Yellowstone National Park

8 June - 11 June, 2013

Yellowstone. The US' first national park, probably also the most famous, perhaps largely due to Yogi Bear.

Yellowstone is a volcano. A really, really big volcano. According to Roadside Geology of Wyoming, an eruption two million years ago was unlike any other geologic event in recorded human history. The Mt. St. Helens eruption was "trivial" by comparison. The Yellowstone eruption blew ash over a very large portion of North America. Other evidence suggests that this volcano could be headed for another eruption. Best to go see it now.

A map comparing the area of the ashfall of the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption (in blue) and one of the eruptions of the Yellowstone volcano (in yellow).

The volcanic activity in Yellowstone results from a fissure in the earth's crust, probably caused by an asteroid impact. The impact seems to have happened in eastern Oregon. As the North American plate moved over the resulting hot spot, the volcanic activity moved through an area across southern Idaho and now into Wyoming known as the Snake River Plain.

A map showing the path of the hot spot through the Snake River Plain.

Yellowstone is more than just a place to see fascinating dynamic geology (although it's probably the best place in the US for that outside of Hawai'i). Yellowstone is also a land of stunning beauty. The scenery, both geothermal and erosional, is extraordinary. It's also an incredible place to see wildlife of all kinds--large animals come right up to the road. There's a reason this place is so popular.

Old Faithful, the most famous spot in Yellowstone.

West Thumb, a loop around a small caldera.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, one of the most beautiful places.

Norris Geyser Basin, a fascinating geothermal plain.

Mammoth Hot Springs, known for the stunning beauty of travertine terrace development. (You'll see.)

I'm including on this page a few shots from places along the road where we stopped that were not part of any more major attraction.

Us at the park entrance.

Coming into Yellowstone from Grand Teton on US 89, you cross the Continental Divide twice before reaching the main part of the park. Eric photographed a sign.

We stopped to find a geocache right on top of the spine of North America. Little Lake Isa drains both to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Photo by Eric.

A relief map of the park at the Canyon Visitor Center.

Eric took this picture of the distinctive Lodgepole Pine, found all over the park.

Fishing Bridge.

Eric took my picture with my feet in the Yellowstone River under Fishing Bridge.

Lovely LeHardy Rapids.

At LeHardy Rapids, we saw Harlequin Ducks, who usually only come to the park in winter.

Eric got a picture of the female.

The Yellowstone River.


Dragon's Mouth. Photo by Eric.

Sulphur Caldron.

More Sulphur Caldron.

Mudpots in the Sulphur Caldroun. Photo by Eric.

Bison along the road!

A beautiful valley.

An elk actually looking at me!

More bison.

Bison closer to the road. Photo by Eric.

Eric captured more bison.

And a bison so close to the car, I couldn't even get its head through the window!

A wolf on the road.

At one point, we saw a coyote crossing the road, and Eric told me to grab the camera and take a picture, but, as he was braking, the seat belt wouldn't let me lean forward to grab the camera, which was on the floor in front of me. It just trapped me completely, and I couldn't move at all until the coyote had darted off into a nearby streambed. After that, I referred to the seat belt as the "coyote photography prevention device."

Our room at Grant Village, which was small but reasonably comfortable. It was nice to stay in the same place for a few days, even though it did mean more driving.

Bear soap! Photo by Eric.

Yellowstone Lake, just north of West Thumb. Photo by Eric.

Eric took my picture at another crossing of the Continental Divide, even higher than the last, the highest point we crossed on our entire trip (2,557 m).

We stopped briefly at Madison, which was mostly a camping area. I looked at this sign and thought they had wi-fi. Photo by Eric.

Eric took a photo that explained to me what that symbol on the sign actually meant.

Eric spotted a chipping sparrow near the bookstore at Madison.

Eric took a picture of an elk by the side of the road.

And I took one of another elk actually crossing the road. Traffic gets slowed down tremendously whenever something like this happens, first because of the incident itself and then because of the rubbernecking effect. And it happens quite often.

We stopped for an earth cache at Sheepeater Cliff, a columnal basalt feature similar to the Devil's Postpile up in the high Sierra. We've got to get up there someday.

Rustic Falls.

The Golden Gate, just north of Rustic Falls, with a precipitous bridge.

Blocks of travertine piled up just north of the Golden Gate. Roadside Geology of Wyoming tells us these are called "Hoodoos" or the "Fallen City." Photo by Eric.

An unidentified bridge that captured Eric's eye down in the valley.

A petrified stump at the Visitor Center in Mammoth Village. Photo by Eric.

Just before leaving the park, we entered a new state for us--Montana! Photo by Eric.

An arch dedicated to Teddy Roosevelt at the northern entrance to the park.

Devil's Slide, by the side of the road in Montana, just outside of the park. Photo by Eric.

While Yellowstone's beauty was amazing and its geothermal features fascinating, honestly, by the time we left, we had had quite enough of the crowds and were ready to be somewhere else. Other than the petrified trees at the Tower-Roosevelt area, which was rather far out of the way, we had seen all of the major areas of the park. With more time, we could have done some quieter, more out-of-the-way hikes. But, other than not having seen a bear, we didn't particularly feel like we had missed anything. It was tiring to see so much in under four days, but the experience was still superlative.

Distance driven: 763 km

Caches found: 26 total, 22 in and near Yellowstone

On to Glacier National Park.

Last updated: 11/06/2013 by Eric and Beth Zuckerman