Originally, we planned two days in Yellowstone National Park, but we ended up breaking up the drive between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone with a night in a small fishing town. Luckily, we found a way to make our Yellowstone bucket list happen in one day! Driving north from Glacier, these are the landmarks we stopped at:
- Mammoth Hot Springs
- Upper and Lower Falls
- Grand Prismatic Spring
- Old Faithful
Mammoth Hot Springs
This was our first stop and the first hot spring I’ve ever been to in my life. These springs were formed by the core of the earth heating up mineral water until it slowly cascaded into pools topped with steam and a smell I’ll never forget. Walking across these pools it’s tempting to want to jump in, but the boardwalk keeps visitors at a distance from the pools because the dense minerals are toxic to humans. The hot springs throughout Yellowstone are formed by the heat from an inactive supervolcano. No need to worry, the last time it erupted was 64,000 years ago.
A great perk of Yellowstone monuments is that they are easily accessible through stable boardwalks and viewing platforms. The bad news is that dogs are not allowed on any trail in Yellowstone. We had to leave Liberty in the car with the windows rolled down and luckily it was a cool day.
Upper and Lower Falls
This was the stop that I was most willing to give up and after seeing the lower falls in person it was by favorite view of the road trip! Uncle Tom’s trail is the most popular way to view the falls, but it was closed due to mudslides, so we drove to the highest waterfall in the park, Lower Falls Overlook. A 600-foot elevation drop leads you to the top of the roaring waterfall. The platform extends past the fall so you can admire hundreds of falls feeding into the turquoise river. We stayed at the viewpoint to watch neon rainbows dance upon the steam, deep blue gorges hurtling into the horizon and glowing yellow canyons that collided with the water in a memorizing display of power and beauty.
Grand Prismatic Spring
The spring steam rose from the air to greet us before we stepped out of the car. The boardwalk trail takes you through three different springs, each more captivating than the next. The dense minerals create waves of color along the shallow shores and the hovering boardwalk gets you up close to the deep blue center. The center of the Grand Prismatic Spring extends up to 160-feet deep and is the largest hot spring in the United States. The aqua center provides a brilliant contrast to the vivid orange, reds, and greens of the shore. You are close enough to feel, smell, and hear the steam rising from the vibrant surface.
There are hundreds of geysers throughout Yellowstone National Park, but as the name suggests, this is the most predictable geyser in the park. Old Faithful erupts every 90 minutes. Be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes before the estimated eruption time because it’s not always accurate. Within 5 minutes of the predicted time Old Faithful erupted and I am ashamed to say I clapped. It was captivating to watch water rising from the heated core of the earth. This was also the closest I’ve come to a facial since COVID started. Two reasons to clap!
Yellowstone was the most geologically diverse destination I’ve ever visited. 45 waterfalls, over 500 hot springs and geysers, and nearly 900 hiking trails makes Yellowstone an American treasure. This wonderland has something for everyone, and the extraterrestrial landscape will captivate the most seasoned travelers. I recommend one to two days in the park and if you have more time there are plenty of trails, campsites, and hot sprints to explore! Planning your next hiking trip? Check out the best southwest hikes for Fall and Winter.