After 3 months of trying our very hardest in Canada we finally managed to spot a bear in the wild! In total we spent 4 days in Yellowstone & it’s fair to say it has been one of the highlights of our trip so far, not only for the wildlife but the natural landscape around it.
Day 1 – Mammoth Hot Springs
Our first day at Yellowstone was pretty much a half day, as we spent the bulk of it driving towards the park. We stayed at the northeast entrance in a free forest service road campground, about a mile away from a paid campground with far better views and fewer people!
We headed to one of the parks big attractions – Mammoth hot springs. Not exactly what you’d expect from a tourist hot spring, you aren’t able to swim in it as the water is up to 70ºC, it’s more of an example of what years of hot springs can do to the landscape. What we were left with was stunning views of mineral build up, and bacteria of every kind of colour – basically it’s hard to write about how cool it is so we’ll just dump some pictures here 😉
Day 2 – Lamar Valley
Our second day was all about wildlife viewing, and we think this was probably the best day of our trip so far! It started off well with a black bear sighting – at which point we realised the ranger advice to not stop on the side of the road to view wildlife was completely disregarded by the hordes of tourists. So naturally, we joined in with them!
After the excitement of seeing our first bear we stopped at a quiet pull out for lunch. It was here a car came screeching in behind us and the driver exclaimed they’d spotted a bear – sure enough we were having lunch about 100m down the road from a cinnamon bear! Our lunch spot stopped being quite as peaceful, but this was more than made up for by the sighting of another bear. We hadn’t even made it to the wildlife viewing area of the park yet..
After our second sighting we were feeling hopeful that the day would continue to provide us with more excitement, and it didn’t disappoint. On the final leg of our drive to the valley for wildlife viewing there were hundreds and hundreds of bison – friendly giants of Yellowstone. We were lucky enough to have 3 of them pass by our car while we drove down the road so we got an incredible up close look at them, and they’re incredible animals. Weighing in at 630 kilos and a running speed of 30mph, there was an element of cautiousness about how we approached them, but they look like something out of Greek mythology.
We then enjoyed a non eventful hike through the wildlife valley, with more than a few sightings of bison & deer and headed back to our camp for date night, enjoying a nice bottle of wine which Paddy bought for us while we were together in Portland.
Day 3 – Mud Volcano
Our third day had an early start, as the campgrounds in Yellowstone fill up anywhere from 7am – 1pm depending on their popularity. We headed to one in the middle of the park for 8am and had to queue for around half an hour but then we had our spot! It was our first time paying to camp since Canada, but Yellowstone is so big it worked out cheaper than driving out & back into the park the next day.
After getting our site, we ventured to the mud volcano, a pretty grim but interesting bubbling pot of mud with gases rising through it. Granted, it probably wasn’t the most glamorous or beautiful places in the park but still worth a visit. Then we settled into our campsite and enjoyed a fire from the wood the kind rangers provided us for free. Another cheeky bottle of white and it was time for an early bed.
Day 4 – Norris Geyser & Grand Canyon
The grand canyon of Yellowstone, whilst less famous than the national park in Arizona is arguably more beautiful (we’ll confirm when we see the big one!). It’s where the park got its name from, due to the grand walls of yellow stone on either side of the canyon. The waterfall into it is beautiful, and we saw it from ‘Artists Point’, the subject of many paintings.
On our way back out of the park we stopped by Norris Geyser basin, an open plain which looked like a movie set due to all of the smoke coming out of the numerous geysers. We weren’t fortunate enough to see any of them go off, but the rain meant we were happy enough to be on our way to our pit stop for the night – a truck pullout in West Yellowstone.
Day 5 – Old Faithful & Grand Prismatic Spring
Probably the two most famous attractions of Yellowstone – and we decided to visit them both in the same day. To counter this we set off at 7am to head to Old Faithful, a geyser which reliably erupts every 90 minutes giving it the faithful name. Apparently it’s worth getting their early to get a good view of the eruption, however with a backdrop of grey clouds it was quite hard to see…
Luckily we happened to hang around the area for another 3 hours in order to see it twice more, and the crowds were unbelievable by the 1pm eruption! There’s also Geyser hill, a boardwalk of imaginatively named Geysers and some beautiful deep blue coloured pools – due to the colour of the bacteria inside them.
The afternoon was our last stop in Yellowstone – and easily the most beautiful of them all. Grand Prismatic Spring is just as the name describes, huge and beautiful (and so busy!). Regretting not coming earlier to it, there was quite a queue for the car park but once inside the boardwalks weren’t too busy. Even the steam coming off the water was coloured, it was truly stunning. After seeing it from the ground view we hiked up to an overlook – an even better view of the spring where we decided this would definitely be one of those pictures we blow up and frame when we get home.
As a last hurrah, on our way out of the park we spotted what we thought was a wolf but turned out to be a coyote off the side of the highway. It’s fair to say the other national parks have quite a lot to live up to, and we can see why Yellowstone was the first national park in the USA.
Next we’re headed to explore Grand Teton National park, and meet Annie’s brother & his fiancé as we cross paths with their American road trip.