There is enough in Yellowstone National Park, to occupy days (some would say weeks, months or years, but at the very least - days!) of your vacation. You shouldn't miss Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, but here are some of my favorite, lesser known attractions that you might also want to add to your Yellowstone itinerary. Some require a short hike (5 miles roundtrip or less), but are well worth it.
- Boiling River:
Located near Mammoth Hot Springs, the parking area for Boiling River is just south of the 45th Parallel Bridge. A half mile mile hike will bring you to a spot on the Gardner River where natural hot springs trickle into the river and natural pools give bathers a chance to enjoy the rushing cold waters and the hot springs mixing together. A few things to keep in mind: bathing suits are required, no alcoholic beverages are allowed and it is closed in the spring during high run off periods (which sometimes extend past spring).
- Black Dragon's Cauldron/Dragon's Mouth Springs:
Located right off the road between Fishing Bridge and The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, this area of features also includes various mud pots and the Sulphur Caldron. It is a very easy walk for an impressive experience. I could sit and watch Dragon's Mouth Springs for hours. The water outside a small cave boils and steam shoots out intermittently, giving the impression that a dragon is inside just waiting to emerge. The sounds are almost impressive as the sight.
- Fairy Falls:
11.6 miles south of Madison, there is a signed turn off for Fairy Falls. This is an easy, mostly flat 5 mile (round trip) hike that is perfect for a picnic, as there are lots of places to sit down and around the falls and enjoy the view. The falls are beautiful, where Fairy Creek drops off of just under 200 feet off the Madison Plateau. Because it is located off the main road and is a little longer of a hike, you also have the added advantage of not feeling like you have to share it with a bunch of other people.
- Grand Prismatic Spring:
To see a larger hot spring in the world, you would have to go to New Zealand, this is the largest in Yellowstone, and was named for its intense, beautiful coloration. It is located in the Midway Geyser Basin (between Old Faithful and Madison), and is worth stopping at, whether you've just experienced Old Faithful or are on your way there.
- Lamar Valley/Slough Creek:
Between the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone and Tower-Roosevelt lays Lamar Valley and Slough Creek. Lamar Valley provides a beautiful drive to Silver Gate and Cooke City, MT (and further, to Bear Tooth Pass), but also provides wildlife opportunities for wolves and bear. The last time I drove through Lamar Valley a coyote stopped in the middle of the road to “do his business” (unfortunately, I did not have my camera ready). Along the road heading east from Tower-Roosevelt, you will see Slough Creek, which offers some of the best fishing in Yellowstone. The best access is provided by a turn off heading up to Slough Creek Campgrounds. There are chapters (and I'm sure books) written on places to fish along Slough Creek, so I will leave the details to the experts, but if you are looking for a place to start doing research on fishing in Yellowstone, that is it!
I'd be interested in knowing your favorite spots in Yellowstone!
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