No Wyoming road trip would be complete without a stop in Yellowstone National Park–arguably the most famous of all the American parks. And also holds the title of the World’s FIRST National Park! That being said, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. I had heard that Yellowstone–and Old Faithful in particular–were highly overrated. I am here to tell you today that everyone who said that was right.
Before you go all crazy and tell me how stupid I am for not singing the praises of Yellowstone, I did thoroughly enjoy it and the geology alone is enough to have you pondering your entire existence. That being said, the park is extremely over-crowded and “geyser boredom” sets in pretty quickly. While there are a few spectacular geysers, most of them littered throughout the park are “seen one, seen them all.” The most impressive part of Yellowstone is not any particular geyser, but simply the concentration of them in this one crazy geological oddity. And there are some pretty nice views on the north side of the park.
My recommendation for Yellowstone is 100% to see it, drive through, get out, walk around to some geysers, and then keep on moving. Or, if you were planning a couple of days in Yellowstone, you can redistribute an extra to day to Grand Teton National Park! Because there are a million more things to do and see there.
Don’t skip Yellowstone by any means, but a day is plenty if you’re on a tight schedule. I also highly recommend going from south to north as this means you hit the best geysers first. Coming from north to south you will want to stop at every little steam vent on the side of the road because geysers! and by the time you get to the real stuff, you’ll already be over it.
Here is the list of geyser basins we stopped at:
West Thumb Geyser Basin
Upper Geyser Basin (includes Old Faithful & Morning Glory)
Black Sand Basin
Midway Geyser Basin (Includes Grand Prismatic Spring & Excelsior)
Mammoth Hot Springs
My final complaint about Yellowstone is all the people. It’s not so much that it’s crowded (it is), but that there is only one two-lane road and the people driving on it suck. I literally saw a woman jump out of her car in the middle of slowly moving traffic to take 45 pictures of a waterfall, barely willing to tear herself away as traffic started pushing forward.
While this may seem like “Oh cool, everyone’s there to really take it all in,” instead everyone still seems to have that American urgency to get places fast when they have nowhere to go. Another guy decided he was SO SMART to pull through a parking lot and whip out the other end to get a whole four cars ahead of where he was. Good job, buddy. I’m sure that extra 45 seconds really made a difference in your day. And this is all happening on a road that can see a two-hour stoppage when bison cross the street. Leave it to America to get impatient with bison when they literally came to this park to see bison.
And while I’m on the topic of people being stupid in Yellowstone, I feel obligated to mention the number of very stupid people who ignore the ubiquitous signs to stay on the path. If you leave the path YOU CAN DIE. And people have. So, I’m really sorry that your hat blew off next to that boiling hot pit of water on unstable ground. But you’re just going to have to buy a new fucking hat. In conclusion, chill the fuck out, America.
So anyway, after the bison passed, we made one last stop at Mammoth Hot Springs. Mammoth Hot Springs is pretty much the last thing to see on the north end of the park and lies just inside the Wyoming/Montana border. Finished with our many hours of walking around geysers and with a chilly rain beginning to fall, we headed to the adorable town of Gardiner, MT. Just outside the north entrance to the park, we were relieved to be done with Yellowstone, ecstatic to be in Montana, and thoroughly overjoyed to throw back a few cocktails at a salty Montana dive bar.
Stay tuned for my next post covering Gardiner, Bozeman, Missoula, Lolo, and Bigfork/Flathead Lake!