Yellowstone National Park is a huge place with a lot to offer. When planning your trip, it's good to look at the park by region. This will help you to take in the overwhelming number of things to see and do and to plan your daily itineraries. It won't take long to realize that Yellowstone National Park is a place you'll want to visit again and again to fully explore. From wildlife watching to geysers to waterfalls to visitor centers to recreation, your days in Yellowstone will be filled with fun and interesting experiences.
Here are the highlights of what you can see and do in each region of Yellowstone National Park, starting at Mammoth Hot Springs near the north entrance and moving roughly clockwise around the park.
Mammoth Hot Springs and Historic Fort Yellowstone
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel
Mammoth is one region of Yellowstone that has it all - wildlife, thermal features, and history. The elk are plentiful around Mammoth Hots Springs, many can be seen lounging on mineral formations and on the grounds around the hotel and Old Fort Yellowstone complex. You can take in the stepped travertine formations of Mammoth Hot Springs' lower terraces on a stair-and-boardwalk hike. The Upper Terraces, including Orange Spring Mound, can be explored by driving a loop road. Plan to spend some time at the Albright Visitor Center, one of the park's best visitor centers. This visitor center/museum focuses on the human history of the park. Afterwards, the charming buildings and landscaped grounds of the Historic Fort Yellowstone can be enjoyed on a walking tour.
Tower-Roosevelt Area, including Lamar ValleyPetrified trees, volcanic rock formations, glacial erratics, and waterfalls are among the geologic features you'll see in the Tower-Roosevelt area and the northeast section of the park. Day hikers can take their pick from a variety of scenic, moderately-challenging trails. The Roosevelt Lodge Cabins are particularly family-friendly, with rustic cabins and Old West-style activities. The Lamar Valley is a hotspot for wildlife photographers, you'll definitely see buffalo and antelope and could even see wolves and bears. The Lamar Valley is also home to the historic Buffalo Ranch and the Yellowstone Association Institute.
Canyon Village and the Grand Canyon of the YellowstoneThe Canyon Village complex is located near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Yellowstone River. The gold-and-buff-colored canyon can be taken in from several trails and viewpoints; Artist Point is a particularly awesome spot, providing canyon and waterfall views that seem too beautiful to be real. The Canyon Visitor Education Center provides exhibits, films, and hands-on activities related to the geology of the Yellowstone super volcano. Hayden Valley, just south of the canyon, offers gorgeous scenery and abundant wildlife, including elk and bear.
Lake Village, including Bridge Bay and Fishing Bridge
Lake Yellowstone View from Storm Point
Many folks are surprised to learn that there's a huge lake within Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone Lake is a naturally-formed lake along the Yellowstone River. The gorgeous blue lake is suitable for fishing, boating, and some paddling, but is too cold for swimming. One popular way to enjoy Yellowstone Lake is by a boat tour from Bridge Bay. Fishing is now prohibited from the historic Fishing Bridge, although it remains a popular and scenic site to visit. The lake can also be enjoyed on a variety of day hikes. Local hiking trails range from easy to strenuous. Yellowstone Lake Photo Gallery
West Thumb and Grant Village
Bluebell Pools at West Thumb Geyser Basin
The West Thumb Geyser Basin is one of the most colorful and scenic locations in Yellowstone National Park. The area is rich in hot springs in various shades of the rainbow, as well as other thermal features. Situated on the shores of Yellowstone Lake, with the snow-capped mountains in the distance, West Thumb offers some truly amazing and unique vistas. Nearby Grant Village is a hub of visitor services, including a visitor center that focuses on the important roles that wildfire plays in the Yellowstone ecosystem. West Thumb Photo Gallery
Old Faithful Geyser Erupting
The Old Faithful area of Yellowstone National Park offers so much to see and do, you can easily spend the better part of a day in this one place. The Old Faithful geyser erupts every one to two hours, providing a show around the clock. The Old Faithful Inn is a wonder of "parkitecture", well worth exploring inside and out. The new Old Faithful Visitor Education Center will bring you up to speed on the inner workings of Yellowstone's hot springs, fumaroles, mud pots, and geysers. A short day hike around the area includes additional geysers, Firehole River crossings, and the probable chance of observing a buffalo herd. Biscuit Basin, Black Sand Basin, and Upper Geyser Basing are other nearby thermal features you can visit. Old Faithful Photo Gallery
Madison Junction to Midway Geyser BasinLocated at the junction of three rivers and three roads, the Madison area of Yellowstone National Park is home to a ranger station and campground. The dozen miles just south of the junction are rich in thermal features, including the picturesque Grand Prismatic Spring and Fountain Paint Pots. Some can be be accessed near the road, others require a hike to reach.
Norris Geyser BasinPark at the main Norris Geyser Basin lot and you'll be able to follow boardwalk walking trails to a number of striking thermal features that are part of the hot and dynamic Porcelain and Back Basins. The ever-changing local geology and landscape is interpreted at the Norris Geyser Basin Museum. The Museum of the National Park Ranger and a campground are a short distance to the north. To the south of Norris Geyser Basin you'll find the hot springs and mud pots of Artists Paintpots.