, refresh with water and granola bars, cool down with air-conditioning and off to Lower Yellowstone Falls. In just a few minutes, I was back and ready to hike to the top of the viewing spot, sprint down the stairs to the canyon viewing, take plenty of pictures and admire the stunning views.

Grand Plains Yellowstone National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

One last stop on the lower loop and I was headed to Mammoth Hot Springs, which is nearly at the Montana state line, and I still wanted to see the Grand Tetons so one quick stop at a local gas and snack station within the park and then it was off to the Upper Loop.

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Driving to Mammoth, through the winding turns of the lower and upper loops, I experienced the park in all its inspiring nature, lush forests and the entire Yellowstone plains were laid out on either side of the road. When I arrived and looked at the mile of stairs leading to the top of the viewing platform, I decided, as the sun was setting, to try and make it to the south entrance and the Grand Tetons.

Mammoth Hot Springs Yellowstone National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

Fortunately, the roads were empty and the drive through the western side of the loops went fast as all the visitors hit these spots early in the day and finally, I reached the single National Park service booth that guards the south entrance.

Grand Tetons – A Must See

Grand Teton National Park  - Image credit: Janet Walker

Then it was off to the Grand Tetons. Only nine miles separate the South entrance of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, and I was able to reach the exterior of the park before sunset. The images of these majestic, stunning, mountains were breathtaking.

Grand Teton Mountain Range - Image credit: Janet Walker

My soul had absorbed so much tranquility and magnificent, inspirational natural beauty. My trip to Yellowstone was everything that I hoped it would be, and even after a day of soul-stirring nature, and the Grand Tetons capped the day.

Any trip to Yellowstone National Park should be accompanied by a trip to the Grand Tetons. It was awe-inspiring, humbling, breathtaking and just an awesome good time.

Leaving the Grand Teton National Park - Image credit: Janet Walker

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On the road to West Yellowstone, Montana - Image credit: Janet Walker

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