What an amazing day in Yellowstone National Park. Daniel and I decided to avoid Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin area. We’ll save that for a weekday when it will hopefully be less crowded. Instead, we headed to the eastern half of the park to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone – North Rim
“All that I can say is that without warning or preparation I looked into a gulf seventeen hundred feet deep, with eagles and fish-hawks circling far below. And the sides of that gulf were one wild welter of color–crimson, emerald, cobalt, ochre, amber, honey splashed with port wine, snow white, vermilion, lemon, and silver gray in wide washes… So far below that no sound of its strife could reach us, the Yellowstone River ran a finger-wide strip of jade green.” -Rudyard Kipling in American Notes (1981)
We began our visit of the Canyon area by driving along North Rim Drive. Here, we were presented our first view of the magnificent Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. There are numerous pullouts along the road which enabled us to admire the view from several different angles.
At Lookout Point, I split off from Daniel for a bit and hiked down to a lower viewpoint of the Lower Falls. Honestly, I thought the view of the falls from the upper viewing area was better than down below, but did enjoy the hike. Although it was really crowded and in hindsight I wouldn’t recommend it on a Saturday.
We ended our tour of the North Rim with a visit to Inspiration Point. Here, we could just barely see the top of the Lower Falls further up the canyon. But we did get a lovely view of the Yellowstone River in the canyon far below us.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone – South Rim
By the time we crossed over the river to the South Rim, we were starting to get tired of the crowds. It’s exhausting to constantly try to maintain social distancing when many other people don’t care and don’t wear masks (although some did). So we kept our time on the South Rim short.
That being said, the best views of the canyon are from the South Rim at Artist’s Point. It is also the most crowded canyon overlook. We briefly stopped by for a few photos and then split.
Lunch by the Yellowstone River
After leaving the South Rim, we continued south along Grand Loop Road to the Otter Creek picnic area for lunch. Yellowstone National Park has lots of lovely picnic areas scattered throughout the park and this is an especially nice one. It’s right on the banks of the Yellowstone River just shortly before the river tumbles into the canyon far below.
The Grand Loop Road continues south and eventually winds its way through Hayden Valley. This is one of the best areas to view wildlife in the park and it didn’t disappoint. We saw several solitary bison dotting the rolling grasslands as we drove by. I was captivated by the wide open valley featuring a meandering stream, with snow-capped mountains in the distance. Lovely.
The Mud Volcano
Our next stop was the Mud Volcano Area. This section features numerous bubbling and oozing mud pots. And the smell! While the smell of sulfur exists at most of the park’s geyser features, it is especially prominent here. It’s obvious where Jim Henson got his inspiration when he created The Labyrinth‘s “Bog of Eternal Stench”.
Despite the smell I really enjoyed this area. The Mud Volcano and Dragon’s Mouth Spring were particularly cool.
Yellowstone Lake and the Continental Divide
Daniel and I were both feeling pretty tired at this point, but we were still quite a ways from our campsite. Yellowstone National Park is ENORMOUS! So we focused driving (or rather, Daniel did as it was his turn to drive today).
We only stopped twice – briefly – as we followed the Grand Loop Road back to West Yellowstone. First, we visited Yellowstone Lake. As the largest high elevation lake (over 7,000 feet) in North America, it is truly a sight to behold.
We also stopped for a photo op at the Continental Divide as it crosses the park at Isa Lake. The lake straddles the Continental Divide, which is interesting because it has two different drainage points – one going east and the other west.
Good News and Bad News
I was exhausted but elated by the time we returned to our campground. It was such an incredible day. My heart was full.
And, to top it off, our refrigerator was mysteriously working again. Daniel and I had stocked it with ice, but that appears to have been unnecessary. Hmm. We are proceeding with caution to see if this trend continues.
Today’s one negative event is that Daniel’s camera bit the dust. He’s tried several different batteries (all of which are fully charged) and it won’t turn on. And right when we are in the middle of Yellowstone National Park! So that’s a big bummer. It’s a critical piece of equipment for him, so he’s now working on figuring out next steps to repair or replace it.
Where are we now?
Date: July 18
Great American Road Trip Status: Day 13
Location: West Yellowstone, MT
Miles Today: 129.3
Total Trip Mileage: 1538.9
For more details on our Great American (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts: