If you haven’t been to Yellowstone National Park, now is a add it to your travel list! America’s National Parks are wonderful places to travel to. Not only do you get to explore some amazing natural spaces, but you will get the opportunity to view magnificent natural wonders, view wildlife, and just escape from the ins and outs of daily life for a bit.
The bulk of this 3,500 square mile park is in the Northwestern corner of Wyoming. Some areas overflow into neighboring Idaho and Montana. There are several “gateway” cities you can use to enter Yellowstone. The most popular are Jackson Hole and Cody, Wyoming. Both of these towns have flight options. Even if you choose to fly to one of these nearby towns, you will want to rent a car as Yellowstone is the ultimate place to drive! If you are looking for slightly bigger airport options, Salt Lake City, Utah is your best bet, but it will involve driving several hours to get to Yellowstone.
Yellowstone is famous for being filled with countless natural wonders. There are so many things to see here! Geysers, waterfalls, bubbling mud pots, fantastic landscapes and abundant animals fill the area!
Yellowstone is not without it’s share of headlines and controversy. Some of these issues surround the management of wildlife – especially wolves, grizzly bears, and bison.
Other issues are all about tourists behaving badly. Trust us, this is not a petting zoo and no one should approach wildlife here! On top of that, this area requires visitors to interact with the environment in a certain way. Doing so helps protect the geothermal features and the people who visit.
This is a wild environment which visitors must respect. Stay on guided trails and do not mess with the various geothermal features! Yellowstone is a great place to practice the Leave No Trace principles. But there’s more to visiting Yellowstone.
Not to fear! Armed with our easy tips and tricks, you can have a great visit to Yellowstone National Park (a.k.a. YNP).
Do Not Approach Wildlife
The first tip seems like it should be a no-brainer. However, every year, countless people ignore this general rule and pay the consequences. Whatever you do during your time in the park, do not approach wildlife! There is no selfie in the world that is worth getting gored by bison or mauled by a grizzly! The park has specific guidelines in place for the appropriate distance you must maintain.
Additionally, when predatory animals are put in a position where they attack humans, this often becomes a fatal situation. Rangers are put in the position to have to dispatch these animals.
There are so many exciting wildlife viewing opportunities in Yellowstone! Visitors see everything from the majestic bald and golden eagles to foxes, bison, and more. It is understandable that seeing these animals in nature is exciting. Especially the more highly sought after animals like bears and wolves. But, remember, there are plenty of species to see. YNP is actually home to the largest concentration of animals in the mainland US!
Some of the wildlife you can expect to see:
- Mountain lions
Again, just do not approach wildlife – plain and simple! We cannot say it enough. It is so much better to admire then from a safe distance. This ensures the safety not only of yourself, but also of the animals millions of visitors come to see each year.
Drive With Caution
The roads throughout YNP tend to be narrow and winding with little to no shoulder space. You never know what is around the bend in the road. There could easily be an animal or a crowd of people blocking traffic.
It is also important to remember that many drivers in the area are distracted by their surroundings. Slow, cautious driving is the best way to proceed throughout the park.
And, always remember, if you see a major crowd of people (and park rangers) off to the side of the road, there is likely a bear. The excitement is so overwhelming people do not care that they are standing in the middle of the road.
Plan In Advance
With millions of visitors a year, Yellowstone is popular! Rooms and camping in the park can be very expensive and may book out far in advance. There are lodging options available in nearby towns, but this still can be a bit of a commute.
Gas and food also tend to be cheaper outside of the park, but timing is really important. The shoulder season is a great time to consider due to less crowds and cheaper prices. However, many roads, gas stations, and restaurants in the out-lying areas of the park were not open for the season yet which required planning. Pack a cooler with some snacks and drinks – you’ll need it, and it will help you cut costs. Be sure to check YNP’s website for the most up-to-date information.
Dress In Appropriate Apparel Layers
This tip is crucial as you want to make sure you are prepared and comfortable during your time in the Park. The summer weather in Yellowstone can have major swings in a day. Elevation is not the only consideration here. You will also encounter wide open fields with the potential for brutally hot sunshine, rain showers, and other weather shifts. We recommend ensuring you have a minimum of the following items with you:
- Walking/hiking shoes
- Rain Jacket
Even if you are not an active traveler, there are still plenty of things here that will get you out of the car and moving! The best geothermal features require a bit of walking to access. Same with waterfalls like the notable Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River. Make sure your apparel is appropriate.
Do not come to this Park without your camera and binoculars. If you have a spotting scope, this is another item that we recommend bringing. The more “zoom” the better! There are so many beautiful things to take in at YNP.
Cell service is spotty throughout the park too, so don’t rely on it 100% of the time. But, be sure to check the website before hand for information, updates, navigation, and even webcam views.
These tips will help you have a memorable time in Yellowstone. Although spotting wildlife is never promised, the geysers, waterfalls, and valleys are beautiful and exciting too. Smart choices can make YNP a wonderful place for everyone who visits!