Yellowstone National Park is probably the “grand daddy” of the National Park system, although you might be surprised to learn that it is not the most popular. Any guesses? I myself would have guessed “The Grand Canyon,” however the most popular, by-far-and-away, are The Great Smoky Mountains (with just under 10m visitors per year). Yellowstone is the 4th most popular with 3.2m annual visitors.
Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park. Located in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, it’s home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, dear, bald eagles and elk…just to name a few. Preserved within Yellowstone National Park are Old Faithful and a collection of the world’s most extraordinary geysers and hot springs.
Old Faithful is probably the most popular attraction in Yellowstone, and while it’s interesting, I personally found it a bit anticlimactic. It was like seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. The traffic getting in/out of the “Old Faithful” area requires a lot of patience. There are so many other interesting geothermal areas with similar geysers, that if I had it all to do over again, with hindsight on my side, I would have skipped the Old Faithful area. (As a side note:Old Faithful isn’t all the faithful, it was over 9 min. late when I was there)
If you’re looking for a wilderness experience, not to worry, Yellowstone is as big as the state’s of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. The park is absolutely massive with six entrances (I have made it through five now). Many of the roads in the park close in the fall and winter, so spring and summer are the best times to visit…unless of course you’re a snow enthusiast.
As I’ve said, Yellowstone is a massive park…so if you plan to do it justice, plan to spend nearly a week there. There is just so much to see and do it can be overwhelming, so try do a bit of research and plan accordingly. Be sure to leave some leeway in your plans in case you want to spend more or less time in a particualr area. You can get lost in the adventure and awe of it all. You might run across some wildlife that you want to admire for hours on end. You just never know.
The Yellowstone Park site as well as the National Park System website are great resources. Oh, something worth noting…for all of you “have to be online” folks like me…as of the summer of 2010 there is no wi-fi in the park. When I say “no” wi-fi, I mean, NO wi-fi…not even at the hotels or lodges within the park. It’s seems to be incredibly ridiculous, but I was told that “they (whomever that is)” have been trying to get wi-fi for years but for some reason the powers-to-be will not allow it.