Yellowstone National Park was the world’s first national park created by an act of congress March 1, 1872. It sits on top of one of the world’s largest volcanoes, which last erupted 640,000 years ago and was a thousand times larger than the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980.
The park crosses the boundaries of three states; Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where 96 percent of it lies. Yellowstone is more than 2.2 million acres of magnificent nature that has been preserved for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. No matter what takes you to Yellowstone, wildlife, geysers or scenery, it’s the volcano that affects everything you see.
Boasting 290 waterfalls, which flow year round, many of these stunning sites are accessible by vehicle or short to moderate hikes.
Upper Falls drops 109 feet into the Ground Canyon of Yellowstone below. The viewing platform can be reached by an easy quarter-mile walk along the Upper Falls trail. At this point the canyon gets really narrow, and the Yellowstone River turns right past the viewing area. The water seems to not just drop over the edge but leap out and crash into the pool below.
Artist Point, probably the most famous view point in the canyon, offers an outstanding view of the Lower Falls. At 308 feet, this fall is nearly twice as high as Niagara Falls and is considered one of the greatest waterfalls in North America. It’s a strenuous one-mile round trip hike with a drop of 600 feet, but if you really want to feel and understand the power of up to 63,500 gallons of water falling per second, it’s well worth the effort.
Tower Fall, a short walk to the overlook, was created where Tower Creek passes through immense volcanic towers and plunges 132 feet into the valley below, providing a breathtaking view. Fairy Falls is a moderate to easy five-mile round trip walk to an unusual and beautiful waterfall. At 200-feet high the water cascades into a misty pool. Both provide perfect photo opportunities.
Gibbon Falls offers a unique view of the volcano crater or “caldera” as it is called. The 84-foot waterfall literally pours over the remains of the rim into the caldera depression. This area is accessible by vehicle and a very short walk along the rim.
There are many other spectacular sites to see while in the park. There are 60 species of mammals to include two types of bears, all of which are free to roam the entire 3,247 square miles of the park. No one should visit without a stop at Old Faithfull Geyser, which erupts about every 93 minutes, as well as the many geothermal features, hot springs, mud pots, rivers, lakes, hiking trails and more.
The key to a successful trip is to plan ahead. If you want to stay overnight in the park you will need to make reservations several months in advance, and remember to bring a camera.
For more information, visit www.travelyellowstone.com.