Driving Through Yellowstone


While planning our move back to Nashville from Bellingham last fall, Amy and I made sure to add Yellowstone National Park to our route. We rushed our trip when we moved to Bellingham in 2011 because we needed to find an apartment before I started my job. After that, we promised ourselves that if we ever made another cross-country trip we would take our time and see some sites. We set aside an entire day just for Yellowstone (which, as it turns out, isn’t nearly enough time), and here are the highlights.

On our way to the park entrance, we pulled over to take in this beautiful river bend.

We spent the previous night in Bozeman, so we entered Yellowstone through the north gate.

Our first stop inside the park (after the gift shop, of course!) was Mammoth Hot Springs. The white, chalky-looking stuff is crystalized calcium carbonate left over from hot water cooling down as it flows out of the springs.

Next, we ascended two thousand feet up to Golden Gate and stopped for lunch.

As we continued south, we came upon a dozen cars parked on the side of the road. Several people were standing on the shoulder staring out into a field. It took me a second to register what was going on, and then I saw what everyone else was seeing: a herd of about twenty bison were having a leisurely afternoon graze less than a hundred feet from the road.

The next stop was Fountain Paint Pot, which is a large mud pot formed by the water from surrounding hot springs and geysers. The array of reds, oranges, and browns is from the various oxidation states of the iron in the mud. Amy opted to stay in the car due to the terrible sulfur smell while I hopped out and grabbed a few quick photos near the trail entrance.

Finally, we made it to Old Faithful. Turns out he wasn’t very faithful to us—we missed him by 8 minutes.

The Craig Pass road closure foiled our original plan to continue around the south side of the loop, so we had to backtrack from Old Faithful and lost some precious daylight. Instead of stopping everywhere that looked interesting, we slowed just enough to take some photos and then moved on so we could make it to the Grand Canyon before dark.

The last place on our itinerary was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. I haven’t been to the real Grand Canyon, but this one was crazy huge. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The sky seemed so much bigger out there.

After the Grand Canyon, we headed west toward our hotel in Cody. We were running out of daylight fast, but I couldn’t help myself from stopping at Yellowstone Lake to capture the last few moments of dusk.

By the time we left the lake, it was completely dark. As we were coming around a corner, two giant black blobs appeared in the middle of the road and Amy yelled “Buffalo!”. Sure enough, there were two bison moseying down the road, right in the middle of our lane. I slammed on the brakes, swerved to the left, and barely missed them. It’s a good thing, too, because I’m pretty sure each of them was bigger than our car!

Alfred, our Honda Fit, loaded down with everything we owned, just before narrowly escaping a bison collision
Alfred, our Honda Fit, loaded down with everything we owned, just before narrowly escaping bison collision

Yellowstone is incredible! I was amazed by the great variety of landscapes we found in just one park (and we didn’t even see half of the spots on our list). Next time we go back I want to spend at least a week there, though I’ll probably feel like that wasn’t enough time to see everything either.

Have you ever been to Yellowstone? What are some other places in the U.S. you want to visit? Let me know in the comments below!

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