Yellowstone National Park extends over two million acres and across three states, making it one the nation’s larger parks. With over three million annual visitors and the longest history of any national park, taking in the grandeur of Yellowstone in a single visit may seem overwhelming. For those looking to make the most of their time, this article will narrow down the attractions into a list of absolute must-sees.
1. Old Faithful
An obvious inclusion, Old Faithful is easily the most famous attraction in Yellowstone. While not the largest geyser in the park, it is popular due to the regularity of its eruption and its proximity to other geysers and park attractions. The nearby Old Faithful Inn and Old Faithful Visitor Center serve as tourist hubs, providing lodging and information on one of the park’s most spectacular sights. After viewing Old Faithful’s impressive eruption, consider traveling the surrounding boardwalks for a chance to see other geysers, as well as the bison and elk that often graze nearby.
2. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
This breathtaking canyon, stretching almost twenty miles, is one of Yellowstone’s most impressive vistas. Visitors can hike down to the Lower Falls area for an up-close look at the area’s waterfalls, and there are miles of hiking trails spanning the canyon’s length. A trip to Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon will make it abundantly clear why the landmark was the subject of Native American lore and the awe-struck accounts of early explorers.
3. Mammoth Hot Springs
The hot springs are the home of Yellowstone’s headquarters and the site of many unique thermal areas. Visitors can take a scenic drive along the Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace or spend some time in the Visitor’s Center, which includes a wildlife museum, historical exhibits, and informative films. As well as the magnificent springs themselves, the nearby Fort Yellowstone offers a beautiful look at the area’s rich history.
4. Tower Falls
This breathtaking 132-foot waterfall is located just behind the Tower Falls General Store. Featuring impressive volcanic structures and a steep trail to the bottom of the falls, this attraction is one of the most visited areas of Yellowstone National Park. It is also a prime winter site, when the waterfall freezes over and the area becomes a popular spot for cross-country skiers.
5. Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring may well be one of the most surreal and awe-inspiring locations in Yellowstone National Park. It is the largest hot spring in the nation, containing a variety of brightly-colored thermophile bacteria that create vivid blue, orange, yellow, and red patterns in the water. Long boardwalks bring visitors extremely close to these beautiful springs, making it a must-see for anyone in the park.
6. Firehole River
This 21-mile river flows through several of Yellowstone’s geyser basins, and the surrounding geothermal features give the water its notable warmth. Containing some of the park’s most popular waterfalls, the Firehole River is also of the nation’s foremost fly fishing destinations, owing to the large spawning populations of both brown and rainbow trout.
7. The Boiling River
The meeting point between a hot spring and the Gardiner River, this attraction is notable for being one of the few places in the park where visitors can swim—except in the springtime. Slightly off the beaten path, it is a popular location for some relaxation in the great outdoors, and lucky visitors may get a glimpse of the area wildlife, including bison, pronghorn sheep, and elk, which often graze along the riverbanks.
While these are only a few of Yellowstone’s wide variety of visitor attractions, they represent a collection of sites which exemplify the many wonders that the park has to offer.