Yellowstone Canyon

Based on driving time estimates, we were supposed to leave Yellowstone some time around noon to make it back home at a reasonable hour. The target for this morning was the Yellowstone Canyon, part of which we already visited a few years ago. We started with the road following the river on the south-east side toward the Artist Point. The sun sent its rays into the mist of the Lower Falls at a perfect angle to paint a beautiful rainbow. Unfortunately, the rainbow didn’t last long – we could see it fading while trying to capture it in pictures. We stopped at the parking lot next to the Upper Falls, hoping that we could hike – at least partially – the Uncle Tom’s Trail. We got lost after less than 20 minutes of hiking because the trail was covered in snow. This unsuccessful attempt gave us enough time to explore the north-west side of the river.

The North Rim Drive takes the visitors through a series of amazing viewpoints. From the Brink of the Lower Falls one can see the water going over the edge and the canyon. The Lookout Point is where I would go if I only had time to stop at one viewpoint: it offers good views of both the waterfall and the canyon. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hike to the Red Rock because the trail was closed due to snow. After another awe moment at the Grand View, we were again disappointed because the road to the Inspiration Point was also closed due to snow.

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This is part of our trip to Yellowstone National Park: North Yellowstone | Geysers | Yellowstone Canyon

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Old Faithful was one of our the main targets first time we visited the Geyser Country, but it got pretty dark and scary while visiting some other geysers on our way out of the park. This second visit was a great opportunity to see what we missed. Unfortunately, the boardwalks in both Lower and Midway Geyser Basins were closed for maintenance. We stopped at Biscuit and Black Sand Basins, whose main features were surprisingly familiar from our last visit.

The Old Faithful area enjoyed our presence for way longer than it expected. We couldn’t miss another show carefully choreographed by the Old Faithful and featuring boiling water thrown high up in the air some 10 minutes before the scheduled time. The eruption of Grand Geyser was predicted within 2 hours of 1:15. The timing was great to have lunch while waiting for the performance. Several park volunteers who were sitting right behind us explained the plot. The Grand Geyser takes the stage only after being properly introduced by another more frequent, but less impressive little geyser, called Turban. Vent Geyser is supposed to join in about 10 minutes into the spectacle. For several hours our hopes climaxed every 20 minutes (Turban’s frequency) just to be quickly crushed by the absence of the main performer. Our frustration increased when the Castle Geyser erupted at 3:15, marking the official upper limit of the time window. Our wait was not over though: it took 90 more minutes for the Grand Geyser to finally take the stage. The show proceeded as advertised and, despite all the frustration, the wait was well worth it.

Morning Glory Pool was our last objective in the area. Our patience ran out and we didn’t wait for the eruption of the much more predictable Daisy Geyser. We concluded our day in the West Thumb Geyser Basin, where the spring was still wrestling the winter. The walk on the boardwalk among several pools was quite short; a small area concentrated all the features, which were far less impressive than those in the Old Faithful area.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

This is part of our trip to Yellowstone National Park: North Yellowstone | Geysers | Yellowstone Canyon

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North Yellowstone

Last time we visited Yellowstone we were short on time and missed the two north districts of the park. Despite my most sincere hopes that they would clear the snow in the Beartooth Pass earlier than usual (Memorial Day), the road was closed, which rendered the original plan of entering the park through its (apparently) the most scenic (north-eastern) entrance completely unfeasible. We entered the park through its Gardiner entrance and saw wildlife immediately. There were herbivores all over the place, even in places with very significant human presence, like the Mammoth Visitor Center.

The first goal was seeing the terraces before lunch. They are some very interesting formations of layered pools displaying intense colors as the hot water trickles down. Unfortunately they become relatively plain when the pools dry out because the hot spring’s decision to flow on an alternative path. We walked the boardwalk among the Lower Terraces enjoying the beauty of the active features. On the other hand, the appearance of the terraces created by dormant springs constantly reminded us how ephemeral this beauty was. The situation of the higher terraces is worse: only Orange Spring Mound seemed to be still active.

After (a late) lunch, we hit the Beaver Ponds trail. The first part was pretty steep, but it soon became an easy walk. We kept looking for those beaver ponds, but instead we saw two black bears foraging too close to the trail. We decided that seeing the beaver ponds was not that important after all: getting back to report the bears sighting at the visitor center suddenly seemed a much better idea. Plus, there were other trails in the park, for example Trout Lake Loop (close to the north-east entrance). Another steep ascend, followed by a relatively easy walk around the thawing lake, complicated only by a few patches of snow.

We saw quite a few more animals between Mammoth and the north-east entrance, especially bison with little calves. A grizzly running very close to the road was extremely entertaining; we first saw it because a large crowd was staring at it. After it got out of our sight, we drove to the next pullout and waited for it to show up again. The trick worked only once, we lost it at the following pullout. However, the bear presence led to a huge bison migration across the road, apparently trying to take their calves to safer grounds.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

This is part of our trip to Yellowstone National Park: North Yellowstone | Geysers | Yellowstone Canyon

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William F. Cody didn’t have just a city named after him. The road to Yellowstone goes along the Shoshone River, where the Buffalo Bill Dam was erected to be the tallest dam at the time. The nature became more and more spectacular as we approached Yellowstone Park. Some construction project going on at the East Entrance delayed us to the limit of pissing us off. Then we drove for miles through pine forests which were ravaged by the 1988 fire. The scenery was extremely sad, it seemed like the whole place was on fire just a few months ago. The day was very hazy and it shows in some of the pictures, especially for distant objects.

Yellowstone Lake was waiting for us, as representative of the Lake Country. We walked on the Fishing Bridge, where (despite its name) fishing is not allowed (anymore). Then we stopped at Mud Volcano, Dragon’s Mouth Spring and Sulphur Caldron. And in many other places, especially if crowds of people signaled that something was going on (usually wild life watching). We saw the main attractions in the Canyon Country (the Lower and Upper Falls) only from the south of Yellowstone River, we will have to go back for the north trails. The hunger cornered us in Canyon Village (I can’t believe how salty those sandwiches were), where we finally found some decent restrooms.

We heard that everybody going to Yellowstone for the first time must see the Old Faithful, so we drove all the way south into the Geyser Country. Of course, we had to take a few pictures of a buffalo herd having a siesta very close to the road. We most likely got to the Old Faithful right after its eruption because we had to wait about one hour for the next one. While waiting for the big event, we walked around staring (sometimes obsessively) at the water boiling in the broken rocky pots. The Old Faithful faithfully errupted at the exactly predicted time and trowed boiling water at some 50 meters up in the air. After the show, we headed toward the west exit, stopping at a few more geysers on the way. On the Fountain Paint Pot Trail we realized that the noise of the geysers started to combine with the increasing darkness to create the ambiance of a scary movie.

To see most of what Yellowstone has to offer, one needs to spend there at least one day in each of its five “countries”. One day was definitely enough just to open the appetite.

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This is part of our road trip from Washington, DC to Richland, WA: Three states | Chicago (the city) | Three more states | Mount Rushmore | Devils Tower | Yellowstone | Driving through Idaho

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