I am grateful that I was able to enjoy multiple national parks before the fires ran rampant. I am saddened to see the beauty I encountered hindered by the blazing flames. My thoughts and prayers go out to the parks, the people, and the animals.
I can honestly say that if you do not like Yellowstone, you do not like anything. It had a humbling way of making me feel like a dust particle in the wind – as if I was a small speck basking in all the glorious sights it had to offer. In case you did not already know, Yellowstone is the oldest national park – although, it is not just popular because of its seniority. The 2.2 million acre park has a lot to offer, including excellent accommodations, a large quantity of visible wildlife, enjoyable hiking trails, an abundance of geysers, and much more.
**All lodges in Yellowstone follow a certain theme (ours was retro themed)**
Since the park is so vast, many people stay in various lodges throughout their visit. We opted to stay in the same lodge for our whole visit, as we did not mind all the driving.
We stayed at Moran Lodge, one of the lodges within Canyon Lodge. A perk of this lodge is that it is near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, hence the name. FUN FACT: Canyon Lodge is the largest sustainable lodging available in the national parks! For example, the countertops in the rooms are made of recycled glass and fly ash, and the wood fixtures are made from regional pine beetle killed trees.
The room was nice, new, cozy, and clean – it was Disneyesque! Our room was stocked with 4 recycled Yellowstone glasses to use during our stay. If you love them just as much as I did, they are available for purchase at the gift stores.
Internet service is available for purchase (4.95 per hour, $11.95 per day, $24.95 for three days) and can only be used in the Canyon Lodge public areas (Washburn Lobby and the dining building). I must warn that it is not the fastest, but it is the only option.
Canyon Lodge offers various dining options that we utilized, including the Canyon Lodge Eatery, Canyon Lodge Falls Cafe, Canyon Lodge Ice Creamery, and Canyon Lodge M66 Grill. I will say, the food exceeded our expectations.
Other Lodges in the Park (only including the ones I physically explored):
The Old Faithful Inn was visibly older. It had a rustic vibe to it. I loved how the chairs on each floor faced the center. This lodge is conveniently located right by Old Faithful.
Roosevelt Lodge & Cabins was built in 1920 near Yellowstone’s Tower Falls area and is located near a campsite once used by President Theodore Roosevelt. This lodge was historically adorable. It has a wonderful breakfast and the drive to the area was gorgeous.
I had high expectations of Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins, due to the elegant yellow exterior and the proximity to the lake. Unfortunately, just like the unnecessarily expensive Lake Hotel Dining Room, it completely disappointed me. Upon entering the hotel, it was evidently outdated and had a strong musty smell. To top it off, the ladies bathroom in the lobby was missing toilet paper in several stalls. A positive point for me was the live quartet performance (from the middle of June through the beginning of August, the Lake Hotel Quartet performs Thursday through Monday evenings in the sunroom).
Mammoth Hot Springs & Liberty Cap
Mammoth Hot Springs was unlike anything I have ever seen before. It was not particularly pretty, but rather unbelievable. It looked like a cave turned inside out. I knew nothing about Mammoth Hot Springs before seeing it, thus causing a bit of shock and denial. In case you have no idea what I am talking about, Mammoth Hot Springs is a large complex of hot springs on a hill of travertine. More information on this must-see can be found here. In the same area as Mammoth Hot Springs, the phallic looking Liberty Cap can also be found – it is believed to be an extinct thermal feature.
Upon entering the park, I saw a mommy bison feeding her calf; it was the perfect welcome. I have never seen so many bison in my life (not that I would ever see one in Miami). I saw so many that I now have serious issues eating bison – they are my friends! They were all over the place, no matter the weather.
To me, they are pretty much big deer that are not afraid of cars or people – of course, the Yellowstone elk are used to people gawking at them. Elkie (my Elk friend) graced us with her presence and allowed us to get some amazing shots.
Bison and Elk AND Bears, Oh My! The possibility of spotting bears was probably what I was most excited for – I think they are furry balls of cuteness (of course, I would NEVER want to upset any of them, so I love them from afar). Seeing a momma bear with her cub on the side of the road was the icing on the cake. Along with seeing black bears and a grizzly, I also saw a blonde black bear – apparently, black bears can be several different colors, including black, brown, cinnamon, blonde, blue-gray, and white. Seeing all the bears, reminded me of the time I saw a black bear rummaging through the garbage on the porch of my cabin in Tennessee. Throughout my Yellowstone trip, I saw a total of 6 bears!
Keep in mind, sunset in late June was at 9PM. Until our last night in Yellowstone, I had not seen it get completely dark outside. Since we had a later dinner at the Lake Hotel Dining Room, by the time we left it was dark out and it was scary….I do not recommend driving around when it is pitch black outside; I was terrified of hitting an animal. During the drive, we were discussing how the one animal we had not seen was a wolf and POOF, a wolf or a coyote or whatever appeared. Considering its small stature, it was probably a coyote.
Although I do not have any pictures of mountain goats in Yellowstone, they can be spotted with binoculars and/or a telescope. A popular spot they can be found at is Barronette Peak. During our drive, we came across a bunch of people settled on the side of the road watching the goats in the distance (with binoculars and telescopes, of course).
Rain or shine, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a beautiful sight. You have not truly seen Yellowstone, until you have viewed the Grand Canyon from all the different angles and rims. On our one rainy day in Yellowstone, we did our first viewing of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone from the north & south rims.
Brink of Lower Falls Trail
OK so, the Brink of Lower Falls Trail is a must-do. There is an observation platform perched at the top of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone that allows you to see the river plunge 308 feet into the heart of the canyon – this view cannot be missed. The rainbow made the view all the more magical and the green crystalline was unreal. The hike was quick and easy until it was time to go uphill. Fair warning, do NOT wear flip flops – they will fall apart going downhill. Also, dress appropriately for these trails – be kind to your body and wear sneakers and comfortable clothes. I kid you not, I saw people in sandals, ballerina flats, dresses, rompers, etc.
Sulfur Caldron & Mud Volcano
“The thermal features at Mud Volcano and Sulphur Caldron are primarily mudpots and fumaroles because the area is situated on a perched water system with little water available” (NPS / Jim Peaco). The Sulphur Caldron is among the most acidic springs in the park and it basically smelled like gnarly (Earth) farts. As for the Mud Volcano, it made me really want some spa time – you know, like a nice mud mask.
Fishing Bridge and Yellowstone Lake
Although the Fishing Bridge has been closed to fishing since 1973, people still go to observe fish. The iconic bridge is a must-see, even if are just driving by. Do you love capturing beautiful sights? Well, Yellowstone Lake is a great picture spot. The night I went to the Lake Hotel, I snapped gorgeous shots of Yellowstone Lake.
Old Faithful is obviously a must-see. Everyone has heard of Yellowstone’s most predictable and famous geyser. Eruptions can range from 60-110 minutes with 74 minutes currently being the average. Although Old Faithful will not be the most gorgeous nor exciting thing you will see on your trip to Yellowstone, it is important to see it, get your pictures/videos, and check out the other geysers in the area. Do not worry if you have to wait for the eruption to occur, the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center offers informational exhibits and a film in their theatre revolving around what Yellowstone has to offer. The film made me want to see Yellowstone during every season.
Before leaving the Old Faithful area, walk around a bit – trust me, you will find some incredible geysers to gaze at. Among the ones I saw, I really liked the Blue Star Spring and the Chinese Spring.
FUN FACT: Yellowstone has the largest concentration of active geysers in the world –approximately half of the world’s total.
Lamar & Hayden Valley
Wildlife love Yellowstone’s huge and wide valleys, therefore Lamar & Hayden Valley are the perfect spots to view animals. Bison are abundant in these valleys; they can be spotted drinking water, eating, and laying in dirt. These valleys strangely make it easier for me to imagine a time when dinosaurs inhabited the earth.
Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world. Pictures of this hot spring are extremely popular due to its size and vivid colors. I knew it would be beautiful, but the true exquisiteness of it did not hit me until I saw it in person. I hiked Fairy Falls Trail to get to the Grand Prismatic overview. Rather than seeing it at a more leveled angle, I got to see it from above. I did not hike all the way to the falls; I did the overlook and then turned around.
Dunraven Pass is the highest road pass in Yellowstone National Park (8,859 feet). You will get some incredible views from up here. Although, I must caution that it is often closed due to snow.
Believe it or not, there are actually good eats in the park. Most of the ingredients used are fresh and there are several options for vegetarians and vegans.
For the majority of my stay, I utilized the convenient and satisfying dining option in the lodge I was staying at.
This is the actual sit-down restaurant in Canyon Lodge. It was good, but not out of this world. It was bit expensive for what it was. If you are visiting Yellowstone during peak season (like I did), make reservations! We had the White Bean Dip for appetizer and it was addicting – unfortunately, I could not snap a photo before it was devoured. For dinner, I had the bison burger and it was better than the other bison burger I had on the trip. I know what you are thinking, how could you possibly eat bison after seeing them all day….well, honestly, I felt really guilty about it.
The Canyon Lodge Eatery allows guests to customize their meals with fresh sustainable items, featuring local ingredients. In the eatery there’s Fresh Wok, which includes a base of greens, rice or noodles, veggies and/or meat (chicken, salmon, steak) or tofu, and a choice of flavorful sauces and toppers. The Wok was absolutely amazing – I had it multiple times during my stay. The eatery also includes a variety of breakfast options and a section for Slow Fast Food (greens, potatoes or pasta, veggies and/or meat from slow-cooked stews and braises, and a selection of boldly flavored sauces and toppers. Rotisserie chicken is also available).
There is also a cute retro diner in the general store (yes, you read that correctly) – I had a burger and it was pretty good. The potatoes in this part of the USA are consistently AMAZING (Idaho potatoes?).
This ice creamery has Montana-made ice cream from Big Dipper! And yes, they have the famous huckleberry ice cream that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE.
This place is not worth it. It was expensive, the people were rude, and the food was subpar. Our experience started off on the wrong foot when we were treated poorly by the hostess. Yellowstone is a national park, I see no need for “fancy” restaurants. We had a duck risotto for appetizer and the rice was undercooked, so we sent it back. I had the Butternut Squash Noodles with Bison Tenderloin Tips and it was alright – the bison was pretty dry. My Dad ordered the Bison Tenderloin cooked medium and it was brought medium well. He, of course, complained and they brought him another one. For our poor experience, we were given free dessert and thankfully, it was good.
I loved this breakfast spot. The rocking chairs outside, the overall vibe, and the menu reminded me of Cracker Barrel. We thoroughly enjoyed our big breakfast. I had huckleberry pancakes and they did not disappoint!
I never want to forget what it felt like to be in Yellowstone. I never want to forget the air and how I felt breathing it. I never want to forget what it looked like – yes, of course, I have pictures, but they do not do the park justice.
I fall in love with places, cities, even nature a lot. What can I say, I like to see the beauty in everything. It is not hard to see the beauty that emanates from Yellowstone. In fact, I argue that no one can dislike it. I’ll even go a step further and say that no one can visit and not fall in love with it. Once you see it, once you experience it – it captivates you and your life changes.
So go. Visit our national parks and take it all in.
Check out my Yellowstone Vlog for all the action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCgIBJk2u28&t=70s
Until next time,