I am sharing the top attractions at Yellowstone National Park with you so that you can plan a trip to visit soon too. The park is unique and every stop has spectacular sites and formations. My family took a trip to Yellowstone National Park recently. I have been to the park several times over the years, but every time we go back, it is like going for the first time all over again. I love traveling with my family and showing them amazing new things.
It was our first visit in over 7 years – so it was like the first time for most of my kids. We pulled our trailer up there and met my in-laws and we camped at the Fishing Bridge RV Campground. It was actually a great spot to get to most of the park within a short drive, so we were able to divide it up into 3 different sections and enjoy the park over the three days we had to explore. We planned a 5-day, 4-night trip, and it was perfect. Being able to experience just about everything we wanted to, made the trip that much better. It wasn’t overly busy but it did rain. We made a list of the top attractions at Yellowstone National Park and then we divided it up based on where we going on what day.
Today I am going to share with you, our top must-see attractions at Yellowstone National Park because I don’t want you to miss anything that is easy to access and is absolutely incredible.
TOP ATTRACTIONS AT YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
1. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is roughly 20 miles long, measured from the Upper Falls to the Tower Fall area. The canyon was formed by erosion as Yellowstone River flowed over progressively softer, less resistant rock. There are several stops you can make here, but it is VERY busy. If you have to choose, Artist Point is incredible as well as the short hike down Uncle Tom’s Trail to the lower falls. If you can fit it in, do the Brink of the Upper Falls as well. Each of these will probably take about 30-45 minutes – depending on how much time you want to spend in the area (maybe 15 minutes of walking for each one).
2. West Thumb Geyser Basin
This is a beautiful place to stop, and with the walkway, you can see it from every angle. I loved all of the ponds here with their different colors, the boardwalk that goes along the Yellowstone Lake and all of the geysers. This really has a lot to offer in one place and one of the best attractions at Yellowstone.
3. Hayden Valley
Hayden Valley is an excellent place to view wildlife, including grizzly bears, particularly in the spring and early summer when they may be preying upon newborn bison and elk calves. Large herds of bison are often seen in the spring and early summer and during the fall rut. The valley floor along the river used to be part of Yellowstone Lake.
4. Explore the Mammoth Hot Springs Trail
Walk on boardwalks above the steaming thermal features or take a drive around the vibrant travertine terraces. In the winter, ski or snowshoe among the whiffs of sulfur along the Upper Terraces.
5. Wraith Falls Hike
This round trip 1.0 mile begins at a pullout 0.5 miles east of Lava Creek Picnic Area on the Grand Loop Road. This short, easy trail passes through sagebrush meadows, marshland, and mixed conifer forest to the base of 79-foot Wraith Falls on Lupine Creek.
6. Artists Paintpots in Madison Area
Artists Paintpots is a small but lovely thermal area just south of Norris Junction. A one-mile round trip trail takes visitors to colorful hot springs, two large mudpots, and through a section of forest burned in 1988. This is always busy, so be prepared to walk a little to get to the pots – but well worth the extra effort!
7. Pumice Point at Yellowstone Lake
Fun to play at and walk on the rocks in the water. This can be a little tricky to find in the South-east part of the park, but really fun to stop at. We had a lot of fun here and the kids loved seeing all of the pumice everywhere.
8. Gibbon Falls
This 84-foot (26-meter) waterfall tumbles over remnants of the Yellowstone Caldera rim. Depending on where you come in at, this may be the first thing you really see. It is located on the East side of that park and is easy to access. There is a stone wall where you can sit to enjoy it and to take pictures, as well as a lot of detailed information about the falls. It is really gorgeous. Soak it all in before moving on to the next stop.
9. Black Sand Basin Walkway in the Old Faithful area
Discover a lesser-known gem. As you stroll through one of Yellowstone’s most striking hydrothermal areas, you will learn about volcanic geology and the unique history of Black Sand Basin on this ½-mile walk. This was one of our favorite stops, and one many people don’t stop at. There is a big beautiful pond, a river, a few geysers (one seemed like it was constantly going off) and lots of wildlife. This will take about 30-40 minutes and is worth every minute.
10. Take a picture on the Continental Divide
On one side of the divide, water flows to the Gulf of Mexico. On the other, it flows to the Pacific Ocean. This is a fun stop and a great photo opp. There is a pond covered in lily pads that my kids loved to see as well. Because there isn’t much else to do here, it will be another short stop on your list, but one worth making.
11. Old Faithful Geyser and visitors center
Old Faithful is one of nearly 500 geysers in Yellowstone and one of six that park rangers can currently predict. It is uncommon to be able to predict geyser eruptions with regularity and Old Faithful has lived up to its name, only lengthening the time between eruptions by about 30 minutes in the last 30 years. This place is always packed, but the nice thing is, you can see the geyser from just about anywhere. We like to hang back just a little to avoid all the crowds, but you can get right up front if you are early enough.
12. Firehole Falls on the Firehole River
Firehole Falls is a waterfall on the Firehole River in southwestern Yellowstone National Park in the United States. The falls are located approximately 0.5 miles upstream from the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers at Madison Junction. This is another stop that is right off the road and it gorgeous. Well worth the stop, but watch for pedestrians. There is a lot of foot traffic around this area of people trying to get pictures.
13. Walk up to the Petrified Tree
The Petrified Redwood Tree is a clue to warmer, damper, more violet Yellowstone Landscape. Anatomically, the trunk is indistinguishable from the present-day Redwoods in California. The Petrified Tree is similar to many found on Specimen Ridge. It is easily accessible to park visitors. You can drive right up to this and walk a short trail up to the tree. It is really cool to see, and will only take about 15 minutes extra.
14. Explore Norris Geyser Basin
Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest and most changeable thermal area in Yellowstone. We will explore many of the features you would see if you walked the 2 1/4 miles (3.6 km) of trails. Discover the location of the world’s tallest active geyser, colorful hot springs, and microscopic life in one of the most extreme environments on earth. This is a must. It will take a little longer to do, but it is beautiful, with bright colors, ponds, mini-geysers and more.
15. Tower Falls Walkway & Calcite Springs
The Tower Falls is beautiful and just a short walk from the parking lot. There is also a gift shop with really great ice cream – so if you and your family need a midday refresher – this is the perfect place to get it. Also at this stop is a short hike to the Calcite Springs overlook. This is another short stop, but one totally worth making. The hike to the falls and then the overlook will take less than 30 minutes, but the views are spectacular.
16. Grand Prismatic Spring at Midway Geyser Basin
This feature is 370 feet in diameter and more than 121 feet in depth. It is the largest hot spring in the US and the third largest in the world. The colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring are breathtaking and worth the walk up the walkway. A lot of great things to see along the way. There are a couple of places you can view the Grand Prismatic Spring. Take the boardwalk and go around it the traditional way, or go up on the trail to the overlook above the spring. I suggest you do both if you have time. This is another of my favorite attractions at Yellowstone National Park.
17. Kepler Cascades
Kepler Cascades is a waterfall on the Firehole River in southwestern Yellowstone National Park. The cascades are located approximately 2.5 miles south of Old Faithful. This is a great place to pull off and see a beautiful waterfall without having to do much hiking. Because it is so easy to access, be prepared for all the crowds. The nice thing is, that people take their pictures and move on, so you won’t have to wait long to get a great picture of the falls.
18. Biscuit Basin Loop
Three miles north of Old Faithful is Biscuit Basin, named for the unusual biscuit-like deposits formerly surrounding Sapphire Pool. Following the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake, Sapphire erupted, and the “biscuits” were blown away. Other notable colorful features in the basin are Jewel Geyser, Shell Geyser, Avoca Spring, and Mustard Spring. This is a fun hike to go on with your family, and it won’t take longer than maybe 20-30 minutes to walk around it all. It is all on boardwalks, so don’t get off of them.
Yellowstone National Park is a huge place. You could just drive it all and it would take several hours. It is set up in a big circle, with a road through the middle. Depending on where you are staying, you can divide the park into sections. Make a list of places to visit each day and hit your “wish list” in the area. There are so many attractions at Yellowstone National Park. I wanted to share the most popular ones, and then you can plan from there.
Things you need to when you visit the Attractions at Yellowstone from the NPS website:
- Hundreds of thousands of people visit Yellowstone during the months of June, July, and August – be patient
- Do not approach animals to take pictures.
- Visit the park during nonpeak hours (before 9 am and after 3 pm) and seasons (April/May, September/October).
- Plan ahead and book a place to stay
- Stay on boardwalks to avoid injury
- Observe posted speed limits and use pullouts to watch wildlife, take pictures, and let other cars pass.
- Cell service and bandwidth are limited.