In addition to its waterfalls, Yellowstone has many other attractions to keep you busy taking photos or admiring the scenery. I’ve singled out some of the features that you’re bound to see upon a visit to the park. Read below to get a brief introduction to these features.
Old Faithful Geyser: It is the most predictable of Yellowstone's collection of geysers. And because of its tendency to perform like clockwork, it has also become one of the enduring symbols of the national park. It's practically compulsory of all visitors to see the geyser erupt at least once on their trip to the park.
Predictable Geysers: Of course Old Faithful isn't the only predictable geyser in Yellowstone National Park. There are others like Daisy Geyser and Grand Geyser that also perform regularly albeit without quite the precision of their famous counterpart. You can see a table of estimated eruption times at the Old Faithful Visitor Center in the south end of the Upper Geyser Basin.
Morning Glory Pool: This is one of the most prominent and prettiest thermal pools in the park. However, this pool was once in danger of losing its colors when the Grand Loop Road used to pass close to it, which increased the likelihood of thoughtless visitors throwing coins into it - thus causing the pool to cool and jeopardize the existence of the color-causing bacteria that thrive within. Today, you'll have to do a little walking along the Upper Geyser Basin to get to the pool, and it's well worth the exercise.
Grand Prismatic Spring: This is the largest and most dramatic of the thermal pools in Yellowstone. Its array of colors almost makes it seem like you're walking amongst nature's graffiti of color-causing bacteria of all sorts of different shades. There is a boardwalk in the Midway Geyser Basin that takes you up close to this incredible spring. But if you do the Fairy Fall Trail, you might be able to climb up the hill and see the pool in almost its entirety.
Other Pools: In addition to the famous colorful pools in Yellowstone, there are numerous smaller pools that are also interesting to see. Many of them have various shapes and sizes that resemble things we see in everyday life (which their names often reflect).
For example, some of these pools include Shield Spring, Heart Spring, and Belgian Spring. You're bound to see many more, and you'll probably not have enough time to even see half them!
Other Geysers: In addition to predictable geysers, there are numerous unpredictable geysers and smaller geysers that litter the Yellowstone Caldera. Some, like the Pinwheel Geyser, have bacteria that create patterns reminiscent of its namesake pinwheel.
Terraces: In the northwest section of the Grand Loop, the Mammoth area features many terraces. While the spring behavior that gives some of these terraces life often changes with time, even the extinct ones are interesting. Take for example the Minerva Terrace, which was active throughout the 80s and early 90s. It was the most popular of the park's terraces before its spring no longer flowed.
When we were there in June 2004, Canary Spring seemed to get the most action. Meanwhile, Minerva Terrace looked ghostly white and eerily reminded us of marble formations you might find in Greece.
Wildlife: Of all the features in Yellowstone National Park, none receive quite the loyal following and thrill of seeing the wildlife in their habitat without fences nor cages. In fact, they are as much of the experience and landscape as you are when you roam through the park. There's a certain sense of thrill and unpredictability as you're never quite sure what some of the park's megafauna will do next.
Sometimes it's almost as if some of the wildlife are celebrities in the park. This is especially true of bear sightings which often result in traffic jams of rubbernecking tourists called "bear jams." There are also traffic jams caused by bison herds blocking the road, which we witnessed on our trip.
Some wildlife spotting hotspots include Lamar Valley which is known for wolf sightings (which were re-introduced to the park in 1995) as well as the plains Hayden Valley. Julie and I saw a giant herd of elk and bison in the west end of the park near Madison. Even the elk act are oblivious to the human traffic that goes on in the townships of Mammoth and Canyon.
Of course, this thrill and unpredictability with wildlife can have consequences. There have been episodes of elk ramming vehicles during rutting season, bison goring people who got too close, and grizzly bear attacks who attacked unsuspecting hikers that were unaware of their disturbance to them. It is best to keep your distance with the wildlife as much as possible to minimize the likelihood of something unfortunate happening. These organisms are not tame and there are no "good" nor "bad" animals.
Grand Teton National Park: This park is outside Yellowstone National Park, but no visit should be done without spending some time beneath the magnificent mountain ranges of the Grand Tetons. Rising sharply from the Jackson Hole up to some 13,000ft, they really do look like they scrape the sky. In fact, it may be one of the most scenic skylines in the world.
There are several spots in the Jackson Hole where you can see the impressive east-facing skyline. Among them are the Snake River Overlook, Oxbow Bend, and the views looking right into Cascade Canyon. You can see this range in the warm early morning sunlight (if it's not too foggy) or in the enchanting colors of the setting sun painting the clouds that barely hang above the sharp peaks.
Wildflowers: During the spring and early summer, wildflowers are on display in the prairies and meadows of the Jackson Hole. Using these subjects with the incredible skyline of the Grand Tetons in the background, you'll get unbelievable photos that will make your friends think you're a real pro at photography!
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