We drove south from Glacier National Park on US 89, on long, lonely stretches of road and under a sky that went forever. We came into Yellowstone National Park at the north entrance via Gardiner, MT around 6 pm on Thursday, 6/16/16. We immediately saw elk lounging around the parking area.
Well, she looks good!
This entrance brings you into the Mammoth Hot Springs area so we stopped and took the tour. The terraces here are quite other-worldly and almost unnatural. The extensive boardwalk system allows visitors to get pretty up close to the hot features! You can see pictures of the thermal features we saw in Yellowstone in the post “Thermal Yellowstone.” From there we left and drove to the Canyon Village area to get checked in for our 5-night stay.
On Friday, we got up and drove to the Norris Geyser Basin. After exploring the geysers and thermal features there, including the Artists Paintpots, we came back toward Canyon Village and visited Artist’s Point and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Note: click on any photo to see it full screen or captions.
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone from Artist’s Point
The dark green streak is not plant material; it represents a deeper channel of water.
This view is further back from Artist’s Point
We were lucky to have cameras in hand when this rainbow appeared for just a few seconds.
Beautiful colors caused by varying levels of iron (Artist’s Point)
An evening view of the rocks that gave the park its name.
Saturday, we went north and east from our lodge to visit the Lamar Valley. On our way, we stopped at Dunraven Pass to look at high elevation wildflowers and meadows. You can see pictures of the wildflowers we saw in the post “Yellowstone Wildflowers.” Lamar Valley is known as an area for wildlife viewing and it did not disappoint. We saw pronged antelope, huge amounts of bison, a young bear at a river crossing, sheep at Calcite Springs overlook. We also stopped by Tower Falls. To see pictures of some of the wildlife we saw, visit the post “Wildlife We Saw.”
So many different landscapes.
Forest generation perhaps due to a previous fire.
Yellowstone has plenty of mountain views.
Snow could still be found in June.
Evening light lasts a long time so after dinner we headed out again, this time going south to Mud Volcano. We saw a big crowd so, of course, we stopped to see what animal they had found. It was a beautiful male elk sitting quietly in the grass. From there we went further south to explore the top end of Lake Yellowstone and the Fishing Bridge area.
On our way back to the lodge, we found another crowd. Here people were looking very far away, across a small river. Some people thought that a wolf had taken down a bison. It didn’t appear so after all, but a male bison, a female, and a young calf were clearly upset about something and started running until they reached the safety of a group much further away. We got back into the car and went to the small store at Canyon Village for cereal and beer and got back in time to see a great sunset.
Small pond near Canyon Village
Top of Yellowstone Lake
Sunset outside our lodge
On Sunday, we drove south and west into the lower part of the park to see Old Faithful. We got to the Visitor Center at 9:45 am and saw a big sign that the next predicted eruption would be at 10:10 am. It was right on time and lasted about 4 minutes, plenty of time for pictures and video. We walked around the extensive boardwalk to explore the Upper Geyser Basin which had some gorgeous thermal features and then had lunch in the cafeteria and drove north to the Midway Geyser Basin to see the spectacular Grand Prismatic Spring.
From there we decided to go the West Thumb area so we went south again and then east, stopping at the Continental Divide along the way (we crossed it several times during our whole trip). The geyser area at West Thumb was very nice. Remember you can see pictures of thermal features here. We continued north from here back up to Fishing Bridge for an afternoon coffee at the gift shop and picked up some souvenirs (the selection of t-shirts varies greatly from shop to shop).
The view heading east
The view behind us
It’s still Sunday … and we decided to continue east from Fishing Bridge out to the Yellowstone east entrance. The pictures above show how different Yellowstone can be: the picture on the left as we ended east; the picture on the right was behind us.
We spotted a crowd at the guard station, and, since we all know that means an animal, stopped to find them admiring a young moose on the edge of a wetland. He entertained us all with a little dance in the water and Sara captured it on video. We drove out the east entrance to look for gas and a meal – we had to go about 20 miles before we found either! But the restaurant was nice and the gas was cheap and we enjoyed seeing the different rock formations. On our way back we saw a herd of elk and stopped for a few sunset pics. What a day!
Shoshone National Forest
Sunset in Yellowstone on our way back in, near Canyon Village.
Traveling towards Wapiti in Shoshone National Forest
Shoshone National Forest
Unfortunately this antler seller was closed.
Monday became a day to finish up loose ends so we went north first to see the Petrified Tree. (The area was closed on the day we went to Lamar Valley because of a bear in the area.). We stopped on the way at the trail area for Mount Washburn to see more high elevation wildflowers (can’t get too many of those). As we passed the Tower Falls area, there was a crowd so we stopped to watch a young female sheep and her ewe try to enjoy breakfast with the crowd. A huge truck went past and she decided that was enough and they scrambled out of view.
Sheep decide road is not the place to be
After the Petrified Tree, we went west back towards the north entrance where we saw some great antelope right near the Yellowstone sign. We went into Gardiner for a meal and then came back and drove south and west to Madison but didn’t go all the way out. On our way back, another crowd alerted us to the presence of a young frisky coyote way off in a field. That night, there were bison in the area around the lodge and we could watch them from a balcony. A video that I took from the balcony is here. It was a nice ending to our stay in Yellowstone.
Example of a talus slope where rock erodes into a boulder field.
Roadside flowers on our way south.
Roadside lupines on our way south.