The top attractions of America’s first national park are best reached by car and can be easily explored in two days by following a rough number of eight patterns as you head towards Montana from the park’s northern tip.
I stayed in Livingstone and drove the 50 miles south to the north entrance of the park on the first morning to begin my two days in Yellowstone National Park.
2 days in Yellowstone National Park: Day 1
The first day of my Yellowstone itinerary includes checking out some attractions along the northern tip of the national park.
Mammoth hot springs
A short 5 miles drive from the entrance takes you to the surreal Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. Heat, water, limestone and rock combine to form the most amazing landscape of whitish glittering terraces, bubbling water and steam rising to the surface. It’s hard to describe how spectacular the area is, but the descriptions of some hot springs might give you an idea – Opal Terrace, Jupiter Terrace, and White Elephant Back Terrace are just a few of the areas to be discovered.
Next, get back on the road and travel 18 miles east to Tower Junction. A great place to admire the expansive park views and definitely spot some wildlife, maybe moose or bison. The main attraction here is Tower Waterfall, a 30 meter long waterfall, but also Roosevelt Lodge, named after President Roosevelt, who loved to visit the area and often hunted here. More hot springs can be found around Calsite Springs and be sure not to miss the surreal petrified trees of the fossil forest.
Follow the road south for approximately 30 km to the Canyon Area. It’s no surprise that this is where Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon is located, which stretches for 20 miles. There is also a great visitor center here that has temporary exhibitions. There are also places to rest and eat and all kinds of hiking trails start here, from a short 20 minute walk to much more strenuous hikes.
Go west about 12 miles on the road until you reach the Norris Geyser Basin. It is the hottest and most changeable area in all of Yellowstone National Park and most of them are impossible to miss. There’s a 3.6 km trail, but you can also walk a shortened route as you ride through pungent smells, hot steam, and strange, almost magical colors. Highlights include Whales Mouth, Crackling Lake, Emerald Spring, and the Porcelain Terrace Overlook.
Depending on the time, you can visit a few more hiking trails here at any time and spend the night in one of the two Campsitesbut I drove west out of the park and straight into the town of West Yellowstone. There are plenty of Che motels, shops, and restaurants here and it’s a great place to get an overnight rest.
2 days in Yellowstone National Park: Day 2
Two days in Yellowstone National Park won’t be complete without visiting Old Faithful, which we did on the second day.
Walk back to Yellowstone from the West Yellowstone entrance, but this time south when you get back to Madison.
You may have heard of this place? It is located in the upper geyser basin and is the world’s largest concentration of geysers. The main attraction here is of course the famous Old Faithful cone geyser, so named not because it is the most spectacular or largest geyser in the park, but the most reliable. With plenty of places to sit, wait and watch, check the watch for estimated eruption times, and keep your camera ready!
Continue south on the main road, approximately 15 miles to one of the smallest geyser concentrations in the park, but no less spectacular. There are also mud pools, fumaroles, and hot springs here. There is also the amazing Abyss Pool, the deepest pool in the whole park.
Now head east again and follow the edge of Lake Yellowstone. You can take a break along the way to take in the scenery, or you can rest and get something to eat at Bay Bridge Campground. There is a marina here and places for fishing, boating, and rafting if you want to stay longer than 2 days.
When you reach the top of the lake, take a quick detour to the Fishing Bridge Museum. Not only is it a popular spot for fish visitors, it’s also a stone-and-stone landmark that reflects the beauty of the area and provides more information about the park. After all of the major sights are done, it’s a scenic 37-mile drive up the west side of the park to the north entrance.
Again with many stops to admire and enjoy the remaining landscape. You will undoubtedly need to stop at least once to watch bison pass by, and that alone is worth the trip.
I’ve traveled a lot in the US, but Yellowstone National Park is by far one of the highlights and should be on everyone’s list for some personal experience.