Few national parks conjure up the mental images that Yellowstone does. Geysers, grizzlies—it’s a wild place. A wild place we absolutely love for that matter. Below are a few of our favorite outings and spots to explore when in Yellowstone.
Artist Point is one of the most popular destinations in Yellowstone National Park. The stone lookout point is great for viewing the impressive Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It’s just a short walk down a paved road, so don’t skip it. The crowds give the place a feeling of international relevance; while standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers, you are likely to hear at least five languages spoken. The lookout point on the south side of Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon was originally thought to be the place where artist Thomas Moran sketched his 1872 depictions of Lower Falls. As it turns out, this is not the location where the famous sketch was made. The name stuck, however—go figure. The 700-foot cliff is a prime spot for photos (and plenty of selfies). Take in the view or just admire the rich diversity of tourists. Looking across the canyon at the iron-rich walls makes one feel tiny, insignificant, and who knows, maybe even a little inspired.
Brink of Lower Falls to Lower Lookout Point
The Brink of Lower Falls and Lower Lookout Point are amazing spots to see Yellowstone’s mighty Lower Falls. This is a must-see falls, but there’s one downside; the crowds are serious: tour buses drop off hikers by the hundreds throughout the day. The Brink of Lower Falls is a lookout situated just above the 308-foot waterfall. Lower Falls is the largest-volume waterfall in the Rocky Mountains. Being able to see the water cascade over the ledge is a unique experience, often causing vertigo for those who peer over the edge. Furthermore, the sound of the falls is immense and can be heard echoing against the walls from miles away. Views of Upper Falls are also impressive while hiking down the trail toward the Brink of Lower Falls. Upper Falls dumps into a shallow pool that directs water back into the air at an impressive height upon impact. This is a great spot for a late afternoon stop after a full day in the park – from here, head to happy hour.
An overnight trip through Firehole Meadows is an excellent way to see some of Yellowstone’s stunning alpine meadows, immense waterfalls, geysers, mud pots and more. The trip is one-way, so plan ahead. The hike starts in the highly-active Biscuit Basin within the Upper Geyser Basin and ends at the Fountain Freight Trailhead in the Lower Geyser Basin area. The hike isn’t overly difficult and offers so many distractions along the way that you’ll barely notice you are covering any ground. Schedule in at least two extra hours per day to check out all the stellar views along the way.
Mammoth Campground is a busy campground near Gardner, Montana, and the northwest entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It’s busy for a reason—there is some prime camping to be had. The campground is nestled between a large curve in the road below the town of Mammoth Hot Springs. Mammoth Campground is one of seven first-come, first-served campsites in the park. Campsites tend to fill between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., with lines to reserve campsites starting around 6:00 a.m.
The hike on Specimen Ridge is often rated one of the best hikes in Yellowstone, as it’s a long day hike over some of the park’s most iconic terrain. The trail gains the long ridge early in the hike and ascends over 3,000 feet to Amethyst Mountain before dropping back down into the Lamar Valley and ending at the Soda Butte/Lamar Valley Trailhead. The views are great in every direction, and there is a good chance of seeing elk, antelope, bear, and deer during the hike.
Hellroaring Creek is prime choice for a short backpacking trip with many of Yellowstone National Park’s classic elements all within a few miles of the trailhead. Don’t let the short distance smash your ego and prevent you from exploring this area; the scenery is epic, and the options to explore the surrounding areas are plenty. Day hikes on Hellroaring Mountain offer opportunities to find elk sheds, observe wild game, climb Hellroaring Mountain’s many Class 5 trad routes, or just take in the sights. Hikes from camp up Hellroaring Creek Trail or into the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone are also a great options to extend your trip in the Hellroaring Creek area.
Yellowstone National Park has something for everyone – head out west and find some favorite spots of your own (and be sure to tell us about them!).