It was a great stay in Gardiner and we had a wonderful time in the north part of the park. But it was time to move and see the other areas of the park. We repositioned to West Yellowstone and set out to see the sights and features that are some of the most well-known parts of Yellowstone. Staying in West Yellowstone afforded us the opportunity to get to the central parts of the park fairly easily. The popularity of these areas also attracts the large crowds of people; bus loads, van loads, and more cars than the parking lots can handle. Our traditional tactic to avoid the crowds is to get up early and get there ahead of the crowds. It worked great for us this trip again as we were able to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Old Faithful Geyser area almost to ourselves.
Through the middle of Yellowstone runs the Yellowstone River. Along the river is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. We drove in early and followed the north rim drive to the brink of the lower falls. We were the only people there! We passed on walking down the 600’ elevation change as we had already filled that square on a previous trip. The view from where we were was outstanding.
Along the North rim drive are numerous places to pull in and get out and walk. There is a trailthat runs all along the north rim. There are also numerous trails that lead down into the canyon. We stopped at Lookout Point and decided we should take the climbdown to Red Rock Point. It is a .38-mile tail that drops 500’. Easy, but remember. You still have to climb back out of the canyon. And the elevation is 7700’. It was a great view and well worth the hike.
There is also a turn out and parking area that gets you to the brink of the Upper Falls. It is a nice walk. I think it’s one of our favorite spots with the Chittenden Bridge in the background, the river running and suddenly dropping. It is a massive flow of water.
We were fortunate to get to Inspiration Point. It was under renovation this past summer and just reopened about 2 weeks ago. It gives a massive view of the canyon with the lower falls in the background.
The most famous place along the canyon to view the falls is Artist point. It is on the South Rim Drive. We drove on down and were there with a couple hundred of our closest tourist friends! At least four tour buses full, not to mention all the cars. But the view is amazing. There is also a 300 step stairway connected to the side of the cliff that drops you down 500’ to the canyon where you can see and even feel the water of lower falls. Too bad that area was under renovation and closed, darn we did not get to climb the stairs.
In all our trips to Yellowstone, we have one traditional spot where we always take a photo., Chocolate Pots. On our first trip to Yellowstone back in 1985, we stopped here and thought it was a very unique spot and asked someone to take our picture. When we visited Yellowstone in 2012 with our boys, we tried to recreate the photo at the same place. Then again on this visit we managed to get a photo at the same location. Besides the minor changes in our appearances, it is fun to see how the surroundings have grown and changed.
Yellowstone’s main feature is the caldera. This caldera is actually a giant volcano crater that generates all the geothermal activity of the area. It is also what gives Yellowstone all its wonderful geological features. We have always been fascinated with the power beneath the earth’s crust and the many ways it manifests itself. From bubbling pots of mud, to crystal clear pools with rainbow colors, to powerful geysers that blast hundreds of gallons of water hundreds of feet in the air. We especially like to visit in the morning to see the rising steam.
The most famous of all the geysers is Old Faithfull, of course. We set out to see it early, before the crowds and then walk the trails and boardwalks in the basin. With the modern tools of the internet and apps for our phone, you can find out the predicted times of many of the erupting geysers. We got to Old Faithfull about 15 minutes prior and watched its magnificent power.
Around the Old Faithful basin are numerous trails and boardwalks that take you through a labyrinth of pools and geysers. As we mentioned, this trip we wanted to see some new things. So, we sat and waited for Grand Geyser to erupt. It is the tallest predictable geyser in the world with a couple of venting geysers that erupt with it. Over 200’ in the air, its water runs in bursts that lasted over 10 minutes. Very cools and well worth the wait.
Walking around the boardwalks, we found Daisy Geyser was going to erupt and we sat and waited for it as well. Daisy Geyser erupts at an angle and floods the area around it, simultaneously draining a nearby pool of its water supply.
Probably our favorite features in the area are the hot spring pools. They are filled with brilliant colors, determined by the temperature of the water. The water is usually crystal clear and a deep blue/green. It is fascinating to think how deep the springs go. One of the most brilliant is Sapphire Pool. It is varying colors of blue and is so clear it does not even seem as though there is water in it.
Another new place for us to visit was Madison Junction. We had always thought it got its name because that is where the road from West Yellowstone joins an intersection connecting the Canyon area with the Great Loop road. How wrong we were. It is named for the junction of three rivers. The Gibbon, Yellowstone and Madison rivers all meet in this valley. It just so happens to be the place where Yellowstone was born. In 1870 the Washburn, Doane, and Langford exploration of Yellowstone met here for their last night, and the idea of a national park was conceived around the campfire. There is also a very neat classic old “lodge” there, built in 1930.
On our trip out of the park, we were driving back to West Yellowstone along the Madison River when we got stuck in a “Bison Jam”. We had already been caught in a couple of these, where people see a bison, stop in the middle of the road to take pictures, and the traffic backs up. But this time, traffic seemed to flow better, and there were cars pulled off the road. As we drove past, we looked across the river and saw not a bison, but a huge bull elk with his herd. It was like he was saying “see you next time” as we left the park for the final time for this trip.