Yellowstone National Park, the oldest national park in the United States, is a vast wilderness area spanning over 3,400 square miles. It is home to a variety of natural wonders, including geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles. The park is also home to a variety of wild animals, including bison, elk, bears, and wolves.
Millions of people visit the park each year to see its epic sights and wildlife. No matter what time of year you visit, Yellowstone National Park is a unique and special place where visitors can experience the power of nature and the beauty of the wilderness.
If you're one of those lucky visitors and are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of attractions, wildlife, and things to do, you're in luck: We've got you covered with a list of spots in Yellowstone that you absolutely can't miss.
1. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
One of the most breathtaking sights in the national park, the Yellowstone Grand Canyon stretches about 24 miles long around the Yellowstone River from the Upper Falls to the Tower Falls.
When open, you can explore a variety of day hiking routes, including Uncle Tom's Trail as well as the trailheads leading to Mount Washburn.
You can also drive the north and south rims or take in the views from these easily accessible areas:
- Brink of the Lower Falls parking lot
- Lookout Point parking lot to Grand View parking lot
- Second viewing area at Artist Point
Be sure to check out the visitor center and exhibits in Canyon Village while you're there too.
2. Grand Prismatic Spring
Yellowstone holds more than 10,000 hydrothermal features, including hot springs, travertine terraces, and active geysers with some of the most stunning colors and unreal action in North America. One of the most popular is the Grand Prismatic Spring, and for good reason.
This spring is the larges in the United States and the third largest in the world. It's bigger than a football field, and can reach temperatures of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. And maybe most importantly, have you seen those colors?
The Grand Prismatic Spring is aptly named, radiating gorgeous colors. The colors change a bit with the seasons, leaning more towards the warmer colors of the rainbow in the summer months and towards the cooler colors in the winter. But on a sunny day, you're likely to see all the colors absolutely glowing from this stunning feature in the park. Note: you can hike to the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook to for a more striking view from above.
3. Old Faithful Geyser
Located in the Upper Geyser Basin along with the Castle Geyser and Morning Glory Pool, Old Faithful is probably the most well-known feature in Yellowstone. This famous geyser is fun to watch from the boardwalk viewing area at the regular eruption times, which you can find online or on site.
Be sure to carry bear spray with you just in case you encounter any black or grizzly bears while hiking. If you plan to stay in the park overnight, check out Lake Yellowstone Hotel, located along the Yellowstone Lake.
4. Old Faithful Inn
Located just next to the famous Old Faithful geyser, this hotel is one of the largest log-style structures in the world. It was originally built in 1903-1904 using local logs and stones. Gorgeous on the inside and out, it contains a massive stone fireplace and an ornately designed old faithful clock hand-crafted from copper, wood, and wrought iron.
While the rooms have definitely been updated since the early days, there is no wifi, television, or air conditioning, leaving a bit of an older feel to a stay at this hotel. Even if you're not interested in staying the night, the structure itself is so cool to see. There are free tours running several times a day at the Old Faithful Inn to learn a little more it and its history.
5. Yellowstone Lake
With so many of the water features in Yellowstone unsafe for water activities, Yellowstone Lake offers a bit more opportunity to engage with the water. This lake is the largest high altitude lake in North America, sitting above 7,700 feet. The waters average a chilly 41 degrees Fahrenheit year round, so it's not recommended for swimming due to those dangerously cold temps.
Instead, if you're looking to explore this gorgeous place in the park, consider doing a boat tour on the lake. You can learn about the history, see the remains of a shipwreck, and enjoy the wildlife viewing.
For those who are interested in getting a little closer to the water, a kayak or canoe tour of the lake is an excellent way to explore. There are guided tours available, as well as tons of backcountry campsites lining the shores of the lake for a more self-directed experience to get away from the crowds.
6. Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces
Another popular sight in Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs has several terraces and dozens of individually named geothermal features. There are shallow terraced pools as well as areas where it looks like the earth has melted. This area looks different from the rest of the park due to the large variety of geothermal features it boasts.
There is a boardwalk trail between the upper and lower areas of Mammoth Hot Springs, and it's definitely worth parking the car and taking a stroll to see the variety in the other-worldly landscape.
7. Norris Geyser Basin
The Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest and oldest thermal area of Yellowstone. This basin is comprised of two parts: Porcelain Basin and Back Basin, and they are very different from each other.
Porcelain Basin is largely barren of trees and home to turquoise-blue pools, while Back Basin is more wooded with its features scattered. There are trails through each, and they are both worth checking out.
After spending one day or more in Yellowstone, continue the road trip to Grand Teton National Park for even more views, wildlife, and exciting hiking trails near Jackson, Wyoming.