We spent a little over 2 weeks camping outside of Yellowstone National Park. As the oldest National Park in the US, I’m sure you can imagine there’s so much to do and see. From hot springs to geysers to wildlife to the views, it a reminder of how beautiful and diverse our country is. Even with two weeks in Yellowstone, we still didn’t do everything the park has to offer, but here is our list of things you simply must do in Yellowstone National Park.
Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park
Let’s get the obvious out of the way… I’m not sure if there’s anything more iconic in Yellowstone than Old Faithful. And for good reason, it’s an incredible act of nature.
Old Faithful is the largest, most consistent geyser in the park. It’s not the single largest and it’s not the single most consistent, but it is the largest one that is that consistent – does that make sense?
Old Faithful erupts every 35 to 120 minutes. The geyser reaches a height of 90 to 185 feet. If you’re planning your visit, download the Yellowstone Geyser app. It has info about the geysers and the next eruption time. It does require service or wifi, which is limited inside the park, so check it while you have service.
Since Old Faithful is the tourist attraction and surrounded by the Inn and visitors center, it can be extremely crowded. We decided to go the first evening we were there around 6:30 pm. It’s a little less crowded than in the middle of the day, so we were lucky enough to get a seat on the front row.
Old Faithful was the perfect way to start our time at Yellowstone. Plus, we saw a bison on the way there.
Grand Prismatic Spring
Yellowstone is full hot springs, but I dare say Grand Prismatic Spring is the most beautiful. Not only is Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the park, but it also displays a variety of colors from yellow, oranges and reds, which are actually caused by heat-loving bacteria.
Located in Midway Geyser Basin, you will get to see Opal Pool, Turquoise Pool, Excelsior Geyser, and Firehole River when visiting Grand Prismatic Spring. Just a short walk around the boardwalk and you get to see several of Yellowstone’s most beautiful thermal features.
Depending on your schedule, you could stop here on the same day you visit Old Faithful. The two attractions are about 7 miles apart. Remeber early in the day or late in the afternoon is best for these popular attractions.
Lamar Valley is on the Northern side of Yellowstone National Park and is a must on our list of things you simply must do in Yellowstone. If you can wake up early (like, really early) and get there around sunrise, you’ll have the best chance at seeing a variety of animals and beating the crowds.
You will definitely see herds of bison and may even find yourself in a bison jam.
Wolves, coyotes, grizzlies, and pronghorn can all be spotted in Lamar Valley. If you have binoculars or a spotting scope, be sure to bring them. Beyond the wildlife, the valley itself is a beautiful place to explore.
I’m sure you guessed it, the open valleys are great places to spot wildlife. Hayden Valley, located in central Yellowstone, is another great place to see animals. Huge herds of bison hang around the Yellowstone River that runs through Hayden Valley.
There are several pullouts and overlooks to stop and watch the wildlife from.
Just beyond Hayden Valley heading toward Yellowstone Lake along the Yellowstone River are a few pullouts. Luke spent a few days fishing in this area where you can catch native Yellowstone Trout. We also saw a herd of bison cross the river here – so cool!
Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Spring is one you simply can’t miss. It’s so different from the other hot springs in the park. Located in the northwestern part of the park, it’s totally worth the drive. The complex travertine terraces continually flow with thermal water. As the limestone in the water reaches the surface, it deposits forming the rock of the terraces. It’s really incredible!
You can see the main terrace from the road, but it’s worth walking around the boardwalk to see all of the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces.
The Boiling River is another can’t miss on the list of things you simply must do in Yellowstone National Park. Here, hot spring water enters the cold Gardner River water and combines to be the perfect soaking spot.
The area opened to swimming and soaking is about a 5-minute walk from the parking lot on a dirt path. If you get in at the parking lot, you’ll just be in cold water.
The best time to visit the Boiling River, in my opinion, is earlier in the day or late in the afternoon – you’ll want to miss the crowds if possible. Note: Boiling River is closed at dark and closes in spring when the river water is flowing to strong, so check with the park rangers before heading that way.
There is so much to do and see in Yellowstone National Park. It really has something for everyone. If you’ve visited before, let us know what your favorite part is in the comments.