Visited by millions of people annually, there are unfortunately not many non-touristy things to do in Yellowstone. But with hundreds of hiking trails (hiking is one of the best things to do in Yellowstone in September) there are ways to avoid the crowds. As for things to do in Yellowstone with kids, don’t miss the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.
One of the most unique things about Yellowstone National Park is that in summer Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo hosts legendary local rodeos. Located just outside the park’s boundary in Montana, it’s also one of the best things to do on the way to Yellowstone. Finally, when looking for where to stay in Yellowstone, book into the iconic Old Faithful Inn. Here are more things to do in Yellowstone to mark on your Yellowstone attractions map.
1. Old Faithful
Old Faithful is one of the world’s most famous geysers. It was named during the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition in 1870 for its frequent and somewhat predictable eruptions. With around 20 a day, Old Faithful’s eruptions usually average between 130 and 140 feet and last from 1.5 to five minutes. Located in the national park’s Upper Geyser Basin, Old Faithful is easy to access and there’s an onsite ranger station that tracks and predicts upcoming eruptions.
2. Grand Prismatic Spring
Grand Prismatic Spring is not only the country’s largest hot spring but the third-largest in the world. A striking turquoise color with orange, yellow, and green rings around its diameter, the spring is so grand that it’s deeper than a 10-story building and longer than a football field. Grand Prismatic Spring is located at Midway Geyser Basin, which is also home to Excelsior Geyser, Turquoise Pool, and Opal Pool. Note that swimming is strictly prohibited.
3. Mammoth Hot Springs
Speaking of hot springs, one of the national park’s most interesting places to visit is Mammoth Hot Springs. Made from limestone, the site consists of approximately 50 terraced hot springs. Fortunately, there’s an upper and lower boardwalk so visitors can see the hot springs from a safe distance. Other landmarks not to be missed at Mammoth Hot Springs include the cone-shaped Liberty Cap, Minerva Spring, Palette Spring Terraces, and Angel Terrace with its pure-white formations.
4. Morning Glory Pool
Another hot spring to visit on the national park’s Upper Geyser Basin is Morning Glory Pool, which is a one-mile walk from Old Faithful. Reaching temperatures of 157 degrees, it features an orange ring surrounding clear turquoise water. In fact, it was named Morning Glory Pool in the 1880s for its similarities to the flower of the same name. Unfortunately, there are now environmental concerns as people continuously throw all sorts of trash into it.
5. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Featuring twists, turns, and sheer rock faces, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River is 24 miles long and 1200 feet deep. Along the Grand Canyon, you’ll find the aptly-named Upper Falls and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, with the latter being twice as high as Niagara Falls. Fortunately, it’s easy to visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, as there are multiple trails with spectacular lookouts along both its north and south rim.
6. Upper Falls
As mentioned, the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River is located within its spectacular Grand Canyon. Although they tend to be overshadowed by neighboring Lower Falls, with a 109-ft powerful cascade, the Upper Falls is still worth visiting. Check out the Brink of the Upper Falls lookout and Uncle Tom’s Trail for the best views. Visiting Upper Falls in the Grand Canyon is just one of the top things to do in Yellowstone National Park.
7. Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo & Creekside Trail Rides
A quintessential experience in cowboy country, Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo hosts regular nighttime rodeos from June to August. Events include bareback riding, breakaway roping, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding. The family-owned company also offers Creekside Trail Rides, which include a one-hour tour through a mountainside meadow with an authentic cowboy or cowgirl guide, who you can then see compete at the rodeo afterward. There are Rodeo Ride Packages and Horse-drawn Wagon Rides available too.
8. Artist Point
For the best outlook and panoramic views of the aforementioned Grand Canyon’s plunging rock faces and the powerful Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River, you must head to Artist Point. Located a hop and a skip from the national park’s South Rim Drive, the lookout is perfectly perched on the edge of a cliff on the canyon’s south rim. From Artist Point, you can continue on the paved trail to other lookouts like Point Sublime.
9. Hayden Valley
Hayden Valley is a large sub-alpine and marshy valley that straddles the Yellowstone River. It’s the best place in the national park to do some wildlife spotting, as you can regularly spy bison casually grazing in its wide-open space. Other animals frequently spotted in Hayden Valley include elk, grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes, and waterfowl. Fortunately, there are pullouts conveniently located along the Grand Loop Road that overlooks Hayden Valley, so you can safely spot wildlife.
10. Upper Geyser Basin
Although it’s most well-known for being home to the infamous Old Faithful geyser, Upper Geyser Basin actually boasts the world’s largest concentration of geysers. Besides Old Faithful, its other major geysers are Grand, Castle, Daisy, and Riverside, which is unique as it erupts over a river. Other places to visit in the Upper Geyser Basin include the aforementioned Morning Glory Pool, Fountain Paint Pots Trail, Black Sand Basin, and the 40-plus geysers at Geyser Hill.
11. Old Faithful Inn
A National Historic Landmark, Old Faithful Inn is considered to be the world’s largest log structure. Constructed between 1903 and 1904 with local logs and stone, the inn features a massive stone fireplace and 327 guestrooms and suites. Open from early May to mid-October, Old Faithful Inn offers a full-service restaurant, a gift shop, live music in the lobby’s cozy lounge, an assortment of guided daily adventures, and most importantly, views of Old Faithful geyser.
12. Boiling River
There aren’t many places you can go swimming in the national park, but fortunately, Boiling River is one of those places. Found near the park’s North Entrance in Gardiner, the Boiling River is located where a hot spring enters the Gardner River. The combination of the hot and cold waters make Boiling River the perfect temperature for swimming. Often crowded, it’s still a great place to visit to soak up the national park’s scenic surroundings.
13. Yellowstone Lake
Yellowstone Lake is the national park’s largest body of water; covering 136 square miles and featuring 110 miles of shoreline. There are plenty of things to do on the lake. For example, with a Yellowstone fishing permit, visitors can rent a boat or go fishing along the lake’s shoreline. Alternatively, local companies offer both scenic day and sunset cruises. Other options include renting a kayak or hiking on one of the trails surrounding the lake.
14. Mount Washburn
Named in honor of Henry D. Washburn of the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition of 1870, Mount Washburn is a prominent mountain peak with an elevation of over 10,000 feet. One of the most popular things to do in Yellowstone is to do a day hike to the top of Mount Washburn. There are two trails available, including the six-mile out-and-back Dunraven Pass. Keeping an eye out for bighorn sheep and wildflowers, prepare for spectacular summit views.
15. Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is a non-profit wildlife park and educational facility. It’s home to orphaned grizzly bears that wouldn’t have survived in the wild for different reasons, as well as captive-born wolves that have since formed two wolf packs. Open 365 days a year, the center also has resident birds of prey in its Raptor Exhibit, a North American River Otters Exhibit, and a museum featuring the interactive BEARS: Imagination and Reality exhibit.
16. Thumb Geyser
West Thumb Geyser Basin may be one of the national park’s smallest geyser basins. However, thanks to its location along the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake, it happens to be the most scenic geyser basin. Things to see in this area include the Fishing Cone, Abyss Pool, and Thumb Paint Pots, which are small and smelly mud volcanoes. Meanwhile, two great trails with views of West Thumb Geyser Basin are Overlook Trail and Duck Lake Trail.
17. Yellowstone Giant Screen Theatre
While you might think that nature is the only thing on display in Yellowstone, you’re almost right. You can be immersed in the history of Yellowstone at the Yellowstone Giant Screen Theatre – featuring a massive screen and daily showing the epic Imax film all about Yellowstone’s fascinating history, geothermal activity, and abundant wildlife. In addition to the education film, this theater also shows current blockbuster movies. So, to learn more about this special national park or to just catch a great feature film during your visit, check the upcoming schedule of films at the Yellowstone Giant Screen Theatre.