Yellowstone National Park (part VII) – The Northern Section

Well, we’re here. The final post in my Yellowstone National Park saga. Today I’m going to focus on the only remaining section of the park – the northernmost portion. I concluded my previous post at Tower-Roosevelt Junction. From here, the park road travels west to Mammoth Hot Springs and east to the northeast park entrance and Cooke City, Montana.

Map source:

Heading west between Tower and Mammoth, there are a couple small lakes along the side of the road, a one-way drive up and over the Blacktail Deer Plateau, and a short drive to a petrified tree that has, unfortunately, been vandalized over the years. The Lava Creek picnic area has always been one of our favorites. And there are three short trails: a 100-yard walk to the viewpoint for Undine Falls, a 0.8-mile round trip hike to Wraith Falls, and the “Forces of the Northern Range” self-guided loop explaining the cycle of growth and forest fires in the park. In particular, it discusses the fires of 1988, in which approximately 35% of the park burned. Continue reading


Yellowstone National Park (part VI) – Seven Mile Hole

As I promised at the end of my last post, today I bring you the second ever Handstands Around the World guest post, once again courtesy of my mom!

She had so much fun writing the last one that she offered to do another. Well, the only person I know who has been to Yellowstone more times than me is my mom, so this seemed the natural place for her to contribute. The topic of today’s post is a hike that I’ve never done but one which, upon seeing her photos, I immediately added to my to-do list. Hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll do the same!


I have been to Yellowstone National Park somewhere between 100 and 200 times in the 41 years since I moved to Montana. Only 90 miles from my home in Bozeman, it is an easy day trip or even better, a great weekend camping trip. My children and I know the park better than almost anyone we know. I have visited every major geyser basin and some that are less well known and have seen Old Faithful erupt more times than I can remember. I have snapped photos from all of the observation points at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, have stood at the brink of the Upper Falls and near the bases of both Falls, and have spent a lot of time gazing down hundreds of feet into the canyon’s beautiful, colorful depths. Alone, or with one or both of my children, I have hiked the well-travelled trails many, many times and have literally thousands of photos from all over the park. Yet, despite our great love for Yellowstone, it was not until just a few years ago that we finally purchased some bear spray and set off into the backcountry to areas that few tourists ever venture. One such hike—Seven Mile Hole—took us to the bottom of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, a place that I had always longed to visit. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part V) – Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Today we’re going to talk about my favorite area of the park – the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone! I know, I know, I’m doing this all wrong. Yellowstone is about geysers and grizzly bears, not rivers and canyons. Don’t worry, I love geysers too. And bears are pretty cool. But Canyon is still my favorite part. Something about the waterfalls and the contrasting colors is just so incredibly beautiful.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River is 800-1,200 feet deep, up to 4,000 feet wide, and stretches 24 miles between Canyon Village and Tower-Roosevelt Junction. It begins when the Yellowstone River tumbles 109 feet over Upper Falls and ends near Tower Falls, where the water of Tower Creek drops 132 feet on its way down to the Yellowstone River. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Grand Canyon is the colors. The walls of the canyon are painted a variety of hues due to the fact that the area used to be a geyser basin and that many minerals are present in the rocks. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part IV) – West Thumb to Canyon Village

Last week, I left off in the southeastern portion of Yellowstone National Park near Yellowstone Lake. Picking up from West Thumb Geyser Basin, today we’ll continue north along the lakeshore and up to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Map 4.png
Map source:

Yellowstone Lake is giant and also very uniquely shaped, with three protruding arms. It has a maximum depth of over 400 feet and its surface elevation is approximately 7,700 feet. In short, it’s a large, deep, weird-shaped, high altitude lake.

The main park road runs along the western shore of the lake all the way from West Thumb up to Fishing Bridge. The Yellowstone River begins at Fishing Bridge and flows north from Yellowstone Lake through Wyoming and Montana before eventually joining the Missouri River. I haven’t spent a ton of time in this area of the park due to the fact that it’s far from many of the other attractions and also that the campground at Fishing Bridge is permanently closed to tent campers due to bear activity. However, we’ve recently discovered that Bridge Bay campground is a very nice – albeit slightly windy – place to stay. We returned to our site one afternoon to find our canopy laying on its side. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part III) – Old Faithful to West Thumb and Lewis Lake

Continuing beyond Old Faithful, the majority of the thermal features are now in the rearview mirror. But what this area lacks in geysers it makes up for in mountains, lakes, and waterfalls. The Firehole River flows through this area and a few small lakes dot the landscape along the main road. There is also a short detour to the Kepler Cascades. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part II) – Norris to Old Faithful

In my first Yellowstone post, I left off at Norris Geyser Basin. From here, I’ll continue south through most of the rest of the geyser basins. Though it’s not what the park is most famous for, Yellowstone is a volcano and much of the park is a giant caldera. All of these geyser basins are located within the caldera.

One the way to the geyser basins, a stretch of road from Norris to Madison Junction parallels the Gibbon River. Upon arrival at Madison Junction, Gibbon River joins the Firehole River to form the Madison River. Along the way, the first roadside attraction is Artists Paintpots, followed by Beryl Spring, and then Gibbon Falls.  Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part I) – North Entrance to Norris Geyser Basin

I’ve been blogging for over a year now and yet I’ve somehow managed to barely mention the one place I’ve visited more than any other: Yellowstone National Park.

I’ve been there at least 50 times (not an exaggeration) and it just never gets old. Consequently, I have well over 2000 photos of the park. Which is a large part of the reason I’m just now getting around to writing about it. That’s a LOT of photos to sort through. You’d think I’d just stop taking pictures of places I’ve been before. Yeah, not so much. My mom always jokes that she has other photos of a certain place, but “not with this camera.” And so our Yellowstone photo collection continues to grow.

I grew up less than 2 hours away from both the north and west entrances to Yellowstone, so a visit to the park was a day trip, a weekend camping getaway, or a winter cross-country ski destination. Usually all three in a given year.

Yellowstone is huge. And filled with incredible variety. Where else can a person see geysers, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls, canyons, elk, and bison all in the same day? Of course, if you’re not from the area and are going on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Yellowstone, I recommend spending much more than one day there. We took Pat there last summer for three days and even then there was plenty we didn’t see. Heck, there are things I still haven’t seen. My point is, there’s something there for everybody and you’ll never run out of things to do. I’ve never gone somewhere in Yellowstone that I didn’t like. Continue reading