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Yellowstone National Park WY--Road Tripping Up-streme!

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Updated June 12, 2016

Yellowstone National Park WY is my favorite place in the world!

I’m not alone in my sentiments.  

It’s one of the most visited national parks in the world.

Little did I know when we ventured forth, this road trip vacation would turn up some adventurous surprises!

As we live in a craggy wilderness off the slopes of the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, we forged our way east by the interstate freeway system.  It started at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers in Pasco, Washington, where we began following the Snake River upstream, through Oregon and Idaho to Wyoming's State boundary line.

That’s when our road trip became interesting . . . 

. . . venturing upstream and off-freeway!

You can learn more about our Snake River road trip in the Snake River Series

About the Snake River Headwaters &
Yellowstone National Park WY

Yellowstone National Park WY is home to the Snake River Headwaters Wild and Scenic River, one of the largest and most pristine temperate ecosystems in the world.  

Protected by Congress, the Snake River Headwaters Legacy Act was passed on March 30, 2009 and comprises the Snake’s major tributaries and surrounding wildlife habitat.

“The continuum of human use along the Snake River Headwaters encompasses thousands of years of diverse people, cultures, and uses. American Indian through early-twentieth century American cultures flourished along these rivers because they provided a corridor for travel through inaccessible terrain and sustenance for travelers. Evidence of Native American travel and settlement, fur trapping, exploration, early European-American settlement, tourism, dude ranching, public lands management, and conservation activities is reflected in archeological sites, historic buildings, and cultural landscapes along the river corridors. Natural and cultural resources continue to carry cultural significance to American Indian Tribes and others to the present day.”, p. 14

This remarkable wilderness is one of the most visited on earth, yet its natural setting remains virtually untouched since its creation.

Visitors enjoy sightseeing, photographing jaw-dropping scenery and abundant wildlife, water sports, back country treks on foot and horseback, fishing, camping and backpacking.

the journey begins here . . . live the adventure!

Map Your Road Trip

Use the map below to locate the destination of your choice in Yellowstone National Park WY.  Click on the red pins to get more information.

Yellowstone National Park WY

After visiting the Grand Teton Mountains we had a couple of extra days free to discover new sights.

So, we pressed forward the next morning before sun-up.  From our lodging in Jackson, Wyoming, it was about a two hour drive to Yellowstone National Park.

By the time the sun crested the mountains, we were coursing north on the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway.  

After entering Yellowstone National Park WY via the South Entrance, the Snake River bends east to its headwaters just below the western side of the Continental Divide, north of Overlook Mountain.

While the road no longer followed along the shores of the great Snake River, we decided to explore the surrounding wilderness from which it was born.  

Lewis Falls

We hooked up with the Lewis River, a major tributary of the Snake River, and continued north seeking more adventure.

The deeper we meandered into Yellowstone National Park WY, the more stunning the scenery became.

Lewis Falls attracts many visitors.  It can be seen at a distance from a bridge crossing over the river.

Following the Lewis River upstream, we came upon Lewis Lake.  This drive-by snapshot came out pretty well considering the time of day and the position of the sun.

Kepler Cascades

We crossed the Continental Divide several times over the course of the two days we spent in Yellowstone National Park WY.  This was the highest elevation crossing on a beautiful morning.

I was lucky to catch this photo as we traveled down the road.  There were no shoulder or vehicle turnouts, because the landscape plunges deep into this hoodooed canyon with the rushing river below.

Through the forest and around the bend, we caught glimpses of Yellowstone Lake glistening in the far distance.  We skirt the shores of the lake later on our journey.

Just when we think the canyon scenery can’t get any better, it does.

Kepler Cascades was so worth the stop!

The rush of foamy rapids tumbling boulders and cool spray, . . .

. . . we had to shout to hear each other over the roar of the cascades!  

Everything is larger than life at Yellowstone National Park WY.

Old Faithful

Did you know Yellowstone National Park WY has over two-thirds of the worlds geysers?  After all my travels,  Yellowstone National Park WY remains my favorite road trip destination . . 

. . . and Old Faithful Geyser has become dear to my heart.

This particular sight always moves me so deeply.  Its power and greatness are a testament to creation.

Apparently, I’m not alone in my reverence for this American icon.  

The audience waited patiently, reigning in their giddy anticipation.  

A light breeze ruffled our hair and carried an effervescent mist, which tickled our noses with its earthy scent.

We quieted in presence of great awe . . . 

Old Faithful Geyser

I did my best to capture the special moments with my little red camera to share with you what we experienced.  

When Old Faithful's steamy show was over, the spectators cheered and applauded!

It was wonderful!

Upper Geyser Basin

While Old Faithful is the shining star of geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin, the surrounding caldera steams and boils.

Ambling along the boardwalk is like strolling through a museum.  There are many curiosities here, most of them unspeakably beautiful.

Castle Geyser was very picturesque.  These are just a few of the many photos we took expressing the chameleon personality of this fascinating cone geyser.

“Cone geysers function similarly to a nozzle spouting water . . . . During geyser eruptions, silica is deposited around narrow ‘vents’ or openings.  Over time this mineral, called geyserite or sinter, forms mounds of varying sizes and shapes.”


“. . . Castle Geyser has dramatically changed its surroundings.  By flooding the area with hot, silica-rich water, the geyser has devoured part of the pine forest and turned it into a thermal desert.  Tree skeletons are entombed within the cone.”


Mallard Creek surges through the Upper Geyser Basin, a refreshing swath of blue on a colorful landscape.

We easily spent half our day saturating our senses amidst the spectacular splendor, and still didn't see everything here.

Water pours from the Earth through pools, portals to the deep.

Crested Pool is an absorbing experience, like waiting for a ginormous cauldron to simmer and boil.

“Hot springs are the most numerous type of thermal feature in Yellowstone . . . but few are as hot and as intensely colored as Crested Pool.  Water temperatures within the pool often exceed the boiling point . . . and reach superheated temperatures . . . The spring’s intense blue color results when sunlight passes into its clear waters. Blue, from the rainbow of colors in visible light, is scattered the most and, therefore, is the color we see.”


Spasmodic Geyser

Erupting from over 20 vents, Spasmodic Geyser's watery spurts, splashes, gushes, and steamy bursts, accompanied by a variety of amusing noises, makes great entertainment.

Sawmill Geyser

Though it is not as dramatic as Old Faithful, Sawmill Geyser puts on a show for visitors.

The small vent of Penta Geyser boasts a large quantity of hot water upon eruption, which spills over into nearby Mallard Creek.

Black Sands Basin

Across the highway from Upper Geyser Basin more vapors rise from sulfurous spews surging through holes in Earth’s crust.

"Black obsidian (volcanic glass) "sand" gives this geyser basin its name.  Oranges, greens and other colors in and around the hot springs come from thermophiles (heat-loving organisms)."


Like a white blight blanketing the land, Cliff Geyser’s constant gushing deposits growing layers of minerals onto the soil.

It’s hard to believe that such a small geyser can create such a mess!

Emerald Pool is in vibrant contrast to Cliff Geyser, a flamboyant flaunting in a timeless forest.

We cut short our visit to Black Sands Basin, missing Rainbow Pool and Sunset Lake, because we had other sights to discover, many more miles to travel, and the day was going fast. 

Wildlife Jams

There’s always some kind of adventure to be had at Yellowstone National Park WY, and encounters with wildlife are a highlight of any visit to a wilderness.

We took a brief break at a picnic wayside on the shores of the refreshing Firehole River.

That’s where we met this sleek Raven who perched about three feet away and stared at us with beady black eyes.  

A rather large bird, this raven didn't budge as we got in and out of the car; disconcertingly too familiar with humans.  

It’s not just the wildlife that provides entertainment for visitors . . . 

. . . some people will do anything to capture wildlife on film.  We saw some pretty crazy antics, often the reason for the frequent “wildlife traffic jams” while touring the park.

We caught this gentleman using a little safer method in his attempt to shoot a photo of what caused this “jam”.

For forty minutes we were third in line, creeping along behind this young bull who swaggered down the middle of our lane.  

With the Firehole River on one side and a steep shale cliff on the other, there was no place for the bison to give way.

Finally, the road widened enough the bison was able to step off onto a gravel shoulder and let us pass.

We grabbed the opportunity to do a drive by shooting—photo only!

Firehole Canyon

One of the most memorable sights of our road trip was exploring the sights in stunning Firehole Canyon.

Firehole Canyon Drive is a narrow, one-way road carved in the winding sheer cliffs of Firehole Canyon above the rushing Firehole River.

While my photos don’t begin to capture the exhilarating experience they do convey some of what we saw.

I am continually awestruck by the curious strata, remnants of the cataclysmic geologic event that shaped Yellowstone National Park WY.

Waves of vertigo challenge my ability to take this photo with a steady hand.  

I’m leaning against a car, my knees bent to lower my center of gravity, so I don’t fall down.  My head is spinning as I painfully crane my neck to look up at the sharp crag.  I’m white knuckling the camera, which makes it hard to push the small buttons.  

Afterwards, I’m a bit light-headed from holding my breath for so long, and I shake off the paralyzing fear that froze my muscles.

Conquering fear is never easy, but it is victorious . . . especially when a photo turns out great!

Firehole Falls is larger than life.  

My photo is only a faded shadow of the incredibleness, missing all the magic. 

Step into this picture and imagine yourself there.  

Let your senses experience . . . 

Magnitude of Magnificence

a poem by Cat McMahon

Painted rich

Surging water




Tumbling boulders

Rumbling earth


Wet deep

Gushing gorge

Whipping wind


Goose bumps

Sunbaked skin

Sparkling spray


Blinking burning



Soul enthralling grandeur

A heart-stopping, narrow trail leads to the precipice overlooking the Cascades of the Firehole.  The breathtaking view is worth the risk of misstep.

From Firehole Canyon Road, we turn north again, on Grand Loop Road/US 287 to the junction at Madison, where we swing east on, staying on Grand Loop Road/US 89.  

Because time is short, we choose to bypass some sights we’d seen on previous trips to Yellowstone National Park WY decades ago.

At Norris, we take turn east again, this time onto Norris Canyon Road to complete our tour of the southern loop of the park.  We hook up with Grand Loop Road southbound at Canyon Village junction.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

One of the most outstanding must-see sights in the USA is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  

The Yellowstone River cuts a scenic swath through the wilderness as deep as 1200 feet and about 20 miles long.  

Many viewpoints along both the north and south rims provide comprehensive views of this superb location.  

The photos and information here are a tasty tidbit whetting your appetite to see more!

Oxidized Rhyolite paints rusty red strokes along the yellowed cliffs.  Hydro-thermal features steaming from vents along the canyon walls can be seen on cooler days.

Located toward the south end of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Yellowstone River plummets over 300 feet at Lower Falls.  This photo was shot from the Brink of the Lower Falls Viewpoint.  Even from here, we could feel the mist from the rushing water.

The river cascades downstream of the falls where several geysers spurt thermal waters, fountains of the deep.

Osprey rear their young in huge nests built atop towering pinnacles or high in the cliffs near their fishing grounds.

Geology works impossible feats, such as this huge diamond shaped boulder perched upon a rugged spire jutting from the vast depths of the canyon floor below.

This remarkable raven was quite a character.  He visited each and every tourist, striking a photogenic pose whenever a camera pointed his way.

Hayden Valley

The fragrant pine forest gives way to a pastoral valley filled with beautiful meadows and sage brush flats set against a big sky.

Hayden Valley never disappoints us.  There’s always some wildlife to see.  In the past we've seen foxes and wolves here.

On this autumn day we were delighted to find Buffalo grazing the slopes and traipsing through marshes.

I enjoyed watching this calf wallow.  He was quite comical. 

Frolicking calves and grazing cows were oblivious to the bulls skirmishing around them.

Mud Volcano

The steam rising from this mud bog flagged us down.  

I rolled down my window to get a better look as we slowed to a crawl on our southerly trek along Grand Loop Road.  

It was the curious huffing, chuffing sound from Mud Volcano and Dragon’s Mouth Spring that drew us in for a closer look.

Mud Geyser's mucky mire of boiling sludge took on a whole new look against a back drop of dark forest and blue sky.  The sun glistened off the slick surface while steamy wisps softened the unusual scene.

Everywhere the ground was a sweating seep, hot and sulfurous.

Though my nose wrinkled at the stench, the odor was no deterrent, not even for buffalo that frequented the area as evidenced by the thousands of hoof tracks embedded in the sizzling earth surrounding the quagmires.

Mud Volcano

“While returning by a new route to our camp, dull, thundering sounds, which General Washburn likened to frequent discharges of a distant mortar, broke upon our ears. We followed their direction, and found them to proceed from a mud volcano, which occupied the slope of a small hill, embowered in a grove of pines.

Dense volumes of steam shot into the air with each report, through a crater thirty feet in diameter. The reports, though irregular, occurred as often as every five seconds, and could be distinctly heard half a mile.  Each alternate report shook the ground a distance of two hundred yards or more, and the massive jets of vapor which accompanied them burst forth like the smoke of burning gunpowder.”  

--Nathaniel P. Langford 1870

Dragon's Mouth Spring

Enjoy the video of Dragon's Mouth Spring, a dramatic sight; it’s the next best thing to being there!

Perched on the crusty edge of Dragon’s Mouth Spring this red Dragonfly baked in the hellish heat.  I wondered at his tenacious ability to survive such extreme conditions.

Yellowstone Lake

In North America, Yellowstone Lake is the largest natural lake located at an elevation above 7000 feet. Fed by mountain streams and underwater geysers and springs, this lake is vital to all wildlife in the region.

It is picturesque and can be seen from various heights at a distance throughout Yellowstone National Park WY.

Visitors enjoy a number of water sports, including all kinds of boating and angling.

To me, the shimmering lake is an extraordinarily beautiful landmark representative of the geologic history that dominates this area; it summarizes what Yellowstone National Park is all about . . . 

. . . awe-inspiring scenery . . . wonderful wildlife . . . historic . . . timeless . . . 

. . . This is Snake River country!

Thank you for journeying with us!


Riding on any kind of wheels is considered "road tripping" and bicycling through Yellowstone puts you closer to nature.  Check out the video.  Then, click on the following link for more information.


Camping in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park WY has accommodations to suite your preferred mode of camping. Check out the video.  Then, click on the following link for more information.


Fishing in Yellowstone

Non-native species, Brown, Lake, Brook and Rainbow trout attract anglers from around the globe to Yellowstone National Park WY for a world-class fishing experience.  Check out the video. Then, click on the following link for more information. 


Backcountry Hiking and Backpacking

You know us!  It's off-highway that we love best here at Road Trip Explore!  Hitting the trail on foot is a great way to see special places and to become one with the wilderness.  

"Be prepared" is a scout motto, and it applies here.  Check out the video.  Then, click on the following links for more information. Backcountry Camping & Hiking

Walks and Dayhikes

Hiking trails abound in this untouched wilderness, from short strolls that are disabled accessible to day ventures deeper into the park.  There's a path for everyone to follow in Yellowstone National Park WY!  Check out the video.  Then, click on the following link for more information.


Lodging in Yellowstone

The National Park Service contracts with Xanterra Parks and Resorts to operate 9  lodging facilities within Yellowstone National Park WY.  Check out the video.  Then, click on the following link for more information.


We love visiting museums, and the exhibits in Yellowstone's many Visitor Centers and stations are worth the stop as they make for a richer travel experience.

Points of Interest

Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail

"The 1877 flight of the Nez Perce from their homelands while pursued by U.S. Army Generals Howard, Sturgis, and Miles, is one of the most fascinating and sorrowful events in Western U.S. history."  To commemorate this "trail of tears", "Congress passed the National Trails System Act in 1968, establishing a framework for a nationwide system of scenic, recreational, and historic trails. The Nez Perce (Nimíipuu or Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail stretches from Wallowa Lake, Oregon, to the Bear Paw Battlefield near Chinook, Montana. It was added to this system by Congress as a National Historic Trail in 1986.


Where to Eat in Yellowstone

While many kinds of eating experiences serve visitors' hunger needs in Yellowstone National Park WY, distances, weather and wildlife jams can delay meal time.  It's always a good idea to carry extra food and drink on the road to tide you over until you reach the next watering hole.  Check out the video.  Then, click on the following link for more information.


A wide choice of services are available to visitors. Do you need child care or medical care?  Gas up at one of many services stations located throughout the park.  Mail a post card to Grandma.


Shopping should always be part of a great road trip experience.  Grab a souvenir from a gift shop to capture a special memory or send one home to Aunt Mary and Uncle Jake.  Yellowstone National Park WY has general stores, mini-marts and outdoor stores. 

More Wyoming Road Trips You Might Enjoy . . . 

The Grand Teton Mountains--Road Tripping Up-streme!

The Snake River Wyoming--Road Tripping Up-streme!

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