WHEN PEOPLE TALK about Yellowstone National Park they usually focus on the spectacular geysers and other volcanic features for which the area is so well known. But Yellowstone contains within its boundaries so much more than hydrothermal activity. It serves as home and haven for a variety of creatures (many of which have neared extinction elsewhere), and has incredible views of waterways, falls, and landscapes. Here are a few things to check out in Yellowstone.

1. The wildlife

All photos by David Joyner

Yellowstone National Park is a safe haven to a great many species of wildlife. Some of them, such as wolves and grizzly bears, have been on the brink of extinction, but the park has been a place for these animals to rebound and thrive.

One of the coolest experiences in Yellowstone is the buffalo traffic jam. Should you be so privileged as to experience one of these, take the time to enjoy the scenery, inhale the fresh air, and leave the buffalo alone.

2. Lamar Valley

If you want to experience wildlife in Yellowstone National Park go to Lamar Valley. The valley not only has spectacular landscape views, but also buffalo, goats, antelope, elk, wolves, bears, bald eagles, and more. Being a wildlife lover, Lamar Valley is my favorite spot to visit in the park. On our most recent trip to the park we were lucky enough to experience a large grizzly bear playing in the river, with two wolves watching us from nearby ridges. The optimal times to encounter wildlife are early morning after sunrise, and in the evening before sunset.

3. Moose Falls

Whether you’re a photographer in search of an epic waterfall shot, or a couple looking for a romantic hike beyond the bustle of guided tours, Moose Falls is a tranquil location just off the main roadway in the southern portion of the park. It is accessed by an easy and pleasant hiking trail. Try to arrive before sunrise.

4. Lower Falls

This 308-foot spectacle is accessed by a hiking path and has several viewpoints, each offering a different perspective on the large falls, including one directly above the precipice.

5. Kepler Cascades

Kepler Cascades is a gorgeous waterfall that is just down the road from Old Faithful. The falls drop a total of approximately 100 feet and consist of a series of short falls with the largest being around 50 feet in height. This is the perfect location to take photos in the morning light, when the surrounding cliffs and forests beautifully accentuate the falls.

6. Firehole Falls

Firehole Falls is a photographer’s dream. The raging water cascades over large rocks, providing an opportunity for blurred motion images. The falls can be accessed by Firehole Canyon Drive.which is a one-way road approximately two miles in length that runs along the Firehole River. There are many magnificent views of the river itself along this short route. The falls themselves must be viewed from the parking area and roadway, as access to the base of the falls is prohibited.

7. The Madison River

The tranquil Madison River follows the road from the west entrance of Yellowstone. The landscape along the river is breathtaking and there are many locations along the roadway to pull over and experience the natural setting and view elk foraging and playing along the river banks. Large bulls, cows, and calves are commonly seen and sometimes forage close to the roadside. The river is a great spot for fishermen, hikers, and photographers, as well as tourists just wanting to be amazed.

8. The Yellowstone River


The Yellowstone River meanders snake-like through the meadows and forests of the park, providing a cool and tranquil environment for visitors. The Yellowstone River has the distinction of being the only un-dammed river in the lower 48 states and can be accessed in various spots throughout the park from the roadside and hiking trails.

Yellowstone National Park is a wonderland for nature enthusiasts and photographers, solo tourists and vacationing families. Good hiking shoes, ample water, bear spray and common sense will ensure that your experience in the park is pleasantly memorable.

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