Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Niagara Springs - Twin Falls, Idaho


Most of the canyon walls of the Snake River Canyon look the way you'd expect canyon walls to look; rocky edges tumbling down to the river bottoms with a large river flowing below.  But some parts of the canyon walls don't look like that at all. These parts of the canyon have water gushing out of the canyon wall. Niagara Springs is one of these places. Above the spring is a hill of lifeless rock. Below the spring is a lush green oasis made possible by the water that has made a nearly 100 mile journey through basalt.

Location: Niagara Springs is located on the north canyon wall of the Snake River Canyon. It is about a 25 mile drive west of Twin Falls.  It is 11 miles south of I-84 in Wendell. Niagara Springs is one of the units that make up Thousand Springs State Park.

Hiking Distance and Time: Niagara Springs is next to the road inside the canyon. The parking lot is located within steps of the springs.

Cost: Thousand Springs State Park has an entrance fee of $5, however, if you are just driving by the springs you do not need to pay the fee. The Niagara Springs Fish Hatchery is also near the springs and is free to visit.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The springs are available every day all year long.  Daylight hours are the best time to visit.  The Niagara Springs Fish Hatchery is open to visitors every day from 7:00 am to 3:30 pm.

Official Websiteshttps://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/thousand-springs and https://idfg.idaho.gov/visit/hatchery/niagara-springs

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 5, 2018

Niagara Springs was third stop of the first day of the Idaho Road Trip my family went on in May of 2018. We left the Perrine Memorial Bridge and drove 20 miles northwest to Niagara Springs.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Perrine Memorial Bridge - Twin Falls, Idaho


Massive and impressive architecture isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you picture rural Idaho. However, the Perrine Memorial Bridge outside of Twin Falls is a stunning example of large scale engineering. The towering truss arch is especially interesting when you consider the surrounding communities have few buildings taller than 3 stories high.  The bridge is a vital connection for Twin Falls. It carries Highway 93 over the Snake River Canyon. It's also a great tourist destination. There are pedestrian walkways on the bridge as well as overlooks on the canyon edges on either side of the bridge. The sides of the bridge are popular locations for BASE jumping.

Location: The bridge is on the north side of Twin Falls on Highway 93.  It is 5 miles south of I-84

Hiking Distance and Time: Plan for about 10 minutes if all you want to do is get out of your car and take a quick look at the bridge.  However, you can make your visit last longer if you want to walk across the bridge or explore the canyon rim trail on the south side of the canyon.

Cost: Free to visit.  The Visitor Center on the South side of the bridge is also free.

Helpful Websites:  https://visitidaho.org/things-to-do/roadside-attractions/perrine-bridge/

Date of Visit: Saturday May 5, 2018

The Perrine Bridge was second stop of the first day of our Idaho Road Trip in May of 2018, We left Shoshone Falls Park and drove less than 5 miles into Twin Falls to find the bridge.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Shoshone Falls - Twin Falls, Idaho


For Americans, Niagara Falls is the ultimate waterfall.  Every waterfall in the country is compared to this icon. "The Niagara of the West" is found in Twin Falls, Idaho. This dramatic waterfall is actually higher than Niagara Falls by 45 feet.

Location: East of Twin Falls, Idaho. The falls are about 5 miles east of Blue Lakes Boulevard in Twin Falls

Cost: $3 per car. Season Passes are $25

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open all year. Fees are charged from March 1st to the end of September.  Peak flow on the waterfall can be seen from April to July.

Official Website: www.tfid.org/index.aspx

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 5, 2018

Shoshone Falls was first stop of the first day of our Idaho Road Trip in May of 2018, but we very well could have camped at City of Rocks National Reserve near Almo the night before, and then driven to Shoshone Falls in the morning.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

City of Rocks National Reserve - Almo, Idaho



City of Rocks National Reserve is a strange collection of massive granite rocks in the southern part of Idaho near the border with Utah and Nevada. The scenery can be enjoyed by anyone of any skill level. There are a number of hikes ranging in distance throughout the reserve. The rocks themselves are popular with rock climbers.

Location: City of Rocks is located near the border between Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. The nearest town is Almo.  The nearest town you may have heard of is Burley which is 50 miles to the north.

Cost: Entrance to the Reserve is Free.  Camping is $12.72 a night with a $10.60 reservation fee.  Reservations are highly recommended on weekends and during the summer months.

Operating Seasons and Hours:  The Reserve is open all year long.  However the roads are gravel and may not be accessible during winter months. The Visitor Center is located in the town of Almo and is open every day from mid April to mid October and open Tuesday through Saturday from mid October through mid April.

Official Websitewww.nps.gov/ciro/index.htm

Date of Visit: Tuesday and Wednesday, March 20 and 21, 2018

My family decided that our 2018 Road Trip should help us get acquainted with our new home state of Idaho. City of Rocks National Reserve would have been the first stop of the first day of our Idaho Road Trip, but we decided to check it out during Spring Break about a month and a half before the actual road trip.  We very well could have made this the first stop after leaving Pocatello. and then continued on with the rest of the trip.


Friday, April 20, 2018

Roosevelt Lodge - Yellowstone National Park



The Wild West lives on at Roosevelt Lodge. The rustic lodge building was built in 1920 and, aside from the modern cars in the parking lot, you'll think you've gone back in time. Cabins surround the lodge and offer an affordable lodging option. The most popular things to do in the area all involve horses. You throughout the day you can go on a stage coach ride or a horse back ride. The signature activity in the area is a wagon ride to an Old West style cookout dinner. 

Location: Roosevelt Lodge is located in the Northwest corner of the park at Tower Junction where the Grand Loop intersects with the North East Entrance Road.

Hiking Distance and Time: There are a few hikes in the area.  Lost Creek Falls is only .02 miles.  The Lost Lake/Petrified Tree trail is a 3.5 mile loop.

Open Season: Roosevelt Lodge has the shortest operating season in the park. Most amenities are only offered during June, July, and August. Check the official website for exact dates.

Cost: Check the official websites for prices of activities, dining, and lodging.

Official Websites: Activities, Dining, Lodging

Date of Visit: July-August of 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Artist Paint Pots - Yellowstone National Park


Many features in Yellowstone are known for putting on big shows. There's the height of Old Faithful, the size of Grand Prismatic Spring, or the volume of Lower Falls.  But one of the most memorable features in the park is a humble little hot spring that shoots up spurts of mud.  Watching mud bubbles form and then pop in unpredictable patterns is always a joy at Artist Paint Pots.

Location: Artist Paint Pots is located on the eastern side of the lower loop of the Grand Loop Road. The parking lot for Artist Paint Pots is located 4 miles south of the Norris Geyser Basin.  And 10 miles northeast of Madison Junction.

Hiking Distance and Time: The trail is 1 mile round trip. Plan for about an hour or longer depending on how long you watch the Paint Pots.

Open Season: May through October (Though the trails can be very muddy in May.)

Date of Visit: Friday August 11, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Tower Fall - Yellowstone National Park


Tower Fall is often billed as being a feature on par with Yellowstone Falls and Old Faithful.  But that is not the reality.  The viewpoint for the waterfall has two huge flaws that mar the experience of visiting this waterfall.  1. You can't see the full waterfall from the viewpoint. and 2. The parking area is often over-crowded.  Save yourself the headache and skip this waterfall.

Location: Tower Fall is on the eastern side of the upper loop of the Grand Loop Road.  It is 1 mile south of Roosevelt Lodge and 16 miles north of Canyon Village.

Hiking Distance and Time:  The viewpoint for the waterfall is only 100 yards down a paved trail.  The whole hike could take as little as 5 minutes.

Open Season: The road between Roosevelt and Tower Fall generally opens the second week of May. In 2018 it is scheduled to open May 11. The road between Canyon Village and Tower Fall opens the end of May.

Date of Visit: Monday, June 12, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Calcite Springs - Yellowstone National Park

Calcite Springs themselves are small thermal springs at the base of a cliff.  You view them from far away and they aren't all that interesting. But the whole landscape on display at the Calcite Springs View Point is interesting. You can look into a section of the Yellowstone river canyon and see millions of years of geologic history displayed in distinct and prominent layers.

Location: The Calcite Springs Parking Area is located on the eastern side of the upper loop of the Grand Loop Road.  The area is 1 mile southeast of Roosevelt Lodge.  And 1 mile from Tower Fall.

Hiking Distance and Time: This is a short boardwalk trail that is less than 1000 feet.  You can walk the whole distance in about 15 minutes.

Open Season: The road between Roosevelt and Tower Falls generally opens the second week of May.  In 2018 it is scheduled to open May 11.  It closes again in mid-October.

Date of Visit: Monday June 12, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Suspension Bridge on the Hellroaring Creek Trail - Yellowstone National Park


The northern section of Yellowstone appears to be nothing but wilderness. So it's quite surprising to see a suspension bridge spanning the Yellowstone River in this area. The bridge was constructed to give hikers and equestrians access to Hellroaring Creek. The bridge is located 1 mile down the Hellroaring Creek trail. Don't let that distance fool you. The hike to the bridge requires descending 600 feet down multiple switchbacks.

Location: The trail head is located in the middle of the northern part of the Upper Loop of the Grand Loop Road. It is 4 miles west of Roosevelt Lodge and 14 miles east of the Mammoth Hot Springs Area.

Hiking Distance and Time: The full trail is 2 miles one way so 4 miles round trip.  The bridge is one mile down the trail.  But that first mile is hardly easy.  There are multiple switch backs that take you down 600 feet.

Open Season:  The trail is open mid-may through October. But keep in mind that the trail will be very hot during the day in the summer months.

Date of Visit: Friday July 14, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Natural Bridge - Yellowstone National Park


Geysers and waterfalls aren't the only interesting natural features in Yellowstone National Park.  The park also has a natural stone bridge.  The bridge is 51 feet high and 29 feet across. You can reach the bridge via an easy 1.5 mile trail along an old road. The trail starts at the aptly named Bridge Bay.

Location: The trail head for the hiking trail is located at north side of the Bridge Bay Marina Parking lot. A bicycle trail starts just south of the Bridge Bay Bridge on the Grand Loop Road.  Bridge Bay is on the eastern side of the lower loop of the Grand Loop Road.

Hiking Distance and Time: The trail is 3 miles round trip.  Plan for your hike to take about 2 to 3 hours.

Open Season: Late June through September.  The trail is closed in the spring due to bear activity in the area.  Check with the park visitor centers to make sure the trail is open.

Date of Visit: Friday June 23, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Mud Volcano Area - Yellowstone National Park


The Mud Volcano area is the most popular geyser area on the east side of Yellowstone.  The features here are mud pots made from sulfuric acid that breaks down rock into sticky clay. The violently churning mud makes this area feel much more wild than other thermal areas in the park.

Location:  Mud Volcano is located on the east side of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road. It is 12 miles south of Canyon Village and 6.5 miles north of fishing bridge.

Hiking Distance and Time:  The Lower portion of the boardwalk is just a couple hundred yards that you can walk in less than 10 minutes. The full boardwalk is less than a mile long and is steep in areas.  Plan for about an hour to fully explore this area.

Open Seasons: May through October

Date of Visit: Many times throughout the summer of 2017 as well as single day visits in May of 2008, July of 2010, and July of 2015.

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

West Thumb Geyser Basin - Yellowstone National Park


This geyser area has many beautiful hot spring pools that are located on the shores of Lake Yellowstone.  A boardwalk takes you next to the hot springs and the lake. This is one of the prettiest geyser basins in the park.

Location: West Thumb is located at the bottom of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road.  It is less than a mile from the intersection of the Grand Loop Road and the South Entrance Road.

Hiking Distance and Time: 1 mile on a boardwalk.  Plan for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open May through October.

Date of Visit: Thursday August 10, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Canyon Village - Yellowstone National Park


Canyon Village is centrally located in Yellowstone National Park which makes it a perfect stop no matter what route you take through the park. You'll want to spend time at the nearby canyon and view the spectacular waterfalls, but you will also want to schedule some time in the village.  The Visitor Center is one of the best in the park with displays about the Yellowstone Super Volcano. There are several shopping and dining options available. Canyon Village's central location also makes it a great place to spend the night.  There are over 500 rooms available, or you can book a site at the campground.

Location: Canyon Village is located on the eastern side of Yellowstone National Park between the Upper and Lower Loops of the Grand Loop Road.

Cost: The Visitor Center is free.  See official websites for activity, dining, and lodging prices.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Most things start opening in Mid May and are open through mid-October.

Official Websites: Activities, CampingDining OptionsGeneral Store,  Lodging Options

Date of Visit: May 24, 2017 to August 20, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Upper Falls vs Lower Falls - Yellowstone National Park



As you've been researching your visit to Yellowstone National Park you've no doubt read about the two stunning waterfalls on the Yellowstone River.  The waterfalls are both magnificent, but their names are less than stellar.  Upper Falls and Lower Falls are hardly the most memorable names. You are probably wondering, what are the differences between the waterfalls?

It's always hard to keep track of which waterfall is which. To help you out I created this little comparison chart.


Let's talk about what you see on the chart.

Distance from Canyon Village
Both Waterfalls are only a few miles south of Canyon Village.  Upper Falls is slightly farther away though. You'll want to plan to drive your car to both waterfalls as there really aren't any direct trails from Canyon Village to either waterfall.

Height of Waterfall
If you want to see "the big waterfall" then you are looking for Lower Falls.  It is 308 feet high.  In contrast Upper Falls is 109 feet high.  (Which is still pretty big.)

Location of Trail to Brink
Upper Falls has it's own little road that leads to the parking lot for the Upper Falls Trail head. This is where you can start hiking on the trail to the Brink of the Falls.  This whole area will be closed for trail reconstruction from July 2018 until the summer of 2019.

The trail head for the Brink of the Lower Falls is located on the North Rim Drive.  It is the first parking area you come to on that road.

Length of Trail
If you want to stand on the edge of a waterfall without much effort, then you want to visit Upper Falls.  The trail is only 1.4 of a mile round trip.  The trail to the Brink of Lower Falls is longer.  It is 3/4 of a mile round trip.

Trail Rating
In addition to being short, the trail to the Brink of Upper Falls is also fairly easy.  It follows a paved road for most of the way before descending about 20 stone steps.  The trail to the Brink of Lower Falls is a different story.  It is considered moderate and is made up of mostly switch backs.

Restroom at Trail head
Both trail heads have pretty good restroom facilities.  The restrooms have flushing toilets and sinks with running water.

Visible from Canyon Village
Neither waterfall is visible from Canyon Village.  You will have to plan to drive to either the trail heads or the view points to see the waterfalls.

View Points
There are only two places to view Upper Falls.  One is from an overlook along the South Rim Trail.  This trail is currently closed for reconstruction.  It will be open again in July 2018.  You can also see Upper Falls on the North Rim as you hike on the trail to the Brink of Lower Falls.

There are four main places to see Lower Falls. On the South Rim of the Canyon you can view the waterfall from Artist Point and the Uncle Tom's Trail.  You can also see the waterfall as you walk along the South Rim Trail.  The South Rim Trail and Uncle Tom's Trail will be closed until July 2018.

On the North Rim of the Canyon you can view Lower Falls from Lookout Point and Grand Point.  There is a spur trail from Lookout Point that will take you down to Red Rock Point.  You can also see the waterfall as you walk along the North Rim Trail.

* * *

Hopefully that helps clear things up for you as you research the waterfalls in the park.  If you remember nothing else, remember this: Upper Falls is the waterfall you can get close to without much effort.  And Lower Falls is the big waterfall you see in pictures of the park.

Both waterfalls are beautiful and worth a visit.

Follow these links to read my other posts and learn more about visiting these waterfalls.

North Rim of the Canyon
South Rim of the Canyon
Upper Falls

Want more Yellowstone Vacation Ideas? Visit my list of Things you can't miss and hidden gems along the way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone - Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone



The North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is lined with great vantage points where anyone of any ability can view the Lower Falls waterfall.  This iconic 308 foot high waterfall is visible from Lookout Point and Grand Point.  A 3/4 of a mile round trip hike takes you down to the Brink of the Lower Falls.  The Red Rock trail takes you to a lower point in the canyon with a great view point. 

Location: The beginning of North Rim Drive is located a little more than a mile south of Canyon Village. North Rim Drive is a one way road that is 2 miles long.  The road leads right back to Canyon Village.

Hiking Distance and Time: Brink of the Lower Falls is 3/4 of a mile long.  But it takes you down (and then back up many switchbacks.) Plan for an hour and a half to hike down and back up the switchbacks.  Red Rock Trail is .3 of a mile.  Plan for about 45 minutes for that hike. All the other points on the trail are simple lookouts that won't take long to view.

Open Season: North Rim Drive is open Mid-May though October. Lookout Point and Grand Point are accessible as soon as the road is open.  But the trails to other lookouts could stay closed until Mid-June due to snow.

Closure Information: Normally the North Rim Trail extends all the way to Upper Falls.  However that section of the trail has been closed.  I do not know when it will be open again, but I assume it might be closed until 2019 when the trail construction around Upper Falls is complete.

Inspiration Point is also closed.  It will reopen in July 2018.

Date of Visit: Multiple times during the summer of 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone - Yellowstone National Park


The South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the location of some of the most iconic views of Lower Falls. Make sure you take in the panoramic vistas at Artist Point. If you are agile enough you should hike down the 308 stairs on the Uncle Tom's Trail to a vantage point that is lower than the waterfall. If you have the time take a hike on the South Rim trail or venture onto some of the back country trials.

Location: South Rim drive is located about 2.5 miles south of Canyon Village. Artist Point is 1.5 miles down the road.

Hiking Distance and Time: Artist Point is located within a few yards of the parking lot.  Plan to spend about 10 minutes there.  Uncle Tom's Trail descends 500 feet into the canyon via a steel staircase.  Plan for an hour to hike down and back up the stairs.

Open Season:  Artist Point and some of the trails are open Mid-May though October.  Snow will keep some of the other trails closed for longer.  Uncle Tom's trail usually opens Mid-June.

Closure Information: Uncle Tom's Trail and the South Rim Trail will be closed for reconstruction until July of 2018.

Date of Visit: Multiple times during the summer of 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Upper Falls - Yellowstone National Park


The Upper Falls of the Yellowstone is the first waterfall on the Yellowstone River. The water rushes around a bend and then down 109 feet. A short trail leads to an overlook right on the brink of the falls. Standing on the edge of the waterfall and watching the water plunge downward is one of the best sights in Yellowstone.

Location: The parking lot for Upper Falls is about 1.8 miles south of Canyon Village. Canyon Village is on the eastern side of the park where the upper and lower loops of the Grand Loop Road meet.

Hiking Time and Distance: The waterfall is a little over .1 of a mile from the parking lot.  Your visit to this waterfall could take as little as 10 minutes.  But you'll want to plan to spend time admiring the waterfall.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The trail to the waterfall is generally open from Memorial Day weekend through October.  Depending on snow levels you may not be able to reach the waterfall earlier or later in the year.

Closure Information: The Brink of Upper Falls area is scheduled to be closed for reconstruction from July of 2018 through the Summer of 2019.  The good news is that the viewpoint on the South Rim trail will be open again in July of 2018 so you'll still have a chance to see the falls, just not up close.

Date of Visit: Many times throughout the summer of 2017 and several visits in earlier years.

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Great Fountain Geyser - Yellowstone National Park


Great Fountain Geyser is the best show you'll see in Yellowstone National Park. The name is not hyperbole, it really is a Great Fountain Geyser.  Pressure below the earth sends huge pillars of water as high as 220 feet in the air. The water shoots out over random intervals for nearly an hour creating a mesmerizing show where you never know what the geyser will do next.  While the water patterns are random, the eruption schedule is predictable. With a little planning, you can see this show in person during your visit to Yellowstone.

Location: Great Fountain Geyser is located on the western side of the lower loop of the Grand Loop Road along Firehole Lake Drive.  The entrance to Firehole Lake Drive is just south of the parking lot for the Fountain Paint Pots area.

Hiking Distance and Time: Other than the distance from your car to the observation area there is no hiking required to see this geyser.  However, you may have to wait for a couple hours before the geyser erupts so plan for that.

Open Season: Fire Hole Lake Drive is generally open from late May to October

Date of Visit: Thursday, June 29, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Fountain Freight Road - Yellowstone National Park


Fountain Freight Road is a former road that is now used solely by bicycles and hikers.  The 4 mile long trail connects Fountain Flats Drive to the Fairy Falls Parking area. It skirts behind the Fountain Paint Pot area and Grand Prismatic Spring giving a different perspective on these popular areas.  Side trails from the main trail lead to impressive sights such as Imperial Geyser, Fairy Falls, and the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook.

Location: The trail starts at the parking lot on Fountain Flats Drive. Fountain Flats Drive is roughly 5 miles south of the turn off for Firehole Canyon Road on the western side of the lower loop of the Grand Loop Road.

Hiking Distance and Time: Depending on your route this could easily be a 10 mile hike.  Plan for it to take all day.

Open Season: May through September

Date of Visit: Saturday, July 22, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Imperial Geyser - Yellowstone National Park


Imperial Geyser is the best kept secret in Yellowstone. This fountain geyser shoots up water in plumes as high as 15 feet.  Adding to the beauty is the colorful pool of water next to the geyser.  The geyser is located within a mile of Fairy Falls, and is listed on maps and in guide books as a great add-on to a hike to Fairy Falls, but it should be considered a destination in it's own right.

Location: The trail begins at the Fairy Falls/Fountain Freight Drive parking lot located 1.5 miles south of the Midway Geyser Basin parking area. Imperial Geyser is located .7 of a mile from Fairy Falls.

Hiking Distance and Time: 6.4 miles round trip (Don't be put off by the hiking distance.  You'll be able to see two other major landmarks, Grand Prismatic Spring and Fairy Falls, on your way to Imperial Geyser.)

Open Season: The trail opens the Friday before Memorial Day and is open through the end of September.

Date of Visit: Saturday, July 22, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Fairy Falls - Yellowstone National Park


Fairy Falls is possibly the most beautiful waterfall in Yellowstone National Park. A thin column of water shoots over the edge of a cliff and falls 197 feet before forming a small pool.  The waterfall has slowly carved itself into a recess of the cliff, and so the area surrounding the waterfall feels like a hidden oasis.  You can reach the waterfall via a relatively easy 5 mile round trip hike.

Location: The trail begins at the Fairy Falls/Fountain Freight Drive parking lot located 1.5 miles south of the Midway Geyser Basin parking area.

Hiking Distance and Time: 4.6 miles round trip (There are also some side trips which will add an additional 2 miles.) Plan for 3 to 4 hours.

Open Season: The trail opens the Friday before Memorial Day and is open through the end of September.

Date of Visit: Saturday July 22, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Two ways to view the Grand Prismatic Spring - Yellowstone National Park


Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the most iconic features of Yellowstone National Park. The spring is the third largest hot spring in the world. The brilliant blue water of the spring is ringed by colorful algae that surrounds the spring in vibrant greens, yellows, and oranges. You can view the spring from a boardwalk that runs near the spring, or you can view it from an overlook on a small hill.

Location: Grand Prismatic Spring is located on the western side of the lower half of Yellowstone's Grand Loop road.  It is approximately 6.5 miles from the Old Faithful area. The boardwalk is located at the Midway Geyser Basin. The Overlook is accessed from the Fairy Falls Trail.

Hiking Distance and Time: .5 of a mile on the boardwalk or 1.2 miles round trip to the overlook.

Open Season: The boardwalk is accessible from late April through late October.  The overlook trail is closed until the Friday before Memorial Day due to bear management.

Date of Visit: Sunday June 4, 2017 (the boardwalk) and Saturday July 22, 2017 (the overlook)

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Bridge Bay Marina Boat Rentals - Yellowstone National Park


If you are looking to make your visit to Yellowstone extra special you may want to consider paying to participating in one of the many adventures offered through Yellowstone Lodges. One of the most cost effective activities is to rent a motor boat for a trip on Yellowstone Lake.  You'll gain a whole new appreciation for the lake by spending an hour or two on the water.

Location: Boat Rentals are available from the Bridge Bay Marina on the east side of the lower loop of the Grand Loop Road.

Cost: 2018 prices are $57 per hour.  Time is billed in 15 minute increments after the first hour.  Boats are available on a first come first serve basis.

Operating Hours and Seasons: Rentals are available from June 11th to September 1st.  Rentals start at 10:00 am. You can rent the boat for 1 to 8 hours.

Official Website: https://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/adventure/water-adventures/rental-boats/

Date of Visit: Thursday August 10, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Storm Point - Yellowstone National Park


One of the best things you can do during your visit to Yellowstone is to take a hike in the back country. You will be able to appreciate the natural wonders of Yellowstone without the distracting crowds of tourists. A hike to Storm Point is an easy back-country hike.  You'll walk on a mostly level trail through a beautiful pine tree forest and end on a secluded section of Yellowstone Lake.

Location: The trail head is located at a pull out on the East Entrance Road 2.7 miles east of Fishing Bridge.

Hiking Distance and Time: 2.3 miles round trip. Plan for this hike to take about 90 minutes.

Open Season: Late June through September (The trail is open earlier, but bears frequent the area in May and Early June so hike with caution if you want to try to hike earlier.)

Date of Visit: Wednesday, June 21, 2017

In the summer of 2017 I received a job with Xanterra Parks and Resorts in Yellowstone National Park. I moved there with my husband and our four young children. We lived in a 25 foot RV and spent all our free time exploring the park. This is one of many posts that I will write about specific features within Yellowstone National Park. Be sure to check out my other posts for more tips for your Yellowstone visit.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Yellowstone National Park - Things You Can't Miss and Hidden Gems Along the Way


In the summer of 2017 my husband and I did something incredibly crazy. We moved with our four children into a 25 foot RV.  And then we parked that RV in the middle of Yellowstone National Park. 

I had a full time job in the park so I spent 40 hours a week at work.  The rest of the time I was out exploring the park with my family.  For 12 weeks we lived in the middle of the best vacation ever.  

I want to share the places we discovered with you. Some of the places like Old Faithful are already well known.  But others are hidden gems like Imperial Geyser or the suspension bridge on the Hell Roaring Creek trail. 

I'll share tricks for enjoying your visits to the most popular and areas of the park. I'll share details like how crowded the parking lots get and which vault toilets end up disgusting. And I'll honestly tell you about the places that aren't worth your time. (cough Tower Fall cough.)

I've separated this list into general areas.  Click on the name of the place to be taken to a separate page with all the info and lots of pictures.  

I hope this list helps you as you plan your next trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Southwest Area - Madison Junction to Old Faithful

Firehole Canyon Drive
The Firehole River runs near the Grand Loop Road from Old Faithful to Madison Junction. Most of the time it is a lazy river with low banks. However, when the river passes through the Firehole Canyon it changes completely. Steep banks of stone rise up on either side. Swimming holes form, and in one place the water tumbles down as a 40 foot high water fall. Firehole Canyon Drive is a one way road that follows the old stage coach route through the canyon to give you excellent views of the river.

Fountain Freight Road is a former road that is now used solely by bicycles and hikers. The 4 mile long trail connects Fountain Flats Drive to the Fairy Falls Parking area. It skirts behind the Fountain Paint Pot area and Grand Prismatic Spring giving a different perspective on these popular areas. Side trails from the main trail lead to impressive sights such as Imperial Geyser, Fairy Falls, and the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook.


Fountain Paint Pots
The Fountain Paint Pot area is named for the paint pots that are located within a short walk of the parking lot. These are the most accessible paint pots in Yellowstone National Park and are worth a visit. However the paint pots aren't the only thermal features in the area. You can actually see all four types of features here - a fumarole, a hot spring, a geyser, as well as the paint pots.

Firehole Lake Drive is a three mile, one way road that branches off from the Grand Loop Road less than a mile south of the Fountain Paint Pot parking lot. There are a number of geysers and springs along the drive. The most notable is the stunning Great Fountain Geyser. Firehole Lake is near the end of the drive. There are places to pull over and park all along the drive, and there is a small parking lot near Firehole Lake. This area is always worth a visit, but Firehole Lake Drive is an especially good option when the more popular geyser areas are full of tourists.
Great Fountain Geyser
Great Fountain Geyser is the best show you'll see in Yellowstone National Park. The name is not hyperbole, it really is a Great Fountain Geyser. Pressure below the earth sends huge pillars of water as high as 220 feet in the air. The water shoots out over random intervals for nearly an hour creating a mesmerizing show where you never know what the geyser will do next. While the water patterns are random, the eruption schedule is predictable. With a little planning, you can see this show in person during your visit to Yellowstone.




Midway Geyser Basin
Midway Geyser Basin's best known feature is the Grand Prismatic Spring. This is the third largest hot spring in the world and is famous for it's brilliant colors. The Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the most popular features in Yellowstone National Park which makes visiting the Midway Geyser Basin a bit tricky during peak tourist times. If you plan to visit during off-peak times all of Midway Geyser Basin is worth a visit.


Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the most iconic features of Yellowstone National Park. The spring is the third largest hot spring in the world. The brilliant blue water of the spring is ringed by colorful algae that surrounds the spring in vibrant greens, yellows, and oranges. You can view the spring from a boardwalk that runs near the spring, or you can view it from an overlook on a small hill.



Fairy Falls is possibly the most beautiful waterfall in Yellowstone National Park. A thin column of water shoots over the edge of a cliff and falls 197 feet before forming a small pool.  The waterfall has slowly carved itself into a recess of the cliff, and so the area surrounding the waterfall feels like a hidden oasis.  You can reach the waterfall via a relatively easy 5 mile round trip hike.








Imperial Geyser
Imperial Geyser is the best kept secret in Yellowstone. This fountain geyser shoots up water in plumes as high as 15 feet. Adding to the beauty is the colorful pool of water next to the geyser. The geyser is located within a mile of Fairy Falls, and is listed on maps and in guide books as a great add-on to a hike to Fairy Falls, but it should be considered a destination in it's own right.







Biscuit Basin
Biscuit Basin is home to some of the prettiest pools of water within Yellowstone. This area has a wide boardwalk that allows you to approach all the pools and look down into their deep and colorful waters. The trail head for a 2 mile round trip hike to Mystic Falls branches off from the Biscuit Basin Boardwalk.





Black Sand Basin
Black Sand Basin is a small geothermic area located near the Upper Geyser Basin/Old Faithful Area. There are a handful of notable features in Black Sand Basin including Cliff Geyser, Emerald Pool, and Sunset Lake. A hiking trail connects Black Sand Basin to the Upper Geyser Basin.




Old Faithful Area

Upper Geyser Basin
The Upper Geyser basin is the official name of the geyser area surrounding Old Faithful. A large network of interconnected boardwalk and asphalt trails takes visitors up close to a number of impressive thermal features. There are a variety of things to do in the area. You can eat at one of the many dinning options. You can visit the displays or watch an educational movie in the Visitor Center. You can also take in the historic architecture of the Old Faithful Inn. Make sure you plan to explore this area in addition to viewing an eruption from Old Faithful.
Old Faithful
Old Faithful, the name is nearly synonymous with Yellowstone National Park. If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone then you know you are going to visit this iconic geyser. Geyser eruptions happen every 35 to 120 minutes. Generally you can expect an eruption every 90 minutes or so. Eruptions can be predicted based on the length of the previous eruption. All this regularity means that you can be assured that you will see an eruption from Old Faithful. The only thing you need to worry about is where you should wait for an eruption.
Southeast Area - Old Faithful to Bridge Bay

As it's name implies, Lone Star Geyser is a solitary geyser. The next nearest geyser is Old Faithful which is over 3 miles away. To reach Lone Star Geyser you have to walk or bike over 2 miles on an old park road. The geyser erupts every 3 hours so plan to chill out near the geyser until the show starts. Lone Star Geyser will erupt for approximately 20 minutes.







This geyser area has many beautiful hot spring pools that are located on the shores of Lake Yellowstone. A boardwalk takes you next to the hot springs and the lake. This is one of the prettiest geyser basins in the park.





Bridge Bay Marina Boat Rentals
If you are looking to make your visit to Yellowstone extra special you may want to consider paying to participating in one of the many adventures offered through Yellowstone Lodges. One of the most cost effective activities is to rent a motor boat for a trip on Yellowstone Lake. You'll gain a whole new appreciation for the lake by spending an hour or two on the water.



Natural Bridge
Geysers and waterfalls aren't the only interesting natural features in Yellowstone National Park. The park also has a natural stone bridge. The bridge is 51 feet high and 29 feet across. You can reach the bridge via an easy 1.5 mile trail along an old road. The trail starts at the aptly named Bridge Bay.




Fishing Bridge Area

Sightseeing in Yellowstone is fun, but it can wear you out. You should plan for some downtime while you are in the park. One of the best places to relax is the beach located behind the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center on the north shore of Yellowstone Lake. This sandy beach is especially fun for children who enjoy the chance to run around after a day spent in the car.







Storm Point

One of the best things you can do during your visit to Yellowstone is to take a hike in the back country. You will be able to appreciate the natural wonders of Yellowstone without the distracting crowds of tourists. A hike to Storm Point is an easy back-country hike. You'll walk on a mostly level trail through a beautiful pine tree forest and end on a secluded section of Yellowstone Lake.


Mud Volcano
The Mud Volcano area is the most popular geyser area on the east side of Yellowstone. The features here are mud pots made from sulfuric acid that breaks down rock into sticky clay. The violently churning mud makes this area feel much more wild than other thermal areas in the park.

Canyon Village Area

Canyon Village is centrally located in Yellowstone National Park which makes it a perfect stop no matter what route you take through the park. You'll want to spend time at the nearby canyon and view the spectacular waterfalls, but you will also want to schedule some time in the village. The Visitor Center is one of the best in the park with displays about the Yellowstone Super Volcano. There are several shopping and dining options available. Canyon Village's central location also makes it a great place to spend the night. There are over 500 rooms available, or you can book a site at the campground.


As you've been researching your visit to Yellowstone National Park you've no doubt read about the two stunning waterfalls on the Yellowstone River. The waterfalls are both magnificent, but their names are less than stellar. Upper Falls and Lower Falls are hardly the most memorable names. You are probably wondering, what are the differences between the waterfalls?



Upper Falls
The Upper Falls of the Yellowstone is the first waterfall on the Yellowstone River. The water rushes around a bend and then down 109 feet. A short trail leads to an overlook right on the brink of the falls. Standing on the edge of the waterfall and watching the water plunge downward is one of the best sights in Yellowstone.





South Rim
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the location of some of the most iconic views of Lower Falls. Make sure you take in the panoramic vistas at Artist Point. If you are agile enough you should hike down the 308 stairs on the Uncle Tom's Trail to a vantage point that is lower than the waterfall. If you have the time take a hike on the South Rim trail or venture onto some of the back country trials.


North Rim
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is lined with great vantage points where anyone of any ability can view the Lower Falls waterfall. This iconic 308 foot high waterfall is visible from Lookout Point and Grand Point. A 3/4 of a mile round trip hike takes you down to the Brink of the Lower Falls. The Red Rock trail takes you to a lower point in the canyon with a great view point.

Northeast Area - Canyon Junction to Roosevelt

Mount Washburn is not the tallest mountain in Yellowstone National Park, but it is the most accessible. It's 10,243 foot high summit can be reached by two trails. The trail with the best views is 7 miles round trip and starts at Dunraven Pass. Both trails lead to an observation tower at the summit where you can see an impressive 360 degree view of the Yellowstone back country. Hiking this mountain is an excellent way to spend your time in Yellowstone.


Tower Fall
Tower Fall is often billed as being a feature on par with Yellowstone Falls and Old Faithful. But that is not the reality. The viewpoint for the waterfall has two huge flaws that mar the experience of visiting this waterfall. 1. You can't see the full waterfall from the viewpoint. and 2. The parking area is often over-crowded. Save yourself the headache and skip this waterfall.



Calcite Springs
Calcite Springs themselves are small thermal springs at the base of a cliff.  You view them from far away and they aren't all that interesting. But the whole landscape on display at the Calcite Springs View Point is interesting. You can look into a section of the Yellowstone river canyon and see millions of years of geologic history displayed in distinct and prominent layers.



Roosevelt Lodge
The Wild West lives on at Roosevelt Lodge. The rustic lodge building was built in 1920 and, aside from the modern cars in the parking lot, you'll think you've gone back in time. Cabins surround the lodge and offer an affordable lodging option. The most popular things to do in the area all involve horses. You throughout the day you can go on a stage coach ride or a horse back ride. The signature activity in the area is a wagon ride to an Old West style cookout dinner.

Northern Area - Northeast Entrance to Mammoth

Do you want to see wildlife in Yellowstone? Don't waste your time driving around the Grand Loop with the other tourists. The best place to see wildlife is the Lamar Valley in the Northeast area of the park. This is the least visited part of the park, which is one reason it's the best place to see wildlife.

Most people think that there is only one petrified tree in Yellowstone National Park. However, Yellowstone actually has the largest petrified forest in the world. These fossilized trees are massive and are worth the effort to find if you have the time and the stamina.








Hellroaring Creek Trail Suspension Bridge
The northern section of Yellowstone appears to be nothing but wilderness. So it's quite surprising to see a suspension bridge spanning the Yellowstone River in this area. The bridge was constructed to give hikers and equestrians access to Hellroaring Creek. The bridge is located 1 mile down the Hellroaring Creek trail. Don't let that distance fool you. The hike to the bridge requires descending 600 feet down multiple switchbacks.

Mammoth Area

Mammoth Hot Springs is an appropriate name for this area. These stone terraces are, in fact, mammoth. They completely cover a hillside. The terraces are made of travertine rock that formed as minerals in the hot spring water were deposited over hundreds of years. A network of boardwalk trails and stairs allow visitors to walk next to the stone cliffs. Various parts of the terraces still have water flowing over them. When air temperatures are cool you can see billows of steam rising from the terraces.

After a while it can be pretty boring to just look at hot spring after hot spring after hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. If you are looking to enhance your hot spring experience then plan a visit to Boiling River. Soaking in the mix of hot spring runoff water and the Gardener River is a good way to experience Yellowstone as more than just an idle spectator.

Norris Area


Norris Geyser Basin is unlike any of the other popular areas of Yellowstone National Park. The geysers are hotter, the trails are longer, and the features aren't as well known. If you are prepared for a long walk in an area with little shade then you can have an enjoyable visit to this area. But if you are expecting just another quick jaunt down a boardwalk you aren't going to like Norris Geyser Basin very much.

Many features in Yellowstone are known for putting on big shows. There's the height of Old Faithful, the size of Grand Prismatic Spring, or the volume of Lower Falls. But one of the most memorable features in the park is a humble little hot spring that shoots up spurts of mud. Watching mud bubbles form and then pop in unpredictable patterns is always a joy at Artist Paint Pots.

Madison Area

I want to highlight some great guidebooks that helped my family find awesome things to do while we were in Yellowstone. (These are affiliate links so I will get a little bit of money from Amazon if you buy these books through them.)

A Ranger's Guide to Yellowstone Day Hikes by Roger Anderson and Carol Shively Anderson.  This book was an excellent resource as we planned out which hikes we wanted to do.  It also gave us great step by step guidance on the trail.  My favorite feature of the book was the extra notes about the areas that were included along with the trail instructions. 

Day Hikes of Yellowstone National Park Map-Guide by Jake Bramante.  This is more of a map than an actual book, but you'll be amazed by the amount of text that Jake has managed to include on this map. The hikes are ranked by difficulty so you know ahead of time what you are getting yourself into.

Yellowstone Treasures: The Traveler's Companion to the National Park by Janet Chapple.  I wish I'd had this book while we lived in the park.  I picked this book up at the local library when I needed help remembering the little details for some of the things we'd visited in the park. This book is probably the most in depth guide to the park I've ever seen. There are maps, there are historical facts, there are details about every named feature in the park.  I highly recommend owning this book.  (It's on my Christmas List.)

* * *

You can also read more about our amazing summer by following these links to the posts I wrote while we were in Yellowstone. 

It's wonderful!!! --- Published May 30, 2017
Every Day is an Adventure --- Published June 12, 2017
Lots of Wildlife --- Published June 23, 2017
Personal Victories --- Published July 6, 2017
What a Joy, What a Life, What a Chance --- Published July 14, 2017
The Inconvenient Life --- Published July 21, 2017
Water Features --- Published August 5, 2017
Last Three Weeks --- Published August 23, 2017

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