The summer of 2015 I spent three months working as a housekeeper in Canyon Lodge, one of Yellowstone National Park’s area lodges, home to arguably Yellowstone’s most unforgettable natural feature, The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
The first thing you need to know about Yellowstone is how huge it is! Approximately two million acres. Yellowstone can be seen in a day, I recommend at least three days, but if this is your plan, be smart about your planning. The three most stunning features in Yellowstone are The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (an immense canyon and waterfall), The Grand Prismatic (a gorgeous cyan-yellow-red gradient geothermal pool), and Old Faithful (the parks infamous geyser). These three features, along with other sites you should get a peek of, are geographically distant from each other and traffic makes the distance greater.
Traffic moves according to the wildlife in the park. Yellowstone is home to bison, black bears, grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, elk, deer, moose, sheep, goats, beavers, otters, bald eagles, and more. You are guaranteed a view of one of the many herds of bison no matter what area of the park you are traveling through. Deer and elk are also very common. If you spot a black bear or especially a massive grizzly, consider yourself lucky! And a moose, I wasn’t lucky enough to see one in my three-month stay.
You pay a flat $20 entrance fee, per car, this also gains you entrance to The Grand Teton National Park, just south of Yellowstone. For lodging, you have many options within the park and just outside the park. There are lodges and campsites strategically located at each of the parks grand features. Both the lodges and campsites within the park fill up quickly, so book before you go! Yellowstone also offers back-country camping.
Take time to see not only the individual features (Grand Prismatic, Old Faithful, and Grand Canyon of Yellowstone), but also the distinctly different landscapes. Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley are nice escapes from the lodge pole pine forests enveloping the center of the park. Lamar Valley is also great for spotting black bears. Mammoth Hot Springs to the north has dramatic rolling hills and my favorite place to play, a free hot springs with Yellowstone River flowing through. The hot springs temperature shifts quickly from piping hot to freezing cold, when the river is high, temperatures will be steadier and perfect for an all afternoon lounge. Lake Yellowstone in the middle/south of the park is a great spot to watch a sunset and further south you can get a view of the Grand Tetons.
You can see the top three features of Yellowstone without any hiking, if you plan to stay in Yellowstone for more than one day and want a decent hike that’s worth your time I recommend Mt. Washburn. Mt. Washburn is a small mountain climb. Roughly four hours total for an inexperienced hiker. From the summit of Mt. Washburn you can see both Lamar and Hayden Valley, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Lake Yellowstone and on a clear day The Grand Tetons.