July 4, 2014
Today we got up early to get ready for our day in Yellowstone. We decided to reserve our campsite at Colter Bay for one more night instead of trying to get a campsite in Yellowstone. We weren’t sure how the 4th of July would affect our chances.
It was a 30 minute drive from our campsite to the South Entrance.
Our plan for today was to follow the Grand Loop Road around the entire park – which is gigantic! Yellowstone was the nation’s first national park and has had a grand loop since 1915. As you follow the loop there are various stopping points for trail heads or overlooks. There are also turnouts (a small area where cars can pull off the road). Then there are 8 main stops along the ring and those are things like Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. Usually these stops have visitor centers, hotels, restrooms, etc. So we decided to take the Grand Loop clockwise and visit Old Faithful first. We got to Old Faithful around 10:30am and it wasn’t yet at capacity. The eruption was supposed to start around 10:55 but it didn’t go off until 11:05. There were a lot of people waiting all around the geyser. There are benches scattered around the prime viewing area and then a lot of people stand behind those too. We moved to a couple different places while we were waiting for the eruption. There were a few tease eruptions where the water gurgled up but when it finally erupted it was amazing.
After Old Faithful was done we walked up to Geyser Hill which has several thermal springs and geysers. As we were walking up we heard a man saying that Beehive Geyser was about to erupt so we walked over there first with the little crowd he had amassed. While we were waiting he told some of us that Beehive Geyser shoots up at least 200ft. so if you’re standing remotely close to it you’re going to get soaked by the spray. Welllll he was right! Even though we weren’t standing close the wind changed direction as it was erupting and the spray starting coming our way. We saw people who were closer start running our way and then we quickly did the same. It was pretty hilarious. Our backs got completely soaked!
Luckily, we dried off fairly quickly as we walked around the rest of Geyser Hill. I loved the beautiful color contrasts in the springs and pools – vibrant oranges and whites, blues and greens.
We walked over to Old Faithful Inn which was built in 1903-04 and is considered the largest log structure in the world. It’s gorgeous in the lobby – and huge! It’s several stories tall and has a little log cabin at the top.
Our next stop on the loop was Midway Geyser Basin – Rudyard Kipling called it “Hell’s Half Acre.” There were 4 geysers – the two most popular are Excelsior Geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring. The Excelsior Geyser used to be one of the park’s biggest geysers until it stopped erupting about 100 years ago. The Grand Prismatic Spring is stunning but best viewed from above. As it turns out we could have turned off earlier and hiked up to a hill that overlooked the spring. Oh well, lesson learned.
Next we passed through the Madison Junction and stopped to take a look at Gibbon Falls. Then we continued on through Norris Junction to Mammoth Hot Springs.
We took Upper Terrace Drive to park above the hot springs and walk down on the boardwalk. It looks amazingly desolate. Sometimes it felt like we were living in a prehistoric era. The drive wound around through the forest and revealed a few other terraces before dumping us back out onto the Grand Loop Road.
As we drove on the east side of the Grand Loop Road we saw a lot more wildlife. We also thought the park was prettier on that side – the views were stunning. The west side has more of the geothermal activity so once we were on the east side we saw a lot more of the massive expanse of land that Yellowstone has.
We also stopped at Artist’s Point which is in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It’s absolutely breathtaking and I know that my photos aren’t even close to the reality but at least they will give an idea of the amazing range Yellowstone has – also note the yellow stone in the canyon.
We left Artist’s Point and made our last stop of the day at Lake Lodge at Yellowstone Lake. We didn’t intend to stop there but we decided to check out the lake and use the bathroom at the lodge. Our timing couldn’t have been better because just as we were looking around the lodge we heard sirens outside and realized there was a 4th of July parade! Since we didn’t get to see any fireworks it was nice to see a little parade of park rangers.