Discover the incredible highlights, history, geology & nature of Yellowstone National Park with this entertaining, educational, point-by-point Waypoint Tour - your personal tour guide for Yellowstone travel adventure.
Yellowstone National Park Tour
2 Madison & Firehole Canyon
3 Fountain Paint Pots
4 Firehole Lake Drive
5 Midway Geyser Basin
6 Biscuit & Black Sand Basins
7 Old Faithful Inn & Lodge
8 Old Faithful Geyser
9 Upper Geyser Basin
10 West Thumb Geyser Basin
11 Lake Hotel & Lodge
12 Fishing Bridge
13 Yellowstone Lake & Steamboat Point
14 Mud Volcano & Sulphur Caldron
15 Hayden Valley Wildlife
16 Canyon Upper Falls
17 Canyon Lower Falls
18 Mount Washburn & Fires
19 Tower Fall Area
20 Lamar Valley & Wolves
21 Roosevelt Lodge Area
22 Historic Fort Yellowstone
23 Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel Area
24 Mammoth Hot Springs
25 Sheepeater Cliff to Roaring Mountain
26 Norris Geyser Basin
Welcome to the world’s first national park – Yellowstone! The golden rocks, effervescent waters, teeming forests, meadows and streams of Yellowstone have been dually christened by the United Nations as a World Biosphere Reserve and as a World Heritage Site. This is North America’s Serengeti, where 1,700 kinds of plants sustain 60 mammal and 311 bird species. Here, 150 lakes and 500 streams give birth to mighty rivers and thrive with 24 species of fish. The generally placid flow of these watercourses is spectacularly interrupted by nearly 300 waterfalls.
Like inverted waterfalls, Yellowstone’s 300 geysers erupt skyward, flying in the face of the old adage, and arguing instead, that what goes down must also come up! Less flashy, but equally intriguing, are the geysers’ cousins: hot springs, fumaroles, mud pots and travertine terraces. These geothermal features are variations on the physics of boiling water, are ten thousand in number, comprise half of the planet’s total population of geothermal features, and yet are concentrated in the 2.2 million acre square in the upper left corner of Wyoming’s map simply labeled: Yellowstone.
Here, tourism became a science. Here, the U.S. Army defeated extinction by protecting the last of the American bison. Here, big government and big business united to preserve something greater than the revenue it generated. Here, preservation became an ethic.
Yellowstone is the example touted to help justify the establishment and protection of 3,600 other national parks in 143 different countries. It’s an adventurer’s dream, meticulously planned. It’s the first and last word of the favorite vacation story. It’s where many first fall in love: with the outdoors, with geology, with wildlife, with history, and with photography. It’s also where you can fall in love with all those same things, for all the same reasons, plus many more. It’s the “every-park” for everyone. Welcome… to Yellowstone.
Norris Geyser Basin
If you love geothermal features, then Norris Geyser Basin may be your favorite part of Yellowstone. Here, you’ll find the world tallest geyser, powerful fumaroles, the most acidic springs, and diverse colorful mosaics of thermophiles. Before descending to the trail system, stop at the small museum for a quick refresher of who’s who in the geothermal feature family and some geothermal safety reminders.
Start with the figure-8 shaped Back Basin Loop which is one-and-a-half miles long. As you start south from the museum, hope against the odds that you will be lucky enough to see Steamboat Geyser erupt. Full-blown eruptions of this champion throw water between 300 and 400 feet into the sky and last between 3 and 40 three and forty minutes, making it the world’s tallest geyser. Unfortunately, Steamboat keeps her own schedule. During some years, she never erupts. At the other extreme, some eruptions are only a few days apart.
You will recognize Porkchop Geyser by a pile of stone slabs that look as if they fell from the sky—which in fact they did, when this little hot spring created a hydrothermal explosion in 1989. Hydrothermal explosions are thought to occur when a closed underground cistern of superheated water suddenly flashes into steam. The water-to-steam expansion ratio is nearly 1 to 1,800 and creates the geologic equivalent of a bomb. Smaller chunks of Porkchop’s crust landed 216 feet away.
After returning to the museum, you can continue north into Porcelain Basin on a one-half mile loop. Porcelain Basin is famous for how constantly-changing and unpredictable its features are. However, you can always count on the Black Growler Steam Vent. This colossal fumarole is so powerful that its constant blast of steam is eroding a 50 foot long trough in the surrounding hillside. Named for the Park’s second superintendent, Norris Geyser Basin may remain first and foremost in your Yellowstone memories.
Yellowstone is more than a place. It’s an ideal, an ethic, a love, a way of knowing the world … Which means it doesn’t have to shrink in your rear view mirror, but instead can grow in your heart and mind. Indeed, if Yellowstone comes with one condition, perhaps it’s merely that it should always be cherished … by us, so that we can perpetually bequeath it … to us.