View Full Version : Two days in Yellowstone
I know this isn't exactly "near" the trail, but it is a park. I'm going out to Yellowstone NP at the end of May and I'll have two days to enjoy the scenery. If you had only two days and 3 children ( ages 9,10 and 13) what would you do? I've always wanted to see Old Faithful (or other less busy not-so faithfuls) but I don't know much beyond that.
Two days is not much.
Ok, if I only had 2 days, and wanted to make sure to see Old Faithful, I would go to the geyser on day one and the surrounding area (nature trail to the west of Old Faithful is good), check out the wooden lodge building. Driving will be slow because tourists will stop at all the wildlife sightings. Lots of buffalo and elk.
Then i would go up to the north entrance and check out the big hot springs called Mammoth. Near there (closer to the entrance) there is a stream that you can all get into. There are hot springs combining with the cold stream water and pools built to sit in an enjoy different temps.
Elk come into the stream while you are in there. It's pretty cool, especially for the kids.
These are some of the highlights besides hiking which you don't really have time for IMO.
Lots more than that but traffic will be slow so, no sense getting stressed.
Once I drove 400 miles out of my way to take a friend and his family there as they wanted to see Old Faithful. I went jogging on the CDT while they went to see the sights. (I had seen it many many times and wasn't into the crowds)
When I came back, they got into my van and when I asked them how they like it, they replied that they didn't see it cause they were in the lodge at the time, but we could go.
I said: "No Way! Not after driving 400 miles out of our way! And I went jogging again and they waited the hour or whatever and i went jogging again. This time they saw it.
Enjoy your trip.
You only have 2 days? Thats not nearly enough time. For that matter I dont think that 2 months is really enough time to see Yellowstone. The Old Faithful area is definately a must see.
The problem with Yellowstone is that there truely is so much to see and so many places to it can be really hard to figure out where to start. My suggestion would be doing the lower part of the Grand Loop (West Thumb, Fishing Bridge, Canyon Village, Madison and Old Faithful). The highlights there are the gyser basin at West Thumb, a visit to the Lake Hotel, Hayden Valley (great place to see Bison), the Canyon's upper and lower falls (and its great visitor center), all the little geyser areas around Madison. Then of course Old Faithful, plus a huge set of boardwalks that loops you around several other thermal features.
Now a few words of caution. It can be very cold (it was snowing during my trip there in early August) and very hot (it was 90* when I left 3 days later). The elevation there is killer to us east coasters. The sun is stronger, the air is noticeably thinner, and there is very little humidity compared to what we are used to.
Other than that, its an amazing place. I spent a week their last year and feel that i barely scratched the surface. Next time I go I plan to spend most of my time in the backcountry and away from the boardwalks.
we went there in '06 with two kids aged 12 and 16. They loved it. We spent 6 nights in the park itself, staying in the old faithful lodge and then moving over to the yellowstone canyon area. Take a look at the Inn, it is cool building in the main area.
Fiddle has great ideas, if you are staying on that side of the park. You probably won't get in traffic jams, but they can happen anytime, more likely on east side in lamar valley, because of buffalo.
If you start at old faithful, check in at ranger station near the geyser to get some approximate geyser eruption times on the other ones. This will give you rough planning if you want to see more. Patience is required. Any of the boardwalks near OF area are good, not long, very interesting, but depends on your kids 'tude, lol. I would just concentrate on the area of the park you are staying near. There is so much to see, not worth driving all over the place, since you are there so short a time. Check out your library, get guide books and focus on the area you are going to be close to, and they should give you significant stuff to do.
Two days is a short amount of time, but if that's what you have, it's still definitely worthwhile. I spent only 4 days there in 2008, and I've been itching to go back every since. When I think of Yellowstone, I think of it in terms of thermal features, wildlife and elevation.
Definitely see the Old Faithful and the Norris Geyser Basin. If you come in through the north entrance, you'll have to see Mammoth Hot Springs area, and you're sure to see Elk. My son and I visited in mid June, before the big crowds started, so we took one day and drove the entire loop. It's a big drive. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Artist's Point to see the falls was fantastic. But I will say that I was VERY glad that we happened there later in the day, probably about 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. Earlier in the day, the place was packed, but there were very few people there at that time, and the colors were gorgeous. We didn't spend much time around the Fishing Bridge and Yellowstone Lake, but I wish we had. We also enjoyed a drive up to the Continental Divide and taking photos by the sign. In mid June, there were still 2 feet of snow on the ground at 10,000' elevation. Along that long drive, we saw all sorts of animals and got great photos of a cinnamon black bear, moose, elk, bison, and one grizzly. In the Lamar Valley area later in the day and into early evening, crowds come out along the road to watch for wolves. We never saw any, and it was very difficult to find a place to stop the car.
Before you go,check out the NPS website and download a copy of the seasonal newsletter. There will be ranger programs listed. At the age your kids are, they will very much enjoy ranger programs. Personally, I think park rangers are rock stars! I'm headed to Yosemite this summer, and have only 5 days to spend there. I definitely plan on attending a couple of ranger programs while I'm there.
Twosticks, not to single you out but I witness so many tourists doing what you are talking about. Two days is not enough time for anything but the most superficial, hurried, and cursory visit to a place the size of Yellowstone NP. I know most will think, "well it's better going there for at least a couple of days rather than not going at all." Really though, two days in a place as large in acreage and so grandly scenic with so much spread out to see is absolutely not enough time, especially if you want to enjoy anything but some short day hikes. I think it a shame when this happens. I think Americans really need to devote the time and energy to these majestic areas that have been set aside for all people to enjoy.
In mid May some trails will still have some snow. Some THs don't open until June, even later, depending on winter snowfall and spring thawing. You might experience conditions at the freezing pt even in late May. You should contact the park directly to find out this yr's. conditions as close to as when you will be there. Although, I don't think you will have the time to do anything but a short dayhike or two, drive around rubbernecking(you can actually see quite a bit, including some of the mega fauna, by driving around on the park roads(hopefully the traffic will not be bumper to bumper though, avoiding the crowds, and this NP can get incredibly snarled with crowds, I find, is best accomplished by getting out on the trails away from the cars, you don't have the time to do that though), and hitting some key sites. I would also visit the lodge which is one of those few grand rustic National Park Lodges that survived. Prioritize what you have to experience, like Old Faithful, Heart Lake, Shoshone Lake, waterfalls, etc and start deleting the rest.
Norris Geyser basin is great. I also liked the yellowstone falls area too. Likely gonna be cold though in May and maybe snow - ?
Twosticks, not to single you out but I witness so many tourists doing what you are talking about. Two days is not enough time for anything but the most superficial, hurried, and cursory visit to a place the size of Yellowstone NP.
I couldn't agree with you more. But, in this case, I'll have to take what I can get with the knowledge that I'll be back to spend more time.
One day seeing the geysers in the developed area around Old Faithful is very worthwhile. Add a nice day hike away from the crowds and you at least have a nice teaser.
The Obamas went for just a few hours last summer and reportedly like it, even surrounded by Secret Service.
I once spent a whole summer in Yellowstone and barely scratched the surface of what can be seen. There are large areas of the park I never got near.
Once when hitch hiking there, a Korian family picked me up. The father asked how long to see the park? I replied "a life time" He replied "very good, but I only have 3 days". So, I spent the rest of the ride playing tourist guide.
With only 2 days, do the main loop and check out the main sights near the road, thats all you can do. The Mammoth hot springs are neat, Tower falls is impressive, the paint pots are interesting and Old Faithfull a bit disappointing to me. I guess it was all the people crowed around.
If you have time, swing through the Grand Tetons. Those are more impressive than Yellowstone.