Want to feel like you’re on another planet? Spend some time exploring Yellowstone National Park. It’s has so many different landscapes to offer depending on which entrance you come in through, but it’s most popularly known for its geysers and geothermal pools.
Perhaps it’s touristy, but you should definitely do the walk around the base of Grand Prismatic Spring. Along the boardwalk you’ll pass a few smaller pools and another large one: Blue Pool. It was hard to walk away from this one because the blues are so intense and the water looks inviting enough to dip right in for a nice soak. Though it probably wouldn’t be the smartest idea considering the extreme temperatures.
Grand Prismatic gets its rainbow coloring because of all the bacteria that grows in the hot stagnant water. Standing at its base, you can physically feel the hot air hit you in the face every time a gust of wind blows in your direction. It’s the most bizarre thing standing around in cool air with random gusts of heat enveloping you every few minutes. And the rich yellows, oranges, and blues of the pool are out of this world.
It’s worth taking the separate trail to check it out from above, too, because you can see the full pool and all its colors, whereas at the base you only get a good look at the details around the rim.
I can understand why there’s so much hype surrounding Old Faithful, but honestly some of the other geysers along the walk behind it were much cooler. If you take the trail back a ways, you’re able to get up closer to the geysers where you can get a better feel for how massive they are. We were able to catch Grand Geyser go off the moment we walked up to it! Some people were waiting for three hours so it was incredibly fortuitous that we arrived when we did.
All the geysers have different time windows in which they go off. Some can even go without erupting for years! We caught a few others go off as we completed the trail, and we walked by tons of these alien-like geothermal pools.
For animal viewing in the park, Hayden and Lamar Valleys are where you want to be. We saw tons of bison, a mama bear with her two cubs, and some mountain goats from pull-offs along the road. The bison here are one of a kind: they’re the only ones in the country that are still wild. That means they haven’t mated with cattle so they are still exactly as they were before humans arrived on the planet. It was super special to get to see this little guy all curled up while taking a nap!
Yellowstone is an enormous park. It took us 5 hours to drive from one end to the other. So there is obviously much to see… and much that we had to save for the next visit! Even so, it remains one of the most memorable parks we have visited thus far.
Location: Grand Prismatic Spring