Of all the National Parks that we’ve visited in the US, Yellowstone is one of the top contenders for best. This other-wordly mix of geysers and colourful pools of toxicity are unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else on Earth. The entire park is situated on the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano in the United States. The park spans three states – Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, however 95% of it is in Wyoming.
We arrived via the South Entrance, having just visited Grand Teton National Park. Our original intention was to follow the loop road west, seeing the sights along the way. However due to a bridge collapse in Craig’s Pass, that entire section of the road had been closed. We instead followed the loop road counter clockwise to our accommodation just outside the park in West Yellowstone.
The park was crowded with visitors from all corners of the globe, a great percentage of them sitting on the benches surrounding Old Faithful. Their enthusiasm is understandable – of all the geysers in the park, this one goes off with the most regularity. Within a few minutes of its predicted time, the spurts start and within another minute it’s in full flight. The kids were suitably impressed. I had actually expected it to be a lot taller and grander, but it was cool nonetheless.
We had 2 days to see the park, and we spent most our time on the loop road, looking at all the stops along the way. Some were nothing short of spectacular. Seeing mud pots only a metre away, gurgling at temperatures and pH levels to instantly kill you if you touched them was equal parts exhilarating and mummy-panic-inducing. The kids enjoyed it, despite being constantly told “don’t run!” and “stay close!” or “don’t climb that railing!”. Along the way, the kids (and us!) learned the difference between a mud pot and a hot spring, and a geyser from a fumarole.
It was at Yellowstone that I realised I had left some key things at home – our hiking backpacks, and my polarising filter. The hiking packs were a grave omission, and I still can’t figure out how we managed to leave them behind. Not wanting to spend a fortune buying new ones, and only having smaller water bottles, we had to limit our hiking plans. Thankfully most US National Parks have facilities on every corner, so we were still able to see the majority of things we wanted to. But it really would have been nice to escape the crowds and spend a day on the trails in the middle of nowhere.