The Great American Road Trip–Part III

Yellowstone National Park


Yellowstone is the world’s first national park having been established in 1872 by Ulysses S. Grant.  Yes, this was the model not only for the U.S. National Park Service, but for the national parks I recently explored in Costa Rica and much of Latin America.  A land of superlatives, it well deserves its World Heritage Site designation.

Yellowstone also receives several million visitors a year which adds some additional challenges.  For example, I arrived late in the season to find that 60% of the campgrounds were shuttered for the winter.  The remaining campsites were totally filled.  I had also naively thought that it would be fun to splurge one night and stay at the Old Faithful Inn which dates back to the days of Theodore Roosevelt.



When I presented myself at the desk and inquired as to a room I was informed that I should have made a reservation about a year before!  Additionally, all lodging in the park was sold out for the three to four days I was planning to stay.  After

walking across the road to watch Old Faithful erupt, I headed back to the town of West Yellowstone.  After eight failed attempts, “sorry we are full all week,” I was grateful to rent an overpriced room for the next three nights to serve as my base camp.

Early the next morning I returned to the park for a combination of driving and hiking touring.  Many of Yellowstone’s more famous features can be seen from crowded roadside pullouts.  But a short walk takes you quickly away from the major crowds.

I spent the day exploring geysers, fumeroles, bubbling paint pots and geothermal features that were stunning in their diversity.  As much as I love Lassen National Park, I felt that it had been a geothermal warmup (pun intended) for the main event




From Norris, I drove north to the Mammoth Hot Springs area where I toured the Hot Springs Terraces.



Mammoth Hot Springs is the site of Fort Yellowstone, now the park’s administrative HQ, and the lawns are a popular hangout for the abundant elk population.


Ever Wonder What Goes on at an Elk Convention?


The next day was spent exploring the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  I hiked both north and south rims and allowed much time to appreciate this spectacular area which is totally different from the geyser basins of the previous day.





During the 90 minute drive back to West Yellowstone, I was treated to a geyser-filled sunset.




Tomorrow I will spend a couple hours at the enormous Lake Yellowstone, another part of this 3,468.4 square miles (8,983 sq. km) national treasure and then depart through the Tetons.

Tips for visiting Yellowstone National Park:

  • Plan on a minimum of three days; I could have easily filled a week!
  • You can go on the fly like me but it is better to plan ahead.
  • When the park roads are open, it is high season.
  • Lodging in the park books up months in advance.  (So do the surrounding towns–book ahead and save an extra 100 bucks a night.)
  • There are first-come first-serve campsites but you better get there early in the day to have any hope of getting one.
  • This is grizzly country.  Take proper precautions with all food!

    How to Photograph a Bison

    The abundant wildlife (I also saw a wolf and several buffalo) can be aggressive and is always unpredictable.

    How NOT to Photograph a Bison


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18 Responses to The Great American Road Trip–Part III

  1. Brian October 13, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    I’m waiting for part IV! Great stuff Philip….sure hope we can get together a view a slide show at my place one of these days!

    • Philip October 14, 2011 at 9:24 am #

      Actually I think you will be in part V Brian, ha ha.

  2. Susan B October 13, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    Wow, Brings back memories of Viser’s Geisers, an unusual vacation trip that Peter and I took back in the mid 70’s in Grandpa Pete’s camper. We had a blast and never forgot the beautiful scenery in Yellowstone. It is indescribable and you can’t really appreciate it except in person. Everyone should see it at least once in their lives. How I wish I was there with you. I love spontaneous trips and taking the back roads. My favorite thing to do. Haven’t done it in long time though. No money for gas. LOL!!!

    • Philip October 14, 2011 at 9:27 am #

      Agreed Susan, everyone should go. Been 25 years since my last time there, and yes, gas was expensive!$!

  3. NLM October 15, 2011 at 3:56 am #

    So glad I found your site (from Travel Chica); what wonderful photos of Yellowstone! It’s an amazing place. If you ever,ever get a chance to visit NZ, you will be amazed at the geothermal activity. If you want a preview, I have posted a few photos:

    • Philip October 15, 2011 at 8:44 am #

      Thanks! Your photos of NZ are great too. I tried to leave a coment there for you but was unable. I hope to go to NZ on my next leg of travel in a couple months. Any suggestions?

  4. Judie October 15, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    As usual – gorgeous photos! Brought back memories of my visit over 10 yrs ago! Looks like you had an amazing adventure. Great tips too!

    • Philip October 15, 2011 at 9:29 am #

      Yes Judie, once every 25 years is not nearly enough Yelowstone.

  5. Stephanie - The Travel Chica October 16, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    I see your time traveling in Latin America and not needing to “plan” or “reserve” anything has stayed with you 🙂
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Sugar Filled and Deep Fried Treats in Argentina

    • Philip October 17, 2011 at 8:51 am #

      So true Stephanie; although I am doing so little planning for my next round of international gypsying that it is a bit unnerving at times. Perhaps I need a project manager…know anyone?

  6. crazy sexy fun traveler October 27, 2011 at 4:45 am #

    The nature there is beautiful! Loving the geysers 🙂
    crazy sexy fun traveler recently posted..KO PHANGAN BEST BEACHES

    • Philip October 27, 2011 at 6:58 am #

      Thanks. Yellowstone is truly the land of superlatives.

  7. Con Daily October 31, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    I’m visiting your site the first time today and know I’ll be back for more.Your wonderful photos and travel notes inspire and bring back memories. Best wishes in your journeys.
    Con Daily recently posted..Autumn Reflection at Lower Lake Ranch

    • Philip October 31, 2011 at 11:44 am #

      Thanks for dropping by Con. I look forward to checking out your site as well.

  8. Matthew Karsten November 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    Do not approach the buffalo! 🙂

    I love Yellowstone. Great post.
    Matthew Karsten recently posted..End of the Road: Mission to Yaviza

    • Philip November 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

      Thanks for dropping by Matt.

  9. Jen January 16, 2012 at 5:06 am #

    Amazing pictures! I would absolutely love to go Yellowstone x
    Jen recently posted..So You’ve Ruined Your Life… Indecent Exposure

    • Philip January 16, 2012 at 8:02 am #

      Thanks for stopping by Jen. Hope to finish this series soon so check back. Cute blog you have too!

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