”Keep close to nature’s heart. Climb a mountain, visit a park or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir
World-famous Yellowstone, established in 1872, is the oldest national park in the United States and one of the most popular parks in the country. Sprawling across a basalt plateau in the north-west corner of Wyoming, this magnificent wilderness area spills into neighboring Idaho and Montana and forms the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the largest and best-preserved temperate-zone ecosystems on the planet. The park is famous for its spectacular scenery, diverse flora and fauna, and fascinating geothermal wonders. Yellowstone boasts the world’s largest number of active geysers and offers a window into the powerful forces deep beneath the earth’s crust, the same forces that shaped this park and its dazzling and dramatic landscapes. The scenery ranges from snaking rivers and sweeping green valleys, to canyons, vast lakes, thundering waterfalls, and hissing lunar-like landscapes.
Long before any recorded human history in Yellowstone, a massive volcanic eruption spewed an immense volume of ash that covered whole of the western US, much of Midwest, northern Mexico, and some areas of the eastern Pacific Coast. The Yellowstone super volcano is believed to erupt every 600,000 to 900,000 years with the last event occurring 640,000 years. Its eruptions are among the largest known to have ever occurred on Earth, producing drastic climate change in the aftermath. On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park reserve declared anywhere in the world, by President Ulysses S. Grant.
Yellowstone is a land of contrasts. Each season paints a dramatically different scene – from the lush greens and sparkling blues of spring and summer, when herds of bison and elk graze along the river banks; to fall’s fiery reds, oranges, and gold, when grizzlies and black bears bulk up on berries; to the white wonderland of the freezing winter. At any time of year, Yellowstone is a reminder of the awe-inspiring wilderness and abundant wildlife that once covered much of the planet, and it offers an unforgettable safari adventure in the wild American West.
The best way to tour Yellowstone National Park is by driving around the Grand Loop, a 142-mile-long road that curves around in a figure-eight past the park’s most striking natural features. At each attraction, well-maintained boardwalks and hiking trails offer close-up views of the main features, as well as breathtaking viewpoints, and many of the paths are wheelchair friendly. Driving the entire length of both loops can take between four and seven hours, depending on traffic. In the summer months, the traffic can be stop-and-go the entire way.
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