Yellowstone became the first national park in 1872. It spans over three states and is situated above a supervolcano giving it some very cool geothermal features. Hot springs, paint pots, geysers, and more! With multiple entrances to the huge park, we decided that exploring Yellowstone from the North and West entrances was our best option. We spent our first few days exploring North Yellowstone from our conveniently located RV park in Gardiner, Montana.
Rocky Mountain RV Park is just four blocks from the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park making exploring Yellowstone easy. This RV park overlooks the town of Gardiner, Montana and is within walking distance of many shops and restaurants. The view from our campsite was absolutely stunning with beautiful mountains and skies and even elk! The park had WIFI, full hook-ups and all of the amenities including a miniature golf course. It was $62 per night but completely worth it and we consider it our favorite park to date. Check out Episode 8 for more information HERE.
Our first day of exploring Yellowstone started later than usual and we found that to be a bad thing. We typically go early to most places to beat the crowds. And the crowds at Yellowstone are huge. It appears that around 12pm is when everyone else decides to come to Yellowstone. Parking was difficult to find for the Albright visitor's center and for many of the trails and sites. Go when it opens to avoid the crowds. And the elk as it turns out. There were elk everywhere. They were even sitting in front of the clinic appearing to wait for their doctor's appointments.
From the visitor's center, we headed up to the Mammoth Hot Springs. One great thing about exploring Yellowstone is that there are boardwalks and trails everywhere. Many sites can be seen even if you have a stroller or wheelchair. The boardwalks at Mammoth Hot Springs really give you a great view of the upper and lower travertine terraces. The different colors and shapes created by the thermal waters flowing over the limestone are completely amazing to see. After the Mammoth Hot Springs, we continued our 18-mile drive out to Norris Geyser Basin. The Norris Geyser Basin has two trail loops which overlook mud pots, hot springs, and more. One loop heads out around Porcelain Basin and the other goes out to Back Basin. Both are great walks that take you past beautiful formations and pools where you can smell the sulfur and see many different colors. The colors are dependent upon the temperature and types of minerals in the water. Yellows, browns, reds and greens are the most common colors.
Our next day of exploring Yellowstone started much earlier with a photo of the Roosevelt Arch, built in 1903 and named after Theodore Roosevelt. He happened to be in the park and laid the first stone for the arch. While it is not at the park entrance, it is still a historic icon in the town of Gardiner. We continued the 37-mile route to Canyon Village. On our way we decided to shake it up a bit with the Blacktail Plateau Drive. This bumpy 6-mile drive took us through the forests and along the meadows towards the Tower Roosevelt. It was a nice break from the paved roads and had some excellent views.
After a visit to the Petrified Tree, a stop to see a coyote on the hunt and lots of bison, we arrived at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This is a painter's paradise and probably why a part of it is named Artist's Point. The roaring waters of the Yellowstone River and Tower Falls show just how strong Mother Nature can be. The upper and lower falls have multiple overlooks and trails leading to them, some easy and some rather scary. The view is awesome from just about any of the overlooks!
While exploring Yellowstone, you will find the Mud Volcano Trail which leads to some very active geothermal features. The mud pots are bubbling and rather smelly. The fumaroles are steaming and the paint pots are just plain beautiful with all the many colors. The area was misty from a fresh rain which added to the beauty of the area. There are two loops with boardwalks that go around and in between the features. The larger loop was closed at the time but we were completely awed with the smaller loop. It was well worth the stop and smelliness!
We decided to take a tour on our last day in North Yellowstone. The Yellowstone Park Lodges offer many tours for exploring Yellowstone ranging from photography lessons to animal spotting. We chose the Twilight on the Firehole tour. It's a two-hour guided evening tour that was $41 for adults and $21.50 for children. The tour met at the Old Faithful Inn. If you haven't been to the Old Faithful Inn, it is a must-see. This historic inn is completely amazing. It is the largest log building in the world and over 100-years-old! The tour guide brought us to her vehicle and it's an old, yellow bus. Pretty comfortable and kept us dry from the constant rain. Due to the weather, we didn't get to spend as much time exploring Yellowstone as the tour guide wanted to but we sure did see some beautiful sights. We even saw Old Faithful erupt just before heading out on our tour. It was absolutely awe-inspiring.
Our tour exploring Yellowstone began with Firehole Spring. There's a boardwalk that goes around the spring so you get to see how clear the water is and the different colors of the land around it. The Fountain Paint Pot is full of sounds, mud, and smells of sulfur. The ground around it has almost a rainbow hue depending on what side of the boardwalk you are on and the time of year. We learned about the trees in Yellowstone and why they all look like they are wearing bobby socks. The trees absorb minerals from the ground and it turns the trunks near the ground white. Our guide was super knowledgeable and the tour was enjoyable despite the rain.
There is a Yellowstone App that you can download and use for exploring Yellowstone on your own. It tells you when the geysers will erupt, how long the trails are and gives you a guided audio tour of the geothermal features in the different areas of the park. It also tells you about special events, lodging and camping opportunities in the park, any road closures and has an interactive map for exploring Yellowstone.
We ended our time with a 51-mile drive back in the rain and dark, hoping we wouldn't spy any animals! We enjoyed exploring Yellowstone from the North Entrance and our campground in Gardiner, Montana was amazing. The next stop is West Yellowstone, an RV park on a lake and family. We look forward to seeing more of Yellowstone National Park in the coming days.
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