Yellowstone National Park is enormous and therefore impossible to see in just a few hours, or even a day. Because my family was based in Jackson for the duration of our Wyoming visit, we had to see Yellowstone in a day trip. Knowing that we only had one day, we decided to limit our Yellowstone excursion to the southern loop of the park.
Our first stop: Old Faithful. Unfortunately, our timing was off. We found parking spots just as the geyser erupted, but we were too far away to see more than the top of the spray above the roof of the visitor’s center. We decided to wait for the next eruption, so we snagged prime spots on the now-empty benches and ate our picnic lunch until Old Faithful was ready to spout again.
Before long, our patience paid off. After teasing the audience for a few minutes with small, intermittent gurgling, Old Faithful finally let forth.
Our next stop: Norris Geyser Basin. This geothermal area was one of the oddest–and colorful–sights of our Yellowstone visit. We walked the Porcelain Basin trail, a 3/4-mile trail which consists of a series of boardwalks over and around the geysers and other features that result from the steam and boiling water just below the earth’s surface.
Norris was a smelly place thanks to the presence of sulfur in a number of the geothermal features.
We may have been holding our noses, but my geophysicist dad was in heaven!
Minerals and microscopic life forms somehow manage to thrive in the acidic waters of the Norris area, making for a rather colorful landscape.
After leaving Norris, we drove to the Canyon area for a view of the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Lookout Point.
Both the falls and the canyon were magnificent, but for me, the highlight of this stop was getting to share those scenes with my 19-month-old niece, Katy. Katy and her parents live more than 3 hours away from me, so I do not get to see them very much. It warmed my aunt heart that Katy wanted me to hold her while we stopped at Lookout Point.
At this point in our day, John and I stayed behind at the Grand Canyon to hike while the rest of my family continued on the park loop. After my husband and I wore ourselves out on the South Rim and Uncle Tom’s trails, we continued with our Yellowstone tour, as well.
Next up: Hayden Valley.
The drive through Hayden Valley was a definite high point from our day at Yellowstone. The rolling hills and scenic views of the Yellowstone River gave us pause–literally–on more than one occasion. Hayden Valley is known for its wildlife, in addition to its landscape scenery, and on multiple occasions, we stopped on the side of the road to snap pictures of roaming bison.
Leaving behind bucolic Hayden Valley, we stopped for a visit at the Mud Volcano area. It was as charming as it sounds.
Like Norris, Mud Volcano was a combination of odd geothermal features, such as the Churning Cauldron pictured below. And the air around Mud Volcano was about as rank as the air around Norris – perhaps even more so. We hurried along on the short loop trail.
The scariest feature of Mud Volcano was the aptly-named Dragon’s Mouth Spring.
The steam escaping from the small cave, in conjunction with the echoes from the water splashing up against the cave walls, had me almost believing a dragon was about to crawl out of the cave and attack.
Our final stop of the day: Yellowstone Lake.
We found one of Yellowstone’s general stores with a diner right next to the lake. We munched on burgers, sandwiches, and ice cream as the sun began to set on Yellowstone.
On our drive out of the park, numerous elk and deer could be seen grazing on the roadsides. It was a perfect, quiet, picturesque end to our busy day.