Yellowstone, the First U.S. National Park, Celebrates 145 Years
Old Faithful is just one of Yellowstone National Park's 500 geysers.
Yellowstone, located in the northwest corner of Wyoming and spilling into Idaho and Montana, stands out among the country’s national parks due to its high level of geothermal activity.
Although many have heard only of the legendary “Old Faithful” geyser, there is much, much more within Yellowstone National Park’s boundaries. Some 500 smaller geysers and thousands of hot springs, many of which are accessible to those unwilling or unable to hike into the backcountry, coupled with diverse wildlife and thousands of square miles of vast wilderness, make this park a must-see.
Surrounded by mountain towns immediately to the north, east, and west, and bordered by Grand Teton National Park to the south, there is plenty to do not only within, but also around the park. And those who visit the park will also experience a bit of history: Established on March 1, 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant, Yellowstone was the first national park in the world.
Where to Stay
With nine lodging facilities with more than 2,000 rooms within the park, Yellowstone caters to those who want the excitement of the outdoors without sacrificing the comforts a resort vacation provides.
The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins is one of two that are open in the winter, offering guests spectacular rooms within close proximity to the renowned Old Faithful geyser. At 7,300 feet above sea level, the lodge offers snowcoach tours during the winter months. Yellowstone is one of the most popular national parks, so be sure to book well in advance, no matter what time of year.
Yellowstone is home to 12 different campgrounds, boasting a total of more than 2,150 front-country campsites throughout the park. Mammoth Campground, located near the north entrance of the park, is the only campground within the park that is open year-round. Its location makes it an ideal place to spend the night on the way into or out of the park. Be sure to check out the Mammoth Hot Springs during your stay.
For those who want to escape the crowds, venturing into the expansive mountains of the Yellowstone backcountry is the best and most rewarding way to see the park. A system of designated backcountry campsites exist within the park in order to limit the impacts that humans have on the ecosystem during backcountry travel. Reserve a site in advance, and obtain a backcountry permit within 48 hours of your intended stay. Only individuals competent in backcountry travel should attempt a trip of this type.
Related: A Guide to Voyageurs National Park
What to Do
A visit to Yellowstone is always better if you get out the hiking boots and get off the beaten path.
With more than 900 miles of trails throughout the park, there are hikes of varying length and difficulty to choose from. Although Yellowstone is one of the most popular parks in the country, most visitors do not leave the pavement and explore more of the park’s 2.2 million acres.
When to Visit
Any time of year is great for visiting Yellowstone National Park. Summer is more popular, those who are willing to spend time outdoors during the winter months should consider planning their trip to Yellowstone then.
In addition to the pristine mountains blanketed in snow along with great snowshoeing and backcountry skiing opportunities, visitors will find that they will not be fighting the crowds of the front-country nearly as much this time of year.