According to the San Francisco Chronicle, officials have revealed that Yellowstone National Park has set a new record for the number of monthly visitors in July.
It’s not surprising that the national park is so popular with its abundance of rare features like volcanoes, mud pots, hot springs and geysers. It’s especially good for holidaymakers who have hired RVs in the USA and are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime road trip.
There is a lot to see, so with this in mind we take you through the top six activities to do in Yellowstone National Park – and how to beat the crowds while you’re at it.
1. Watch Old Faithful erupt
Old Faithful is arguably the world’s most well-known geyser, with its famous eruptions on average reaching 130 feet into the sky.
The eruptions usually take place every hour and a half, and crowds gather around the perimeter to see this awe-inspiring natural wonder. If you want to see the geyser from a different angle, then you can go on a mile-long hike to the observation point for a bird’s-eye view of the upper geyser basin.
There are plenty of eateries surrounding the geyser, so why not settle down for a show with a bite to eat?
Find out more about the geyser by visiting the Old Faithful virtual visitor centre.
Tip to avoid the crowds: Take the mile-long hike to the observation point to avoid the large crowds around the perimeter.
2. See wild animals
Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states of the US, according to the Yellowstone National Park website.
Grizzly bears can be seen across the park, but are especially abundant in the Hayden and Lamar Valley, and an estimated 13 wolf packs call the national park their home. Moose, elk, badgers, bison, foxes and otters are just some of the other animals visitors can see.
The park is home to an abundance of plants, and the wild flowers are especially beautiful during the spring and summer when they are in full bloom.
Tip to avoid the crowds: Rise early to try and see wolves and grizzly bears as not only will you avoid the bustling crowds, but you are more likely to see these incredible animals at this time.
3. See the beauty of the Grand Prismatic Spring
This is the largest hot spring in the US and is approximately 250 by 300 feet wide and approximately 160-feet deep.
What makes the spring particularly fascinating are the rainbow waters; the centre of the pool’s cerulean hue is surrounded by red, orange, yellow and green colours.
The beautiful Grand Prismatic Spring lies south of the lower geyser basin in Yellowstone and visitors can easily spend an hour or two at the spring. It is the perfect place to stop for a bit of lunch during a hike.
Tip to avoid the crowds: You can see the Morning Glory Pool, which is located in the Upper Geyser Basin, instead of the Grand Prismatic Spring if you want to avoid the large crowds.
4. Capture fantastic photographs
Yellowstone National Park is also somewhat of a photographer’s dream with its large wildlife population and stunning natural landscapes.
The best times to take some photographs in the national park are pre-dawn, mid-morning or late evening, as animals tend to be the most active during these times of the day.
An article about photo tips when visiting Yellowstone National park has some great advice:
– Use 300 mm lenses to take photographs of the wildlife or more if photographing dangerous animals
– Be patient
– Don’t shoot with the sun behind you
– If you are looking to photograph the erupting geyser, midday is the best time to do this. This is because the lighting is best when the sun is high as it filters deep into the water
Tip to avoid the crowds: Head to the national park in September to beat the crowds. Snow often falls during this time, which makes for some fantastic photo opportunities.
5. Hiking around the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Formed by wind, water and other natural forces, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is not only stunning but one of the most popular areas in the park for hiking.
The canyon is roughly 20 miles long, half a mile wide and an incredible 1,000 feet deep. At 692 miles long, the Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in the US.
Hikers can capture some stunning photos and take in the beautiful scenery at several lookout areas, such as Red Rock Point, Lookout Point, South Rim Trail and Artist Point.
There are lots of walking trails for hikers to follow and they take in sights such as the Upper and Lower Falls and Canyon Village, which boasts a visitor centre and lots of restaurants.
Tip to avoid the crowds: Go hiking in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone in the autumn as it is less busy than the summer months.
6. Star gazing
Star gazing is another hugely popular pastime for visitors to the national park. The park is a hotspot for seeing stars at night because it has such little light pollution, and you can even catch a glimpse of the Milky Way at night.
The Milky Way is made up of dust, gas and an estimated 400 billion stars stretching between 100,000 to 120,000 light-years in diameter. It can be seen as a dazzling band of light in the sky.
This can be seen when in Yellowstone National Park from the likes of the Upper Geyser Basin as well as a number of other areas. Find out more here.
Tip to avoid the crowds: Spend a night in one of the national park lodges so you can go out star gazing with just your family.
Image Credit: Scott Taylor.