Summer is nearly here, which means it’s almost National Park season. As America’s first national park, Yellowstone offers everything from mountains and canyons to geysers and lakes. If you’re not sure how to tackle this nearly 3,500-square mile park, here are the 10 sites you won’t want to miss on your next trip to Yellowstone.
1. Old Faithful
You can’t visit Yellowstone without stopping by Old Faithful to watch the geyser dutifully erupt every 60-110 minutes. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself making a few new pals as the crowd waits for the next eruption.
2. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Not to be confused with the Arizona canyon of the same name, Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon is a 24-mile stretch of cliffs and falls offering some of the best photo opportunities in the park.
3. Hayden Valley
If you’re hoping to spot some of the park’s largest residents (like moose, elk, buffalo or bison), head to Hayden Valley. This valley is one of Yellowstone’s top wildlife preserves. You can drive through Hayden Valley or hike.
4. Artist Point
The view from this vista along the south rim of the Grand Canyon is the kind that sticks with you. The unmatched views include the Lower Falls crashing into Yellowstone River.
5. Lamar Valley
A drive through Lamar Valley will introduce you to some of Yellowstone’s canine inhabitants: wolves. The packs were reintroduced to Lamar Valley in 1995, and the area is also home to bighorn sheep, antelope, coyotes and bears.
6. Mammoth Hot Springs
The springs here create travertine that looks like snowfall and frozen waterfalls thanks to the dissolving limestone. The landscape changes often as the hot water fluctuates naturally.
7. Tower Fall
A short hike takes you to the view point at Tower Fall, one of the park’s must-see waterfalls. The 132-foot waterfall was named Tower Fall as it appears to pours from pinnacles at the mountain’s ledge.
8. Biscuit Basin
Walk the short loop around Biscuit Basin to see the brilliantly colored Sapphire Pool, the ever-bursting Jewel Geyser and Black Opal Pool.
9. Yellowstone Lake
As the largest freshwater lake in North America above 7,000 feet, Yellowstone Lake offers activities like hiking, fishing and kayaking. Park rangers also offer scenic cruises on the lake.
10. Grand Loop Road
If you can only do one drive through Yellowstone, Grand Loop Road is it. This 140-mile stretch takes visitors along the park’s most iconic sights, including the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Lake Yellowstone, Tower Fall and Mammoth Hot Springs. Plenty of wildlife can also be spotted along Grand Loop Road.
(Main image: Doug Letterman)