Visiting Yellowstone National Park is a trip no traveler will ever forget. The world’s first national park, Yellowstone is an area of wonder. More than 2 million acres of alpine lakes, thundering waterfalls, bubbling geysers, meadows dotted with wildlife, and more amazing vistas than can be imagined await visitors to Yellowstone National Park.
Best Time to Visit Yellowstone
More than half of the millions of visitors who journey to Yellowstone each year do so in July and August. In the middle of summer, sitting in a long line of traffic, which has stopped because of a bison up ahead, the park can feel very crowded. Perhaps a better time to visit, if possible, is September or early October, when the weather is still good, but the crowds have thinned out considerably. While May and June may still find some bad weather, this is the time Yellowstone welcomes its newborn animals to the park. If wildlife is a big interest, Spring may be the best season to visit. The park is open for winter cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and other winter sports, albeit on a limited basis.
What to See in Yellowstone
In 1872, Yellowstone became a national park, and it has been enthralling visitors every since. Its earliest claim to fame came from the fact that the park sits atop a smoldering caldera. This has resulted in a park that has 10,000 unique geothermal features, with 250 geysers, the most famous of which is the not-to-be-missed Old Faithful.
A figure-8 loop road follows through Yellowstone National Park and hits all of the main highlights. This Grand Loop Road takes in geysers, waterfalls, and Yellowstone Lake. Don’t miss Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, often called “America’s Serengeti” because of its concentration of animal life, the largest in the Lower 48.
Costs and Park Entrances
While the first-time visitor to Yellowstone should always verify prices, the current fee for a private vehicle entering the park is $25. (Prices can be checked online at www.nps.gov.)
There are 5 main entrances to Yellowstone, 3 in Montana and 2 in Wyoming. For those taking an extended vacation or those arriving by air, Cody, Wyoming, is the closest airport location and the best city to explore near Yellowstone National Park.
Cody, Wyoming, a Taste of the Old West
The eastern gateway to Yellowstone National Park, Cody is the embodiment of the Old West. Began as a settlement by William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the town today is a destination worth embracing, even without its access to Yellowstone. Cody offers a true cowboy experience, from Old Trail Town, where travelers can experience the cabin of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, to the famous Western art museum, Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
In summer, Cody comes alive with nightly rodeos, cowboy shows, shoot-out enactments, and concerts in the park. By visiting
Lodging in Cody or Yellowstone
Cody is also a good location for lodging if visitors are looking for bargain hotels and motels, bed and breakfasts, or even a dude-ranch experience. For those seeking a true Western experience, The Irma Hotel (with its Silver Saddle Saloon) is like taking a step back in time. (Seewww.yellowstonecountry.org, complete tourist information can be had.
Those wishing to stay in the park itself would do well to visit www.TravelYellowstone.com, the official website of Yellowstone National Park Lodges. Run by Xanterra Parks and Resorts, this company manages all of the lodging inside Yellowstone National Park, from lodges to cabins to camping. There are 14 camp sites within the park, with an RV park at Fishing Bridge, which has 340 sites.
Reservations for lodging, as well as activities such as trail rides, old West cookouts, and other events, should all be booked well in advance of arrival.
While it’s easy to explore Yellowstone and the surrounding areas on your own, there are plenty of recreational and tour companies that can heighten a traveler’s experience. From tracking wild horses to fishing for trout, from ghost town tours to overflying the area via private plane, it’s worth exploring some of the options while planning a trip to Yellowstone. Once again, www.yellowstonecountry.org is a good place to do research.
No matter how long or how little a traveler stays in the Yellowstone and Cody area, a vacation to this destination is likely to be one of the most memorable ever taken. The wide Western expanses, the rich history of the West, and the breath-taking natural beauty are all likely to have an important role in creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country 2010 Vacation Guide
National Geographic, National Geographic’s Guide to the National Parks of the US