Yellowstone Unbound Top Sites

GRAND CANYON OF YELLOWSTONE 

GRAND CANYON OF YELLOWSTONE 

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, aptly named after its Arizonian counterpart, was created by the Yellowstone River and is a breathtaking geologic feature within the park. About 20 miles long, the canyon stretches up to 4,000-feet wide and can plunge up to 1,200-feet deep. The canyon’s geologic heritage can be traced in the rock’s yellow, red, pink and white colors—mineral stains betraying the locations of steam vents and hot springs. 

The Yellowstone River feeds three spectacular falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: the Lower Falls, Upper Falls and Crystal Falls. 

The Lower Falls, despite its name, is Yellowstone’s tallest waterfall—standing twice as high as Niagara Falls. Runoff varies depending on the season, but visitors find the greatest flow in the spring. Your best views are at Red Rock Point, Brink of the Lower Falls Trail, Uncle Tom’s Trail, Artist Point and along the South Rim Trail. 

The Upper Falls are much smaller than the Lower Falls—a 109-foot cascade of water vs. the Lower Fall’s 308-foot drop. Check out the cascades at the Brink of the Upper Falls platform or along Uncle Tom’s Trail. 

Crystal Falls is perhaps the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone’s least-known waterfall, falling between the Upper and Lower Falls. These falls are formed by the outpouring water from Cascade Creek into the canyon below and can be seen at points from the South Rim Trail. 

LAMAR VALLEY 

LAMAR VALLEY 

Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, known as “America’s Serengeti,” is known for its excellent wildlife viewing opportunities as stunning megafauna such as wolves, buffalo, grizzly and black bears, elk, antelope, osprey, bald eagles, coyotes and otters can be found here. 

Located between Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance at Cooke City Montana and Tower Junction, the Lamar Valley’s wildlife viewing opportunities stretch beyond the valley and down the highway once you cross Yellowstone River. Though the wildlife spottings vary per season and you never know what you’ll spot, the Lamar Valley is always sure to delight. 

Perhaps more notably, the Lamar Valley is known as the best place to see gray wolves within Yellowstone National Park. Junction Butte and Lamar Canyon wolf packs inhabit the expansive valley. Bring your binoculars, as the wolves may be loping off in the distance if you’re lucky enough to spot them. 

Further, you may find primitive campgrounds at Pebble Creek and Slough Creek here. 

MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS

MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS

Despite Yellowstone National Park’s plethora of thermal features, Mammoth Hot Springs remains unique, largely due to its soft limestone base that allows travertine formations to develop much more quickly than  the park’s more common sinter formations. This means the terraces change constantly—sometimes with noticeable changes within the space of a day. The park tends to describe it as a “cave turned inside out” due to its many terraces. 

Mammoth Hot Springs is divided into Upper and Lower Terraces while around 50 hot springs dot the area. 

In the Upper Terraces, top features include the 37-foot high Liberty Cap, a hot spring cone named for its resemblance to the peaked caps favored during the French Revolution, and Minerva Spring, appreciated for its diverse colors and incredible travertine formations. 

In the Lower Terraces, visitors come upon  New Highland Terrace, Prospect Terrace, White Elephant Back Terrace, and Bath Lake along with Orange Spring Mound, known for its orange color formed by algae and bacteria, and the white formations of Angel Terrace. 

GRAND PRISMATIC SPRING

GRAND PRISMATIC SPRING

Though Old Faithful may be Yellowstone’s most iconic thermal feature, Grand Prismatic Hot Springs is its most photographed. Expansive and vividly colored, Grand Prismatic definitely calls to the camera. 

Grand Prismatic features bright rings of green, yellow and orange around the deep blue center. The multicolored bands grow from the various species of bacteria living in the progressively cooling water, while the blue eye comes from the water’s scattered blue wavelengths. 

Beyond it’s rainbow of hues, the Grand Prismatic is definitely “grand”: it’s the world’s 3rd largest spring, stretching 370 feet in diameter. It’s also incredibly deep, as its water travels around 121 feet to reach the spring’s surface from a deep crack in the earth. 

YELLOWSTONE LAKE 

YELLOWSTONE LAKE 

The largest body of water in Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Lake also lays claim to being the largest freshwater lake at high elevation in North America. The 20-mile long lake hides geysers, canyons, fumaroles and hot springs—a plethora of underwater thermal activity that creates nutrient-rich waters. Of course these waters, in turn, are essential in supporting Yellowstone’s incredible animal and plant life. In fact, the lake boasts of North America’s largest population of wild cutthroat trout. 

OLD FAITHFUL 

OLD FAITHFUL 

Old Faithful: faithfully Yellowstone’s most sought after thermal feature. Since Yellowstone became the first national park in 1872, Old Faithful geyser has erupted more than a million times. Despite its name, Old Faithful doesn’t necessarily erupt “faithfully” at the same time. In fact, Old Faithful is neither the most predictable nor the tallest of the park’s geysers. 

The geyser’s predictability lies in the large reservoir of water that steams and boils up from narrow conduits as pressure builds. Usually, Old Faithful erupts every 60-110 minutes, with a current average of 74 minutes. When it does blow, look for spouts that can reach 100-180 feet. Though you might have to wait around awhile to catch sight of the eruption, the eruption generally lasts only 1.5-5 minutes.