Americas Destinations

Yellowstone National Park – hiking from geysers to mountains

September 12, 2017
Best short hikes Yellowstone

It was 1872 when one of mankind’s best ideas came to life: The US congress and President Ulysses S. Grant established the world’s first National Park

“for the benefit and enjoyment of the people”

A bunch of smart scientists recognized the potential of Yellowstone’s landscape, wildlife and geothermal features which are unique on our planet and therefore worth protecting. To me whatsoever, I never had Yellowstone on my radar. When my fiance and I looked for a trip in mid-August, we planned to go to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and/or California. But I became slightly worried about the heat during that time of the year as I wanted to do some hiking. At the end we picked a completely different route which you can see here.

We certainly didn’t regret our decision. The temperature was moderate – if not cool – and Yellowstone completely blew my mind! It wasn’t for its landscape so much (which certainly was beautiful too) but it was the wildlife, hot springs and geysers that fascinated me. I’ve never seen a place with so much volcanic activity – it felt like our planet was “breathing” and the earth’s core is closer than anywhere else.

The drive took us through vast dead and young forests until we reached the gigantic Yellowstone Lake which lies in the heart of the National Park. From there we started our first (short) hike to the so-called Storm Point (the name says it all) – we hardly met other people but some cute marmots!

We knew Yellowstone is prime bear habitat and carrying bear spray is a must. However we never expected to see any on our first day! Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you see it) we were too far away to capture the grizzly mother with her two cubs properly on camera. I don’t have a good zoom-lens, so this photo with maximum digital zoom is the only one I got! Can you spot them?

Soon we realized: The wildlife is real!

Real is also the geothermal activity which is visible (and you can smell it too) over a huge area! There was steam coming up from literally anywhere and you’ll find hot springs right next to the road – actually the ground looked so fragile that I’ve wondered how many people (and animals) have cracked into a boiling, acidic spring… More than ever it’s advisable to follow the warning signs and stay on the marked trails!

The big star and most iconic landmark of Yellowstone is the Grand Prismatic Spring with its incredible colours! Although it was a rather cloudy and rainy day, the spectrum looked quite amazing. Isn’t it the most beautiful creation of nature?

Even the steam has rainbow colours!

Fairy Falls is another popular easy hike which trail passes the best viewpoint of Grand Prismatic. The waterfall at the end is a rewarding sight too!

Two thirds of all geysers in the world are concentrated in Yellowstone – that’s A LOT. It’s impossible to see all of them but in the Upper Geyser Basin you’ll find some great samples of different shapes and sizes. Walking along the boardwalk and watching the bubbles and steam were a surreal experience.

Then it was time for the show of the day: Old Faithful is probably the world’s most famous geyser which erupts on a reliable schedule of approximately every 90 minutes. Hundreds of people gathered around the geyser to watch that spectacle!

Lodging in Yellowstone is very competitive during high season and accommodation within the park was fully booked. We wanted to spend at least one night inside the park, so the first-come, first-serve campsites were our only chance. Advice: Be early! The first campsite we approached was filled up before 9 am! Fortunately we found one at Indian Creek. It was a very basic campsite which we didn’t mind, but Jesus! – we totally underestimated how cold it gets at night (we stayed in a tent, not in a RV). We learned our lesson after a freezing and sleepless night :/

Tired and very low on energy we made it somehow to one of the park’s highest peaks: Mount Washburn. It was a moderate half-day hike through some beautiful scenery and more wildlife along the way. If you’re into hiking – this is a must!

I barely managed to smile for the photo because I was so tired and hungry 😛

We spotted some mountain goats…

… extremely shy but cute pikas…

… and an elk!

I wish I would have taken more and better videos of that trip because there was so much action! My humble attempt to make a video resulted in this 1-minute Oscar-worthy clip 😛 I hope you enjoy it nevertheless!

Practical information:

  • The park is huge! There’s so much to see and distances within the park are far – so be prepared for lots of driving. In addition, you may encounter wildlife, construction and/or traffic jams times which slow you down even more. The parking lots at some attractions are huge but still may not be enough – it can get really busy during peak season. I recommend to spend at least three full days in the park to cover the highlights.
  • Book early! The lodges in the park are booked out many months before, especially during high season (July, August). If you can’t find a room, you can either camp in one of the several campsites or stay outside the National Park near the entrances, for example in West Yellowstone or Cody. This involves even more driving though. If you want to grab a spot in a first-come, first-serve campsite, make sure you get there as early as possible!
  • Yes we saw grizzlies, so the warning of bear encounters is no joke! Always carry bear spray which can be bought in camping stores or in the general stores inside the park. Keep a safe distance to wildlife and don’t feed them. Follow the advice and warnings of the park rangers.
  • There are several “villages” that offer lodges, gas, restaurants and general stores, however everything is slightly more expensive than outside the park. The souvenir shops on the other hand were quite nice 😉
  • The closest airports are Yellowstone Airport in West Yellowstone, Montana; Jackson Hole Airport and Yellowstone Regional Airport, both in Wyoming. Optional you can fly into Bozeman or Billings, Montana (where we flew into) as these airports are bigger and offer more frequent flights. Rental cars are more plentiful there too.
  • The official National Park’s website is a very useful source of information to plan your trip. Check for seasonal updates, current events and facts.

Which National Parks would you recommend?

You may also like these articles:

Glacier National Park – The Alps of America

Niagara Falls – More than just a waterfall

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  • Reply Alok Singhal September 12, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    In spite of being damp and cloudy, i still loved those shots! Wildlife is a bliss to see, better be prepared for the encounter though 🙂

    I have been to so many parks in the US, Yellowstone is one i am yet to visit!

    • Reply sileas September 25, 2017 at 3:25 am

      Thanks so much! It’s great to see that wildlife is still abundant there!

  • Reply Paleica September 13, 2017 at 2:02 am

    yellowstone steht schon ewig auf meiner liste, da er aber irgendwie so abgelegen ist, musste er bisher einfach noch warten. ich finde übrigens, dass das video auch super gelungen ist! großartige eindrücke und das, was du beschrieben hast ist auch das, was mich am amerikanischen kontinent so fasziniert. zivilisation hin oder her, es gibt sie dort trotzdem noch, die wilde natur – und das, obwohl sie jährlich von hundertentausenden touristen besucht wird.

    • Reply sileas September 25, 2017 at 3:30 am

      Das stimmt leider, dass die Anreise etwas mehr Planung erfordert. Aber wenn man sich die Zeit nimmt (und längere Autofahrten nicht scheut), ist es durchaus machbar von der Westküste aus (Seattle ist ca. 12 Stunden Fahrt entfernt und dazwischen gibt es auch genug zu sehen…) oder man nimmt schneller (und teurer) einen Flug. Wie auch immer, es lohnt sich auf jeden Fall! Ich war auch ziemlich überrascht wie wild der Park trotz der Besucherströme ist… Und danke für die netten Worte – ich hab lange überlegt, ob ich das Video überhaupt reinstellen soll 😉

  • Reply The Wayfarer September 13, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Amazing! I’ve never been to Yellowstone but it’s on my to-do list. Maybe someday I’ll have a long block of time to road trip around the US?

    • Reply sileas September 25, 2017 at 3:34 am

      I think that would be the ultimate journey 😀

  • Reply SueT唐 梦 琇 September 16, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    How beautiful…I would love to see bears in the wild – very hard to see yours from your photo unfortunately and I did enlarge it – but glad you got to see them. Loved the bison though. I don’t think I knew from your posts that you are engaged…warmest congratulations to you both. All the best, Sue

    • Reply sileas September 25, 2017 at 3:37 am

      Yeah the photo didn’t turn out too well unfortunately, but yes – every animal encounter was very special! Thanks a lot Sue, maybe I just didn’t mention it explicitly 😉

  • Reply shootingvienna September 18, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Voll schön, Yellowstone scheint wirklich eine Reise wert zu sein 🙂
    Pikas kannte ich vorher noch nicht. Die sind so süß, musste ich gleich googeln *__*

    • Reply sileas September 25, 2017 at 3:38 am

      Ich auch nicht und ich hab mich sofort in sie verliebt 😍

  • Reply Vicky T. September 18, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Despite being in the US my whole life, I’ve never been to Yellowstone lol. My parents have always said we should go but never ended up going even once. Even though it looks a bit gloom, it seems fun!


    • Reply sileas September 25, 2017 at 3:42 am

      The US is just too big, haha! I think Yellowstone would make a great family trip! Hopefully one day? 😉

  • Reply Chiara Pannozzo (@wine_and_olives) September 25, 2017 at 8:21 am

    It’s amazing, it looks like 10 different parks in one. As always, your pictures are just stunning! Of course, I’ve yet to visit Yellowstone National Park but it’s on my bucket list. It’s definitely something I hope to do at least once 🙂

    • Reply sileas September 26, 2017 at 5:00 am

      Thank you Chiara! I know it’s far but Yellowstone definitely is worth the journey 😉

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  • Reply tayonthemove September 26, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    My favorite park so far is Yosemite but I’m dying to go to all of them! Your photos for this one look gorgeous as always!

    • Reply sileas October 2, 2017 at 5:19 am

      Thanks a lot Tay! Yosemite definitely is on my list too 😉

  • Reply PinaySkattebasse October 5, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Wow! Yellowstone is in my bucket list for hiking. Lucky you guys you saw a bear from afar. 🙂 I also learned in every hiking, you shouldn’t underestimate the weather.

    • Reply sileas October 9, 2017 at 4:58 am

      Absolutely! I thought I was well prepared already but camping is another different story 😉

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