Yellowstone National Park is an absolutely huge park and there are so many amazing things to see, that I had to just limit myself to the big things. Now I have more reasons to go back and see the rest of it! I don’t go to a ton of national parks simply because I almost always have Motown with me. National parks are not a great place for dogs because they are basically not allowed anywhere except in the parking lots.
I was in Wyoming to watch the eclipse and was already planning on doing a backpacking trip in the Wind River range to end my week, so I already had Motown with me and just had to make the most of it. When I realized that it was going to be a four hour drive from Thermopolis to the trailhead that I was planning on taking, I decided to change my plans around and drive an hour and a half Northwest to see Yellowstone. I have never seen it before and knew that this was a perfect opportunity to do it. So I left the campground in Thermopolis and headed west.
The drive from Thermopolis to Cody, Wyoming was pretty uneventful. A stop in Cody to grab a little bit more food for Motown and I and still looking for a map of the Wind River range. Locating a map was a surprisingly difficult task. I came in to Yellowstone National Park at about 11 a.m. through the East entrance. It was obvious in the eastern part of the Park to see how wildfire had ravaged the landscape years ago, and in some places just a couple of months earlier. When I finally came up and over the pass to see Yellowstone Lake, I was in awe at the size of it. I couldn’t believe it! It’s huge! The Grand Circle of the Park is a two-lane highway that circles the Park and gives you amazing views of the lake and other natural features of the Park.
The first place I decide to stop is West Thumb Geyser Basin. These are a series of geysers and geothermal pools that butt up right to Yellowstone Lake. I could not take Motown on any of the walkways so I quickly let him out for the restroom and then put him back in the truck and parked the truck in the shade with all the windows down. I headed out to the walkways to do the quickest path through them. The colors that I saw were absolutely amazing and this was the first time ever for me seeing any kind of geysers. It was absolutely amazing and it will be hard to figure out which of these pictures is my favorite.
I head back to the truck because the next stop is one I’m pretty excited about, Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin. One of the great things about this area is that I was able to bring Motown to watch Old Faithful with me. He was not allowed on the walkways but there was plenty of room behind all of the people and in the shade of the tall pine trees to watch Old Faithful with everybody. Again I had parked the truck in a shady spot so I was able to bring Motown back to the truck so that I could do a quick walk about in the Upper Geyser Basin. There were so many geysers, I lost count! This is an absolutely amazing geothermal area. There were even what I like to call ghost trees. These are trees that over hundreds of years have become white from the sulfur and basically have been petrified. They are a stark contrast to the crazy colors of the springs and geysers.
While I was on the Upper Geyser Basin walkabout, another visitor let me know about the Grand Prismatic. So I headed up to see that. I happened upon a parking area that wasn’t as crowded and it turned out that it was the parking lot for a short hike to go see the Grand Prismatic from up above. It was a really nice reprieve from the truck and was a nice little mini workout due to the fact that I had to hurry. I’ve seen pictures of the Grand Prismatic before but couldn’t believe how true the colors were in those pictures! I thought for sure there was a whole bunch of photo shopping going on!
After the Grand Prismatic I realized that I was running out of daylight and was going to need to find somewhere to camp. I had stopped by the campground at Madison and like all of the other campgrounds in the Park, it was full. So much for it not being as busy on a Wednesday. So I head out of the Park to West Yellowstone which is across the border in Montana. I thought for sure that I would be able to find some dispersed camping but, of course, everything was full there as well! So I ended up driving into Idaho to a trailhead. I was not the only one that had that idea. I didn’t want to get everything out of my backpack so I just put the seats down in the back of the truck and used that as my tent.
Waking super early the next morning, I head back into town to grab coffee and start looking into the northern side of Yellowstone. I was hoping to get to the Lamar Valley right around sunrise, but was pleasantly surprised by what awaited me at the Norris Geyser Basin. Only able to see about half of it, gives me something to go back and see. So it’s okay! Going to these basins in bright early morning sunlight was absolutely amazing. Seeing the sun come through the steam and the rising steam was such an amazing experience!
I headed back to the truck as I am excited to get to the Lamar Valley and get up and over Dunraven Pass. Tower Fall is on the way as well, which I’ve heard is absolutely amazing to see in person. I am stopped however, by construction. By the way...I hate construction. I know it’s a necessary evil but couldn’t they find a better time to do it? Sitting at a standstill for about a half hour, I decide that I really need to keep going and we’ll have to see the Lamar Valley the next time I come for a visit. I still have to drive through Grand Teton National Park today and find a campsite at the trailhead so I can start my backpacking trip tomorrow.
I see on the map that there is a north rim drive to see the Grand View of the Upper Falls. I decide to go ahead and take it. The view of Yellowstone Canyon reminds me so much of the Grand Canyon. What I’m struck by, however, is the amount of people that are taking selfies or having their picture taken in front of the falls behind them. Maybe I’m just more of a nature person, but it seems to me that I just want pictures of the falls themselves not pictures of me with the falls. Maybe that comes from me traveling alone so much. I am extremely disappointed to see that the road to Inspiration Point is closed for work. Just another thing to add to my list for the next time I come back!
As I make my way through Hayden Valley, I see an entire herd of bison in the distance. I pull off the road and get a couple of pictures. There’s a woman there that has a crazy good scope and says that she is seeing a wolf on a bison kill. I grab my binoculars out of the truck but cannot find what she is seeing. My binoculars are just not good enough. I am so bummed! I look and look for a few more minutes and then realize that I really need to get going. Time is not on my side.
I start my drive south to Grand Teton National Park. Of course, I was stopped for a long period of time on the south end of Yellowstone because of more road construction. Once through the construction and about an hour down the road I start to see the iconic Grand Teton and at the base of it Jackson Lake. I stopped at Colter Bay to take a look around.
I have never seen mountains like this and I have never seen pebbles on a beach like this. They are every color of the rainbow! So beautiful! To indulge, I let another visitor take a picture of me in front of the mountains. I work my way down to Jenny Lake to see the mountains from there. Stopping several times on my way through the park, I take way too many pictures of the same mountains! But the lighting is a little bit weird because it's cloudy. So I’m trying to make sure that the picture I take do the mountains justice. Hopefully you’ll like what I have come up with.
I finished up my tour of Yellowstone and Grand Teton by driving through Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Motown and I stop by their Visitor Center and thank goodness I did because finally I have found a topographic map of the Wind River Range. Who knew it would be so hard to find that map! It’s a two-hour drive to the trailhead to start my trip in the Wind River Range. As I drive, I think back on the last 24 hours and realize what a whirlwind it has been. I wouldn’t trade it for anything though because I got to see so many things that I’ve never seen before. Don’t ever be afraid to try to fit more in, there’s always time, even if it’s not a whole bunch of time. And who knows, maybe it will wet your whistle to make you want to come back for more!