Yellowstone national park is a major tourist destination for USA residents and international travelers. It lies within Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho and occupies about 3,500 square miles. Planning your trip and researching the best things to see in Yellowstone can be overwhelming if you are a first-time visitor. That is why at Heymondo, we give you a comprehensive checklist of the top things to see in Yellowstone in 2023. This post outlines unique activities to help you create the perfect Yellowstone itinerary based on your trip’s duration and interests.

Things you can’t miss in Yellowstone

Yellowstone is the world’s first national park and is among the unique national parks globally. The park is always bustling with geothermal activity, breathtaking landscapes, and countless encounters with wildlife. The park has about 500 active geysers, 10.000 thermal features, and 290 waterfalls.

When you tour the park, don’t miss a chance to visit the Grand Canyon or take a relaxing bath at the Boiling River Hot Springs. The Lamar Valley is also a spectacular landscape with rare wildlife like the grey wolf and grizzly bears. Below is an overview of what you can’t miss when planning solo trips or family holidays to the national park.

1. Old Faithful & Upper Geyser Basin

Old Faithful is a popular tourist attraction due to its fame and predictable nature compared to other geysers. The geyser erupts in intervals of 60 to 110 minutes, and a spiral of heated water goes up about 30 to 65 meters. The view of the eruption is so captivating, and you can witness it about 20 times in a single day.

While visiting the Old Faithful Geyser, consider checking out the Upper Geyser Basin, which has the largest concentration of geysers globally. You can walk through the easy Upper Geyser Basin trail as you take in the beauty of numerous thermal features, such as hot springs and geysers. The trail is about 5 miles long and combines footpaths and paved tracks. If you complete the trail, you will get to the Observation Point Loop, with a spectacular view of the Old Faithful Geyser.

Upper Geyser Basin

2. Grand Prismatic Spring & Midway Geyser Basin

Grand Prismatic Spring is the biggest hot spring in the USA and among the most captivating places within the park. The Grand Prismatic Spring is found in the Midway Thermal Basin. You can hike to the spring’s overlook on the Fairy Falls trail if you want an aerial view. At the Grand Prismatic Spring, hot water moves about 120 feet from a crack in the ground until it reaches the surface of the spring.

The spring’s beauty is attributed to the spectacular display of rainbow colors around its edges. The colors form from the countless layers of heat-loving microorganisms found at the border of the mineral-rich spring water. The spring is among the most picturesque places within the park due to its lively colors, vast size, and steaming atmosphere.

Grand Prismatic Spring

3. Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Did you know that the park has its own Grand Canyon? It is among the must-see places in this national park. The Grand Canyon results from the Yellowstone River carving a deep rift in the surrounding volcanic rock. Since the park is a hotbed of geothermal activity, this leaves burnt orange mineral deposits on the canyon walls. You can also notice numerous gusts of steam in most places.

The Grand Canyon is around 20 miles long, 4,000 feet wide, and 1,200 feet deep. It has numerous viewpoints: Grand View, Red Rock Point, the Inspiration Point, Uncle Tom’s Trail, and Brink of the Lower Falls or hiking to Point Sublime.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

4. Wildlife sightings in Hayden and Lamar Valleys

Most national parks worldwide are famous for their wildlife; Yellowstone is no exception. If you are a wildlife enthusiast, you must drive to Lamar Valley in the northeast part of the park. You will encounter a huge open valley with various grassy slopes that host numerous wild animals. You can easily spot bison in huge numbers, groups of deer, pronghorns, wolves, and elks. Sometimes, you may also notice mountain lions, black bears, and bighorn sheep.

Hayden Valley also offers an outstanding display of wildlife, although it is smaller than Lamar Valley. This valley lies at the center of the Yellowstone River alongside the path between the Fishing Bridge and Canyon Village. Here you can easily see bison, some elk, black bears, buffalo, coyotes, wolves, and wolf packs.

The best time to catch sightings of various animals is usually towards dawn. You should also consider carrying some binoculars for an unmatched experience.

Lamar Valley

5. Norris Geyser Basin

It is interesting to note that Norris Geyser Basin is home to this national park’s most ancient, hottest, and most volatile thermal features. It has two major sections; the Porcelain Basin and the Back Basin. The Porcelain Basin contains the Norris Geyser, while the Back Basin contains the Mailbox and the Echinus Geysers. The Norris Geyser Basin is home to the Steamboat Geyser, the tallest in the world, standing at over 300 feet. You may witness its eruption during your visit.

Norris Geyser Basin

6. Mammoth Hot Springs

The uniqueness of the Mammoth Hot Springs will amaze you as they are different from all other hot springs in the park. The springs are distinctively stairway travertine terraces made when hot water froths up the limestone rock. The hot water then liquefies the limestone and turns it into calcium carbonate. The calcium carbonate then hardens into unique shapes formed by water.

You can explore the numerous trails through the Mammoth Hot Spring to get excellent views of the huge landscape. Besides, you can view the Mammoth Hot Springs from your car by driving to the Upper Loop road.

Mammouth Hot Springs

7. Go for a hike

Mount Washburn will offer you the best hiking experience while touring the park if you enjoy hiking during your family holidays. It is about 10.243 feet and gives breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and springs. That’s not all; you can spot some stunning wildflowers and beautiful wildlife along your trail, including bears and bighorn sheep.

Hiking Mt. Washburn can be quite tasking, but if you push yourself, it is manageable. Reaching the summit takes about one to two hours, depending on your speed. The hike’s starting point is the Dunraven Pass, the lowest part of the park. Hiking Mt. Washburn slows down in September and October due to grizzly bears.

Fairy Falls is another hiking alternative that stands at 200 feet tall. It is an easier trail compared to the Mt. Washburn hike, and from the summit, you can see the park’s views 20 to 50 miles away. Some of the stunning landscapes from the summit include the Grand Canyon, the forests below the fall, and other mountain peaks.

Mount Washburn

8. Boiling River Hot Springs

The Boiling River Hot Springs lies about 2 miles north of the Mammoth Hot Springs. Most of the rivers in the park are too hot or cold to swim in, but Boiling River water has the perfect temperature. It is a naturally occurring hot tub resulting from a boiling hot spring flowing into the cool waters of River Gardner.

You can access the river by following the Boiling River trail. The water along the course may be extremely hot, and avoiding touching or swimming anywhere is advisable. You should only swim and soak in the recommended swimming section.

When you visit the park, look at the official website to confirm the river is accessible during your trip. The Boiling River usually closes seasonally to ensure the safety and well-being of visitors.

Boiling River Hot Springs

When is the best time of the year to visit the park?

The perfect time to visit the national park is during the summer, which starts in June and ends in September. July and August are the warmest months, and the crowds are at their highest. If you like to visit when the temperatures are low and the crowds are minimal, then April, May, September, and October are perfect for you.

During winter, the park is open from mid-December until the end of February, and the place still gives you a magical experience. However, most roads are closed, and you need to hire a snowmobile tour around the park.

Regardless of the time you visit, conditions can still be tough. Ensure you carry the appropriate gear and follow the rules and guidelines to boost your safety.

If you enjoy visiting national parks as solo trips or family holidays, consider our checklist of things to see in Yellowstone. Besides, consider purchasing reliable and affordable travel insurance during your trip planning process. Travel insurance gives you peace of mind during your trip and allows you to concentrate on enjoying all available activities. It is a low-cost option for dealing with any unforeseeable risks you may encounter during your trip. Travel insurance covers you in case of a medical emergency, injury, luggage, or gadget theft and gives you flexible travel cancellation insurance.

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