Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Roaring Waterfalls; Alpine Lake; Multi-Colored Hot Spring; Wildlife
The goal was to see as much as you possibly could at Yellowstone National Park in just TWO days. Yellowstone is in the shape of the number eight with a northern and southern loop. According to the National Park Service (NPS), this loop contributes to the 251 total miles (404 kilometers) of Yellowstone's roadway. It would take us every BIT of two days (and the night) even to scratch the surface of what Planet Yellowstone has to offer.
After entering the Park through the southern entrance, our first stop was to see Yellowstone Lake. While driving around the perimeter of the Lake, we noticed bubbling at the water's surface, just screaming "volcano!" As we got to the pull-out, we got a view of the Absaroka Mountain Range. It was astonishing that the range was only a few thousand feet higher in elevation than the Lake! The NPS states that Yellowstone is the "largest high elevation lake (above 7,000 feet / 2,134 m) in North America. It is roughly 20 miles (32.2 km) long and 14 miles (22.5 km) wide, with 141 miles (227 km) of shoreline." Even more incredulous is the fact that Yellowstone Lake freezes over completely every winter! But then again, Yellowstone winters are HARSH
As we followed the Yellowstone River North from Yellowstone Lake, we came across a pull out for a quiet trail leading to LeHardys Rapids. Although the rapids were not huge, we were able to see a few Cutthroat Trout. This section of the river was shallow enough to wade out and set up my tripod to capture the Yellowstone River's perspective. The picture below has slowly worked its way up on my favorites of the Yellowstone list. I can't quite put my finger on it. The feeling of standing in such a significant river is pretty intense - similar to how the Mississippi made me feel, but this was a lot more wild. Like a bear could come out and eat a trout at any moment.
Leaving LeHardy's Rapids, we followed the Yellowstone River downstream to the most acidic part of the Park - Mud Volcano. The Mud Volcano (bottom left) is actually a resurgent dome, which basically a mini volcano within a volcano! According to the NPS, "early visitors reported this as a 30 ft high cone erupting mud high enough to cover nearby trees. By the time the Park was established in 1872, however, it had apparently blown itself apart and become a crater filled with bubbling mud, as it appears today." Mud Cauldron (top left/bottom right) is basically just water and mud heated from geothermal activity below. I almost forgot, did you hear about the dragons in Yellowstone? Well, apparently, they live in this cave (top right)! From the steam rolling out like dragons’ breath, to the echoing of their voices inside, I am CONVINCED dragons are living in there. Only kidding, of course.
Bison in Hayden Valley
After seeing bison the previous day at Grand Teton National Park, I was thrilled to see some so early into our brief time at Yellowstone! This bison was grazing at a pull-out and we literally parked probably seven bison lengths away from this magnificent animal.
Our primary objective for day one in Yellowstone National Park was to check out Canyon Village. Canyon Village includes views of Upper and Lower Falls as well as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Growing up in North Carolina, I have seen a fair number of waterfalls; there is even an area in Brevard, NC, where there are over 250 waterfalls! Although this wasn't the tallest waterfall I had ever seen (Linville Falls, NC), there was something magical about the vantage points we had of the falls.
Next, we continued on the south rim of the canyon to Artist Point to see the Lower Falls. The Lower Falls are 308 ft (94 m) tall, nearly three times the Upper Falls' height! We were also excited to catch a glimpse of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone!
That was the end of our tour of the south rim of the Canyon, so we drove back by the Upper Falls and followed North Rim Drive around the north side of the Canyon. This presented a glorious view of the Upper Falls. If you look close enough, you can see people at the brink of the Upper Falls!
We hung out on the North Rim and hiked to a couple of different spots to view the Lower Falls. These pictures really help to give you a sense of scale to just how deep this Canyon is!
Grand Prismatic Spring
After spending most of the afternoon venturing around the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, we went to Canyon Village to get a meal and shop for souvenirs. It was starting to get closer to sunset, so we drove over to Grand Prismatic Spring. According to the National Park Service, Yellowstone's largest hot spring at over 370 ft (113 m) in diameter and 121 ft (37 m) deep. Checking out Grand Prismatic Springs, it felt like we were on a different planet. It was pretty chilly out that evening, but the heat coming off the hot spring would occasionally blow our direction and warm us up slightly. The smell of the sulfur was strong, and if you haven't smelled it before, it smelled like rotten eggs.
I decided it was best to stay here for astrophotography thanks to some quick research on Photo Pills. It was about an hour after sunset that the sky was its darkest as the moon would be rising soon. So, I snapped some milky way shots. The top right picture happened by accident and actually turned out really cool! As I was shooting, there was a vehicle driving in the distance with its lights on. The light from this vehicle backlit the steam coming off of Grand Prismatic Spring and produced a beautiful image!