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Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

9 Things To Do In Yellowstone National Forest- A Tourism Hub On Its Own (2024)

If you belong to the American States, including Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, you might not need an introduction for the Yellowstone National Forest. This 3,500-sq.-mile recreational area is rich in wilderness, lush forests, dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, gushing geysers, hot springs, waterfalls, flora, and fauna. It is a wonderland of geothermal activity and will never fail to impress even the most seasoned wild space travelers. You may be a first-timer or have been to multiple National forests before; Yellowstone is something you will love for life.

Regardless of your interests, Yellowstone has so much to do for everyone. Even a month in this oldest National Forest of the United States is way too little for exploring it finely. From enjoying a leisurely car-based excursion to staying in tents amidst the wild, the variety of options here adds to a world apart experience. Today’s guide is all about the places, landmarks, and activities you can enjoy in the Yellowstone National Forest.

8 Things To Do In Yellowstone National Forest- A Tourism Hub On Its Own

So, without wasting much time, let’s get started.

1. Begin With The Grand Prismatic Spring

While looking for better, why not start with the best? The Grand Prismatic Spring is the world’s third-largest and United States’ largest hot-spring. Besides that, it is amongst one of the most-photographed landmarks of Yellowstone. Though what makes it unique isn’t its thermal water but the striking coloration. With shades of red, orange, yellow, blue, and green lining the hot spring, it looks as if a rainbow is surrounding it. These colors are a result of microbial mats in and around the spring. However, its strongest effect is in the center of the spring, which gives the water a deep blue color. Grand Prismatic Spring is even bigger than a football field, and its grandness appears when you stand close by.

Grand Prismatic Spring

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The best time to visit here is during the early morning hours, especially when the sky is clear. It is when the best colors of the spring are to be seen. Though mind it, this isn’t your regular hot spring to take a dip as even a drop of its boiling water can burn through your skin.

2. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is around 24 miles long, from .25 to .75 miles wide and from 800 to 1200 ft deep. It is the first canyon in the Yellowstone River downstream and a prominent feature of the forest. Everyone who has been here oath it to be an unbelievable sight and a part that one should not dare to miss. From the grand rock formations to colors and other geological details, every single element here will leave you jaw-dropped. The best way to explore the sight is hiking, especially from 11 am to 5 pm. It is because for noticing the details of the canyon and exploring both North and South rims, daylight is necessary. The North Rim has more lookout points and better views among the edges. Specifically, the Artist Point offers some incredible views of the Lower Falls.

3. Mammoth Hot Springs

A tourist’s favorite, the Mammoth Hot Springs is the most active area of Yellowstone. It is also commonly known as a cave turned inside out. This dramatic attraction is known for its unique terraces formed centuries ago. What created them was the hot water bubbling, cooling, and then depositing calcium carbonate. While most of the forest region has rhyolite in dominance, this particular region is rich in limestone. Today upon a visit here, you can observe various colors of thermophiles (heat-loving microorganisms). While the lower loop is accessible on foot, the upper loop is only accessible by car. The best time to visit here is during winters as because of hot springs summers can be unbearably hot. Mammoth Hot Springs is also a starting point for several Yellowstone hiking trails. Also, do check the adjacent Albright Visitor Center. Here you can learn about the area’s natural and cultural history along with wildlife-based contemporary exhibits.

4. Yellowstone Lake

The largest water body in the entire Yellowstone National Forest, this lake sits at an elevation of over 7000 feet. It is the largest highest-situated lake in whole North America. The Yellowstone Lake features an extensive 141 miles of shoreline. For overlooking views of the lake, you can visit West Thumb Geyser Basin during the sunset hours. Though swimming here is not allowed (due to icy water throughout the year), visitors can go boating and fishing. Considering the lake stays frozen from December until May or June, ice fishing opportunities here come in abundance. To admire Yellowstone’s beauty, Lake visitors can also choose to hike its surrounding trails. The options include the 3.5-mile Elephant Back Mountrail Trail (Challenging), 4.7-mile Avalanche Peak Trail (strenuous), 2.3-mile Storm Point Trail and 0.6-mile Pelican Creek Nature Trail (easy).

The best way to explore lake water is via guided fishing and boat rentals at Bridge Bay Marina. Or in case you bring your private boat, you will require a permit and go through an inspection process before stepping into the lake.

5. The Lamar Valley

If you are interested in spotting the wildlife of Yellowstone, then consider navigating to the Lamar Valley. Sitting in the north-eastern part of the forest, Lamar valley is often overlooked by visitors due to its remote setting. Though wildlife here stays throughout the year, the best time to spot them is during the summer season. The area is home to bison, and most likely, you may spot hundreds and thousands of them roaming around freely. Some parts of Lamar Valley also remind of African landscapes. Due to this and its animal population, the region is also known as the Serengeti of America. Visitors who are lucky enough might also spot bears, coyotes, wolves, deer, and elks. The Lamar Valley is primarily a lonely drive-through at different points. You will observe several rolling characters.

Note: The Lamar Valley Road is ideal for visiting during summer as the road often blocks during winter. Due to the icy road, it gets tricky finding an exit.

6. Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful

Upper Geyser Basin is home to the most significant number of active geysers globally. Of the long list, the most famous is the Old Faith or Old Faithful, which is a cone geyser. It isn’t the largest active geyser but a must-visit for all Yellowstone visitors. Eruptions in Old Faith are pretty predictable, and they last anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. These eruptions go nearly 130 feet high and splash a whopping 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of water out. For a more accurate eruption prediction, visitors can always check the official websites. For getting close to Old Faith, you can either gather around the immediate perimeters of the geyser. Or join the hordes of tourists for the mile-long hike out to Observation Point. From here, you can get a birds-eye view of the Upper Geyser Basin. Though, because it is one popular attraction, except for a considerable crowd.

7. Seismograph and Bluebell Pools

Located on the West Thumb Geyser Basin, the Seismograph and Bluebell Pools are unique features of Yellowstone. Both the pools are blue in colors, and for their best views, one must reach the outer loop of the Trail. This blue color comes due to the high-water temperature of the pool, nearly 165 degrees Fahrenheit. A rainbow-like colorful pattern surrounds both the pools. This pattern appears due to the micro-bacterial reaction occurring on the base and the boundaries. The bird-eye views of these pools are pretty similar to Grand Prismatic Spring and simply mesmerizing. If you happen to miss Grand Prismatic, you can visit these pools and grab a similar glimpse.

8. Yellowstone National Forest Campgrounds

Yellowstone, United States’ first park, is a prosperous region with numerous campgrounds. Its dramatic landscapes and diverse ecosystem draw millions of visitors, of which thousands choose to stay back. If you too want to pitch your tent or park your RV here overnight, the options below might excite you. Have a look:

  • The Norris Campground (It is home to 100 non-electric campsites on a first-come, first-served basis. There are food-storage boxes, flushing toilets, portable water, a fire-ring, and picnic tables).
  • Mammoth Hot Springs Campground (With 85 non-electric campsites, Yellowstone is the only campground that operates year-round.
  • Grant Village Campground (It is home to more than 400 camping, tenting, trailers, and RVing sites. Besides that, there are portable water, flushing toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, and other facilities available).
  • Bridge Bay Campground (With its proximity to water, it is home to over 400 campsites right adjacent to the Bridge Bay Marina).
  • Slough Creek Campground (It is a remote region with 23 non-electric campsites. It is an ideal camping space for wildlife watchers.)
  • Lewis Lake Campground (It is a less-busy lakefront camping space with 85 non-electric sites. One can reach here from the Southern Entrance of the Park.)

9. Yellowstone National Forest Trails

Yellowstone is also famous for its multi-purpose trail system with too many attractions. The iconic Yellowstone trails aren’t just popular in its neighboring states but Nationally and Internationally as well. Here are some of the top-rated hiking trails you can consider for your trip:

  • The West Thumb Geyser Basin Boardwalk (This half-mile Broadwalk offers the best views of West Thumb Geyser Basin. It takes no more than an hour to check this area.)
  • The Grand Prismatic Boardwalk (This half-mile Broadwalk rims on the outer boundary of GP Basin. It is just a five-minute drive from the Old Faithful Inn and one of the essential features of the park).
  • Slough Creek Trail (This 20-mile less-crowded trail wide opens to beautiful Yellowstone landscapes. It is ideal for both out-and-back day hike or overnight stay.)
  • DeLacy Creek Trail (This 5.8 miles out and back trail offers breathtaking views of Shoshone Lake. Along the way, you may also spot several wildlife).

What Is The Best Time To Visit Yellowstone?

Summers undoubtedly is the best and most-crowded time to visit Yellowstone. Though it is a year-round forest, most of the roads remain blocked during winters due to snow.

How Many Days Do You Need for the Yellowstone Must-See Spots?

Covering only the major must-see spots in Yellowstone, at least a week is a must. The time may also depend upon ones’ pace.

What Is The Best Way To Explore Yellowstone?

By a hike, walk, or through the car.

What Should I Be Careful Of In Yellowstone?

Few of the considerations to think about include:

  • Roads in Yellowstone are dangerous. Drive slowly as you might be crossed by wildlife at any moment.
  • Entire Yellowstone is rich with wildlife; thus, always stay alert. Upon spotting any animal, remain at least 50 feet away.

Unless you aren’t well-versed about hot springs, do not dive. Several springs, especially the Boiling River in Yellowstone, have boiling hot water. The temperature can burn a human alive.

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