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Yellowstone in a Day

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Road trip and photos by Abbie Digel

Don’t have time to spend a
week exploring the nation’s
first National Park? It’s easy to
take a day and see all of the
hot spots, get off the beaten
track, and make it back in
time for dinner. This itinerary
involves long hours in the car,
but a visit to the park is well
worth it, and there is always
something to see.

Boiling River
Mammoth Hot Springs
Canyon Area
Old Faithful Area
West Yellowstone

Choose travel days wisely:
Travel on a weekday– there will be
fewer crowds. If a weekend jaunt is
in the plan, sometimes the eclectic
crowds are sights to enjoy in and of

What to pack:
Bathing Suit
Water-proof shoes
Sturdy walking shoes
Bear Spray!

Plan ahead:
Book hotel rooms and campsites
months in advance, especially in West
Yellowstone. They sell out fast, especially
in the summer. Don’t forget
to check out the guest ranches along
Highway 191 and in Big Sky.


From Bozeman, drive east on I-90
toward Livingston. Want to encounter
a griz the safe way? Stop briefly at the
Montana Grizzly Bear Encounter,
a bear rescue center. On the Jackson
Creek exit, just a few miles from
Bozeman off of I-90, you can’t miss the
huge sign. Stay a while and watch the
bears play, then chat with one of the
caretakers; it’s a great way to learn the
animals’ habits and take in their size.
Their newest arrival is an orphaned cub
from Alaska who loves blended bear
chow mixed with grapes, spoon fed.

Stop in Livingston for an early lunch at
Mark’s In & Out at the corner of 8th
and Park Street. They serve cheap, old-fashioned
burgers, fries and shakes
that will hold you over until dinner.
There are two large supermarkets
(Town and Country, Albertson’s) if
you need to stock up on snacks.

Mammoth Area

Onward to Yellowstone: take a right on
89 South, which hugs the Yellowstone
River, toward Gardiner. In Gardiner,
refuel at one of the many coffee shops at
the edge of the entrance to the Park. Also,
stop by the Chamber of Commerce for
information and literature on the Park.

[dcs_img width=”300″ height=”270″ thumb=”true” framed=”black”
author=”photo: Abbie Digel” desc=”Fuel up in Gardiner”]

Time to hit the road. Pay the entrance fee ($25, good for seven days in both
Yellowstone and Teton National Park), and just past the entrance find the hidden
entrance to the Boiling River, an off-the-map and favorite destination for
locals. Take time to soak in this unique spot, and then get back on the road, and
drive five miles south to Mammoth Hot Springs.

There is plenty to do and see here. Head into the Albright Visitor Center
and Museum, spend some time talking to a ranger and visiting the exhibits,
then check out the park’s most dynamic hydrothermal areas, with features that
change constantly.

Still some time to spare? Hit the trail. The hike to Bunsen Peak is good right
now (4.2 miles), and the top provides panoramic views of other park destinations
and the Gallatin Range. The trailhead is at the entrance of the Old Bunsen
Peak Road, five miles south of Mammoth toward Norris.

Canyon Village

This is a must-see, but make it a quick trip in order to make it to Old Faithful in
time for the eruption. The fastest way to see the canyon is to drive five minutes
from Canyon Village to North Rim Drive and walk along the paved paths to
Red Rock Point, Lookout Point or Grand View. From here you can catch a
glimpse of the expanse of the canyon, looking both at the waterfall and northeast
down the Yellowstone River.

[dcs_img width=”300″ height=”270″ thumb=”true” framed=”black”
author=”photo: Abbie Digel” desc=”The raging Yellowstone”]

Old Faithful Area

It’s best to check at Canyon Village
Visitor Education Center for Old
Faithful eruption times (approx. every
90 minutes). From there, it’s about 45
minutes to Old Faithful by car. Arrive
early and score a good seat. Check
out the new Old Faithful Visitor
Education Center—the interactive
exhibits are great for the kids, and a
nice break from the car. Plan accordingly,
and you will be able to make
stops along the way in an area that
houses the world’s highest concentration
of active geysers.

[dcs_img width=”300″ height=”270″ thumb=”true” framed=”black”
author=”photo: Abbie Digel” desc=”The author at the Old Faithful Visitor Center]

Fountain Paint Pots

After Old Faithful, stop at the Fountain Paint Pots, a
favorite feature among Yellowstone guides. It’s best to
park and walk the boardwalk to view these geothermal
features, but there is also an option to drive along the
Firehole Lake Drive, a one-way side road that gives
great views. The paint pot is located among other features,
including the Great Fountain Geyser, another
erupting geyser that reaches up to 200 ft.

[dcs_img width=”300″ height=”270″ thumb=”true” framed=”black”
author=”photo: Abbie Digel” desc=”On the way to Fountain Paint Pots”]


Exit the park through the west entrance and enter West
Yellowstone. The local shop owners here are friendly
and informative. Stop for reasonably priced Spanish
tapas at the Weekly editors’ favorite spot, Cafe Madriz,
at the north end of town, then stash the car and walk to
the Playmill Theater to catch community theater at its
best. The small stage and interactive performances are a
relaxing and fun way to end the evening.

On-line resources:

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