Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is located in the Northwest corner of Wyoming and a little bit into Idaho and Montana. It is the first national park ever established in the world in 1872. The park is known for its wildlife (including bison, elk, deer, moose, pronghorn, coyote, wolf, grizzly bear, black bear, mountain lion, eagle, osprey, and many more) and the geothermal features (geysers, mud pots, hot springs, including the famous Old Faithful geyser). This park also has many other features that makes it a wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts — forests, mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, canyons, waterfalls.

I visited Yellowstone as part of a road trip to Wyoming along with a visit to the Grand Teton National Park nearby. Yellowstone National Park area is quite large that we decided to cover different areas of the park on each of the two days that we spent in the area. The first day we covered the western part of the park, driving north all the way to Mammoth Hot Springs area (about 51-mile drive). The second day, we covered the eastern part of the park to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone area, and then drove back in a loop through the Old Faithful area. We did see some of the major features like the Old Faithful Geyser, the Grand Prismatic Spring, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, but during the two days we could only do mostly driving around with occasional stops to visit overlooks and sights.

From wildlife viewing perspective, we were so excited to see a herd of bison not long after we entered the park, but by the middle of our first day, the bison were seen everywhere (including some that caused traffic jam as they walked on the road and took their time with a long line of tourists waiting). It’s hard to believe that the bison once roamed around everywhere all over United States (numbered between 25-60 millions by estimates at one point), but in the 19th century they were hunted to almost extinction. The herd in Yellowstone National Park was the last free ranging bison herd in the United States, and at one point there were only 23 of them left. Now there are about 3,700 of them in the park, a testament of how the National Park helped bringing back the bison from endangered species status.

We also saw one black bear from a distance, several herds of elk, and a couple of moose. Unfortunately we did not see any grizzly bear or other animals that you probably have better chance of encountering when you go on a hike into the forest trails. The coolest wildlife encounter was one that was totally unexpected. When we were driving back towards Jackson Hole after dark on the second night, at one point we noticed an animal walked across the road in the distance. We slowed down and stopped, and when we looked to the side of the car, we saw a wolf pausing after crossing the road and looking at our car. For a few moment, we just looked at wolf in awe, and before we could get our cameras to take a snapshot, the wolf continued its trek and disappeared into the darkness.

The photo below was taken near the Mammoth Hot Springs at the north part of the park. You could see part of the geothermal features nearby, and in the distance you can see the resort area in the valley and the wide open country in the background.

Yellowstone Country near Mammoth Hot Springs

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