I have always looked at the photos of Yellowstone and dreamed of the day we would vacation at Yellowstone ourselves. Well, it finally happened!
We visited the park the first week in June, and I think this is a great time to go. We also happened to visit right after quarantine, so there weren't too many people crowding in yet.
Where we stayed
We are in Idaho and decided to go into the park on the West side, it's closest for us. Honestly though, I would recommend this side anyway, it was really close to almost everything we wanted to visit. We did't stay in West Yellowstone though, we opted to stay in Island Park, Idaho. My hubby always like to be a little further out, and Island Park was great. The Dew Drop Inn was a great cabin we rented. The area was quiet and so peaceful. We loved the home. The park is a short 30 minutes drive away.
2 day itinerary
Our vacation at Yellowstone was amazing. We only had 2 days. They were busy, full days, but we were able to see a lot. I would recommend at least 3-4 days in the park if possible. We went with my brother and his family, which was so much fun! They were nice enough to do research ahead of time on where to go.
Grand prismatic springs overlook
First on the itinerary was the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. Y'all, the trail is short, but such a great way to start your vacation in Yellowstone. The Grand Prismatic is so iconic! The photo above is from the overlook. Did you know the Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in the world? I told you, iconic.
The first thing we saw getting out of our cars at the parking lot was this bison. So cool, right??
The entire area is covered with these geothermal hot springs. They are beautiful, crystal clear and of course, very hot!
The hike in to the overlook is very easy, with little elevation gain. The trail is smooth and simple to follow.
One of the really cool things about Yellowstone is there are photographers EVERYWHERE. Like, everywhere. This photographer was up at the overlook with us and offered to take a family photo, which was so nice! He wasn't the only one either. It happened several times throughout the trip. I tried to make sure and return the favor when I could.
This photo below shows what the trail looks like. It was wide and very easy to travel on.
Midway Geyser Basin
After the trail we backtracked to view the springs on ground level. There are so many sites at Yellowstone that run on this boardwalk system. It makes visiting the different sights so easy., as shown below.
The parking is at Midway Geyser Basin. There are several really cool things to see on this short walk, including Excelsior, the world largest geyser.
I am sure you can image from the photo below, you will get great spa treatments in Yellowstone. Just look at the hot steam facial I am getting!
My oldest wanted in on the spa treatment as well.
It was a little tricky for me, a novice landscape photographer to get good photos in the area. The steam was tricky to photograph around.
What I am saying is, these photos hardly do the area justice. If you are considering the visit, move it up on your list. It is so worth it!
After this we headed to Old Faithful. You can't visit Yellowstone without visiting old Faithful, right? Now, here is my suggestion to you for Old Faithful. Make sure you check the schedule. We got there just a few minutes after it had gone off, but didn't realize it until we checked the schedule. There is seating around Old Faithful, but it is entirely uncovered. It was pretty warm that day, and half of us were dying of the heat! I will say though, we had amazing seats as we were there so early. So, that decision is up to you.
One of my favorite areas on our vacation at Yellowstone was Biscuit Basin. We happened upon this area as it connects to the Mystic Falls hike. The kids thought the graphics on the caution signs were great. A little outdated, but still really funny. It would have been more appropriate if the kid would have had his nose in a screen of some sort?? 🙂
All the pools in this Biscuit Basin area are just so beautiful. Look at the colors below. So vibrant! Seriously, if you are taking a vacation at Yellowstone, don't miss this area!
And most are completely clear, which makes it even more cool.
Many are multicolored, as shown in the one below.
These pools are all along an easy to navigate boardwalk.
Mystic falls hike
Note: it is recommended you always carry bear spray when hiking in Yellowstone. It is cheaper of course to buy this outside the park. We carried it on both hikes we did. While we didn't need it, it is good to have as there are plenty of bears in the area.
Follow the boardwalk towards the back and you will come to the Mystic Falls Trailhead. The trail is 2.4 miles, in and out. There is only a 500 feet elevation gain, so it is a great trail.
You can see there is very little cover on the trail, so if it is a hot day, leave early and pack water.
The hike leads to these beautiful falls. I really needed a circular polarizer for this area. The reflection on the water was so bright!! Oh well, next trip.
Mudpots at artist paintpot
Next we headed to the mudpots at Artist's paintpots. I can't believe the kids had enough energy to run at this point in the day, but you know how they are!
This is another boardwalk trail. There is a little hill to get up to view the mud pots though.
Here is the view from above.
Although I got a cute photo of the cousins, I did not get a good one of the mud pots. My photography skill levels aren't quite there yet! Here is a stock photo that shows them really well though. They really are so cool!
The last, very quick stop of the day was at Gibbon's Falls. This is great, fast road side stop. Park, walk just a bit, admire the view, grab a few photos and head back.
I say that flippantly, but honestly, it is really beautiful. The view is incredible in both directions. It is worth the stop for sure!
Day 2- Bunsen Peak
We decided to start the day with a hike on Day 2. My brother and his wife and found this great hike up Bunsen Peak, and I am so glad we did it. I think it might have been my favorite part of the trip. If you are into hiking and taking a vacation at Yellowstone, add this one to the list.
It is a great out and back hike, 4.6 miles long. It has a 1282 elevation gain, which doesn't sound that bad, right? Just remember the peak is about 8600 feet. So we were all hiking at a much higher elevation than what we were used to.
There are a lot of switch backs on this trail, and I swear with each one the view kept getting better and better. It was just so beautiful!
My husband struggled on this one. It was tough, but I was so proud he pushed through! He is so awesome.
This was my little hiking buddy on the trail. I learned all about Avatar the Last Airbender on the trail. I am practically an expert now.
Here is the hubs and I getting close to the top!
After the hike we ate lunch at Albright Visitor's Center. There were plenty of picnic tables to enjoy in the area and lots of wildlife hanging around. We packed our own lunch, but there were restaurants in the area if you prefer. We did grab ice cream after eating though. We deserved it after the hike, right?
Mammoth hot springs
After lunch we made the short drive to Mammoth hot springs. It is so close, it was beautiful, but honestly we spent hardly any time there at all.
Looking for bears
After that our families separated. We headed East of Albright looking for bears. A woman we had visited with said there were several bears in this area and I was really wanting to see some. It had been a lot of years since I had seen one and I was determined.
The day was really cool. We had showers and storms on and off and the sky was so pretty. I loved this North area of Yellowstone so much, as it reminded me of my home state of Alaska.
There were plenty of Bison in the area, and the drive was beautiful.
We pulled over for photos plenty of times, really though, how can you resist. Plus, I am trying to learn a little more about landscape photography and for me, practice is a great teacher.
So, I was shooting with a terrible lens for it, but can you see the 2 cubs in the tree in the photo below? They were the cutest thing! They were playing around and swatting each other. Their mom was on the ground just below them, but of course you can't see that her. We also saw another bear in the same area. Then another 2. I won't post photos of those, they were even worse than this one. I did decide to add a 70-200mm to the top of list of lens I am wanting.
Of course, bears weren't the only wildlife. The boys were really excited about this find at Albright. :).
Grand canyon of Yellowstone
Next, we headed to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Driving, we made our way east at Norris. First up was a the brink of lower falls. This wasn't too hard, .7 in and out, but it is a bit steep. The views are so worth it. Here are the boys with the falls just to the right of them.
The photo below shows the canyon and falls just to the right. It was incredible.
Here is the same view, only horizontal. It really changes with this.
The South Rim Drive is a must for some really killer views. Artist point is probably the most popular, for good reason. It is amazing. I couldn't help but to feel really grateful for the beautiful world we live in. Let me say, this area is another must in my eyes. I really don't think you should do a vacation at Yellowstone without hitting artist point.
For the photo below, another good Samaritan photographer took a photo for us.
Here are the boys with the canyon in the background.
A last short hike near Uncle Tom's trail. It was getting late and everyone was exhausted. We were so happy with all we saw though. Yellowstone is incredible.
If you are on the fence about Yellowstone, do it. A vacation at Yellowstone is well worth it. It is amazing. We were fortunate to go during a time when it wasn't as busy. If possible, I would suggest you do the same. If not, the scenery is still spectacular regardless. Just bring your patience pills to deal with all the people and buses :).
Looking for other hiking and traveling recommendations? Our list is growing.
Happy Adventuring Y'all!!