We recently had a 5 day stretch off from my work schedule and decided to pack the RV up and head to Yellowstone National Park (YNP). We stayed in West Yellowstone which is only a 2 and ½ hour drive away from Helena. The town of West Yellowstone is set up nicely for tourists with many restaurant choices and souvenir shops! (and of course our personal favorite, ice cream!)
We ended up staying in a very small RV park called the Pony Express RV park. Since we booked this trip about 2 weeks in advance our options were limited. The RV park had everything we needed amenity-wise; sewer, 50 amp electric, water hook ups and was less than 5 minutes from the West entrance of Yellowstone. This was definitely a no frills RV park. The spaces were small with just enough room for our slides to extend and the back of our RV bordered a main road. We couldn’t complain though because it had everything we needed for a reasonable nightly rate.
Since we only had 4 days we had our itinerary packed so we could see YNP and the Grand Teatons all in one trip. On day one we drove the “lower loop” of YNP which most known for showcasing Old Faithful. Our first stop was Firehole Canyon Drive where we stopped for a photo op of the falls. This is a 2 mile one way road that starts from the loop and merges back at the loop when it is finished. It is also home to the Firehole Falls swimming hole which is supposed to be a warm water flowing river perfect for a summer swim! We didn’t stop but were hoping to come back one day during the trip.
Next stop was the Lower Geyser Basin also known as Fountain Paint Pot. This is home to many of YNP’s if best and most diverse geyser’s. It is an easy 0.5 mile boardwalk hike (if you can call it a hike, it’s has no elevation gain and is a level surface, but they call it a hike.) This was a really cool showcase of all four of YNP’s hydrothermal features; mudpots, geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles. And of course the pleasant sulfur smell that can only be best described as being similar to boiled eggs.
After the basin we headed to Midway Geyser Basin home of the Grand Prismatic Spring. I was super excited to see this because the pictures of this spring are absolutely amazing! It was really cool but I was definitely unimpressed after seeing pictures online. The viewing boardwalk for the spring should have been built on a platform to allow for a better sight. Since you are on the same level as the ground below and the spring is about 100 feet in front of you, you cant really get a good view of the whole spring. There appeared to be a trail on a nearby hill you could climb for better views but we weren’t sure where it started and didn’t have a whole lot of time to spare for a hike. I’d recommend finding the hike though if this spring is of any interest to you in your visit to YNP for a much better view. (Totally cool side note: If you read CNN or follow the news you may have heard about the “Drone” that sunk in the Grand Prismatic Springs recently. Well, Jon and I just so happened to be at the springs that the exact moment the drone drowned. It was buzzing over head while we were viewing the other springs and as we walked up to the Grand Prismatic Springs we noticed it seemed to be bobbing up and down in the air as if it was running out of battery or loosing a signal. Then all of the sudden it just fell right into the Spring! Everyone around was sort of awestruck as we were all thinking, “Did that really just happen?” Someone clapped and then we all went back to sightseeing! I totally wish I would have gotten a picture/video at the time but I didn’t. So, no pictures, but we have a really cool story to retell! http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/07/us/drones-yellowstone/ )
Next it was time to see the big kahuna, or better known as Old Faithful. This was a serious tourist attraction. There was hundreds of people milling around the lodge and land near the geyser waiting for the next eruption. The geyser erupts every 90 minutes and we arrived about 15 minutes after the last eruption. So we walked along the boardwalk checking out the other geothermal wonders. These thermals were so intriguing to me because you truly can’t see them anywhere else in the States. It is definitely a vacation worth taking just to see these natural wonders. We then found a spot to wait for Old Faithfuls eruption. It lived up to its name and erupted right on schedule for about 2 minutes. We definitely enjoyed checking that off our bucket list!
After snack time and a little souvenir shopping at the lodge it was back to the truck to finish out the loop. We had more than half the loop left and took us about 2 hours to drive, even with our surprise delay. Jon mentioned numerous times throughout the day that he, “just wanted to see a buffalo”. Despite seeing buffalo’s on our trip through Custer State Park he really wanted to see a free roaming heard of buffalo. Well his wishes were granted and then some! We drove into a traffic jam that delayed us about 30 minutes. While we waited we debated on which animal was causing the hold-up. My hope and guess was a moose, Jon stuck to his buffalo. Sure enough when traffic started moving we were greeted with a small heard of buffalo and some forest rangers directing traffic. They rushed us along with the rest of the traffic and we were pretty disappointed to not even have enough time for a decent picture. But just up the road Jon’s wishes were granted as there were hundreds of buffalo roaming the land. We got awesome shot’s of these buffalo right alongside of the car. It was really neat and Jon was so excited! (Ask him to sing his now infamous buffalo song!)
So all in all, awesome day 1 in YNP. This was an easy itinerary for the Old Faithful route and I am fairly confident that we hit all the important sights along the way.
All our love!