Travel info for visiting Yellowstone National Park

A wild land of hot springs


Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190, United States

GPS: 44.462821818533, -110.64093071298

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Visiting Yellowstone National Park, located in the northwestern part of the state of Wyoming, on the borders of Idaho and Montana, travellers will find one of the largest protected areas in the United States. It covers an area of 9,000 km² more than 2,000 meters above sea level in the heart of the Rocky Mountains (Eagle Peak, the highest point, rises to 3,462 meters). Yellowstone National Park is known worldwide for its extraordinary geothermal activity and the rare ecosystem of its wild lands. This intense underground life is explained by the presence of several underlying volcanoes at the origin of the creation of this unique site in the world.

The first human settlements in the Yellowstone area date back approximately 11,000 years. They belonged to native Amerindian peoples such as the Tukudekas until the arrival of the first settlers of European origin at the beginning of the 19th century. Founded in 1872 under the mandate of Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President of the United States, Yellowstone National Park is the very first protected natural site in the world. Its vast caldera is the scene of the largest home of active geysers on the planet. Four types of geothermal activities can thus be observed in Yellowstone: hot water sources, superheated mud basins, steam fumaroles and some 300 geysers (the vast majority of geysers on Earth). This natural basin rests on a huge magmatic chamber and displays an explosion of colours to its visitors.

This extraordinary landscape, constantly evolving due to the boiling influence of the magma, conceals a singular wilderness. In addition to its thermal heritage, Yellowstone National Park has a large canyon, lakes, forests and several waterfalls. It also enjoys an abundant fauna, as evidenced by the numerous herds of wild bison estimated at a few thousand individuals (they were only a handful at the beginning of the 20th century and greatly threatened with extinction). A loop-shaped road travels through the territory of Yellowstone National Park by car and a large network of hiking trails lead as close as possible to the many hot springs of misty, vapour or gushing nature. Seasonal changes are among the most violent and unpredictable on the American continent (due to large temperature ranges). This is also what makes the nature of the park so unique by the great metamorphosis of its landscapes between winter and summer.

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  • A fascinating, wild and ferocious environment; the countless geysers including those of Old Faithful (generating one of the largest jets of hot water and steam in the world almost 50 meters high) and Castle Geyser (its conical shape is similar to the tower of a castle)
  • The limestone terraces and hot springs from Mammoth Hot Springs (its travertine terraces are composed of sedimentary rocks rich in calcium carbonate); the hot springs of Grand Prismatic Spring (superb rainbow of colours forming the largest hot water source in the United States and the third in the world) and Morning Glory Pool (blue source with green and yellow pigments); the succession of mountain ridges Pilot Peak (3,000 meters above sea level) ; the Absaroka Range (series of peaks and glaciers that are part of the Rocky Mountains) marking the eastern border of the park at an altitude of 3,900 meters; the Beartooth Mountains (containing 300 small lakes and 25 glaciers)
  • The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River (32 km long and 350 meters deep) ; the Colorado River and the natural waterfalls of Tower Falls, Upper Falls, Crystal Falls and Lower Falls (the highest waterfall in the park with its 94 meters elevation) ; the large number of smaller waterfalls; Yellowstone Lake (the largest in the park) and the others lakes of the park (Isa, Shoshone, Lewis and Heart); Yellowstone River (one of the largest tributaries of Missouri, the route of which marries old lava flows), and the other rivers of the park such as Gardner (housing the natural sites of Osprey Falls and Sheepeater Cliffs), Snake (major tributary of Columbia River), Soda Butte Creek (popular site for its bison herds or fly fishing for cutthroat trout) and the rapids of Clarks Fork (37 km long canyon and the third deepest in the country)
  • The hiking trails of Bunsen Peak, Fairy Falls, South Rim and Uncle Tom in summer; the ascent on foot of Mount Washburn (3,122 meters) and Granit Peak (its steep walls make its accession very difficult or even dangerous) ; the Grand Loop Road tourist route (230 km) ; the Beartooth Highway (3 hours itinerary) and Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (or Wyoming Highway 296) with its Sunlight Creek suspension bridge; horse riding (Wapiti Valley); the possibility of travelling through the park by stagecoach
  • Wildlife observation in Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley (places with few visitor)
  • The variety of wild animals (wolf, moose, elk, mule deer, American black bear, grizzly bear, bison, cougar, coyote, otter, beaver…) ; the 285 species of birds inside the park (sandhill crane, great grey owl, bald eagle, American white pelican, osprey, mountain bluebird…)
  • More than 1,000 species of trees, native and exotic plants (fern, lichen, cane, sequoia, conifer, poplar, broadleaf, abronia…); the presence of petrified wood and fossilized plants (Specimen Ridge area)
  • The diversity of activities to be practised on site: kayaking, rafting, cycling, fishing, visiting an Indian reserve, observation of prehistoric fossils, discovery of cowboy life; the Yellowstone Club’s ski resort and snowmobile activity in winter
  • The Teton Range south of Yellowstone National Park; the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area to the east (spectacular 115 km long gorges)
  • At the time of its creation, Yellowstone National Park was managed for the first 30 years by the United States Cavalry (the oldest buildings are now occupied by the park service).
  • The park was named for the yellow colour of the cliffs of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. The bright colour of hot springs is generated by the pigmentation of bacteria that manage to develop in these mud ponds or boiling pools. The colour can vary depending on the basins depending on the water temperature.
  • The last major eruption of Yellowstone volcanoes occurred about 600,000 years ago (it is at the origin of the formation of the huge Yellowstone caldera). This massive eruption followed a huge explosion that took place just over 2 million years ago and transformed much of the landscape of the United States.
  • The basements of Yellowstone’s caldera contain the largest magma chamber and the largest magma reservoir in the world. They are composed of an important alignment of dormant volcanoes several hundred kilometres long in Wyoming, fed by the friction of tectonic plates. If it were to wake up, this vast volcanic system would produce a series of massive and heavy eruptions on a global scale (with the emanation of toxic gases and the propagation of a thick cloud of ash over hundreds of kilometres). But according to specialists, such a disaster seems unlikely in the short or medium term and could be predicted a year in advance.
  • In 1988, Yellowstone National Park suffered a large-scale fire destroying a third of its forests, giving it the air of an apocalypse. At least fifty years will be necessary for the forest and vegetation to regenerate completely. However, the park remains covered with forests over 80% of its area (the vast majority of which are twisted pines).
  • Isa Lake is located on one of the watersheds of North America (the Continental divide) between the watershed of the Pacific Ocean and that of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Bison evolves freely in the park and plays an important role in the local ecosystem. By grazing at high intensity while moving over long distances, he actively participates in the regeneration of pasture areas.
  • The wolf was reintroduced into the wild lands of Yellowstone in 1995 after being exterminated by humans in the 1920s. While around forty individuals were released 25 years ago, the population is said to have grown to over 1,700 wolves according to the last count in 2015. This carnivorous animal lives in packs and defends its territory against other groups of wolves. He mainly hunts elk but also deer and bison (mainly in the Northern Range part of the park which serves as a wintering site for large herds of herbivores). He plays an important role in regulating the populations of large ungulates. Wolves often kill each other between rival bands to settle territorial disputes or appropriate carcasses.
  • More broadly, the presence of wolves has an unexpectedly beneficial impact on the entire ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park. Their presence in numbers promotes a better balance between animal species (prey and predators) while helping the flora to develop more easily. One study shows that by helping to regulate the deer population, wolves have allowed vegetation to grow (trees, poplars, bushes, grasses, etc.) and insects to thrive again. A snowball effect has resulted in many animals, some of which had almost disappeared from the region (birds, beavers, otters, weasels, badgers, red foxes, mice, rabbits, reptiles…) returning to live or feed in the park. This new biological balance is even reflected in the physical geography of the park: reduction of erosion, stabilisation of banks and watercourses, increase in water basins…
  • Half of the wolves in Yellowstone wear a dark black dress, the other half displays a grey coat. This black coat is due to a genetic cross with domestic dogs imported by humans about 7,000 years ago.
  • Three to five days are a prerequisite for taking the time to visit Yellowstone National Park in depth. Avoid the busiest months of July and August if possible, knowing that summer season extends from April to November.
  • The park has five entries (three in Montana and two in Wyoming). It has developed its own app which includes an interactive map, heritage contents and practical infos on Visitor Information Center, accommodation, catering possibilities, shops and services.
  • Due to the mountain climate and the average altitude of the park (2,400 meters), weather conditions can vary very quickly. Plan warm clothing even during summer.
  • The main attractions of the park (Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring) are to be discovered preferably early in the morning to benefit from the tranquillity of the premises. An interval of 90 minutes on average separates each series of water and steam jets from the Old Faithful geyser. Do not venture beyond unsecured areas. Yellowstone hot springs can cause serious or fatal accidents for those who do not follow safety instructions.
  • The remote Lamar Valley site lends itself wonderfully to the practice of horseback riding.
  • The Beartooth Pass, located in the eastern part of the park, contains one of the most beautiful roads in the United States (Beartooth Highway). In addition to breathtaking landscapes, this pass shelters traces of burials as well as Indian petroglyphs.
  • East of the borders of Yellowstone National Park in the state of Wyoming is the small town of Cody (10,000 inhabitants). It was founded by pioneer William Frederick Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill. In addition to daily rodeo shows organized in summer, this locality has very interesting historical museums relating to the life of William Frederick Cody, the cowboy lifestyle, the history of the conquest of the West and the culture of the Plains Indians.
  • Thanks to a partnership with Google Earth, 13 sites of interest in Yellowstone National Park can be visited virtually.

Where to eat

  • Mountain Mama's Cafe
    (awesome breakfast)
  • Mammoth General Store
    (grocery shop)
  • The Mural Room
    (inventive cooking)

Where to go

  • Grand Canyon Railway
    (legendary train journey)
  • Upper Mesa Falls
    (superb waterfalls)
  • Beartooth Highway
    (sublime scenic road)

Where to stay

  • Slough Creek Campground
    (camping in the middle of nature)
  • Roosevelt Lodge Cabins
    (huts in a country setting)
  • Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone
    (spacious and well-equipped)