One Day in Yellowstone National Park
My friend Ashley and I recently spent five days in the Jackson Hole area in Wyoming. One of those days was spent in Yellowstone National Park, the oldest national park (designated as such in 1872!). We flew into Jackson Hole on Thursday evening and headed straight for our campsite in Grand Teton National Park after getting groceries. Grand Teton is in between Jackson and Yellowstone, so we figured it would be a good stop on the way.
The next morning, we were up at sunrise and ready to make the two-hour drive north to Yellowstone. We were wowed by the gorgeous Teton mountains that we hadn’t seen on our drive the previous night since it was dark. We stopped at the Jackson Lake Dam on the way to take a few pictures. There was even a black bear right along the road as we approached Yellowstone!
Set up camp at Grant Village Campground
We had reservations to stay in Grant Village Campground that night, but we knew it would be late that evening before we would be back in that area (in the southern area of the park). We stopped by the campground around 8:30am and asked if we could check in. They said yes since there were tent sites open! We quickly set up our tent and were on our way.
We arrived at Old Faithful around 10am, which is in the Upper Geyser Basin. The parking lot is massive and we did have to park fairly far out, although there were still several spots available in the very back. Old Faithful is a predictable geyser that erupts every 30 minutes to two hours. We started at the Visitor Center to see when the next eruption time would be and to get our national parks passports stamped. The next eruption time was around 11:30, so we had plenty of time to explore the area.
We walked the loop around Old Faithful and saw several small springs. There are more trails that take you even further if you have time. We decided to pick up souvenirs before we needed to get back to Old Faithful. At 11:20, we arrived at the geyser and found hundreds of people gathered all the way around it. It erupted within a couple minutes of its predicted time! While it was a cool experience, it wasn’t necessarily something I’d want to come back to again. Once was enough.
Grand Prismatic Geyser
Next, we drove about 15 minutes north to the Midway Geyser Basin. This area holds the largest hot spring in the US, Grand Prismatic Spring. It’s very colorful and looks amazing from above. We didn’t have time to hike the Fairy Falls trail to see it from the air so we just walked the loop that goes near the base of the springs on a boardwalk. The loop also goes by a few other springs. I really enjoyed this area!
Mammoth Hot Springs
Our next stop was at the northwestern edge of the park. Mammoth Hot Springs is a complex of hot springs that are flowing down a hill. This is located about an hour north of Midway Geyser Basin. Our ultimate destination of the day was to see wildlife in Lamar Valley, so this stop was right on the way and worth seeing. If you aren’t already going up to this area, I’d say you could skip Mammoth.
Blacktail Plateau Drive
A local had told us to do the drive down Blacktail Plateau Drive to see the resident bears. This is a six-mile one-way drive down a gravel road. We didn’t see any bears here but it was worth a shot and still a pretty drive.
The highlight of our day was Lamar Valley. This area is often called America’s Serengeti since it has so many large animals that are easy to see. We saw loads of bison and pronghorn that were very close to the road. There was even a mama moose and her babies a little ways away. The easiest way to spot animals is to watch for other cars pulled over.
Fountain Paint Pots
On our three hour drive back to the campsite, we spotted a geothermal area with the sun setting behind it so we pulled over immediately. Turns out, there is a short boardwalk trail that goes to a small geyser. This was amazing at sunset! I loved how we stumbled upon this place and the sunset was gorgeous.
I thought one long day was enough time in Yellowstone if you aren’t trying to see every geyser. The few we saw were plenty for us. Wildlife sightings were the highlight of the day!