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Top 10 things to do in Yellowstone National Park
Hold on to your picnic baskets because we're going in and if you're hoping to get outdoors in America then Yellowstone National Park has got fun and adventure stamped all over it.
Mainly situated in Wyoming and boasting one of the world's most famous spurting geysers 'Old Faithful', this is where you win your spurs for wildlife and natural photography with plenty of exciting and challenging trekking trails to help you along the way.
With volcanoes, waterfalls and bears (oh my), a trip to Yellowstone is exactly what you'd hope for if you seriously want to discover America's great outdoors and if you feel the need to read some more excuses to visit then fill your boots via the list below.
10. Plan a picnic
When in Rome do as the Romans, when in Yellowstone make like Yogi. There are just over 50 designated places to picnic in the park with plenty of grates and grills to enjoy some barbecued food within some incredible pine forest and mountain scenery. As with all elements of a trip to Yosemite, keeping things tidy (especially left-over food stuffs) is essential for avoiding far too close contact with Yogi's not so cute cousins but if you can plan ahead and aim to leave no trace then you're bound to enjoy lunch alfresco much more than you would do back home.
Popular picnic spots: Madison Junction (14 tables), Snake River (15 tables and 8 grills) and Grant Village (17 tables and 12 grills).
9. Meet the old geysers
There's a reason that Yosemite was placed as the world's first ever national park and that's because you'll find the highest collection of geysers anywhere on the planet contained within its two million acre plus borders. Almost 500 of the park's current geysers are active and from the largest (Steamboat) to the best known (Old Faithful) planning your tour to take in at least one or two spectacular spurts is pretty much par for the course. Putting things into perspective and no sooner as you discover that well over half of the world's geysers can be found in Yellowstone then you'll want to set your camera skywards and wait until you hear the cries of 'there she blows'.
8. Hot springs
It will come as no surprise that as more than half of the world's recognised geothermal features (mud pots, fumaroles, geysers etc.) can be found in Yellowstone there's also some chance of enjoying the warmth of a natural hot spring. What better way to ease those muscular aches and pains after a good day's stroll than by immersing yourself in warm water and if you can withstand the slightly eggy whiff and the crowds (especially in the holidays) then head to the aptly named Boiling and Firehole rivers and find out what geothermal goodness is all about.
7. Trekking trails
What with all those geothermal features to enjoy it's no wonder that many of Yellowstone's day hiking routes will take you past, or to, a fair percentage as well as plenty of waterfalls, lakes and fast-flowing rivers thrown in for good measure. There are well over 1,000 miles of hiking trail available to help you stretch your legs and discover some of America's quintessential landscapes and if you're looking for the best place to start then heading to a ranger station is always best advice for free maps and friendly hints and tips.
6. Winter wonderland
Visiting Yellowstone during the winter months and into the spring is all about preparing yourself for the cold and if you've taken all correct precautions then you'll be treated to an absolutely stunning snow-covered scene that's simply a joy to explore. Covered roads and paths lend themselves effortlessly to cross-country skiers and snow-shoe lovers alike however, make sure you've got the wider type of skis and high-ankled boots if you're attempting to travel over deep drifts. The higher the elevation and the more chance of ski-worthy slopes and if you're up for the thrill then check out Mammoth, Northeast and West Yellowstone for the best ski trails.
5. Wildlife walks
Aside from the snow-covered scenes of winter and the all-year-round spurting geysers, Yellowstone is an absolute playground for animals and wild flowers which all adds up to one of the best spots for a nature trail anywhere in America. Wolves, bears, moose and even mountain lions have all been spotted at some point or another however, as with all expeditions in to the wilderness, following ranger instructions as to where and what to do is definitely best practice. Trails of a less dangerous but nonetheless enjoyable nature have to include the 8,000 or so species of wild flower which come out in all their glory during the summer months and are definitely worth your time especially on a guided trail.
4. Boating options
In order to keep Yellowstone as peaceful and tranquil as possible you'll be pleased to learn that motorised boats aren't allowed within the majority of the park's lakes and rivers so if you're hoping to indulge in a spot of jet-skiing then forget it. Kayaks, canoes and row boats are usually the order of the day and ensuring you gain a permit and have sufficient buoyancy equipment will no doubt enable you to enjoy your time afloat without fear of reprisals from angry coast guards. Yellowstone and Lewis lakes are great places to start your time on the water and promise a great day out amongst some absolutely captivating scenery.
3. Llama packing
If you fancy something a bit different whilst visiting Yellowstone National Park then you may want to clamber aboard a well-trained llama and see where the mood takes you. Yellowstone Llamas is the park's original licenced llama outfitters and if you've ever wondered what it was like to ride aloft a steed that is far more friendly than some people give it credit for then this is an excellent chance to bust some myths. Any form of riding (horse, pony or llama) gives you the chance to rest your feet and see the park from a new perspective and using a recognised company is definitely going to ensure you're only riding well-trained and well cared for animals.
2. Cycling routes
If you prefer two wheels to four legs then cycling is definitely the way to go and although there are no paths purely for bikes you'll still find several roads and gravel tracks, for example: Old Gardiner Road and Blacktail Plateau Drive, which are ideally suited to both mountain bikes and one way traffic. As with all manner of exploring and having fun through the park, safety first is always the best motto and if you're bringing your own bike then make sure you pack all relevant protective gear as there's no better way to ruin a holiday than by picking lumps of road and track out of your arm on the way to hospital – have fun now!
1. Yellowstone's Grand Canyon
Situated in the east of the park, Yellowstone's Grand Canyon is around 20 miles in length and has been formed thanks to the continual rushing of the Yellowstone River. This is an amazing spot to come to for anyone interested in painting, photography and just marvelling at the natural world and undertaking a ranger-led tour will allow you to find the best views of the canyon's Upper and Lower falls in all their majesty. Uncle Tom's car park on the South Rim Drive is usually the best point to start a tour of the canyon and catching the sun rise or set is just a stunning sight that has to be experienced at least once during your visit.
Further reading: Lush valleys, great views and hundreds of lakes can be spotted in the area north of Yellowstone. One of those lakes is Mystic Lake, the deepest lake of the Beartooth Mountains.
Article written by Chris Owen.