The mighty Yellowstone National Park. It’s famous alright and to be honest I didn’t know why exactly until now. It’s just so unbelievably diverse and unlike any other national park in the world. Some areas make you feel like you’ve stepped off planet earth for a second.
Let me begin with some interesting facts.
- Established in 1872 Yellowstone is the oldest national park in the world.
- Total area is 2.2 million acres – which in comprehensible terms is a square area 95km by 95km.
- Comprised of 80% forest, 15% meadows, 5% water spread across three states. 96% Wyoming, 3% Montana, 1% Idaho.
- “If you drive every road in Yellowstone National Park you will see only 2% of the park”
- Contains more than 300 active geysers. Two-thirds of all those on the planet.
- Contains 10000 geothermal features (geysers, hot springs, steam vents and mud pots). Half of all known features in the world.
- Home to approximately 4000 bison (or buffalo).
The park really is just massive. I was shocked. In the three days I was there I drove 600km just to see the grand sights like the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Mammoth hot springs.
In a way Yellowstone is a big theme park with rides and attractions scattered everywhere and everyone dashing to the next ride. One difference though. Instead of getting distracted by food stalls on your way to the next ride you get distracted by herds of bison, or get caught in a “bear jam”.
I saw hundreds and hundreds of bison, a handful of elk and five grizzly bears.
A full grown bison is monstrous!!! Weighing a ton and according to the park ranger’s talk “They are real athlete’s too. They’re no cow. They can sprint 30 miles an hour and jump over a car.” Bison also injure the most people every year because people get too close for comfort and BAM. You’re sitting in hospital telling your story about how you got gored by a bison. Congrats.
Continuing with the bison subject. One afternoon I was driving and pulled up to a stop because two bison were walking along in my lane without a care in the world. I waited for a few minutes then crept closer so I could squeeze past. The other lane was in a “bison jam” for hundreds of metres so no way through there.
As I past I remember looking out the window and seeing a ton of muscle eyeballing me only a metre from my shrinking car. Please don’t charge I thought…and it didn’t, phew. No hospital goring stories to tell.
Accommodation wise I camped in the park. Two nights at Madison and one night at Norris campground. Both were good. Half of Yellowstone’s campgrounds are reservation only and the other half fill up on a first come first served basis.
In addition to the tremendous wildlife and wild geysers, Yellowstone is a mecca for photographers. Every second person had a big, black, shiny Canon or Nikon. One lady even had three camera’s draped around her neck and was switching between them. Too many for my liking. When a place gets like that it just feels too touristy.
So how would I rate Yellowstone compared to the other parks?
I thought about this really long and hard, and I finally settled on this list…
My favourite national parks to date:
- Yosemite, California
- Yellowstone, Wyoming
- Zion, Utah
- Grand Canyon, Arizona
- Redwoods, California
- Arches, Utah
I can’t go past Yosemite for the win. It’s stunning beauty, hiking trails and ease to get around trump the geothermal uniqueness, wildlife and vastness of Yellowstone.