For our first visit to Yellowstone, we wanted to keep it a little bit short, so we decided on the western half of the upper loop road – this is where many of the hot springs are located – and with a little bit of hiking, it still makes for a short day. We got to the park around 11am, and it was pretty crowded . . . we didn’t even stop to get a picture of the sign because there were too many people already waiting!
The first 14 miles are relatively uneventful, following the Madison River,
but we did see an official Yellowstone greeter.
He wasn’t very outgoing, though . . . probably just coasting until retirement!
Once we passed Madison Junction, we started seeing (and smelling!) signs of the hot springs in the area.
Our first stop was Terrace Spring, which is a series of small pools and streams that eventually collect in a larger pool.
The water is really clear, but some has more minerals in it than others.
The water may look inviting, but it’s very HOT!
No jacuzzi pump in this pool – all natural boiling water!
Just before the Norris Junction, we stopped at the Gibbon Falls Picnic Area (we thought the falls were going to be there, but they weren’t!), and took a little walk along the river.
We continued on, and reached the Gibbon Falls overlook, where we picked up an Earthcache . . . our first geocache in Wyoming!
Looking downriver, to where we had walked.
Our next stop was Beryl Spring, which was blowing off much more steam!
Artist Paint Pots were next, so we stopped and walked along the boardwalks that meander through the bubbling pools of water and mud.
Some were mostly water, and some were really colorful,
and some were thick, bubbling pools of mud.
We continued past Roaring Mountain,
and spotted a few elk resting in an open field.
We were all getting pretty hungry by then, so we stopped in the next picnic area and ate our lunch, before continuing to Mammoth Springs.
We drove over a mountain pass, past Bunsen Peak,
and past another waterfall that I never did see the name of!
When we reached the Mammoth Hot Springs area, we stopped at the Upper Terrace to look down at the hot springs from above.
Nicolas and I wanted to walk down the steps and boardwalks through the hot springs, while Tom and Bryce took the car through the loop drive and met us at the bottom.
Nicolas and I walked along several levels of boardwalk, amazed by the colors of the active hot springs and how they stood out in the grayness of the dormant springs.
We reached the Lower Terrace as Tom and Bryce arrived, and we all went to look at Prismatic Spring, one of the more active hot springs in the area.
Mammoth Hot Springs is a huge area of active hot springs, and it’s really beautiful to see . . . it was definitely worth the drive!
We had almost reached the north end of the park, and were ready to turn around and head back, but we decided to take a drive past the Visitor Center and Lodge. We were glad we did when we saw a herd of elk just lounging around on the grass next to the Mammoth Hotel!
We found a spot to park the car, and got out to watch the elk for awhile. Occasionally one would get up and move, but for the most part, they just laid there in the soft grass, relaxing!
Eventually, the bull elk got up and walked around, and even made some aggressive-sounding noises.
It must not have meant anything, though, because none of the other elk moved, and the rangers didn’t make the crowd move back either!
After watching the elk for awhile, we decided that it was time to head back for dinner. Our “short day” had actually gotten kindof long, and we were getting tired. My camera battery had died, too, so I couldn’t take any more pictures on the way back.
Bryce said, “We’ll probably see a bear now, and you won’t be able to get a picture of it!”
Sure enough, we were almost back to the Norris Junction, and saw a bunch of cars pulled off the road and people looking through cameras and telescopes. We stopped and asked what they were looking at, and were told, “A grizzly, over in the tall grass!”
He was pretty far away from us, but we could see through our binoculars that it was definitely a grizzly! My camera battery was still dead, so no pictures, but we stayed and watched as he walked around in the grass, munching away.
Our first trip into Yellowstone was pretty successful . . . lots of hot springs, a few waterfalls, and some wildlife, including a bear – not bad for day 1!