Google Yellowstone National Park and you are bombarded with information. Try searching Pinterest for all things Yellowstone and you will be inundated with suggestions. There’s the 5 Best Hikes, the 7 Best Places to Stay, the 6 Local Breweries, 10 Activities for Kids, and on and on and on…
There is so much information, advice and opinions that it can be pretty overwhelming. But, as very excited Yellowstone 1st timers we saw all that information come to life! Here’s just some of our initial observations:
YELLOWSTONE – A BEHEMOTH OF A PARK!
No matter what people have told you, what you have read, what you have seen on both tv and in the movies – “seeing is believing”! Every twist and turn delivers a new photo opp. There’s miles of wide boardwalks for close-up viewing and observation decks at most locations. There are five Visitor Education Centres within Yellowstone and each and every one of them is educational and so well outfitted. Yellowstone National Park is an active volcano! And the more than two million acres are breathing, oozing, hot, alive and sometimes smelly!
PROTECT YOURSELF AND THE FEATURES!
Caution – scalding water! Stay on boardwalks and official trails! Don’t touch! Acidity levels are high enough to remove flesh from bone! Toxic gases are present. If you feel sick, leave the location immediately! Do not throw anything into the features!
What is it about these signs that make you want to reach out and test their warning?
TIMING IS EVERYTHING!
We arrived West Yellowstone on May 1st and every day we said we’re 2 weeks too early! Winter was still hanging on and spring was in its infancy. Some of the roads within the park were still closed; some hiking trails impassible; bathrooms still closed for the season and picnic pull-outs chained off. Its like the Park was coming out of hibernation – Museums were closed but being cleaned up. Stores were re-stocking their shelves and Help Wanted signs were everywhere. In no way did this detract from our experience!
On the flip side – would we really want to be here during peak tourist season? Locals claim that late May and anytime after Labour Day are the best times to visit. Anything in between is madness! If only we could pop in for 20 minutes!
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE YELLOWSTONE ANIMALS!
When you come up behind a line of stopped cars with brake lights as far as you can see and no traffic moving in the opposite direction – you have an “Animal Jam” – and its likely Bison! On one particular stretch of highway it was each and every time we travelled. You would just creep along the highway never knowing which lane the Bison would move to. What was amazing was how eerily quiet they were as they walked in a herd. There were no animal grunts – no sounds as their hoofs hit the pavement – only the sound of our 4-way flashers! Once the bison calves came along we would giggle as they jumped, danced, galloped and played with the other calves. Each and every Animal Jam was amazing!
When you come up to a line of parked cars – usually on both sides of the highway – and tourists standing with binoculars, cameras either mounted on tripods or focusing their humongous zoom lens – you have an “Animal Spotting”. While Bison and Elk sightings were common, these animal spottings were hopefully bear or wolf! The one time we stopped and asked what was going on was the picture of a cub high up in a pine tree with the mama Black Bear down below scrounging for food. I could barely contain my excitement (pun intended)…
There must be a ‘gazillion’ Old Faithful photos in the cloud! I looked back at the crowd of on-lookers with their phones, i-pads, cameras all taking the same shots! Ha – ours are up there too!
Try to take your photos on sunny bright blue sky days! Against grey skies your photos of geysers, mud pots and hot springs are gloomy. Imagine the contrast of the billowing steam against bright blue skies. Cooler days had more steam/mist coming from the springs which detracted from the photos and muted the brilliant colours of the pools. Use the gloomy overcast days to visit the museums, wildlife sanctuaries and theatres.
Within much of the Park boundaries you have “No Wifi Service”. Thank goodness the cameras on our devices don’t need service!
ACCOMMODATION FOR EVERYONE!
Cute cabins (like this one), hotels and motels are plentiful! There are RV parks that can accommodate our size but they are usually outside the park boundaries. Like with most National Parks the smaller motorhomes and travel trailers are better suited within the Park’s campgrounds.
CONSTRUCTION IS INEVITABLE!
Be prepared for lane closures and stops of 30 minutes or more. With No Wifi Service it’s a good opportunity for a nap or a dog walk!
NO PETS ALLOWED!
Speaking of dogs – they are not allowed on any trails or boardwalks! The weather was cool enough we could bring Gracie and leave her in the truck. Parking lots, pull-outs and construction stops were her walking place. “Gracie, there’s some bison!” – brought her to her feet!