One of the things that I always loved about Yellowstone National Park is the variety that the park has to offer. Whatever you outdoor passion is, Yellowstone will probably have what it is that you are looking for. If you enjoy hiking, there is no place better. If you like fishing, it is some of the best trout fishing in the world. Camping? I think that goes without saying. If grand views are your thing, there are many to be seen. Wildlife enthusiasts will get closer to nature than ever before. So you might be thinking, how am going to be able to see all of this? Luckily, the park does make it simple with the Grand Loop Road which follows the outside edges of the park and gives access to all of its wonders. With that in mind, I do want to emphasize that one of the keys to a great experience in Yellowstone is knowing when to come. It just so happened to work out that the day I came to the park was Memorial Day. Needless the say, the crowds and traffic are overwhelming sometimes at certain locations. With all of the wildlife being so active, people just stop their car in the middle of the road to get out and photograph. One silver lining to that is that usually you have nice view of something while you wait for people to get going again. So if you are someone that is crowd averse, it might be wise to do a little research to find out when the park might not be as busy.
But as for me, my journey to Yellowstone starts in Cody, WY, which is about 90 miles to the east of the park. The drive in is scenic and low stress as it goes through Buffalo Bill State Park and into a deep valley along the banks of the Shoshone River. Wildlife is everywhere since it is late in the spring. Bears and mountain goats can be seen along the highway as you climb up to Sylvan Pass before descending into Yellowstone. The first thing that catches your eye is the massive Yellowstone Lake. Luckily, one of the first side trips you can go on is a short trip up to the top of Lake Butte Overlook. Once at the top, you get a panoramic view of the park and more specifically the lake, as the Continental Divide rises in the background. The deep blue water is calm and a thin layer of fog rolls onto the shore as the lake seems to go on for ever. Once you get back on the main road, it hugs the eastern shore with plenty of picnic areas and rocky beaches to walk along. Eventually the road crosses the Yellowstone River which at that point is just a couple hundred feet into its journey. It leaves the lake and will eventually empty into the Missouri River in Eastern Montana. However, in the park, it is a much more modest river with some of the cleanest water you will ever find. I stopped at one point where no one else was parked just so I could sit on the shore and enjoy the sound of it going by. However, the river takes on a little different personality just a few miles further downstream.
After it’s calm start, the Yellowstone River comes into the canyon village and goes over two enormous falls before going through the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. This is one of the places in the park that if you come on a busy day, you will need your patient hat for sure. This is one of the most popular sites in the park, and rightfully so. The river has carved out this very deep, very steep canyon over time and the different colors in the canyon walls are very noticeable. But on the other side of the park, Yellowstone has another very different face that it likes to show off.
Probably the thing that comes to people’s minds when you mention Yellowstone, are the geysers. Since the park sits on top of a huge super-volcano, the amount of geothermic energy that can found is hard to imagine. One the western side of the park, you are constantly driving by highlights such as Old Faithful, Norris Basin, and Mammoth Springs. There are mud volcanoes and there are sulfur cauldrons. Which leads me to my last point. Yellowstone stinks!! Literally. All of the geothermic activity aids in the burning of sulfur, which creates one of most repugnant odors that you can come across. It kind of reminds of you of old boiled eggs. After a while, you become nose-blind to it and you only notice it in high concentrations. But it is a small price to pay for such an experience.
There is a part of me that feels guilty about only spending one day in such a diverse, spectacular place when it is so worthy of a multiple night stay, but it is all the time had to give. So, I leave out the south entrance and over the Continental Divide looking forward to my next adventure. Maybe something close by…….?