Yellowstone National Park is not only one of the best parks in the world. It is the first US National Park, being declared so in 1872, and the very first national park in the world. The park is the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest remaining nearly-intact ecosystem in the Earth’s northern temperate zone. Since 1978 it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
These facts alone should give you an idea of its importance.
It is a famous park all over the world, and rightly so. The amount of attractions and things to do in Yellowstone National Park is astounding and will require some planning. We hope to facilitate it by selecting for you the 7 top attractions and things to do in Yellowstone National Park. Let’s see them one by one.
1. Old Faithful and the Geysers of the Yellowstone National Park
With being listed in our things to do in Yellowstone National Park list, everyone has seen at least one picture of the hundreds of geysers dotting the Yellowstone national park. Old Faithful is the most famous geyser in the Yellowstone National Park, located on the western side of the park. It is surrounded by a visitors’ center, stores, and even an inn. It erupts around every 90 minutes, and it is a not to miss attraction when in the Yellowstone National Park. Its hot water jets are big and regular, nearly guaranteeing you to witness one each visit.
It is not the most active geyser, nor the biggest one. About 465 geysers are active throughout the Yellowstone National park, and the biggest one is instead The Steamboat Geyser. Whereas The Old Faithful is regular in its activity, The Steamboat is not. It can pass weeks without any explosion. Try your luck, though, as it is truly an impressive show when it decides to let out its internal pressure.
The Yellowstone National Park is an active volcanic area, a caldera. It is far from rare to find geysers, pools of hot water, fumaroles, and old craters here and there. Walking around the Yellowstone National Park will show how active the area is.
2. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone National Park
Dividing the park nearly in two, the Yellowstone river shapes The Grand Canyon. Waterfalls and a few river rapids are parts of the canyon. Various hiking trails are going uphill to admire it from above. One of the most popular hiking trails is named The Old Tom’s path, and it is the one that is the easiest for most visitors. No trail is straightforward, though, so be warned.
The Grand Canyon is rightfully one of the top things to do in Yellowstone National Park due to its sheer beauty. Various colors of the rocks alternate with the pine forests and the waterfalls. River rapids are present here and there. The best view can be seen from the appropriately-named The Grand View Observation Point. From there, you can admire the main waterfall and most spectacular areas of The Grand Canyon. Even better would be hiking a little further uphill to Inspiration Point. That is a higher point of observation, which allows you to see a more significant part of The Yellowstone river.
Wherever you decide to hike to, the Grand Canyon is one of the top things to do in Yellowstone National Park, and you can expect many visitors. It is often crowded, so be prepared to queue and take turns in shooting pictures. Despite that, it is a wonderful place not to be missed.
3. Hayden Valley of the Yellowstone National Park
If you are into watching wildlife, you’re in for a treat at Hayden Valley. Animals that populate the Yellowstone National Park are various. Over 60 species of mammals inhabit the park, including bison, wolves, elks, deer, etc.
Hayden Valley is the most popular place to spot them. It is a large swath of green on both sides of the Yellowstone River, which is in the south of the Grand Canyon. A road crosses the valley, and sometimes wild animals can be seen grazing near it. A herd of bison can relatively often block the path. If it happens, stay in your car and don’t approach the animals as they may feel threatened by you and react.
Wildlife spots can’t be guaranteed, but it is worth crossing the Hayden Valley anyway. If not for animals, for the sheer beauty of the nature around you. A sizeable green valley on both sides of the road with mountains on the horizon is what makes The Hayden Valley so renowned.
As an alternative for wildlife spotting, The Lamar Valley is located on the north-eastern side of the park. It is not as famous as The Hayden Valley, which means fewer tourists and possibly more animals. It is worth a peek if you have the time.
4. Grand Prismatic Spring of the Yellowstone National Park
In our things to do in Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Prismatic Spring is located a few miles northwest of The Old Faithful geyser. Amid an area full of smaller geysers, hot pools, and fumaroles, The Grand Prismatic Spring is the most popular attraction. The reason is simple: it’s a large pool of hot water, light blue, bordered by rocks of various colors. Mostly beiges, light browns, and reddish tones. It is easily accessible by a paved road and is big enough to have multiple points of view from which to admire it.
It is possible to walk nearly to the border of the spring, thanks to a wooden walkway. Rocks of various colors alternate with hot water and vapours, creating a surreal and a magic atmosphere.
Observing the whole area around the Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the top things to do in Yellowstone National Park. There are plenty of small geysers, hot pools, and rainbow-colored rocks to see. You can easily spend half a day just walking through this area. Don’t limit yourself to here as there are plenty more things to do in Yellowstone National Park.
5. West Thumb Geyser Basin and Lake Yellowstone
Next to the Lake Yellowstone, where the Yellowstone River flows into, there’s another geyser area. The West Thumb Geyser Basin is smaller than the others but by no mean less beautiful. The basin is next to the lake, and some of its features merge with it. The Big Cone geyser is literally inside the lake, and it boils when not submerged by the lake waters.
Areas of white rocks dot the panorama, along with fumaroles of deep blue water. Orange and ochre rock formations are omnipresent and often border a light blue hot pool. It is a compact and spectacular basin, having The Lake Yellowstone as the background makes it a unique place in the park. The lake is deep blue and calm.
The West Thumb Geyser Basin is easily accessible by a car with a small parking area at the entrance. It can be a perfect point to start exploring the rest of The Yellowstone National Park going northward. For sure, it is one of its top things to do in Yellowstone National Park.
6. Mammoth Hot Springs of the Yellowstone National Park
In the northern part of the Yellowstone National Park, these hot springs are one of its highlights. Unlike other springs and geyser basins, The Mammoth Hot Springs are mostly white stone mixing with ochre. They are less colorful yet way more majestic. The stone feels like being poured from above and gently descending towards you. White and ochre alternated hot water pools pop up here and there. It is a large area full of two-colored stones.
You can easily walk near and above the hot springs. Walkways will lead you through and around the whole area. Various terraces, boiling water, and the horizon made of pine trees and mountains give magic and unforgettable experience. The Mammoth Hot Springs are not the most active area in the Yellowstone National Park but one of the most beautiful. A road leads you right to the entrance so it’s not a problem to get to it. Don’t miss these hot springs as it is another one of the top things to do in Yellowstone National Park.
7. Fun Activities in Yellowstone National Park
In a park so vast and diverse, you can imagine how many different activities you can practice. Fishing is prevalent, as rafting down the river rapids. Hiking and biking through it is the best way to explore it when given enough time. Leave your car at one of the parking spots (they fill up quickly in summer) and start walking. It is impossible to go anywhere around the park and not to see some beautiful views, spot a wild animal, and be amazed by the panorama. Tours can be booked to walk specific trails and focus on a single zone of the vast park territories.
The more adventurous one will probably be camping inside and outside the park. With enough time, you can take part in fun activities like watching a rodeo, attending an Old West gunfight or go hunting for rocks, fossils, and even dinosaurs. The Yellowstone National Park sits on an ancient area, and small fossils and basaltic stones can occasionally be found. The hunting itself will be an excellent motivation to explore more of the Yellowstone National Park.
There is no way you can get bored inside this National Park. These activities are only a part of the top things to do in Yellowstone National Park. Ask the closest visitors’ center on what’s available.
Where to stay in Yellowstone National Park
Lodging inside the park is the most popular way to stay and visit it. Accordingly, the rooms fill up quickly, so book well in advance. Most cabins are present nearby the hot basins and geyser areas. A few of them are of historical significance. Rates reflect their unique locations and beauty.
Camping is a much cheaper option to still stay inside the Yellowstone National Park. Over a dozen campsites are present. Backcountry camping requires a permit, but it is an excellent option to be more in contact with nature and save money.
Otherwise, booking a room in a hotel near Yellowstone National Park should be the easiest route for most visitors. If you have your own car, staying outside the park allows you great flexibility and liberty of movement. You can enter the Yellowstone National Park in any direction, so it doesn’t matter where you’re staying.