How to Explore Yellowstone Park
Yellowstone Park, like Yosemite Park, Manhattan, Hollywood, the Grand Canyon and Cliff Clavin’s kitchen, is one of those iconic institutions for travelers within the United States and coming from abroad. Yosemite might have gotten the idea of a government park rolling in 1864 when the land was given to the state of California for the public use (the world’s most beautiful parking lot!), but Yellowstone was the first national park established anywhere in 1872.
There are many reasons that Yellowstone became the first national park, but my mission is to help you to find the best ways to explore them.
1. Seasons Change
If you go in winter, you’re going to see a lot fewer people and the wildlife will join you on the snow covered roads most of the times as it is the path of least resistance. The drawback – the average temperature will cause your snot to freeze in your nose. In the summer, access to the whole park is greater from the roads to the trails and your snot remains completely viscous. However, due to this fact, you’ll be accompanied by thousands of people as you try to get back to nature. As for spring, it is generously considered mud season and fall lasts about a week.
2. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Do you like having your balls feeling like they are shaking off your body while you can’t hear yourself think? Then winter and snowmobiling will be perfect for you. (If you don’t like the balls shaking thing, there are snow coaches that let you sit in a cold metal tank with eleven of your not closest friends.) Do you like sitting in traffic jams as a bus full of tourists gawp at a moose up the road ahead? Then check out Yellowstone in a car on a holiday weekend. The only way to avoid noise and crowds is to use what your deity of choice gave you – your own two legs. (In winter, you’ll have to use them with a deity given contraption like cross country skis or snowshoes to avoid sinking up to your deity given jewels.)
3. Which way did the little bunny rabbit go?
How to approach Yellowstone is almost as important as getting to Yellowstone itself. My personal favorite is traveling to the park from the south as you can visit Jackson, WY and drive through Grand Teton National Park before reaching the park. The most stunning entrance is the north as the entrance dumps you right into Mammoth Hot Springs, one of the cool sites in the park. The West entrance is the closest to Old Faithful and the East entrance allows you a great drive by Yellowstone Lake. Hitting all four entrances is what a road trip is all about.
4. I don’t know what do you want to do?
As a guy that likes to tramp around (that’s what she said) I have to say that the hiking is the key to the park. But, I have to say the best hikes are along the many streams, creeks and rivers in the park that lead you to some of the best fly-fishing on the planet. Whether it’s Slough Creek or the Fall River, Yellowstone is a fly-fishing Mecca. If you don’t like to actually catch wild animals, the wildlife viewing is another of the joys of Yellowstone. For wolves, go to the Lamar Valley. In the winter, go south to Jackson to see the National Elk Refuge. Try to remember not to get close to any of them. They may look friendly, but trust me, just like golf course gophers, the animals are dangerous. (Or is man the dangerous one? I get that movie lesson confused.)
To summarize – to avoid people and to see bison, coyotes and elk, try the winter. To avoid frostbite and be able to access more of the backcountry, go in the summer. To see people doing foolish things – anytime is a good time.
About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."