Adventure tourism can’t be much better than visiting the largest super volcano in the world at Yellowstone National Park! Yellowstone was the very first national park, not just in the United States, but in the entire world. It is largely located in the state of Wyoming but extends into Montana and Idaho. It is a fabulous place for a visit to see nature at its most spectacular.
Yellowstone National Park sits inside the caldera of a super volcano that is so vast that it was not known to be a super volcano until less than thirty years ago. While geothermal activity is obvious with the many geysers in the park, it was not until detailed satellite imagery was focused on the park that it became obvious that the park sits inside a volcano. The caldera, the largest in the entire world, is an oval measuring 43 miles (70 kilometres) and its widest and 28 miles (45 kilometres) at its narrowest. This is so colossally large that the entire rim of the volcano cannot be fully seen from anywhere on the ground. It last erupted 640,000 years ago with an enormous blast that changed the climate of the world for decades. It is still active today.
Local residents might have you for dinner!
The closest airport to Yellowstone is West Yellowstone (Montana). It is located just one mile (1.6 kilometres) north of the town of West Yellowstone which is a great spot to stay due to its many amenities. The airport is only served by flights during the months of June-September, so traveling outside of these months requires more driving. You can fly into Jackson Hole Airport, as well as the smaller airports at Cody or Idaho Falls. All of these airports are about a 3-hour drive away. Renting a car is the best way to see the national park as it affords you the luxury of exploring as much or as little as you want. The park is 3,472 square miles (8,987 square kilometres) of amazing scenery and well worth lingering over while you visit.
Here’s a Pro-tip: Yellowstone Grand Loop Road is the main road of the national park. If you are in a hurry, you can drive it in about eight hours but I recommend you travel slowly through the park over several days. There’s just so much to see!
It is easy to forget who amazingly large the western United States is. The nearest two major population centres to Yellowstone National Park are Salt Lake City which is 320 miles away and Denver which is over 500 miles away! Once you are in the park, however, you’ll be treated to incredible sites including:
- Grand Prismatic Spring – This is the largest hot spring in the US and the third largest in the world. It’s multiple-coloured layers are caused by bacteria that love heat. The spring boasts vibrant blues, greens, yellows, orange and red layers and is best seen on a bright sunny day.
- Upper Geyser Basin– There are over 150 Geysers here. It is the best place in the park to witness this amazing geothermal phenomenon. Here’s some you should not miss:
- – Old Faithful Geyser is a remarkable landmark and probably the most popular attraction in the park. It erupts roughly every 90 minutes and is fantastic to witness.
- – Morning Glory Pool is located at the end of a trail and is a stunning deep hole of colour. It’s the perfect spot to hike to as you pass so many beautiful Geysers on the way such as Castle Geyser and Grotto Geyser.
- Wildlife – One of the best things you can do in Yellowstone is watch the wildlife in their natural habitat. To do this I suggest you visit these two valleys:
- – Lamar Valley is quite remote but totally worth it for animal and nature lovers. Thousands of wild bison can be seen roaming here and even causing some traffic jams. The early mornings or evenings are best to spot these amazing creatures, as well as elk, pronghorn deer, bear, coyotes, and rare wolves, if you’re lucky!
- – Hayden Valley is also a bison hotspot and it’s slightly more accessible as it’s located between two popular landmarks. Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Lake are on either side of Hayden Valley on the Yellowstone Grand Loop Road.
- Yellowstone Lake – This is the perfect spot to enjoy during the summertime. You can join a kayaking or fishing tour or just gaze at the incredible views.
- Hiking Mount Washburn – This amazing trail is opening back up in the spring of 2022 and is challenging even if it is only 3.2 miles (5.2km). It has a sharp vertical rise but you’ll be rewarded with amazing panoramic views from the top.
- Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Centre – This second chance centre for animals that have come too close to humans is an amazing educational experience where you witness magnificent wild animals up close, without being eaten.
- Boiling River – This offers a spa day in nature! This natural hot tub is the perfect place to relax and unwind after exploring or hiking, you can soak in the hot river and take in the beautiful scenery.
While trail food is your best bet while hiking, there are still some wonderful restaurants in and near the park including:
- Firehole Bar-B-Que Co. – For delicious smoked meats head to this cosy restaurant with a farmhouse feel. Try their mouth-watering pork ribs with a side of homemade mac and cheese.
- Beartooth Barbecue – If you’re from outside the United States, you’ll really appreciate the rustic style of this cool, saloon-like restaurant. Expect all the usual meaty wonders including in-season game.
Pass the deer, dear!
- Mountain Mama’s Coffee House & Bakery – This is the perfect breakfast or tea time spot in West Yellowstone. The restaurant serves delicious, sweet treats like blueberry pies, scones and turnovers, wild game breakfast burritos and much more mostly from local produce.
The attractions of a national park at night are not big-city pursuits but they are incredibly enriching. Try these nightspots:
- Bear Pit Lounge – At Old Faithful Inn, this hidden gem gives you amazing views over Old Faithful Geyser. You can enjoy a cold beer and marvel at the natural beauty outside.
- Star-gazing – You should not miss the spectacular stars here. With little light pollution, you’re sure to marvel at the star-studded sky. My favourite spots for viewing are the Upper Geyser Basin and the Mammoth Hot Spring on the upper boardwalk terraces.
- Evening Wildlife Encounters – You can join an organised tour to view nocturnal wildlife. Tours are usually around four hours of wonder.
There are beautiful places to stay in and around the national park. My favourite area is West Yellowstone because of its modern amenities just one mile (1.6 kilometres) from the park entrance. These are my favourites in the area:
- Old Faithful Inn – Built in 1903, this iconic lodge is considered to be one of the largest log structures in the world. It is one of the old lodges in the park and is beautifully located near Old Faithful.
- The Adventure Inn Yellowstone – Just 300 meters from The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Centre, this cosy and stylish hotel has all of the amenities you’ll want! Deluxe rooms are like apartments with fitted kitchens.
- Golden Stone Inn – This boutique style hotel offers modern Montana style in a beautiful and rustic setting. The rooms are in little cabins and offer all the luxury of a big hotel right in the middle of nature.
A panoramic view of incredible majesty!
There are only six or maybe seven known super-volcanoes in the world and Yellowstone Caldera is the largest. The unique ecosystem that is created by the heated ground is spectacular and worth a visit, if you love nature!