How can one really sum up an entire day in one of America’s most famous and visited national parks? Aside from recommending that one book reservations ahead of time, you will spend from dawn to dusk, as we did, driving the park’s inner loop. Even with stops at points of interest like Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Springs, and numerous others, it took all day and we loved it.
The inner loop truly shows how massive this place is. To give you a sense of scope, driving the inner loop comes in at just over 200 miles. That is not a typo.
We started by securing a campsite at Lewis Lake Campground, near the southern entrance to the park. That was no small feat since we were hoping to nab a first-come, first-served site, and even by 7am many of the other campgrounds had already filled to capacity.
Once that was done, we had both decided that the only way to spend a day here, seeing everything possible, would be to drive the inner loop. Our first stop was at Old faithful.
The Rangers had predicted its next eruption at 12:29pm local time, plus or minus 10mins. Sure enough, at 12:37pm the geyser erupted for nearly 3 continuous minutes, spraying thousands of gallons into the air some 100 plus feet.
Soon after we took a brief walk through Old Faithful Lodge. We wanted to see the architecture from the building constructed around 1910. It blends well with the rest of the countryside and sort of looks like it “grew” from the ground instead of being constructed.
Soon thereafter we drove to Midway Geyser Basin. It sits back from the road approximately a 10 minute walk from the parking area. All along the way one can see numerous thermal pools, some bubbling, others feeding a nearby crystal clear spring, but leaving an amber tinge along their path.
We asked an oncoming hiker how much further up Grand Prismatic Spring was. In her eastern Slavic accent she informed us it was about 10 minutes up but the best view is from a hill just to the left of the spring, away from where everyone else was. We happened across the hill shortly thereafter, climbed up its steep embankment, and were immediately glad we did.
Making our way back, the next stop was Norris Geyser Basin and Steamboat Geyser.
This acidic, olfactory assault is mainly a large boardwalk around numerous thermal areas; vents, small geysers, hot springs.
Then we stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs, and Petrified Tree, stopping at the lodge in Hot Springs for lunch. If I were to make a suggestion to any visitors, it would be bring your own lunches and food for the day. Don’t get me wrong, food is ok. But what you get for what you pay just really isn’t worth it.
So much of this part of the trip in Yellowstone is made of moments like “whoah, look at that thing!” So, I’ll include several pictures for you to get a sense of that.
Our final spot was Yellowstone Falls. I had heard of this spot and thought it to be an incredible place to finish our loop. It worked out that way logistically as well. The view is often called the “Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone” because it truly looks like it! It’s a massive plummet of more than a few thousand feet where the Yellowstone River rages through.
The location from which these were taken is called “Inspiration Point”
We made it almost all the way back to the southeastern portion of the park and it was twilight 6:30pm local time. We pulled into a roadside pull off to investigate what had another visitor, with his camera out, so intrigued. It was a bison, grazing only 40 or so paces from the car.
We remained in the idling car as the massive animal sauntered, slowly, purposefully, almost as if it’s steps needed more than just time to leave footprints. Check out the video to see the encounter, but it was incredible.
We stopped at another nearby geyser boardwalk and grabbed a selfie with one!
At that same location there was an incredible spring that roared from its deepest point giving it the name Dragon’s Mouth Spring
Afterwards we made it straight back to the campsite for a beer and an early bedtime before the long drive to Canyonlands the next day.
Watch the next post for details on that trip and more from the road!