Published February 18, 2021
Are you planning your first trip to Yellowstone National Park? A little lost and confused on what to do and where to go? Then we’ve just got the thing for you!
Exploring Yellowstone National Park is no easy task. There are over 10,000 hot springs and geysers located across the park. With geysers erupting over 300 times a year, it can leave the first-timer confused and clueless.
Even more, there is a long list of all the activities you can do in Yellowstone and a separate list for all the areas you can visit. Everywhere you look, there’s wildlife, forestry, trails, and so much more.
So we’ve created a compact list of the ten best things to do when you’re visiting Yellowstone National Park. Exploring the park will take time and effort, so make sure to stay safe by following these guidelines and basic information.
1. Visit the Geysers and Springs of Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park is well-known for its famous geysers like Old Faithful or the Mud Volcano. The best part about these geysers is capturing the moment when they erupt. You can also photograph the vibrant colors of the hot springs along the way!
So that you can always capture the moment, you can check out the geyser activity here. Toxic gases may begin to accumulate in the area. Make sure to keep a safe distance and leave the site immediately when you start to feel sick.
There are a few major geyser basins that visitors can access connected by boardwalks and paved trails. Here is a list of eight of the most famous geyser basins.
a. Upper Geyser Basin (Old Faithful)
The Upper Geyser Basin is Yellowstone’s largest geyser basin and the largest concentration of hot springs globally. It’s also the home of the most famous geyser, Old Faithful.
Due to its frequent eruptions, the geyser was named “Old Faithful” by the Washburn Expedition in 1870. Since the park was founded in 1872 and became the world’s first national park, it has erupted more than a million.
You can stay at the Old Faithful Inn near the end of the path, where you can find the Morning Glory Pool. Supposedly filled with vibrant colors, the Morning Glory Pool has lost its glory because of human pollution.
b. Midway Geyser Basin (Grand Prismatic Spring)
The Midway Geyser Basin is small and home to the world’s largest hot springs located between the Upper and Lower Geyser basins. It is also home to the Grand Prismatic Spring.
What makes the Grand Prismatic Spring so grand? Well, it’s deeper than a building, and it’s bigger than a football field.
The Grand Prismatic may not be as famous as the Old Faithful, but it is the most photographed feature in Yellowstone. Known for its rainbow of colors, the Grand Prismatic has bright bands of orange, yellow, and green ring the deep blue waters in the spring.
c. Lower Geyser Basin
Lower Geyser Basin is located between Madison Junction and the Old Faithful area and is home to approximately 100 geothermal features. It’s also home to the Fountain Paint Pots.
Acidity in the stream is responsible for breaking into the clay, and the steam pushing through creates the unnatural clay pots of the basin. It comes in beautiful shades of white, brown, and gray, which are a sight to behold during the sunset.
d. Norris Geyser Basin
The Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest in Yellowstone, reaching 459 degrees F (237 degrees C). Made out of two different basins, the Porcelain Basin and the Back Basin consist of various impressive geysers and hot springs.
It is home to the Echinus Geyser, a famous geyser with unpredictable eruptions. It’s not one to wait around for, but it’s one that’s worth a visit.
e. Mammoth Hot Springs
Located at the northwest section of the park is the Mammoth Hot Springs. Here you will be able to enjoy the view of the limestone terraces.
The hot water ascends through limestone deposits and the flowing waters that spill out to shape the figure’s limestone terraces. It turns into a lovely, gentle waterfall that captivates its audience.
f. Hayden Valley Geyser Basin
It is a must to visit the Mud Volcano of Yellowstone National Park. It’s also a must to have some masks on.
The area is bound to smell like rotten eggs that aren’t too nice for the nose or the mouth. So make sure to bring a mask along the way.
The sulfur and bacteria surrounding the so it eats away at the dirt and turns it into the mud, and that’s why it’s called the Mud Volcano.
g. Artists’ Paintpots
The Artists’ Paintpots is an area the includes colorful hot springs and two large mud pots.
f. West Thumb Geyser Basin of Lake Yellowstone
The West Thumb Geyser Basin is the largest basin on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. It is a caldera within a caldera, and the heat source of the thermal features are relatively close to the surface, around 10,000 feet below.
2. Spot the Wildlife in Yellowstone
The best part about Yellowstone National Park is its diverse wildlife. Yellowstone is home to more wild animals than anywhere in the United States.
You may see many wild animals freely roaming around the park when you’re exploring the parts of the park. You can spot a herd of bison, moose, and the occasional grizzly bear.
However, it would be best if you took note to follow the safety guidelines set out by the park officials. Never approach wild animals and never attempt to feed them. Please treat them with respect as wild animals no matter how calm they may appear.
3. Hike Along the Famous Yellowstone Trails
Go hiking in the famous trails of Yellowstone and explore the wilderness! Yellowstone’s paved paths have a lot to offer, but it’s only a small part of it.
Around 98% of Yellowstone is an unexplored wilderness. You can hike up famous trails such as Bunsen Peak, Uncle Tom’s Trail, and Mt. Washburn.
We recommend going up Bunsen Peak, where it’s 4.5 miles and a 1,350-foot climb, which will take around 3 hours. Once you’re up there, you can see the gorgeous view of the Mammoth area and the scars of the 1988 fires.
If you’ve got children with you, don’t worry! Some trails are suitable for you and your kids to hike on. You can go up the Wraith Falls trail, where it’s an easy 1-mile round trip hike to a pretty waterfall along Lupine creek.
Make sure not to overdo it! Kids may not appreciate the view as much as you do, but they’ll love swimming in lakes and climbing on rocks.
4. Camping at Yellowstone
If you like to go camping after hiking, Yellowstone provides a magnificent view of the stars under the night sky. First, we’ll have to understand what type of camper you are. Make sure to follow the rules and regulations and read the basic information before you start camping!
There are three types of campers for Yellowstone Park: the Car Camper, the RV, and the Backcountry camper. Knowing which one you are will help narrow down your options from the 12 campgrounds with over 2,000 sites.
If you’re a Car Camper, we recommend going to the Bridge Bay Campground, the Norris Campground, or the Slough Creek campground.
The Bridge Bay campground brings you close to Yellowstone Lake, while the Norris Campground gives you easy access to the geysers and springs. The Slough Creek Campground will get you far away from the noise and the crowds offering a peaceful and rustic feel of Yellowstone.
If you’ve got an RV, don’t worry! There are plenty of options for you and your RV. We recommend the Mammoth Campground and Fishing Bridge RV Park.
The Mammoth Campground gives you easy access to the hot springs so that you can beat the crowd to it in the early morning. It is a first-come, first-served campground that has flush toilets, water pumps, and potable water. It does not have hook-ups or dump stations available.
The Fishing Bridge RV Park is a drive away from Hayden Valley and is close to the Fishing Bridge Museum. It’s the only Yellowstone campground with a dump station and water, sewer, and electrical hook-ups.
We recommend Grebe Lake near the Canyon Village area and Shoshone Lake near Old Faithful for Backcountry Campers. Quiet and easy to access for first-timers and regulars.
Backcountry campers need a backcountry use permit to spend the night in the backcountry. To reserve in advance, complete a trip planning worksheet here and return it in person, by mail, or fax.
5. Ride Em Cowboy
Yellowstone is in the heart of cowboy country. It’s no surprise that you can find rodeos, ranches, and Old West gunfights while riding on horseback.
There are many famous rodeos around Yellowstone, but we recommend the Cody Nite Rodeo. It’s available every night of the summer, but that’s not the only reason we recommend it.
Cody calls itself the Rodeo Capital of the World because of Cody Nite Rodeo, but there’s also some gunslinging action going on. The Gunfighters of Cody is a performance held next to the famous Historic Irma Hotel.
A non-profit group performs it yearly, and the performers dedicate many hours to the season. It’s a tradition done since 1957, and the shootout fun begins at exactly 6:15 PM except on Sundays – there’s no shooting on Sundays!
6. Rafting and Paddling Near Yellowstone
If you like getting wet and wild with your family and friends, then rafting is the activity for you! You can’t raft in the rivers inside the park, but you can raft along the rivers closest to it.
You can go to Yellowstone River near Gardiner, Montana, for a fantastic experience suited for all age groups. At the river, you can choose from three companies to help you start your journey.
The Flying Pig Adventure Company runs several trips here. You can choose from an 8-mile, 18-mile, and immersive overnight trip. They also offer lodging and a whole bunch of other stuff.
The Montana Whitewater Rafting and Zipline Company offer half-and full-day trips on the Yellowstone. They also provide the Yellowstone EcoTour Zipline on the mountains bordering Yellowstone.
Wild West Rafting runs float trips through Yellowstone’s majestic Paradise Valley, and it’s great for wildlife watching and photography, as well as high-quality whitewater and scenic river trips.
7. Fishing for Big Fish at Casper
If you’re not a fan of wet and wild, then we’ve got damp and gentle? Head out to Yellowstone Lake or the Madison River for fly or lure fishing. If you want to test your luck, you can head out to Casper: “The No. 1 Big Fish Destination.”
You can take a breather and fish for native Yellowstone cutthroat, brown trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout larger than most anglers can imagine.
8.Yellowstone Lake Tours and Boating
You can also enjoy the scenery from the water with Yellowstone’s lake tours. You can explore the lake and learn about the area’s colorful history, including the Lake Yellowstone Hotel’s history.
You can also choose to escape the crowds on the shore and go out on a kayak or a canoe. You can go boating and explore the lake scenery without a tour on a rowboat or motorboat.
You will need to submit your boats for inspection, and you’ll also need a permit. You can find the rules and regulations for boating or kayaking here.
9. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a must-see in Yellowstone National Park. It’s over 24 miles (39km) long, up to 4,000 feet (1.2km) wide, and some parts being 1,200 feet (365m) deep.
You should absolutely include this in your itinerary because it is one of the best things to do when visiting Yellowstone National Park. Go up to the Artist Point to view the magnificent scenery of the canyon and the Lower Falls.
10. Native American Culture
One thing to note inside Yellowstone is its reservations for Native American Culture. It is full of Native American lore and traditions.
One tradition to keep an eye out for is the dance in the Wind River Reservation. You can watch this dance at the Wind River Casino and Hotel.
You can also visit Sacajawea’s gravesite or explore the churches and museums along the way.
About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.