Yellowstone National Park, located primarily in Wyoming with some parts in Montana and Idaho, is famous for its geothermal activity and the wildlife inhabiting it. It is one of the few remaining ecosystems which have been untouched by commercialization, with inhabitants that lived in the region when first explored by white exploration teams, living there to this day. Yellowstone was made a national park in 1872, and has since welcomed millions of visitors for hiking and camping. Summer is one of the best times to visit, autumn is a good time and less crowded, winters are freezing cold with fantastic skiing trails. Spring brings vagarious weather and is avoidable.
Approximately 80% forest and the the rest grassland, Yellowstone National Park covers an area of about 2,221,766 acres, made up of lakes, canyons, mountain ranges, and rivers. It lies in the Yellowstone Plateau region at an altitude of around 8,000 ft above sea level and is surrounded by mountains. Mount Washburn, which is 10,243 ft high, is the most visited and prominent mountain peak in the park.
The Continental Divide through the southwest part of the park is a topographic feature that separates the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans water drainage. Some of the rivers such as Yellowstone and Snake rivers originate near each other but due to the divide, the Snake drains into the Pacific Ocean while the Yellowstone drains into the Atlantic Ocean through the Gulf of Mexico. The Yellowstone originates near the Yellowstone River Picnic Area and rises up to the eastern tip of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, offering some magnificent views of the Canyon along the trail.
Approximately half of the world’s geothermal energy is located in Yellowstone, with continuous volcanic activity here. The largest volcano on the continent, the Yellowstone Caldera, has had several eruptions over the last two million years. The underlying magma body that releases tremendous heat is responsible for the beautiful geysers and springs in the area, with the color being added by bacterial population. The soaring geysers and vibrant blue-green geothermal pools make it the ultimate destination for nature lovers. The Old Faithful, Artist Paintpots, Mammoth Springs and a lot of other geothermal marvels are the highlights of the park. Yellowstone Lake on top of Caldera is one of the highest altitude lakes in North America at 7,733 ft above sea level, and has long, beautiful stretches along its banks for hikers to enjoy.
Obviously, there are numerous hiking trails in the area –
- Beaver Ponds – One of Yellowstone’s shorter loops trailing through both meadows and forest. Black bears and wild flowers usually dominate the flora and fauna of this part of the world.
- Monument Geyser Basin – This is short but steep hike, where you can see the stunning view of Elk Park meadow and the meandering Gibbon River leading to Monument Geyser Basin.
- Pelican Valley – This moderately easy hike goes through prime habitat for bison and other grassland animals, with bridges, a forest, valley and a hydrothermal area on the way.
- Specimen Ridge – This trail leads to the tip of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone at the one mile point, then to east reaching the top of the Amethyst Mountain.
- Grebe Lake – A trail used mainly by fishermen and backpackers, the trail goes to Grebe Lake, the headwater of the Gibbon River system. Deer and moose are often spotted along the trail and at the lake.
- Fairy Falls – The 197-foot Fairy Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the Yellowstone.
- Bunsen – This moderately strenuous trail goes up to the summit of Bunsen Peak, offering panoramic views of the Blacktail Plateau, Swan Lake Flat, Gallatin Mountain Range, and the Yellowstone Valley.
- Osprey Falls – Travel about three miles along the road from Bunsen Peak to reach the breathtaking Osprey Falls Trail.
- Grizzly Lake – Starting out in a meadow, then climbing 250 feet up a ridge and traveling through burned forest, the route offers excellent views of Mount Holmes and the Gallatin Range.
- Lost Lake – An easy trail, which starts behind Roosevelt Lodge (Tower Junction), then goes into the forested hillside, coming to a fork, going westwards to the Lost Lake which is about quarter of a mile away.
Wildlife is abundant and exceptional – black bears, wolves, moose, coyotes, mountain lions, white pelicans and more inhabit the vast, pristine areas. Herds of the once endangered North American Bison graze the rolling grasslands and Grizzly Bears hunt in the forests.
There are numerous ranches and lodges to stay, or you can camp out in the park. The log-made Old Faithful Inn, one of the few of its kind in the USA, is a must-visit, and a great place to stay. There is also fly fishing and kayaking.
One of the most visually stunning places in the world, the Yellowstone National Park is an incredible place to witness and appreciate the glory of nature. You must spend atleast a couple of days here but if you are unable to, try a day tour through the park at http://www.partner.viator.com/en/12401/tours/Jackson-Hole/Yellowstone-National-Park-Tour-from-Jackson-/d5261-6055YSNP