Yellowstone National Park is one of the most incredible destinations in the United States, featuring a variety of natural landscapes, wildlife, and geothermal phenomena. In this article, we will explore some of the most impressive waterfalls and hot springs in the park, which are great options for admiring the beauty and relaxing in the warm waters. We will also provide some tips on how to plan your trip, what to bring, and what to avoid.
Yellowstone boasts more than 300 waterfalls, some of which are the tallest and most voluminous in the Rocky Mountains. These waterfalls are formed by the flow of rivers and streams that cut through the park, creating spectacular canyons and waterfalls. Some of the most famous and accessible waterfalls in Yellowstone include:
- Lower Yellowstone River Falls: This is the largest and most popular waterfall in the park, standing at 93 meters in height and with a water volume ranging from 18,927 to 227,125 liters per second, depending on the season.
The waterfall is located in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, one of the park’s iconic spots, and can be viewed from various overlooks, such as Artist Point, Inspiration Point, and Lookout Point. The waterfall can also be accessed by trails that descend to its base, but caution is required due to the steepness and altitude.
- Wraith Falls: This is a more modest but no less charming waterfall, with a height of 24 meters and a fan-shaped form³. The waterfall is situated on Lupine Creek and can be reached via a short and easy trail that passes through meadows, marshes, and coniferous forests. The trail begins at a parking lot 0.8 km east of the Lava Creek picnic area on the Grand Loop Road.
- Fairy Falls: This is a delicate and graceful waterfall, measuring 61 meters in height with a thin and constant water flow.
The waterfall is located on Fairy Creek and can be seen from an 8.5 km (round trip) trail that starts from the Midway Geyser Basin parking lot on the Grand Loop Road. The trail also passes a hill that offers a panoramic view of the Grand Prismatic Geyser, the largest and most colorful geyser in the park.
Yellowstone’s Hot Springs
Yellowstone is home to about 10,000 hydrothermal features, including geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles. These are the result of volcanic activity that heats underground water and causes it to emerge on the surface, creating incredible shapes and colors. Some of the most impressive and famous hot springs in Yellowstone include:
- Grand Prismatic Spring: This is the largest and most vibrant hot spring in the park, with a diameter of 112 meters and a depth of 37 meters.
The hot spring has an intense blue color in the center, surrounded by rings of
orange, yellow, green, and brown, which are caused by thermophilic bacteria living in the water. The hot spring is located in the Midway Geyser Basin on the Grand Loop Road and can be viewed up close or from an elevated overlook 1.6 km from the Fairy Falls geyser trail.
- Mammoth Hot Springs: These are a set of hot springs that form white limestone terraces, with hot water flowing over the edges and creating unique patterns and textures.
The hot springs are located in the Mammoth area in the northern part of the
park and can be explored via wooden boardwalks that traverse the formations. Some of the notable hot springs include Minerva Terrace, Canary Spring, and Palette Spring.
- Boiling River: This is one of the few places in the park where entering the water
is allowed, but only in a specific area and with caution. The Boiling River is the result of the meeting of a hot water stream and the cold Gardner River. The mix creates a pleasant temperature zone where visitors can bathe and relax.
Access to the Boiling River is 3.2 km north of the park’s north entrance, near the town of Gardiner, and requires a 800-meter walk to the riverbank.
Tips for Planning Your Trip
Yellowstone is a vast park, covering over 8,900 square kilometers, and it requires careful planning to make the most of your visit. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your trip:
Choose the best time of year: The park is open year-round, but weather conditions and available attractions vary by season. Summer is the most popular time, with mild temperatures, green vegetation, and abundant wildlife, but it’s also the busiest and most expensive. Fall is a good option to avoid crowds and see the changing colors of the leaves, but some roads and services may close late in the season. Winter is ideal for snow enthusiasts and activities like skiing and snowmobiling, but be prepared for intense cold and closed roads. Spring is a transitional season with snowmelt and blooming flowers but also the risk of rain and mud.
Book your accommodations in advance:
The park offers various lodging options, from hotels and lodges to campgrounds and cabins,
but it’s essential to book in advance, especially during the peak season. You can check the options and make reservations on the park’s official website.
You can also choose to stay outside the park in nearby towns like West Yellowstone,
Gardiner, Cody, or Jackson, but keep in mind that this may increase travel time to the attractions.
Plan your itinerary carefully: The park is divided into five main regions: Mammoth,
Norris, Madison, Old Faithful, and Canyon, each with its own features and points of interest. You can choose to focus on one or more regions or try to visit them all, but consider the distance and travel time between them.
The park has a main figure-eight-shaped road called the Grand Loop Road that connects the
main areas but also has secondary roads and trails leading to lesser-known places. You can consult maps and information about the attractions on the park’s official website or at visitor centers.
Follow the rules and safety recommendations: The park is a wild and unpredictable place, and it’s crucial to respect the rules and safety recommendations to avoid accidents and issues.
Some of the main tips include keeping a safe distance from wild animals, never feeding or disturbing them, staying on marked trails and boardwalks, not approaching or touching
hot springs or geysers, bringing enough water and food, wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, checking road and weather conditions, and informing someone about your travel plans.
We’re visiting Yellowstone for the third time as part of our multi-month trip to Alaska
Other videos featuring Yellowstone:
We travel towing a Winnebago Micro Minnie 1720FB FLX