What Delaware is to states and "Dr. No" is to James Bond flicks, Yellowstone is to U.S. National Parks. While our nation's national parks have grown to 59 awe-inspiring landscapes across numerous states and territories, only one national park has the distinction of being the first. And, not only is this massive park in the northwest corner of our nation's most sparsely populated state the oldest, but with its iconic Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone is also one of the most widely known and popular of all U.S. national parks.
Established as a national park by Congress over 150 years ago, this breathtakingly beautiful park encompasses over 3,500 square miles—nearly 2.25 million acres—of rugged peaks, wide valleys, surging rivers, thick forests and, of course, steaming geysers. It is the wildland home to grizzly bears, bison (often called "buffalo"), elk, wolves and a large number of other animal species.
The park takes the 3.25 million annual visitors across a land that could seem almost alien in its primitive landscape. Yet, Yellowstone is the quintessential destination for anyone who loves the great outdoors, abundant wildlife, pristine wilderness areas, excellent camping, fishing, hiking and more.
If you're planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, be sure to reserve your campsite now.
The World's Largest Collection of Geothermal Features1 of 15
Yellowstone National Park is centered atop the Yellowstone Caldera, which is an active supervolcano covering many square miles. While it hasn't erupted in the past several thousand years, this underground volcano is the reason for the more than 10,000 powerful, scenic and inspiring geothermal features that populate the landscape.
Over 2,100 Campsites2 of 15
There are 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park, offering more than 2,100 campsites for RVs and tents.
Over 450 campsites in seven of the campgrounds are operated by the National Park Service on a first-come, first-served basis. So if you'd like to try for a spot, be sure to arrive early in the day.
Wildlife Caution3 of 15
While bears have a well-deserved and dangerous reputation, in reality, more people are hurt by bison each year in Yellowstone. Park regulations require visitors to stay at least 25 yards away from bison or elk and 100 yards away from bears.
Wildlife Galore4 of 15
While the bison is the largest animal to call Yellowstone home, other animals can also be observed in the park, including 67 species of mammals, 330 different kinds of birds, four types of amphibians, and six species of reptiles. It's the largest concentration of large and small mammals in the lower 48 states.
Over 1,000 Miles of Trails5 of 15
Whether you pull on your boots for some serious hill climbing or prefer to stay on sturdy boardwalks, Yellowstone provides a multitude of walking routes through the many attractions in late spring, summer and early fall.
Boating on Pristine Waters6 of 15
Summertime sailing is allowed on remarkably clear Yellowstone Lake and Lewis Lake, and boat rentals are available. It's a great way to see the park from an entirely new vantage point.
Picnicking Under the Trees7 of 15
Eating is, naturally, one of our most social activities. And, even in the secluded, tranquil national parks, there exist areas to munch on a meal. Yellowstone has 52 beautiful picnic areas where you can unpack a lunch basket and enjoy nature along with a sandwich.
Excellent Fishing8 of 15
Bring your favorite lures and cast for 16 species of fish between the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and the first Sunday in November. Said to be an experience unlike any other on Earth. Fishing licenses are required. (include link to licenses on RA.)
Breezy Bicycling9 of 15
You don't have to trek by foot across the beautiful countryside; an easy, relaxing way to enjoy the scenery is from the seat of a bike. And, you don't have to travel cross-country with a bike in tow, as the park has bikes available to rent.
Snowmobile and Snowcoach Tours10 of 15
While the park's winter landscape offers a magical experience, it also brings about many road closures. Fortunately, despite the snow, you can still enjoy the park year around.
Saddle Up11 of 15
A number of guided Yellowstone horseback riding trips are available for both novice and expert riders. Real Montana cowboys will lead the way as you clop-clop-clop over winding trails and high country plains that surround Yellowstone Park. Early reservations are recommended.
Rope a Steer12 of 15
Okay, not really. But there's plenty of action at Cheyenne Frontier Days, the largest outdoor rodeo in the world, held in Cheyenne, Wyoming every year from late July to the beginning of August.
Also not to be missed is the fabulous Cody Night Rodeo, which runs from June 1 to August 31 in Cody, Wyoming, located directly east of Yellowstone National Park.
View the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone13 of 15
Discovered in 1869, this incredible canyon is up to 4,000-feet wide and 1,200-feet deep in places. Starting at the base of mesmerizing Lower Falls inside the park, at 20 miles long, there's plenty to see.
Go to a Powwow14 of 15
Traditional social events of Native American tribes, these massive gatherings feature both men and women in brilliantly beaded traditional native dress who participate in dance competitions, drum group competitions among singers who chant while drumming, and "intertribal" dances.
Wyoming and Montana powwows are generally held from mid-June to early July, with the biggest being the Eastern Shoshone Indian Days