Must See Places in Yellowstone

Our resident photographer, James "Newt" Perdue, recommends these places in Yellowstone National Park to visit without fail! While Yellowstone has many natural features worth visiting, these stand out as some of the most interesting and scenic. We recommend no less than two full days to visit Yellowstone. Yellowstone has 2 loops, one is north and the other south. If all you have is 2 days, plan on a long day exploring a loop each of the two days. You'd need to stay at our park at least 3 days to do that.


Download a complete map of Yellowstone National Park here.




Check out the book by James Perdue in our store,
Yellowstone Photo Tour.
It serves as a great souvenir of your visit.

Gibbon Falls

Gibbon Falls

These falls drop roughly 84 feet in a gradual descent that makes a beautiful view from the roadside area. The parking area is often full so be patient. There is a paved walk along the road so that you can get a wide more distant view. The Gibbon River rises in the center of the park at Grebe Lake and descends about 25 miles through these falls to make up one of two tributaries of the Madison River in the park.

Gibbon Falls is about a 1.2 hours drive from our RV Park.


Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

This is the largest thermal spring in the United States and the third largest in the world. The vibrant colors are due to the different colored bacterial mats formed by the thermal gradient. There is a boardwalk that allows you to walk around the spring and view the other thermal features, including the Excelsior geyser crater (It is inactive except for the boiling water.) The Grand Prismatic spring is approximately 370 feet (110 m) in diameter and is 160 feet (50 m) deep. Please DO NOT drop things into the spring. Hold onto your hats when the wind is blowing and NEVER try to retrieve something from the scalding water. It is about a 1.2 hour drive from our park.

Old Faithful Geyser

Old Faithful Geyser

The Old Faithful Geyser is one of 150 geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin where this is located. It has erupted regularly over the last hundred years. It normally erupts within about 10 minutes of the predicted time. The rangers maintain a blackboard nearby that has the next eruption. Old Faithful erupts every 35 to 120 minutes for 1 1/2 to 5 minutes. Its maximum height ranges from 90 to 184 feet. There is a boardwalk surrounding the geyser and a more extensive boardwalk takes you around the Upper Geyser Basin. Plan on a 2 to 3 hour visit to take the entire walk. STAY ON THE BOARDWALK for your safety and the preservation of the fragile ground. Old Faithful Inn is nearby and offers food. The parking lot is large but is often full due to the popularity of this spot. Plan on a trip from our RV Park to the geyser of at least 1.5 to 2 hours depending on time to enter the park and traffic density.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and Lower Yellowstone Falls

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and Lower Yellowstone Falls

There are several overlooks of the canyon reachable by automobile and a short walk via the North Rim and South Rim drives. This image was taken from Artist Point on the South Rim drive, but there is also Upper Falls Viewpoint. On the North Rim driver there are several overlooks, including, Brink of the Upper Falls, Lower Falls, Red Rock Point, Lookout Point, Grandview and Inspiration Point. All of these are worth seeing, but most impressive is Artist Point and Inspiration Point. Parking can be a problem at the busiest times. The canyon is approximately 24 miles (39 km) long, between 800 and 1,200 ft (240 and 370 m) deep and from .25 to .75 mi (0.40 to 1.21 km) wide. The colors in the canyon are the result of oxidation of the iron in the rhyolite, not sulfur as some think. The canyon formed from erosion, not glaciation. This is certainly a must see area. There is a nice visitor center, food, and shops at the Canyon Junction area.

The drive from our park is about 1.75 to 2 hours depending upon traffic.


Lower Yellowstone Falls

Lower Yellowstone Falls

These falls can be viewed from several places along North and South Rim drive. They are magnificent and are one of two closely spaced falls on the Yellowstone River as it flows out of Yellowstone Lake and into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The Lower Falls are the highest volume falls in the Rocky Mountains and are 308 feet (94 m) high, or nearly twice as high as Niagara Falls. Perhaps one of the best places to feel the majesty of these falls is at the Brink of the Lower Falls where you hike down to a platform almost hanging over the brink of the falls. The noise is deafening at that overlook. The falls are about 1.75 hours drive from our RV Park in light traffic.


Upper Yellowstone Falls

Upper Yellowstone Falls

These falls are the first of two that empty out of Yellowstone Lake. Although the Lower Falls is almost 3 times the height of the Upper Falls at 109 feet (33 m) high they are still impressive as you stand over them. The brink of the Upper Falls marks the junction between a hard rhyolite lava flow and the weaker glassy lava that has been more heavily eroded. You can stand at the brink of the falls by stopping along the first stop of the North Rim drive and taking a short walk down to the overlook. A more distant view can be had from the Uncle Tom Overlook on the South Rim Road.

They are in the Canyon area and many different views of the falls and the canyon can be seen along the North and South Rim drives. They are about a 1.75 hour ride from our RV Park when the traffic is light. It's worth spending a couple hours in this area.


Mammoth Terrace

Mammoth Terrace

The Mammoth Hot Springs area is a definite must see. Large terraces are formed from dissolved limestone seeping up from heat sources below. There are basically three areas to visit. First, there is an auto tour through Upper Terrace Drive. A favorite structure along this drive is the Orange Spring Mound with its beautiful glossy colors looking like a large ice cream cone. You can also stop on the Upper Terrace, park and walk a long boardwalk exploring the top of the lower terraces. Finally, drive down the hill and park at the North Trailhead parking lot and walk a short distance to view the Palette Springs terrace. No man could design such a beautifully sculptured terrace as these.

The area known as Mammoth Hot Springs is home to the NPS Yellowstone Headquarters and the old Fort Yellowstone. There is food and shops here. Also, Elk are known to roam through the area. DO NOT approach them however.

The Mammoth area is about a 2 hour beautiful drive north from our RV Park in light traffic.


Calcite Springs overlook of Yellowstone River

Calcite Springs Overlook

The Yellowstone River has carved a large canyon here made of the milky-white calcite crystals that cover the area. Mixed in with the calcite are translucent, honey-colored barite crystals. Directly below but out of site of this overlook, is the Calcite Springs. Inside the conduits of hot spring are beautiful but smelly yellow sulfur crystals.

Calcite Springs (at the river's edge) is the lowest elevation of any thermal area in the park. The east wall of the Grand Canyon, facing the overlook, is a cross-section of layers of material transported by glaciers (glacial drift) resting on ancient lake deposits and columnar basalt. In cool weather, wisps of steam rise from Calcite Springs-the pale slope near river level.

The springs can only be viewed from across the canyon on the Yellowstone River Area Picnic trail.

Calcite Springs Overlook is about 2.5 hours drive from our RV Park.


Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley

This is a wide valley where you'll often see lots of wildlife. The Lamar River runs through it for further scenic beauty. Bison, pronghorn, wolves, bears, and coyotes frequent the valley and the surrounding hills. There are several places to pull off. Be patient, get out your binoculars and wait to see the wildlife. There is something relaxing about the wide open spaces filled with distant wildlife. On your way, stop and see the rapids as the Lamar River plunges down from the valley towards the Yellowstone River. This is especially exciting in spring runoff. Continue on this road for a few miles and stop at the Barronette Peak overlook and hunt for the Mountain Goats hanging to the side of the mountain.

The Lamar Valley is about 2.75 hours drive through Yellowstone from our RV Park.


Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin

This is the hottest geyser basin in the park. All the thermal pools are over boiling temperature. There are good wooden boardwalks that explore this area. The two famous geysers in this area are the Steamboat Geyser, the tallest geyser in the world at 300–400 feet (91–122 m) and Echinus Geyser (pH 3.5 or so), Many of the thermal pools are very acidic. The basin consists of two areas: Porcelain Basin and the Back Basin. Porcelain Basin is barren of trees and provides a potpourri of sounds, colors and smells. A 3/4-mile (1.2-km) bare ground and boardwalk trail runs through this area. Back Basin is more heavily wooded with features scattered throughout the area. A 1.5-mile (2.4-km) trail of boardwalks and bare ground takes you through this part of the basin. Parking can sometimes be a problem in the height of the season. Take some water with you. You could spend an hour or more walking through here if you desire. Stay on the trails for your safety and don't touch the colorful bacterial mats.

There are bathrooms and a bookstore here. The basin is about 1.75 hours drive from our RV Park.


West Thumb Geyser Basin

West Thumb Geyser Basin

This interesting area of thermal activity is on the western edge of Yellowstone Lake. There aren't any active geysers here, just thermal pools. There is a boardwalk that leads you around the main features here. Abyss Pool and Black Pool are deep thermal pools of beauty and interest. Black Pool (image above) was named for the green and brown thermophiles living in the pool back when it was given this name. Since then, however, the temperature of the water has increased, and the types of thermophiles living in the pool has shifted to those more orange and yellow in color. Probably what makes this area most interesting is that it borders the large Yellowstone Lake. There are two loops, one to the left and one to the right. The most interesting is to the left as it borders the lake more. This is also one of lesser visited areas of the park.

There is a bookstore, bathrooms, and a large parking lot. The drive from the RV Park to West Thumb Basin is about 2 hrs.


Fountain Paint Pot Nature Trail

Fountain Paint Pot Nature Trail

This popular trail is a .5 mile trek around boiling fumeroles, mud pots, thermal pools and geysers. It is all on a boardwalk safely away from the dangers of the boiling waters. (No dogs.)

Here are a few of the most notable features on the walk:

Silex Spring - see image above. Silex Spring is named for the large amount of silica found in and around this feature. This silica is then deposited as sinter, which lines the pool and forms terraces along the runoff channels . Thermophiles thrive in these hot waters, which in turn give the channels such a variety of textures and colors. Silex Spring has an average temperate of 174.7°F.

Fountain Paint Pot - This is a classic mud pot. In the spring it is watery due to rain and runoff. In the late summer and fall it will be very thick.

Red Spouter - In the spring and summer it spouts red water and mud. During the late summer and fall it is a hissing fumarole.

Fountain Geyser - The Fountain Geyser is an unpredictable geyser sitting in a stunning blue pool that can reach heights of 50 feet and last for 20 minutes.

Morning Geyser - Although it infrequently erupts, when it does it reaches 150-200 feet high!

This trail is a little over an hour's drive from our RV Park.


Firehole Lake Drive

Firehole Lake Drive

Just a short drive south from the Fountain Paint Pots is Firehole Drive. It is a 3 mile loop that drives past several beautiful pools and a few geysers. It culminates at Firehole Lake where a boardwalk takes you around the lake and past a couple small geysers. One of the main attractions here is the Great Fountain Geyser. Eruptions average 100 feet (31 m) high, with some rare “superbursts” of 200 feet (61 m) or more. Eruptions can last 45-60 minutes in a series of bursts. The geyser can take 10-14 hours to rebuild to an eruption so it is hard to estimate the time of eruption. The pool slowly fills, then begins to overflow 70-100 minutes before the eruption. White Dome geyser erupts much more frequently and can be seen while waiting for the Great Fountain Geyser to erupt.

Other features are very colorful pools like Broken Egg spring seen in the image above. The Firehole Lake Drive is about 1.25 hours drive from our RV Park.


Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake is the largest feature in the national Park. Situated at 7,733 feet (2,357 m) above sea level, Yellowstone Lake is the largest high elevation lake (above 7,000 feet / 2,134 m) in North America. It is roughly 20 miles (32.2 km) long and 14 miles (22.5 km) wide, with 141 miles (227 km) of shoreline and a surface area of 132 square miles (342 km2). Yellowstone Lake freezes over completely every winter in late December or early January, with ice thicknesses varying from a few inches to more than two feet. The lake usually thaws in late May or early June.

Yellowstone Lake was formed by the depression of the caldera from the collapse of the last eruption about 625,000 years ago. It is thought that it once drained to the Pacific Ocean instead of the Atlantic. There is much thermal activity under the lake and lot of this can be seen on the western shore, esp. at West Thumb Geyser Basin.

Cutthroat trout are native to the lake. Lake Trout were introduced in the 1980's and is a threat to the native fish. Fishing is allowed in the lake and all Lake Trout must be killed when caught.

One can drive along the northern and western shores of the lake for some distance. There are several turnoffs with grand vistas. On the east side of the lake, where US20 meets the lake, there is an overlook called Lake Butte that gives a good overview of the lake from above. Motorized boats up to 40 feet are permitted on the lake.

You can reach the shores of Yellowstone Lake from our RV Park in about 2 hours.


Biscuit Basin Geysers

Biscuit Basin

Biscuit Basin contains a small collection of thermal features. Many, however, are small, gem-like encrusted pools and geysers, including Silver Globe Spring, Sapphire, and Black Opal pools, Jewel, Cauliflower, and Black Pearl geysers. Sapphire Pool dominates the main group west of the river. The water of this pool, or spring, is crystal clear with a Oriental blue sapphire tint. Other important features include Shell Geyser, which has a golden-lined crater, and Jewel Geyser, known for the shiny, beaded sinter around its vent.

Biscuit Basin is on the way to Old Faithful and is about 1.2 hours drive from our RV Park.

Madison River and Mountains

Madison River

The Madison River is a headwater tributary of the Missouri River, approximately 183 miles (295 km) long, in Wyoming and Montana. Its confluence with the Jefferson and Gallatin rivers near Three Forks, Montana forms the Missouri River. The Madison River is a central feature to Yellowstone. You'll drive along it for miles as you enter the park. Eagles, osprey, otters, muskrat, wolves, bison, coyote and swans can often be seen from the numerous stops along the river. This is a very scenic river that rises from two sources in the park which join at Madison Junction. The first is the Gibbon River that rises from the center of Yellowstone and the other is the Firehole River, created mainly by the overflow of the various Geysers from Old Faithful and all the other Geyser basins.

You will meet the Madison just after you enter the park and follow it to Madison Junction. Take the time to stop at a few of the pull-outs to enjoy this magnificent river.


Chocolate Pots Geyser and Duck Rock

Chocolate Pots Geyser and Duck Rock

The Chocolate Pots are colorful and unusual formations located along the Gibbon River and the road between Elk Park and Gibbon Meadows. They are unique for their rich, dark-brown, chocolate color. The three to four-feet-high cones have green, yellow, brown and orange streaks formed by warm, water loving bacteria and algae. Mineral oxides are responsible for the dark-brown color. Iron, aluminum, nickel and manganese oxides compose nearly 60% of the pots, with silica composing an additional 17%.

There is a pull-off on the road from Madison Jct to Norris along the Gibbon River that the pots can be seen. The very next pull off allows views of Duck Rock, if you get out of the automobile and peer through the trees. This unusual balanced rock formation sits in a very beautiful stretch of the Gibbon River rapids.

The Chocolate Pots are about 1.25 hour drive from our RV Park along the road from Madison Jct to Norris Geyser Basin.


Hayden Valley

Hayden Valley

North of Yellowstone Lake there is a large expanse without trees called Hayden Valley. This area is home to many wildlife, including bison, elk, bears, coyotes, and wolves. You are also likely to see waterfowl, including ducks, Canada geese and pelicans, swimming in the Yellowstone River. Bring your binoculars and enjoy the animals as they graze among the marshes created by the Yellowstone River in this flat area. This area was once an arm of the Yellowstone lake and the fine sediments prevent water drainage and make the swampy, treeless areas here that are perfect for grasses.

Hayden Valley is about 1.75 hours drive from our RV Park.


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