Grand Teton National Park is what we call the forgotten park to Yellowstone National Park. Most people have never heard of the Tetons or they just drive through on their way to Yellowstone. The most common comment about Grand Teton is “wow, I never knew this place existed” so if you are on your way to Yellowstone, stop by and visit.
This year, we ventured out of the Tetons to explore Yellowstone due to my sister visiting and it’s a different world from the Tetons. Brad and I had not been to Yellowstone in 11 years and we were given great advice to get there early and we were glad we did. With 4.1 million yearly visitors and being in the top five of the most visited national parks, Yellowstone is a busy place. Plus, it’s a huge National Park, as it’s the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. One cannot see the whole park in one day due to its 3,472 square miles and 2,221,766 acres to explore. To compare, the Tetons are 480 square miles or 310,000 acres. Best advice is to get to Yellowstone early, be patient and get used to being in your car driving to different spots. Even though the mileage to the different attractions points are 20-30 miles away, with the winding roads, slow traffic speed and wildlife jams, it takes at least an hour to an hour and a half to travel to point A to point B.
The first thing one notices is how different Yellowstone is to the Tetons. The base of the Tetons is 6,800 feet elevation, Grand Teton is the tallest peak at 13,770 feet. The base of Yellowstone starts at 8,000 and goes up to 12,000 feet and is at the mountain plateau so no towering mountain. Instead, Yellowstone is nestled in between the Middle Rocky Mountains and is mostly comprised of rolling green hills, forest and grassland. Bison are the most popular mammal seen there but is also home to black and grizzly bears, elk and wolves.
Yellowstone lays over the largest volcanic system in the US and in turn has produced thermal features or hot springs. Grand Prismatic is most largest and most famous hot springs in the area and the third largest hot springs in the world. Due to its bacterial growth, this hot springs shows a variety of color: red, orange, yellow, blue and green. Mammoth Hot Springs is another sport where one can drive to see about 50 hot springs, all viewed by following a boardwalk. This area is unique because the hot water travels through limestone structures, making it look like the inside of a cave but inside out. There is another hot spring area right next to Old Faithful and these hot springs are also vowed from a boardwalk that goes on for over 2 miles. Colorful and sometimes boiling hot springs can be viewed (and smelled, lol) and the clarity of some of the hot springs is amazing and the blue/green color is beautiful.
Speaking of Old Fateful, geysers are everywhere in Yellowstone and there are more geysers in Yellowstone than anywhere else in the world. Geysers hot springs with different plumbing and are formed near active volcanic areas. Old Faithful is the most popular geyser which goes off about every 90 minutes. Old Faithful is not the only geyser in the park that has eruption predictions but some geysers don’t erupt for 50 plus years! Some of the geysers have been going off more then usually which has people worried that the super volcano that Yellowstone sits on is going to explode. No worries (yet) anyone. Experts say they would be able to detect an explosion years in advance and the threat of one happening in the next couple thousands of years is less then 1%. Why all the extra eruptions? Experts are not too sure but it could be the extra heavy snow in recent years that feed into the geysers. Expects also say that most geysers are unpredictable and this recent activity just proves that.
Drive another hour from Old Faithful and the scenery changes yet again. There are three large, deep canyons within this park and the most impressive is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Formed by a huge volcanic eruption, this canyon is 24 miles long and has two waterfalls which flow due to the Yellowstone River. Depending on the time of day and light, the canyon can look rusty color or orange, white, yellow, red or pink. There are numerous viewing points and trails to views this wonder.
And to think that we are not even done exploring Yellowstone! There is also Lamar Valley, Yellowstone Lake, Hayden Valley and all the hikes one can do. Yellowstone is a stop, look and go drive again park but there are lots to do once you are parked at a specific area. Fairy Falls by Grand Prismatic is a cool hike and after the falls there is the Imperial Geyser, on the boardwalk by Old Faithful, at the end there is Thumper hot spring where you can sit and feel the geyser go off, Lamar Valley has otters, the list can go on! At Yellowstone, 90 percent of people who come to visit only see 10 percent of the park, so get out of your car, lace up your hiking boots and go explore!