Standing on top of a super volcano, hot mud bubbling just meters away with periodic eruption of geysers, it is hard to imagine that such an environment would support much flora and fauna. However, the Yellowstone National Park is home to diverse and thriving wildlife including bison, bears, elk and wolves along with many species of fish, birds and reptiles. I had the good fortune of visiting the park in the summer of ’21 in that little space of time where there was some respite from COVID.
Since it was a last minute plan, the closest accommodation we could find was about 50 miles west of the park in the resort town of Big Sky, MT. Big Sky itself has much to offer, with many beautiful hiking trails in the summer and of course skiing in the winter and I would definitely recommend a visit. One can of course with better planning find accommodation right next to the park, the village of West Yellowstone being one possibility. Starting out from Seattle, we made a stopover in Spokane for a night before getting to Big Sky, our base for the trip to Yellowstone. We took the more scenic US 2, instead of I 90, making small stops on the way including a lunch break in the quaint ‘Bavarian’ town of Leavenworth, one of my favorite places on the Cascades Loop, arriving at Big Sky in the evening. There is a grocery store, Hungry Moose, at the resort which has a small deli, the town itself is a 10 min drive away, with many restaurants and cafes. The next morning we set out for a day trip to Yellowstone.
One can enter Yellowstone via five different entrances the one most recommended for a visit to the Geysers, is the West entrance which is the one we took . The road through the park is in the shape of ‘figure eight’ and it takes at least 3 to 4 days for a somewhat comprehensive visit to the main attractions in the park. We did that lower loop first and then part of the upper loop the next day.
On the lower loop, we stopped over for short hikes at the Lower, Midway and Upper Geyser Basins. The Fountain Paint Pot and Great Fountain Geyser at the Lower basin, the Grand Prismatic Spring at the Midway basin and the Old Faithful at the Upper Basin are must stops. Each one of these sites has something unique to offer, and there is a well maintained trail for safe observation. Old faithful lived up to its repute and the eruption was pretty awe inspiring. After spending the day at the Park it was time to head back to big sky, we did stop by at the village of West Yellowstone for a quick bite (caution: it is super busy during the summer) getting to our chalet late evening.
After an early morning hike at the beehive basin trail (the trail was nice enough though a bit over rated), we had a quick and early lunch before heading back to Yellowstone. The plan was to see Norris Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs on the North Loop. This is also a good area for moose, bison and bear sightings, often seen crossing the road on the loop. We saw two different moose groups cross the road halting all traffic on both sides. The big attraction here is the Steamboat Geyser, which can erupt with a water column up to 300 feet high. However the eruptions are irregular and most eruptions are smaller , we were lucky in that we saw it erupt though it was not one of really big ones.
Since we had two days to spend in the area, we were not able to see more of Yellowstone, but I can say without hesitation that the park lives up to its repute. To really explore the park one would need a week and probably stay either within the park or in one of the towns near the entrances. I for one definitely plan to be back for a longer and I am sure more eventful trip. Short as it was we loved every minute spent at Yellowstone, till next time….adios.