Bucket List Guide of Things to Do in Yellowstone

Bucket List Guide of Things to Do in Yellowstone

Since 1872, one of the most popular items on travel bucket lists is a trip to America’s first national park, Yellowstone. In fact in 2016 over 4.2 million people visited this unbelievable beauty. This is probably because Yellowstone, all 2,221,766 acres of it offers an abundance of things to see and do. But it can be a bit overwhelming when dealing with a park that is the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. So to help, we have created the Bucket List Guide of Things to do in Yellowstone.

There are so many things to do in #Yellowstone National Park! #yellowstonenationalpark #nationalparks Click To Tweet

See Wildlife at Hayden Valley

Hayden Valley

Once part of the lake bed of Yellowstone Lake, Hayden Valley is a must for things to do in Yellowstone. It is one of the best spots to view bison and other wildlife in the park. Located on the east side of the park, north of Lake Village along the Grand Loop Road, Hayden Valley offers visitors a chance to see buffalo, elk, and a host of other four legged animals and various birds. Although you can go at any time, getting there early may help you avoid the long lines of cars on the road.

Watch Bison at Sulfur Cauldron

Sulfur Cauldron

Just north of Hayden Valley on the Grand Loop Road, is Sulfur Cauldron. Considered one of the park’s most acidic hot springs, this geothermal area can have temperatures reaching 190 degrees F. Since it is still part of the Hayden Valley, you will also see plenty of Bison roaming. Please be careful as bison may seem harmless and slow, but they can be very dangerous and fast.  After visiting the Cauldron, we also recommend you go across the road to see the Mud Volcano and the Dragon’s Mouth Spring.

See Waterfalls at Artist Point

View of the Lower Falls from Artist Point

If you love waterfalls then Artist Point should definitely be added to your list of things to do in Yellowstone. This unbelievable view point is named Artist Point because it was believed that this was the spot where Thomas Moran created his remarkable sketch of the Lower Falls. To get to Artist Point, just follow South Rim Drive off the Grand Loop Road.

Along the road to Artist Point is also Uncle Tom’s Trail. Although closed during our visit in August 2017, this trail allows you to hike down 328 steps to the base of the 308-foot-high Lower Falls. It may sound a bit tiresome but it has to be better than it was in 1905 when Uncle Tom lowered you by rope.

View The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

When you see the The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, it is obvious why it is one of the top things to do in the park. Make sure you make it over to Grand View to see the unbelievable views of the 22 mile long gorge that drops 1,200-feet deep in some places. Along with the magnificent depths, you will see vibrant colors lining the walls of the The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It is said that these colors were formed when hot water from steam vents mixed with volcanic rock changing the original rocks composition.

Walk the Boardwalks at Mammoth Hot Springs

Minerva Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs

Just south of the North Entrance near the Montana state line, is a hot bed of hydro-thermal activity. Here you will find the amazing Mammoth Hot Springs. This area is composed of two terraces of several hot spring pools filled with microorganisms known as thermophiles. These thermophiles add bright colors of yellow, orange, brown, and green to each pool depending on the temperature of the pool.

While you are there grab one of the free pamphlets with a map inside and please stay on marked trails or the boardwalks on each terrace.

Swim in The Boiling River

The Boiling River at Sunset

Just north of Mammoth Hot Spring and about 3 miles south of the North Entrance, you will find one the hottest things to do in Yellowstone, The Boiling River! The Boiling River is really just a section of the Gardner River where nearby hot springs spill into it creating a fun swimming experience. Now the Gardner River is a fast moving cold river, so be prepared for the speed and instant chill that will hit you. Also note that the water spilling into the river from the hot springs are very hot so please be careful not to get into a major hot spot. However, you will find many sections with perfect balance and the reason swimming in The Boiling River is a must!

To get there, drive north from Mammoth Hot Springs and look for a parking area on the east side of the road. After parking, you will need to walk back upstream about a half-mile from the parking area so make sure you bring everything you want. We recommend that you bring a towel, water, snacks, and wear sunscreen. Also, we strongly recommend you wear shoes that you can enter into the river with because the stones in the river are pretty brutal on your feet.

Did you know you can swim in a Boiling River in #Yellowstone? Check it out! #BoilingRiver #yellowstone #yellowstonenationalpark Click To Tweet

Watch Old Faithful Erupt

Old Faithful

Old Faithful may very well be one of the most famous geysers in the world. This is probably due to its frequent and consistent eruptions. The geyser eruption lasts anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes and happens about once every 74 minutes. The plume of water spraying into the sky generally reaches about 135 feet and can dump up to 8,400 gallons of water at a temperature of nearly 204°F. When you arrive at the Old Faithful area, look for the many signs near the visitor education center predicting the next eruption time. There is not shade or cover near Old Faithful, so make sure you are wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Walk to Morning Glory Pool

Morning Glory Pool

After watching the eruption of Old Faithful, we recommend that you take your 74 minute break between eruptions to walk the Upper Geyser Basin to Morning Glory Pool. Originally the thermophiles in this pool created an amazing collection of vibrant colors including a remarkable blue hue. However, over the past years, Morning Glory Pool has been referred to as “Fading Glory” and the blue hue is gone. This is due to people constantly throwing coins, clothes, and miscellaneous trash into it which in turn blocked vents from releasing their heat and the thermophiles dying. While still beautiful, we plead – please do not throw any trash or coins into Morning Glory Pool. It is not a trash can or a wishing well!

See the Enormity of Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

Seeing the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world, the Grand Prismatic Spring should definitely be added to your things to do in Yellowstone. To put it in perspective, the spring clocks in at 370 feet in diameter, making the Grand Prismatic larger than a typical american football field.

But the enormous size is not the only great feature of the Grand Prismatic Spring. Within the pool, the thermophiles create bright colors of orange, yellow, and green that will take your breath away. To get a great view of the entire spring, you will want to do it from the hillside above. To get there, find a parking lot for Fairy Falls about 5 miles past Old Faithful along the lower loop road. There is no officially marked trail, but you will easily see the path leading you atop the hill.

Have you ever been to Yellowstone National Park? Which of the things to do in Yellowstone in our Bucket List Guide is your favorite? Have we left out any other Bucket List things to do in Yellowstone that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments below!

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59 thoughts on “Bucket List Guide of Things to Do in Yellowstone

  1. Yellowstone was one of the most memorable experiences we had while traveling and after reading your article we realized that we have to go back for some things. Swimming in the boiling river sounds like such a great thing to do 😊

    1. Yeah swimming in the boiling river is probably one of the least common known things to do in Yellowstone but it’s growing in popularity so go now before it gets as crazy as some of the other sites in the park

  2. Great list and awesome pictures! I have never been to Yellowstone before, but would like to go someday! Thank you for whetting my appetite to go to Yellowstone. 🙂

  3. Have always wanted to visit Yellowstone. Are the bison roaming in the park year round? I would definitely time my visit to see them.

  4. Thank you Eric, so enjoyed this. Although I have visited several times, you give new sites to see and useful information. The change in Morning Glory Pool is so very sad to me. After being in the “Park” the first time 50+ years ago, my memory of Morning Glory pool is the most vivid In my mind and the color was truly the most beautiful blue. Old Faithful comes in second, erupting every hour and to a higher height at that time.
    While visiting a couple of times in recent years, I fell in love with so much more of the “Park”. I would love to visit again, however, it would be this time of year, when visitor count is down and, to see “Yellowstone in the winter” is on my bucket list.

    1. Although I very much dislike the cold, I have to agree that if I went back to Yellowstone I would want to see it during the fall or winter just to get a different perspective and to see what animals were roaming about. Also I heard that they do a really cool snowmobile tour and that would be an adventure in itself. Ask for the Morning Glory pool yeah it’s quite tragic but it looks like the park is doing their best to prevent people from dumping stuff in there

  5. Want to do all of this! I am really pumped about seeing geothermal sites after my trip to Iceland. I know, sounds a bit odd since we have marvels like Yellowstone in out own backyard. One day I will make it there.

    1. Ruth, I’m right there with you I actually went to Iceland first before ever making it to Yellowstone. I was totally amazed by all the geothermal pools, volcanoes, etc etc in Iceland even though we have that stuff right in our own backyard like you said. The ones in Yellowstone are different and I will say that the geysers in Yellowstone are probably greater than Strokkur in geysir Iceland

  6. It’s been so many years since I visited Yellowstone, and I certainly didn’t see everything. I’d never heard of the Boiling River. That sounds fun trying to find the perfect balance between cold and hot water! Love your photos, too — makes me want to go back soon.

  7. My whole family went to Yellowstone last year without me. I was so bummed not to be able to see all the wildlife they inevitably saw. The buffalo are my favorite. It love how unique Yellowstone is.

  8. I haven’t been to Yellowstone… yet! I was supposed to go earlier this year but my traveling companion fell ill and we changed our plans.

    This post just makes me want to go even more. What an incredible park!

    I have vowed to visit in 2018. Hopefully the hot springs aren’t plugged with trash by then! :/

  9. Yellowstone has always been on my “bucket list” since I was a kid. Still havent managed to be there.

    Really appreciate this amazing compilation of things to do in Yellowstone. Now I can actually plan around the concept. Cheers

  10. I loved seeing morning glory!! Honestly, Old Faithful was kind of a letdown…but nonetheless, the park was amazing. Great list of stuff! I remember some Bison holding traffic up for 30 minutes on the road! Such a fun National Park and it’s so close to Grand Tetons which is my favorite.

    1. Yeah Tatum I kind of agree with you I mean I’m glad I saw Old Faithful but it was kind of a letdown especially compared to all the other geysers in the upper levels behind it that were just unique in their appearance and their explosions

  11. We went last summer and loved it…but we only spent ONE day!! I know, I know, not nearly enough time. But my favorite was probably all the wildlife and Grand Prismatic.

  12. Great list! I haven’t been to Yellowstone in 20 years, but this brought back memories. I think I might have to bump it up to a higher place on my to-do list!

  13. What a fabulous list for Yellowstone – a place I’ve never been to, but would love to. Old Faithful, and the wildlife would be just two of the reasons I’d like to visit.

  14. What a wonderful guide to the world’s very first ever National Park! It’s my favorite one too. I had my own “too close encounter” with a bison at Sulpher Cauldron, completely unintended. Nicely done!

  15. Amazing list! I’ve done everything except for swim in the Boiling River. Yellowstone is one of the most amazing places I’ve had the good fortune of visiting. I just wish people would remember that the animals are wild and will kill you if you try to take a selfie with them LOL!

  16. Great list! It’s been a long time since I have been to Yellowstone, but I know that I didn’t do practically any of these things. So, I will have to get back there soon.

  17. Yellowstone was the first national park I remember visiting as a kid. We plan to take our kids there one day as part of our goal to visit as many of the national parks before they graduate from high school. #weekendwanderlust

  18. I truly enjoyed my one and only visit to Yellowstone – we spent three days there and I did alot of your bucket list items though swimming in the Boiling River eluded me. So I guess I have to go back!

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