Our original intention was to go through the North Gate into Yellowstone; however, we only found decent accommodations back at Big Sky the previous night. This meant the Western Gate would be the closest entrance. So we went back to way we came the night before. Our first stop for the day was Norris Geyser Basin, where the famous Steamboat geyser resides. The geyser is capable of shooting water 300 ft. in the air. Unfortunately, the last eruption was more than a year ago, so our hopes of it erupting while we were there were very slim. However, it did have many periodic mini spurts, which I enjoyed. The vast area of the basin was rather large and desolate and very contrast to the scenery I’m used to observing in the Pacific Northwest.
I’m guessing mostly from the air being non-hospitable for most plant life. The hiking paths in the basin are all on wooden platforms, which made the trek very easy going. We did see Vixen Geyser, which was erupting pretty consistently. Though the height of the eruptions were on average, roughly 20/30ft or so.
After leaving Norris, we stopped at a few other side attractions before arriving at Mammoth Hot Spring Upper/Lower Terraces. We arrived through the upper terraces and were lucky enough to get a parking spot
relatively quickly. Looking back, it would have been better to park in the lower terraces. I typically prefer to front load any effort by making any climbs first, then on the return trip, it’s much easier.
However, by parking at the upper terraces, we went downhill, then at the end we had to make the climb up towards the car.
While at Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace, we did see numerous elks just milling about the village. Many tourists were taking photographs (including myself) but they weren’t as majestic as the elk I got to photograph the night before. The park rangers do a good job trying to ensure the tourists don’t get to close to disturb the wildlife. But you could tell the Elk lived an easy lifestyle near the village.
We left Mammoth springs and headed towards Tower Roosevelt. I can’t remember exactly which stop we took to get the following photo, but it was an unassuming stop, and we almost skipped it. But I thought it was one of the best views in the park. You see the Canyon along with the Yellowstone River. Over the radio, there was a tourist who was tubing down the Yellowstone, which got swept away and wasn’t found yet. So if you plan on engaging in tubing activities, be careful!
We stopped by the upper falls of Canyon Village, and it was a quick hike towards them. Ideally, we would have done the lower falls and done the inspiration point hike there. However, we did have a late start to the day, and we had to make some progress towards home so my cousin and sister could go to work. On our way out of the park, many form of wildlife greeted us again.
Again due to the number of tourists and their fascination with wildlife, you can fully expect cars to stop in the middle of the road to observe them. Ideally, people do it safely, but there are many times where peoples common sense goes out the window when they encounter an animal. On our way out of the park, we encountered a pretty large group of spectators at one of the road lookout points and decided to investigate. It turns out that there was wolf out in the distance but it was just lying down. A couple of people with spotting scopes were kind enough to let us try to take a peek of it in the distance. However, all you could see was a white blur since it was lying down, I’m not even sure I really saw it. With my camera with a 200MM lens, and digitally enhanced, you couldn’t really make it out either.
In Summary of our trip to Yellowstone, It’s best to book accommodations early, even while camping. It’s also advisable to book your stay as close to the park as possible, so you don’t waste time going back and forth from the park. Staying in the park for the non-camping options were pricey, at about 500/night. There are towns near the entrances which will run ~100/night for a motel. I’d suggest paying the price premium vs. staying in a cheaper location an hour (or even 2 hours) away.