Yellowstone National Park is a natural wonderland filled with breathtaking landscapes, wild creatures, and endless possibilities for exploration. But before you embark on your journey, did you know that this incredible park is not just any ordinary destination?
From geysers that shoot boiling water sky-high and natural hot springs that shimmer in vibrant hues, to roaming herds of bison and grizzlies that lurk in the dense forests, Yellowstone National Park is a unique destination where the unexpected awaits at every turn. Join us as we uncover some of the most exciting and lesser-known facts about this wonderful and wild U.S. National Park and share 15 reasons to add Yellowstone National Park to your summer bucket list!
#1 The World’s Original National Park
Established on March 1, 1872, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law, Yellowstone National Park is the first national park in the world and a true American treasure. There are more than 1,850 known archaeological sites and National Register of Historic Places sites within the park with evidence of the rich history of both the landscapes and the various ethnic groups and tribes that inhabited the Yellowstone region.
#2 IT’S One of the Most Visited Parks in the US
Yellowstone National Park reached its visitation peak in 2021 with a record-breaking 4.86 million visitors, making it one of the most visited parks in the US. Yellowstone’s visitor numbers swell substantially in the peak season (June, July, and August), but each season brings its own set of spectacular sights and scenery if you want to avoid the crowds!
#3 Yellowstone is a Supervolcano Site
EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE
One of the world’s largest active volcanoes lies beneath Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone supervolcano had three cataclysmic eruptions – approximately 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 630,000 years ago. These super-eruptions created the park’s Island Park Caldera, Henry’s Ford Caldera, and Yellowstone Caldera, the largest of the three calderas measuring a massive 30 by 45 miles.
#4 Yellowstone still shudders!
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most seismically active areas in the US with between 700 and 3,000 earthquakes each year. These earthquakes naturally maintain the hydrothermal activity of Yellowstone’s geysers and hot springs and are closely monitored by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, located within the park. No worries though, the Yellowstone shudders are so small, you don’t feel them!
#5 Geysers Galore
With more than 500 geysers spread over several geyser basins, Yellowstone National Park boasts the largest concentration of geysers in the world. Situated near the West Entrance, the legendary Old Faithful in Upper Geyser Basin is the most famous of Yellowstone geysers, erupting fairly predictably every 91 minutes on average (17 times a day!) and reaching heights of up to 185 feet. However, Old Faithful is not the tallest geyser in Yellowstone!
#6 The World’s Tallest Geyser
The Steamboat Geyser in nearby Norris Geyser Basin is the world’s tallest active geyser with major eruptions shooting water as hot as 160oF up to 300 feet in the air. Unlike Old Faithful, Steamboat Geyser’s eruptions are completely unpredictable but, if you’re in the right place at the right time, they are simply spectacular and can last anywhere from 3 to 40 minutes.
#7 Natural Hot Springs for Soaking
Aside from glorious geysers galore, Yellowstone National Park preserves more than 10,000 hydrothermal features ranging from natural hot springs and mud pots to fumaroles and stunning travertine terraces. This is half of the world’s hydrothermal features! These features are formed by the heat and pressure of the volcanic activity beneath the surface with highly acidic water that can reach temperatures as high as 400oF! Soaking in Yellowstone’s hot springs is prohibited with the exception of two designated swimming areas, Firehole Canyon and Boiling River.
#8 200+ Majestic Waterfalls
Yellowstone’s majestic water features also include an estimated 290 waterfalls, of which only 45 are named. Many of Yellowstone’s iconic waterfalls are best accessed from the West Entrance – some visible from roadside viewpoints, boardwalks, and easy viewing platforms, others lie off the beaten path and require a little extra effort on the trails. Our favorite waterfalls include Firehole Falls, Fairy Falls, Mystic Falls, Kepler Cascades, Gibbon Falls, and the breathtaking Upper and Lower Yellowstone River Falls in the iconic Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
#9 See American Bison in the Wild
Yellowstone is the only place in the US where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times and is today home to the largest bison herd in the world on public land. An estimated 5,450 bison roam freely in the valleys and high plateaus of Yellowstone with northern herds found in the Lamar Valley and central herds in the Hayden Valley.
President Barack Obama designated the American Bison the first national mammal of the United States in 2016, recognizing the historical, cultural, and economic importance of the bison. They are the largest land mammal in North America (up to 2,000 pounds!) but don’t be fooled and keep your distance! They can run up to 35 miles per hour, jump fences, love to swim, and cause regular “Bison Jams” in Yellowstone!
#10 Watch Free-Roaming Wildlife
Aside from American Bison, Yellowstone National Park has the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48, with 67 unique species of mammals. The mammals found in Yellowstone include black bears, coyotes, gray wolves, mountain lions, moose, elk, and smaller mammals ranging from beavers and bobcats to river otters and mountain goats. Yellowstone is also home to two threatened species, a growing population of grizzly bears and the elusive Canada lynx. In addition, wildlife enthusiasts have 285 bird species, 16 fish species, 5 amphibian species, and 134 species of butterflies to track! Check out our Guide to Wildlife Viewing in Yellowstone!
#11 Yellowstone has its own Grand Canyon
The 692-mile Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in the US, beginning on the slopes of Yount Peak in the Absaroka Range of Wyoming, flowing north through the park, joining the Missouri River in North Dakota, and finally emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. The mighty Yellowstone River has slowly carved a breathtaking canyon stretching 20 miles through the eastern side of the park- the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Follow the North and South Rim drives and trails to absorb the beauty with two cascading waterfalls within the first mile – the breathtaking Upper and Lower Yellowstone River Falls.
#12 Four Seasons of Splendor
Each season in Yellowstone National Park brings its own set of spectacular sights, scenery, and natural splendor. Summer is the most popular time for exploration in Yellowstone, the spring season brings blooms of over 1,200 species of wildflowers along with the arrival of spring wildlife babies, fall fabulously covers the landscapes with an autumn glow, and winter is cold but wonderful! The West Entrance is open to over-snow vehicles with one-of-a-kind winter Yellowstone tours available – by snow coach, snowmobile, or even winter snowshoes!
#13 Five Park Entrances for Easy Exploration
Yellowstone is located primarily in the northwest corner of Wyoming, extending into Montana and Idaho, and is larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. The park encompasses 2,221,766 acres (that’s 3,472 square miles!) with five park entrances, eight main visitor centers, 466 miles of roads, 92 trailheads, and 1,000+ miles of trails for hiking and biking. A little Yellowstone pre-trip planning goes a long way!
#14 Big Sky is the BEST base camp for Yellowstone National Park!
Situated only an hour north of the West Entrance to Yellowstone, the resort town of Big Sky Montana is the best base camp to explore Yellowstone National Park in any season. Take a scenic drive for a self-guided day trip or choose from a wide variety of professionally guided tours of Yellowstone Park departing from Big Sky year-round. Book your stay with BSVR. From cozy cowboy cabins to our collection of plush platinum Big Sky properties, Big Sky Vacation Rentals represents 125+ of the best vacation rentals near Yellowstone National Park! Find the perfect place to stay, download our Big Sky Vacation Guide app for planning at your fingertips, or give our local team a call at (888) 915-2787. The best experience of Yellowstone National Park is only a click or call away!
#15 You can visit Yellowstone National Park for FREE.
There are several options for paying the entrance fee for Yellowstone National Park, and you can even visit for FREE! America the Beautiful, the National Parks and Federal Lands Pass gives you the biggest bang for your buck with access to more than 2,000 recreation areas in the US, or Yellowstone National Park passes may be purchased at all entrances or online at Recreation.gov.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK INFORMATION
7-day Vehicle Pass to Yellowstone: $35 per vehicle
7-day Motorcycle or Snowmobile Pass: $30
7-day Pedestrian or Cyclist Pass: $20
Annual Yellowstone National Park Pass: $70
America the Beautiful National Park Pass: $80
Senior Lifetime Pass: $80
Entrance Fee-Free Day for 2023:
The National Park Service (NPS) has announced its free entrance days for 2023 where you can visit over 400 US National Parks for FREE, including Yellowstone National Park!
- January 16 – The birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
- April 22 – National Park Week
- August 4 – The anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
- September 23 – National Public Lands Day
- November 11 – Veterans Day
Active military receive free annual passes on presentation of a military ID, travelers under 16 years of age receive free entry, and fourth-graders receive free passes to all federal parks, lands, and waters!
STAY with Big Sky Vacation Rentals
The beauty of Big Sky, Montana – you’re surrounded by wilderness and don’t need to find a trailhead to hit the trails! In our collection of 120+ Big Sky vacation rental homes and cabins, you’ll find everything from mountain modern for a luxury stay in Big Sky to quintessential mountain cabins with easy access to the trails, or even the best Big Sky hiking trails on your doorstep!
We live here, we play here, and we know the best places to hike in Big Sky, in any season.