Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Upper Geyser Basin - Yellowstone National Park


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. Even if you don't want to explore the trails 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.

Location: The Upper Geyser Basin is in the southeast corner of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road. Roads take you to a large parking area near Old Faithful. The trails extend from the Old Faithful Viewing area.

Hiking Distance and Time: There are numerous ways to lengthen or shorten the distance you travel in the Upper Geyser Basin.  Generally plan for about 3.5 miles round trip, but that distance might change depending on the route you take.   Plan for a solid 4 to 5 hours in the Upper Geyser Basin.

Open Season: The area immediately around Old Faithful opens in late April and remains open until early November.  The trails leading to Geyser hill are generally open that same amount of time, but may close occasionally.  The trails leading deep into the Upper Geyser Basin open around Memorial Day.

Date of Visit: Many 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.

Five Places to view Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park


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.

Location: The Old Faithful area is in the southeast corner of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road.  Roads take you to a large parking area.  From the parking area walk north toward the buildings.  Old Faithful is on the other side of the buildings.  It is ringed by a large boardwalk so you can't miss it.

Hiking Distance and Time:  It's less than a quarter mile from the back of the parking lot to Old Faithful. However, be prepared to walk around the area to visit buildings and other thermal features.  The hike to Observation Point is half a mile long with an elevation gain of over 150 feet.  Time spent in this area can (and should) take several hours.

Open Season: Old Faithful is one of the first areas to open up in the Spring.  It is open from late April through November. Some of the trails around the area don't open until late spring/early summer. Old Faithful is also accessible in the winter if you are staying at the Snow Lodge.

Date of Visit: Various times during the summer of 2017, also in July 2015, July 2010, May 2008, and July 2002.

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.

Mammoth Hot Springs - Yellowstone National Park


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.

Location:  Mammoth Hot Springs is located in the Northwest area of the park.  The terraces are 6 miles from the North Entrance.

Hiking Distance and Time:  The boardwalk around the terraces is about a mile long. Plan for about an hour to walk around the boardwalk.

Open Season:  The terraces, as well as some of the buildings at Mammoth Hot Springs are open all year. However, the only park road that is open is the road leading from Gardiner, MT.  You can't access the area via any of the other park roads.

Date of Visit: Friday, May 26, 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, May 14, 2019

Lamar Valley - Yellowstone National Park


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.

Location:  The Lamar Valley is located on the Northeast Entrance Road about halfway between Tower Junction and Silver Gate City.

Driving Distance and Time:  The whole road is 33 miles long.  Plan for an hour to drive one way, so allow at least two hours to drive the road and then return to the rest of the park.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The North East Entrance Road is open all year long. Other roads in the park that lead to the NE road may be closed so plan accordingly and check the current conditions list.

Date of Visit: Sunday, June 18, 2017 and several other times throughout the summer

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, May 9, 2019

Norris Geyser Basin - Yellowstone National Park


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.

Location: Norris Geyser Basin is located on the west side of the park at the intersection of the Norris/Canyon Road and the Upper and Lower Loops of the Grand Loop Road.

Hiking Distance and Time: The Porcelain Basin trail is about .5 miles and the Back Basin Trail is 1.5 miles. Don't let these distances fool you though, there is no such thing as a quick trip to Norris Geyser Basin. Plan on spending anywhere from 1 to 4 hours here.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Norris opens with the Grand Loop Road in late April and closes in late October. However, during the summer the Park Rangers often close the parking lot after it fills up in the middle of the day. It usually reopens when the parking lot clears out a bit. To be on the safe side, plan your visit before 10:00 am or after 5:00 pm.

Date of Visit: Often during the summer of 2017.  Also visited in July 2002, May 2008, July 2010.

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.

Boiling River - Yellowstone National Park



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.

Location: The parking area for Boiling River is located 2 miles north of the Visitor Center in Mammoth Hot Springs. There aren't any signs for Boiling River, but the parking area is just south of the signs designating the 45th parallel.

Hiking Distance and Time: From the parking lot you'll have to walk half a mile on a wide, flat trail to reach Boiling River. Time is going to depend on how long you want to spend in the water.  Plan for at least an hour.

Open Season: Water conditions in the Gardener River will often close this area through late June.  Check with the Visitor Center or the current conditions page to see if it is open. The area is open from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm.

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.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Firehole Canyon Drive - Yellowstone National Park

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.

Location: Firehole Canyon Drive branches off from the Grand Loop Road less than a mile south of Madison Junction.  The exit to the one way road is about 6 miles north of Fountain Paint Pot.

Hiking Distance and Time:  There are no hikes branching off from Firehole Canyon Drive. The whole drive should take approximately 10 minutes.

Open Season: The road opens in the late spring.  The popular swimming area is usually opens the last week of July and is open through August. However, some years it may not open at all due to high water levels.  Check the park's current conditions page or talk to a Park Ranger to see if the river is open.

Date of Visit: Saturday, July 29, 2017 and another visit in July 2010.

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, May 6, 2019

Firehole Lake Drive - Yellowstone National Park


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.

Location: Firehole Lake Drive is located on the Western side of the Grand Loop Road.  The entrance to the road is about a mile south of Fountain Paint Pot.

Hiking Distance and Time:  There really aren't any hikes in this area. You can get out and walk for a few minutes on a boardwalk at Firehole Lake. The main thing you need to take into consideration is how long you are willing to wait for a geyser to erupt. Great Fountain Geyser erupts approximately every 12 hours. If you arrive within a couple hours of a predicted eruption it might be worth your time to hang around and watch the show.

Open Season: Due to bear migrations Firehole Lake Drive is usually closed until Memorial day weekend.

Date of Visit: Thursday, June 29, 2017 and another visit at the end of July in 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.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Fountain Paint Pots - Yellowstone National Park



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.

Location: Fountain Paint Pot is located in the Southwest Section of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road. The area is 9 miles north of Old Faithful and 8 miles south of Madison Junction.

Hiking Distance and Time: Walking the whole boardwalk should take less than 30 minutes.

Open Season: Open with the Grand Loop Road in Mid April and stays open through late October.

Date of Visit: Sunday, June 4, 2017 and other times in May 2008, July 2010, and July 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.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Midway Geyser Basin - Yellowstone National Park


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.

Location: Midway Geyser Basin is located on the southwestern side of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road. It is 3.5 miles north of Biscuit Basin and 2.5 miles south of Fountain Paint Pots.

Hiking Distance and Time: The boardwalk between the various thermal features is not very long.  It shouldn't take you longer than 30 minutes to walk the whole boardwalk.

Open Season: The Midway Geyser Basin opens at the same time as this section of the Grand Loop Road.  It is generally open from Mid April until late October.

 Date of Visit: Sunday June 4, 2017 as well as May 2008.


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 23, 2019

Biscuit Geyser Basin - Yellowstone National Park



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.

Location: Biscuit Basin is located on the southwest side of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road. It is almost 2 miles from Black Sand Basin and 3.5 miles south of Midway Geyser Basin.

Hiking Distance and Time:  It should take less than 30 minutes to walk the whole board walk.  The hike to Mystic Falls will take between 1 to 2 hours.

Open Season: The boardwalk opens along with this section of the Grand Loop Road in mid April and stays open until late October.  The trail to Mystic Falls is open from Mid June until September.

Date of Visit: Sunday June 11, and Saturday July 29, 2017 as well as times in May 2008 and July 2010.


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 19, 2019

Black Sand Basin - Yellowstone National Park.



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.

Location: Black Sand Basin is located on the southwest side of the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road. This area is the closest geyser basin to the Upper Geyser Basin/Old Faithful Area.

Hiking Distance and Time: If you are able to get a parking space in the small parking lot you can walk along the boardwalk and see each thermal feature in less than 30 minutes.  However, parking is limited in this area. If you can't get a parking spot you have the option of parking at Old Faithful and then hiking to Black Sand Basin along an approximately 4 mile trail.

Open Season: Black Sand Basin is open from mid April to late October. The trail to Old Faithful opens in mid June depending on bear migrations and snow melt.

Date of Visit: Saturday, August 5, 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, February 13, 2019

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument - Hagerman, Idaho


Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument is located in Southwest Idaho about 35 miles northwest of Twin Falls. This area is home to over 200 species of plant and animal fossils.

Location: The Visitor Center is located on Main Street in the middle of Hagerman, Idaho.  The fossil beds themselves are located about 7 miles south of town on the southwest bank of the Snake River.

Hiking Distance and Time: There aren't many trails through Hagerman Fossil Beds. This is due to the fragile nature of the fossils.  There are a couple overlooks of the area. Don't plan to spend much time exploring the fossil beds.

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: From Memorial Day to Labor Day the Visitor Center is open every day of the week from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  During the rest of the year the Visitor Center is open Thursday through Monday from 9:00 to 5:00 excluding Federal Holidays.

Official Website: https://www.nps.gov/hafo/index.htm

Date of Visit: Saturday May 5, 2018

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument was the sixth stop of the first day of the Idaho Road Trip my family went on in May of 2018. We passed Ritter Island while driving north on Highway 30. And then kept going to Hagerman.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Ritter Island - Wendell, Idaho



Ritter Island is an interesting feature along the shores of the Snake River west of Twin Falls, Idaho.  The waters of the Snake River surrounds one side of the island.  The other side of the island is surrounded by runoff from Minnie Miller Spring - one of the many natural springs along this section of the Snake River. The island and some of the surrounding shoreline is part of Thousand Springs State Park.

Location: Located about 5 miles southwest of Wendell, ID at approximately 1205 Thousand Springs Grade, Wendell, ID.

Hiking Distance and Time: There are several trails in the Ritter Island Area. The trail around the island is just under 1.5 mile round trip.  There trail that runs upstream on the Snake River is a little over 1 mile one way. The Trail Map can be found here.

Cost: $5 per car or free with your Idaho State Park Pass

Operating Seasons and Hours: Memorial Day Weekend 10:00 am until 3:00 pm and then Thursday through Monday until Labor Day weekend.

Helpful Websites: https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/ritter-island-history and https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/thousand-springs

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 5, 2018

This section of Thousand Springs State Park was the fifth stop of the first day of the Idaho Road Trip my family went on in May of 2018. We left Balanced Rock and then drove north on Highway 30.  We were heading to Hagerman, but we were pleasantly surprised to see the Ritter Island Unit of Thousand Springs State Park from Highway 30.



Before we go any further, we need to pause and do some defining so you know what I'm talking about in this post.  (Trust me, it's taken some time for me to sort all this out.)

Thousand Springs Area - This is a section of the Snake River Canyon where many natural springs burst out of different areas of the canyon wall.

Ritter Island - And island ringed by the Snake River water on one side and run off from natural springs on the other. This was formerly the Thousand Springs Nature Preserve.  Now it is part of Thousand Springs State Park. The name comes from a family that owned the island.

Thousand Springs Nature Preserve - This was a section of the Thousand Springs Area that was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 1986. It included Ritter Island and about 2 miles of land along the northeast bank of the Snake River Canyon. This area has several natural springs and is an important habitat for birds and other animals.  In 2006 the land was donated to the State of Idaho and became the Ritter Island Unit of Thousand Springs State Park.

Thousand Springs State Park - This is an Idaho State Park that is made up of six different units (Malad Gorge, Kelton Trail, Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve, Billingsley Creek, Ritter Island, Niagara Springs/Crystal Springs). These units are not connected, but they are all within a short drive of each other. Park Headquarters are at the Malad Gorge unit. Thousand Springs State Park includes sections of the Thousand Springs Area.

Minnie Miller Spring - the largest spring near Ritter Island. The spring is named after a businesswoman who owned the island in the 1920s and 30s and turned it into a dairy farm. Many of the structures on the island date back to Minnie Miller's time on the island.

Feel free to refer back to these descriptions if you get confused while reading this post.

Okay, full disclosure: We didn't actually visit the Ritter Island Unit of Thousand Springs State Park. We meant to, but then took a wrong turn and went to visit Balanced Rock.  Brandon and I planned to back track and make our way back to Ritter Island, but we started running out of time.  So I made the hard decision to skip Ritter Island, and just move on to our next stop which was the Hagerman Fossil Beds.

I didn't know much about the landscape around this section of the Snake River.  I assumed that it looked like other sections of the river we'd passed earlier in the day. I thought that both sides of the river canyon would be steep.  Since we were now on the southwest side of the river and Ritter Island was on the northeast side I thought there would be no way to see the island.

However as we drove north from Balanced Rock to Hangerman on Highway 30 I was surprised to see the river near the road.  The other side of the river had steep cliffs, but our side of the river was flat.  That meant we could see the cliffs even though we were on the opposite bank.

At first we could see the waterfalls that are located at the southern end of the Ritter Island Unit of the State Park.
As we drove further north we caught a glimpse of Minnie Miller Falls.  You can also see Ritter Island itself in front of the springs.
There are hundreds of springs of various sizes and outputs around the Twin Falls area of the Snake River Canyon. These springs are part of the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer. Water enters the aquifer to the east near Island Park and travels west through basalt rock under areas that include the Craters of the Moon National Monument. The water exits the rock in springs along the north side of the Snake River Canyon.

Minnie Miller Springs is unique because it is one of two springs in the area that has unobstructed runoff.  Most of the springs have water that is directed to power plants or fish hatcheries before being allowed to flow into the Snake River.  The water from Minnie Miller Springs goes directly into the Snake River.

These pictures were taken from the parking lot of the 1000 Springs Resort that is located across the river from Ritter Island.  This resort has an indoor swimming pool, private hot tubs, and a kiddie pool.  The resort also has tent, RV, and cabins for overnight accommodations.  This is probably your best bet if you want to camp in the area.  There are two houses on Ritter Island that you can reserve, but these are actual houses so the cost is close to $200.00 per night.

The area looked very cool and I'm glad we got to view it from the opposite side of the river.  I would love to go back and  actually explore Ritter Island and the shores of the Snake River.

Recommendation: I can't exactly recommend Ritter Island to you because I haven't actually been there.  But from what I saw. the area looks like a delightful place for your next hike or bird watching excursion.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Directions: We viewed Ritter Island from Highway 30.  If you want to visit Ritter Island take Exit 155 off of I-15 at Wendell.  Travel West on 2950 South/Hagerman Highway for 3 miles.  Turn left (south) onto 1500 East and travel south for 2.5 miles.  Turn right (west) onto 3200 South and drive on that for about another mile.  Then make a left onto 1300 East followed by a quick right onto Thousand Springs Grade.  This will take you down the canyon and to the island.



Additional Information: For an excellent decription of how to enjoy the island from the water follow this link.

Places Nearby: Ideally, we would have visited each unit of Thousand Springs State Park on this road trip, but there were so many interesting things to do around Twin Falls that we didn't have time for all of Thousand Springs State Park on this trip. The Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon Springs Nature Preserve is located a little to the south of the Ritter Island Unit.

Next Stop: Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument and Visitor Center.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Balanced Rock - Buhl, Idaho



Balanced Rocks are one of those cool, "how did they do that" geology features. Idaho's Balanced Rock is over 48 feet tall and balances on a narrow neck of rock that is only 3 feet wide. The rock is made of Rhyolite Lava and was carved by wind. It stands near other rocks carved into twisted spires and pinnacles, though Balanced Rock is definitely the most unique feature in the area. 

Location: Southwest of Buhl, Idaho.  The rock is approximately 30 miles west of Twin Falls.

Hiking Distance and Time:  There is a steep and short trail that takes you close to Balanced Rock.  I would say it's about 200 yards and would take about 15 minutes to hike up and back.

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open all year long.

Official Website: http://www.twinfallscounty.org/parks/parks/balanced-rock-park/

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 5, 2018

Balanced Rock was the fourth stop of the first day of the Idaho Road Trip my family went on in May of 2018.  We left Niagara Springs and then drove approximately 30 miles southwest to Balanced Rock.

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