The raw beauty of the Western frontier calls to you.
UUnmistakable and unmissable, Yellowstone National Park is the best of Wyoming’s unrestricted landscape, spanning nearly 2.2 million acres and bordering three states with 96 percent in the Cowboy State. Immense and immaculate, Yellowstone represents the Wyoming idea that some things are best left wild and free. Come find your wild.
The Best 12 Things to Do in Yellowstone
From the vibrant Grand Prismatic Spring to the iconic Old Faithful Geyser, thousands and thousands of visitors find themselves immersed in the breathtaking landscapes, face-to-face with wildlife encounters, and awestruck by the hydrothermal marvels of Yellowstone National Park. As such a large destination, it can be overwhelming to choose from so many things to do. Here are 12 of the best activities that are a must-see for any first-time traveler.
1. Grand Prismatic Spring
Bright, vibrant, and often steaming — one spectacular sight will demand your attention in Yellowstone, and it’s the Grand Prismatic Spring. Impressively sized, this natural wonder is over 300 feet in diameter and more than 120 feet deep, making it the biggest hydrothermal pool in the United States.
Heated by the crust of the Earth itself, one of the Spring’s most noteworthy features is its beautiful color scheme, ranging from hot lava-like orange to a center of brilliant blue. Always photogenic, this attraction is ready for its closeup and to land squarely in your Instagram story, but don’t get too close — you cannot swim in the Grand Prismatic Spring.
2. Upper Geyser Basin & Morning Glory Pool
It’s not a trip to Yellowstone until you see your first geyser; lucky for you, there is a one-stop destination for finding them. Spanning around 2 miles of the park’s landscape, The Upper Geyser Basin is the home base for the world-famous Old Faithful, as well as 250 other geysers making it one of the most extensive formations in the world.
Morning Glory Pool, a hot spring also found in the Basin, was once a radiant blue akin to the flower itself. Changes in water temperature over time have resulted in shifting hues, but the pool is still a stunning must-see on your Yellowstone adventure.
Fun fact: If you’ve ever wondered what makes a geyser spray, the secret is in the “pipes.” Water warmed by the Earth’s magma travels along in natural tube-like pipes. When the magma encounters an obstruction along the way, heat builds up, and a little crack forms where hot water is released in a rush, along with a steam show.
3. Old Faithful Geyser
Arguably the most recognizable name on this list of top things to do in Yellowstone, the Old Faithful Geyser calls the Upper Geyser Basin home and has lived up to its reputation for over 150 years. While there are larger geysers to view in Yellowstone National Park, this one has considerable staying power, and it’s all thanks to its mysterious consistency.
Old Faithful’s cascading hot waterfall erupts on a fairly regular schedule, for a period of up to 5 minutes every hour and a half to two hours, making it an unforgettable experience.
4. Old Faithful Inn
If a brief visit to Old Faithful seems to fly by a little too fast, why not stay there the next time you’re exploring Yellowstone? Boasting the title of the world’s biggest log building, the Old Faithful Inn has served as a prime destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts since the early 1900s.
While some rooms have been updated to provide visitors with modern conveniences, some are delightfully rustic, allowing folks to stay the way they did when the hotel was built. Several options for rustling up a good meal at the Inn include their dining room and Bear Paw Deli. Plus, the property’s view of Old Faithful can’t be beat.
5. Yellowstone Lake
Scaling the heights at Yellowstone National Park is part of the experience, and there’s one body of water that sits higher than you might expect: the beautiful Yellowstone Lake. With over 140 miles of shoreline, this exceptional lake spans about 20 miles in length and is the largest high-elevation lake in North America at nearly 8,000 feet above sea level.
While the water is typically too cold for a dip, it is an excellent spot for a day of boating and fishing. In fact, Yellowstone Lake has the largest population of wild cutthroat trout in North America. Wondering where the water flows to? None other than the Yellowstone River.
6. Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
One of Yellowstone’s many natural marvels is the handiwork of its namesake river: the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Born of volcanic explosion thousands of years ago, the present-day Canyon displays the beauty of rock formations further eroded by the Yellowstone River’s flow and hydrothermal change.
What is left behind is a magnificent sight to behold. The varied shades in the rock, the incredible waterfalls, and the vibrant scenery make this spot a classic thing to do at Yellowstone destination. You can access phenomenal viewing points easily from both North Rim Drive and South Rim Drive, and there are plenty of trails to hike throughout the Canyon. Make sure you catch it on your next visit.
7. Artist Point
Wyoming is a prime destination for incredible views, and Yellowstone certainly tops the list of where to find them. Looking out over the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Artist Point is among the most stunning you’ll find there. Accessible from the South Rim and providing a crystal clear glimpse of the Lower Falls, this point boasts immense popularity among photographers.
It can be reached in just a few minutes walk from South Rim Drive, making it a location that is as easy to access as it is in demand.
8. Lower Yellowstone River Falls
Where should visitors begin their journey in a national park packed with beautiful waterfalls? Why not start with the largest rapids they have? At over 300 feet tall, the Lower Yellowstone River Falls holds that title, providing park guests with an overpowering sense of all things natural and majestic for generations.
When finding the right spot for watching the falls, you have several options depending on which side of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone you’re on, including Inspiration Point, Grandview Point, and Lookout Point from the east and Artists Point from the west. Getting the best view, however, may involve taking the trail to the very top of Lower Falls. You’ll never forget this Yellowstone experience, so don’t miss out.
9. Wildlife Watching at Lamar Valley
Imagine taking in the incredible Western sunset at Yellowstone National Park. Now, imagine doing it with your family or friends and a crew of wild new companions. Lamar Valley is the perfect place to feast your eyes on native wildlife in their natural habitat, giving you a closer look at the fantastic creatures that call this area home.
From gliding osprey to whole herds of bison and mountain goats to grizzly bears, there is no shortage of animal activity. Try a guided tour to ensure everyone’s safety and to make sure you don’t miss a minute of the action.
10. Mammoth Hot Springs
Among Yellowstone’s many incredible sedimentary structures, the Mammoth Hot Springs is one of the most unique. Comprised of about 50 hot springs, this limestone gully has a strangely beautiful appearance — the rock’s surface is not only blanched to white and shades of sandy brown but many of the ridges look like stalactites you’d find in a cave or sharp icicles hanging from a gutter.
This distinctive look is another result of hydrothermal activity; the white color is simply mineral deposits left behind, creating the Upper and Lower Terraces that make up Mammoth Hot Springs. Take a stroll through them, and prepare to take in the power of nature.
11. West Thumb Geyser Basin
Checking out the incredible geyser landscape is one of the top to-dos when you’re spending your vacation at Yellowstone National Park, but you may be surprised to know that each has its own unique features. Situated along the Yellowstone Lake shoreline, the West Thumb Geyser Basin provides a particularly distinctive vista of hypothermal pools beside the lake’s chilly waves.
Among them, the wildly popular Fishing Cone represents an old-timey way to cook fresh fish, while the Abyss Pool reflects its stunning shades of blue to remind us of the endlessness of the natural world. There is much to experience everywhere in Yellowstone, and seemingly endless things to do for your friends and family.
12. Norris Geyser Basin
It’s said that some like it hot, and at Yellowstone, there is plenty of hydrothermal activity delivering seemingly countless piping-hot geysers to explore. The hottest among them is the Norris Geyser Basin, with a liquid temperature topping out at over 450 degrees Fahrenheit. This top tourist destination offers both a rugged, woodsy experience in the Back Basin and an immersive, treeless view from the Porcelain Basin.
In addition to being known for its heat, Norris is also where you’ll find the Steamboat Geyser, which is nearly 400 feet tall and is said to be the tallest in the world.
FAQ: Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park
Plan Your Visit to Yellowstone National Park Today!
The awe-inspiring attractions at Yellowstone National Park have made it a prime destination for over 150 years. Why not plan your next getaway to the heart of the Western landscape? Find out more now.