What to do in Yellowstone if You Only Have One Day
Yellowstone National Park is a volcanic playground, dominated by neon-colored hot springs and geysers. It’s also huge: at more than 2 million acres, Yellowstone is larger than both Delaware and Rhode Island. While millions of annual visitors come for the park’s scenic outdoor adventures, most have only a limited amount of time to explore such vast territory.
With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of the four things to do at Yellowstone if you have only have one day. Use this guide to see the park’s “greatest hits” and to get the most out of your time.
Hike along the Grand Prismatic Spring
The park’s most colorful spot, Grand Prismatic Spring bubbles up 121 feet from underground chambers, forming a massive hot spring. From above, it looks a round rainbow due to the heat-loving bacteria that live in the boiling water.
For a closer look, take the path that winds around the edge of the pool. For a bird’s-eye view, head south to the Fairy Falls trailhead and climb one of the man-made paths up the steep hillside to your left. From there, you can’t miss the colors (or the smell of sulfur).
Watch Old Faithful and the Geyser Basin
When most people think of Yellowstone, Old Faithful comes to mind. This predictable geyser shoots steaming water 106 to 185 feet into the air approximately every 94 minutes. Find the schedule posted in the nearby Old Faithful Inn.
Once you’ve seen Old Faithful’s 7,000 gallons of boiling water shoot into the air, walk north up the Upper Geyser Basin trail, which winds through a field of hundreds of large and small geysers. Some sputter to life every few minutes. Others may take a hundred years to erupt. Our favorites are the Beehive Geyser and the Lion Geyser. Both burst irregularly, so have your camera ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.
Admire The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
In Yellowstone’s northeast corner, this 24-mile-long, 1,200-foot-deep canyon dominates the view, cutting through the earth with red and yellow rock formations and powerful waterfalls. The best way to see the canyon is to hike trails along the canyon’s north and south ridges, or stop by the viewing platform near Artist Point, which has one of the park’s most awe-inspiring views.
Find a Buffalo Traffic Jam
Sometimes, the best surprises at Yellowstone happen while you're in your car. A herd of buffalo might wander onto the road, stopping traffic and creating fantastic stories and photo ops.
Though buffalo can pop up pretty much anywhere, you can increase your chances of a sighting by driving along the Hayden and Lamar Valleys, both located in the park’s northeast quadrant.
Stephanie McDaniel is a political theorist-turned-novelist from South Carolina. On the rare occasion she’s not writing, she spends her time folk dancing, singing, and adding sea salt to Lake Michigan.