Yellowstone National Park

Year Established: 1872
Annual Visitors: 4.86 Million
Size: 2.2 Million Acres
States: Idaho | Montana | Wyoming

In the heart of the United States, you’ll find the world’s first national park, a veritable wilderness rich with natural wonders.

This national park has been virtually unaltered for the past 150 years. Among the picturesque mountains, it has ten thousand of these steaming, bubbling geothermal wonders. There are hundreds of waterfalls plunging from the cliffs, and thousands of miles of hiking paths that offer breathtaking panoramas, just waiting for the adventurists to discover them. Nearly 70 mammal species and 285 bird species call this area home, and archeologists have discovered more than 1,800 sites are here too.

Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park

July to October

Even though the park sees the most visitors in the summer, it is beautiful at any time of year. You’ll long to go back and see what new creatures, sights, and places you may find!

Check out other national parks nearby:

If you are planning to visit more national parks, check out our complete list of all US National Parks here.

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Best Experiences in Yellowstone National Park

It is feasible to see the best of Yellowstone in a day’s drive because the park has five entrances. However, if you want to fully appreciate the park’s amazing lineup of features, a longer stay than two nights is recommended so that you can spend adequate time at each attraction and explore the surrounding countryside.

  • Grand Loop Road
  • Grand Prismatic Spring
  • Old Faithful
  • Mount Washburn Hike

The greatest way to travel around is by renting a car, and having the freedom to take detours and make pit stops is icing on the cake.

If you are camping in the area, check out our buyers guides on best camping products in the RV shop.

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White water rafting and kayaking provide tourists a chance to experience the area from a new angle, however, many people go hiking when they visit.

Autumn is the ideal time to go for a walk because it’s best to hold off until the ground is firm, as melting snow in the spring can loosen the soil and possibly produce landslides.

Hiking in Yellowstone isn’t for the faint of heart, even in the best of conditions. Hikers may encounter wildlife at any time of year, and many routes require crossing cold, deep rivers with powerful currents.

Hikers should know how to use bear spray and should always bring water with them. To avoid erosion and keep people from accidentally venturing into potentially deadly geothermal zones, visitors are encouraged to stay on designated pathways. Geysers are located in areas where the ground is often just a thin crust on top of boiling water and can easily be broken through by foot.

Yellowstone is on everyone’s list because of its diverse geology and plenty of fauna. Absolutely stunning, and definitely worth the effort of getting there. The busiest time of year is summer, while the slowest is winter.

Visit in the spring to view newborn animals exploring their new environment, or in the fall to witness the leaves changing color.

A Brief History

Yellowstone is the oldest national park in the world. It was made by President Ulysses S. Grant. This ancient paradise is on top of a super volcano, and a sea of molten rock deep below the surface heats the 10,000 hydrothermal features in the park.

To safeguard the newly established Yellowstone reserve, Congress passed and President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law a statute in 1872. It was set up so that people might come and enjoy it, but also so that it could be preserved for future generations. The government determined that the area’s spectacular geothermal activity and natural splendor should be accessible to the public. Through 1883, they built a railroad, and by 1915, they were letting vehicles in.

It’s true that Yellowstone’s borders have seen some minor changes throughout time. After starting as a simple rectangle, the boundary has since shifted to follow the contours of the surrounding landscape. Since then, animal management measures have been implemented, and the National Park Service diligently works to preserve the world’s first national park.

mammoth hot springs yellowstone the chambers rv image

From its Mammoth Hot Springs to its bubbling mud pots and fumaroles, the land spews acidic steam and poisonous gases. Its liquids are home to microorganisms called thermophiles, which give the surface of the water psychedelic colors.

There are hundreds of geysers in the park, but Old Faithful is the most famous. It shoots up about every 90 minutes.

The Steamboat Geyser is just as impressive. It sends water hundreds of feet into the air. Yellowstone has the most mammals of any place in the lower 48 states.

There are small animals like the mountain vole and the pika, as well as big animals like moose and elk. Bison used to live over a large part of North America, but hunters killed about 50 million of them in the 1800s.

The park is the only place in the country where bison lived through the 1900s. At the turn of the 20th century, there were only 23 of these big animals in Yellowstone, but now there are 5,000 of them.

About Yellowstone National Park

Located on the border of three U.S. states and covering a huge 3,472 square miles, Yellowstone National Park is a protected area and a beautiful place to visit. From a geological point of view, Yellowstone National Park has a lot to offer. The park is on a volcanic hotspot and has more than half of the world’s geysers, or 500 in all. It also has more than 290 waterfalls, with Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River being the tallest at 308 feet.

Yellowstone is unique because it is one of the few ecosystems that is still completely intact. It is home to such rare species of animals and plants that studies about the ecosystems and natural processes give us a real understanding of how our natural world truly works too. Nearly 150 types of fossilized plants have been found in the park, making it a place where scientists can study and tourists can explore.

Everyone is astounded by Yellowstone’s beauty, and it’s no wonder the park receives millions of tourists annually. Roadtrippers can choose from five entries and cover a total of 250 miles. There are rest stops to take in the breathtaking scenery, and visitor centers stocked to the brim with facts about the park’s geology and history. Guests typically rent cars to navigate the maze of roads, which is closed to vehicles in the winter. In the event of a significant snowfall, guided snowmobile tours are offered.

There are 4 different types of geothermal features in the park. Fumaroles are the hottest of all. Because the steam is so hot, it doesn’t condense, so these vents aren’t covered by water. Limited-flow springs that look like bubbling pools of muck are called mudpots. They often carry with them the stench of rotten eggs caused by hydrogen sulfide seeping up from the earth. Travertine terraces are yet another geothermal structure. Limestone acts like a sponge, soaking up the calcium carbonate in the water that surges up through it. The result is a chalky white rock near the surface and tall plumes of steam.

Geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles are the four types of thermal features you can see.

Yellowstone Geysers

old faithful yellowstone geyser the chambers rv

The park’s namesake geyser, Old Faithful, erupts every 35 minutes to an hour and a half. Boiling water in the range of 8,450 gallons can be shot as high as 185 feet into the air.

Yellowstone is home to more than half of the world’s geysers that gush water at temperatures up to 460 degrees Fahrenheit. Water trapped in subsurface cavities is warmed by magma that moves near to the Earth’s surface. Nearby fault lines sometimes contain deep fissures and crevices that have been filled with water, making geysers a common occurrence in the area. There, it makes touch with rocks warmed by volcanic action and begins to soak into the ground. Top water remains chilly and exerts pressure on a natural kettle below. This permits the deep water to reach temperatures well above the normal boiling point of 100 degrees 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

A critical mass of steam is reached at which point it is propelled upwards, forcing surface water to splash out. The water’s gravitational pull lessens, and the superheated liquid rapidly condenses into steam and rises into the air.
Volcanic eruptions are a common occurrence in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park has a lot of geyser basins. The Norris Geyser Basin and the Upper Geyser Basin are two of the most impressive. The Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin is the tallest active geyser in the world. It has up to two vents, with the tallest column coming from the north vent.

Yellowstone Lake

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Yellowstone Lake is the largest lake in the park and the highest freshwater lake in North America with an elevation of almost 7,732 feet above sea level. This peaceful lake is located at such a high altitude that large portions of it can be frozen over for far over half the year.

Yellowstone Lake is the largest of the region’s 600 lakes and ponds. The highest waterfall in Yellowstone National Park is located to the north, where it meets the Yellowstone River. You can virtually double Niagara’s height by visiting the Lower Yellowstone Falls.

There is a viewing platform where people may see them, but in order to get there, they have to down 328 stairs.
Smaller waterfalls can be seen from the roadway or from trails throughout the park.

Yellowstone Hot Springs

From the Western Thumb, a major highway heads east into Yellowstone National Park’s entry point. Upper in the park is where you’ll find the expansive Mammoth Hot Springs complex, which is built up of travertine that ranges in color from brown to green and was formed thousands of years ago from limestone deposits left behind by the park’s many geothermal vents.

Yellowstone is home to a wide variety of geothermal features, although hot springs are by far the most common. As the water in a swimming pool heats up, it rises to the surface, where it is met by the pool’s surrounding air and rapidly cools. As the water cools, it sinks and is eventually replaced by hotter water.

Because of this continuous flow, hot springs can never get too hot and explode.

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The Grand Prismatic Spring, which is brightly colored, is the largest hot spring in the Park and the third largest in the world. This spring got its name from the way it looks, with a psychedelic mix of yellow and orange colors around its clear blue water, like how a rainbow spreads light. It gets its distinctive hue from microorganisms decomposing mineral particles in the water.

The Grand Prismatic Spring is in the Midway Geyser Basin, which is also home to the Excelsior Geyser Crater and the Turquoise Pool, which is a hot spring that can get up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yellowstone National Park Grizzly Bears and Other Ecological Treasures

The park’s wildlife is also a major draw.

There are more mammal species here than in any other place in the lower 48 states. Wild shrews, skunks, and porcupines, among other small mammals, dart around the dense underbrush. There are about a thousand grizzly and black bears in Yellowstone, and ten or more groups of wolves.

Buffalo were nearly wiped off a century ago, but today there are still nearly 5,000 of them roaming the earth. Bison have only survived at Yellowstone National Park in the United States from prehistoric times. Once numbering in the tens of millions, they were eradicated by hunters and numbered less than a thousand by 1889. These massive ungulates and sixty-six other animal species find refuge in Yellowstone. Tourists are cautioned against interacting with the local wildlife, especially against feeding them.

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It’s not up for debate that animals like beavers play crucial roles in the park’s ecosystem. Trees like willows and aspens are used in beaver dams, proving that these animals are the engineers of the natural world.

Although beavers were traditionally considered a nuisance due to the damage they caused by cutting down trees, we now know that they actually perform an important part in maintaining a balanced ecology. A dam can slow the flow, creating ponds that filter the water, stop erosion, and get rid of dissolved nitrogen. Beavers in the park have benefited greatly from the reintroduction of wolves. Beavers depend on trees that are eaten by elk and other types of deer.

Without major predators, deer populations exploded, and beavers struggled due to increased competition for food sources like wood. As wolves made their way back into Yellowstone, the deer population began to decline, making space for the beavers who would go on to alter the park’s streams and vegetation.

Wolves were exterminated after being seen as a menace to livestock in the 1800s, and the subsequent 150 years saw no wolf populations recover. This had a major effect on Yellowstone National Park’s ecosystem, pushing deer and elk populations above the park’s carrying capacity. As a result, these animals wiped out vast swaths of forest, making it difficult for other species, like beavers, to construct dams. The park’s beaver population has flourished since the grey wolves were reintroduced in the mid-1990s, despite the controversy that surrounded the move. The park’s ecosystem needed some intervention to get it back on track.

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Yellowstone’s ecological processes, which have been extensively studied, give the park great importance in the natural world. There have been worries that a variety of factors could be affecting wildlife migration, making it all the more important to keep an eye on park conditions and the effects of tourism. Maintaining the health of Yellowstone’s natural communities is crucial.

Brown bears are magnificent creatures in the park, and if you’re lucky enough to see one in the wild, you’ll want to spend as much time as possible attempting to capture it on film (without going too close to it, of course).

Yellowstone RV Camping

If you are looking for nearby RV camping options consider checking out our other posts:

Visitor Information

In order to get into Yellowstone National Park, you have to pay an entrance fee. Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, national parks get to keep 80% of all fees they collect and use that money to pay for important projects that improve services and protect resources. Yellowstone gets $8.8 million a year from entrance fees. This money is used to make the park easier to get to, improve campgrounds, infrastructure, roads, restore native fish, protect against aquatic invasive species, and do other things. 


Individuals 15 years old and younger are admitted free of charge.

Weekly Park Passes

$20.00 per person

$35.00 per vehicle

$30.00 per motorcycle/snowmobile

Annual Park Passes

Yellowstone Annual Pass – $70

America The Beautiful Annual Park Pass

You can also get an annual park pass to ALL National Parks in the United States for $80.
Keep in mind they have Senior, Military, and other discounts available!

Contacting Yellowstone National Park

Phone Number

(307) 344-2263

Visitor Centers

Albright Visitor Center
albright visitor center

The Albright Visitor Center is one of the buildings that used to house soldiers when Yellowstone was first opened. It is named after the park’s first superintendent after the National Park Service was created. The lower floor of the visitor center has a historical theme.

It has a lot of artifacts that were used by some of the first people to live in Yellowstone and shows how life used to be there. On the second floor of the Albright Visitor Center, you can see displays of animals that eat other animals and animals that eat them. This will help you understand how big and awesome some of Yellowstone’s wildest residents are.

There are life-size displays of animals like cougars, wolves, and bighorn sheep in their natural habitats. During the summer, the Albright Visitor Center is home to an office for the backcountry. Here, you can get permits for backcountry camping, fishing, and boating. You can also find out about the current conditions of the trails and the weather.


Grand Loop Rd,
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

Phone Number

(307) 344-2263

Hours of Operation

  • Sunday 10:00 AM–4:00 PM
  • Monday 10:00 AM–4:00 PM
  • Tuesday 10:00 AM–4:00 PM
  • Wednesday 10:00 AM–4:00 PM
  • Thursday 10:00 AM–4:00 PM
  • Friday 10:00 AM–4:00 PM
  • Saturday 10:00 AM–4:00 PM

Be sure to check for seasonal closures.

Canyon Visitor Education Center
canyon visitor education center

Visit the Canyon Visitor Education Center to learn about the area’s geology, including the Yellowstone volcano, and to see a relief map of Yellowstone that is the size of a room. You can also get information about getting started, get a fishing permit, buy a souvenir, find out about ranger programs, and watch a 20-minute film.  


Yellowstone National Park, Parking lot,
Canyon Village,
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

Phone Number

(307) 344-2550

Hours of Operation

  • Sunday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
  • Monday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
  • Tuesday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
  • Wednesday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
  • Thursday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
  • Friday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
  • Saturday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM

Be sure to check for seasonal closures.

Old Faithful Visitor Center
old faithful visitor center

The Old Faithful Visitor Education Center is a high-tech building that opened in 2010. Visitors can get a close look at Yellowstone’s four types of thermal features and the magma chamber below Yellowstone that heats the geysers, hotsprings, mudpots, and fumaroles.

The park rangers here can also predict when Old Faithful, Grand, Castle, Daisy, and Riverside geysers will erupt. They can also tell you when Great Fountain Geyser will erupt on the Firehole Lake Drive.


View Avenue,
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

Phone Number

(307) 344-2751

Hours of Operation

  • Sunday 8:00 AM–8:00 PM
  • Monday 8:00 AM–8:00 PM
  • Tuesday 8:00 AM–8:00 PM
  • Wednesday 8:00 AM–8:00 PM
  • Thursday 8:00 AM–8:00 PM
  • Friday 8:00 AM–8:00 PM
  • Saturday 8:00 AM–8:00 PM

Be sure to check for seasonal closures.

Grant Visitor Center
grant visitor center

Each visitor center in Yellowstone National Park has a different educational theme to teach people about the park’s wide range of ecosystems. The theme of the Grant Visitor Center is wildfires. Find out what role fires play in Yellowstone’s ecosystem and how they help the forests grow back. You can also find out about the big fires that burned more than a third of the park in 1988. Rangers can help answer questions about the park at the visitor center. Inside the visitor center is a bookstore run by the Yellowstone Association. It has a wide range of books and other items with Yellowstone themes. Also, ask about the nightly ranger talks at the amphitheater near the campground.


Grant Village Rd,
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

Phone Number

(307) 242-2650

Hours of Operation

  • Sunday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
  • Monday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
  • Tuesday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
  • Wednesday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
  • Thursday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
  • Friday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM
  • Saturday 8:00 AM–6:00 PM

Be sure to check for seasonal closures.

Fishing Bridge Visitor Center and Trailside Museum
fishing bridge visitor center and trailside museum

This old building’s unique style, made of stone and logs, is called “parkitecture.” It was used as a model for many park buildings around the country. Today, the visitor center and museum focus on the birds of Yellowstone Lake and how they fit into the ecosystem of the lake. You can also stop by to talk to a park ranger and find out when ranger programs are happening. You can also buy a fishing permit, buy a souvenir, or just look out over Yellowstone Lake and the mountains around it.


Fishing Bridge – Amphitheater,
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

Phone Number

(307) 344-7381

Hours of Operation (Closed June 15 – December 31)

  • Sunday 8:00 AM–5:00 PM
  • Monday 8:00 AM–5:00 PM
  • Tuesday 8:00 AM–5:00 PM
  • Wednesday 8:00 AM–5:00 PM
  • Thursday 8:00 AM–5:00 PM
  • Friday 8:00 AM–5:00 PM
  • Saturday 8:00 AM–5:00 PM

Be sure to check for seasonal closures.