By Guest Blogger Madi Rogers, Rising 11th grader at Davie County High School
Everyone’s bucket list includes a trip to Yellowstone National Park, one of the most ethereal places you can visit. This terrain and area is like no other. As you make your way around the massive park, you will experience such unique sights, and feeling like you are on another planet is common!
Yellowstone is located in a part of the country that makes the visit perfect for a road trip. My family turned our drive into a 19 day adventure. We covered 15 states and many national landmarks and parks in just under 6,000 miles.
I challenge you to find something that interests you in each state along your path. For example, visiting the covered bridges of Madison County, Iowa or the largest rail yard in the world in North Platte, Nebraska gave us something to look forward to each day of our drive. We even found locally owned restaurants in many of the towns we stayed in overnight. Lodging was not hard to find along the way. We chose to camp in our tent at KOA campgrounds on the way to Yellowstone. On the way back, we were ready for air conditioning and television, so we found hotels along the route. The drives each day weren’t hard or confusing to navigate, they were just very long stretches.
A road trip is still an option if you prefer a shorter vacation; however, if you don’t enjoy the car, flying is always an alternative. I highly recommend flying into Jackson, Wyoming so that Grand Teton National Park can be a part of your trip.
Once we arrived in Yellowstone, we stayed inside the park. Keeping in mind that the park is over two million acres, we planned our visit to maximize our time outside of the car. We spent our first two nights in the northern end of the park at Mammoth Hotel in Mammoth Hot Springs. From this hotel, we were not only able to hike around the hot springs, but were also nearby the famous archway at the northern entrance, wildlife viewing in Lamar Valley, and ancient petrified trees.
We moved to Canyon Village in the middle of Yellowstone for the second portion of our stay. Here we had easy access to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the Mud Volcano, Hayden Valley, West Thumb, Lake Yellowstone and Norris Geyser Basin. Saving Old Faithful Inn, and arguably the most famous part of the park for last, gave us plenty of time to explore the southern geyser basins, Fountain Paint Pots, and Grand Prismatic Springs.
All of these places are extremely accessible as there are boardwalks around the entirety of the park’s attractions. Remember to download the NPS Yellowstone App, and grab a map and information at the visitor’s center to make your travel easier. See the park map here to start planning your ideal route.
Plan ahead. Anything can happen in such an unconstrained area so remember to come prepared. Water, snacks, and good shoes are all essential items when exploring Yellowstone. There are many uncontrollable factors when journeying in Yellowstone, one being the wildlife. While hiking, carry bear spray and be familiar with safe distances and proper responses to wildlife encounters. While driving, bison traffic jams are not uncommon delays to your plans. Always, you should follow park ranger instructions to ensure your safety.
Yellowstone is home to extremely unpredictable geothermal features, and a large gathering of people might mean something big is about to happen! Although many areas of the park are definitely more popular than others, anywhere you go in the park you will have access to amazing features. The underlying volcano that produces the geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles is a spectacular phenomenon, and the science behind it is mesmerizing. This is something you can research beforehand or talk to park rangers in and around the visitor’s centers. Be sure to take as many photos as possible, as Yellowstone is an extremely photogenic destination.
Overall, my family trip to Yellowstone National Park is one of my favorite vacations. Being so removed from our normal environment allowed us to spend quality time together as a family. Discovering the great outdoors while learning about a very unique natural occurrence makes Yellowstone one of the best places for all ages and families. I highly recommend you explore this area of the country at least once in your life; it is something you don’t want to miss.
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