Three of the Best Drives Through Yellowstone National Park
Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the world and quickly became a model for conservation efforts elsewhere. Located primarily in the northwest corner or Wyoming, Yellowstone is a unique and spectacular ecosystem that has long drawn Native Americans, fur trappers, pioneers, artists, and tourists. For first-time visitors, however, Yellowstone's vastness can be intimidating and the number of attractions on offer are often overwhelming. To try to make a visit to Yellowstone more manageable, below are three routes through the park, each one offering a glimpse of why this corner of the world continue to awe and inspire.
Land of the Geysers
The route from the South Entrance to the North Entrance stretches along the western portion of the park and takes in some of Yellowstone's most iconic features. Perhaps the park's most famous sight and certainly world's most famous geyser, Old Faithful, is located along this route. The approximate times for eruptions are posted at the nearby visitor center. While spectacular in its own right, Old Faithful is not the only geyser to be found in Yellowstone. In fact, from here to Norris visitors can drive through the highest concentration of geysers in the world. The sight of steam rising from rivers, hot springs, and impossibly blue pools is one of the most unique and beautiful in the world. One of the highlights along this drive is Grand Prismatic, the world's largest hot spring. With its vivid blue, oranges, and yellows, Grand Prismatic is a particular delight to photographers. In and around Norris can also be found the Geyser Basin Museum, where visitors can learn about the geology of the area, and the Museum of the National Park Ranger. Continuing north of Norris towards the North Entrance takes visitors past the Obsidian Cliff, where volcanic glass was once quarried by Native Americans who used it for tools and weapons.
Yellowstone is as much famous for its wildlife as it is for its geysers. For the best chance of viewing some of the park's famous inhabitants, the drive from the Northeast Entrance to Canyon Village is a must. The route starts off by going through the Lamar Valley, which is one of the best places to spot elk and bison along with their predators, such as wolves, foxes, and coyotes. Turning south at Tower-Roosevelt will take visitors through the Antelope Creek valley, where visitors have the best chance of seeing the park's largest carnivore, the grizzly bear. Note, however, that human travel is highly restricted in this area and that approaching and feeding wildlife is not only illegal, but extremely dangerous. Finally, once reaching Canyon Village visitors will be able to enjoy one of the most spectacular sights Yellowstone has to offer. At 308 feet, Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River has long inspired poets, photographers, and artists and the view from the aptly-named Artist Point is definitely one that should not be missed.
Along the Lake
Yellowstone Lake is the largest high-altitude lake in North America and takes up much of the southeastern corner of the park. The drive from the East Entrance to West Thumb is the best route to take to experience this beautiful body of water. From Lake Butte Overlook, visitors can get an idea of the vastness of not just the lake, but of the park itself. While fishing has been prohibited at Fishing Bridge since the 1970s, visitors here can still enjoy views of wild trout spawning where the Yellowstone River begins its long journey northwards towards the Missouri River in Montana. Nearby Bridge Bay is also a good place to enjoy tours of Yellowstone Lake. For people bringing their own watercraft, much of the lake is open to boating excepting for parts of the South Arm and Southeast Arm where only hand-propelled watercrafts are allowed. Finally, the geysers that line the shore at West Thumb are another sight wholly unique to Yellowstone.
Whether to see geysers, wildlife, waterfalls, or simply to experience the great outdoors, Yellowstone offers an almost unbelievable array of options for visitors. Although it would take months to truly appreciate everything this great park has to offer, even a stay of just a few days is bound to leave visitors with memories they will cherish forever.