Field Notes

The Best Things to See in Yellowstone National Park

by Grant JohnsonMar 8, 2021

The Best of Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park truly has something for everyone.  From wildlife watchers to geyser gazers, and history buffs to the most intrepid of explorers, this iconic wonderland offers endless opportunities for observation, adventure, and inspiration.  It’s impossible to fully experience Yellowstone in one visit, as every season, and genuinely every day, is different.  Similarly, it’s impossible to guess what your favorite feature of the park will be, as the most sought-after and celebrated trademarks of Yellowstone National Park are as unique as you are.

A Mother Grizzly And Her Cub Graze On Summer Grasses In The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

The History

To fully appreciate Yellowstone, you need to start at the beginning.  The United States, and in fact the world, now has a network of National Parks that preserve and protect some of the most spectacular natural wonders imaginable, but did you know that Yellowstone National Park started it all as not only the first National Park in the US, but the first in the entire world?  That’s right, on March 1st, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant (not Theodore Roosevelt, who didn’t become President until 1901) signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act (YNPPA), forever safeguarding this landscape from settlement, development, or private sale.  As the text of the YNPPA rightfully proclaims, and the Roosevelt Arch proudly displays, Yellowstone National Park was dedicated as a public park “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”  We have all unquestionably benefited from Yellowstone, and so it will remain for generations to come.


As the text of the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act rightfully proclaims, and the Roosevelt Arch proudly displays, Yellowstone National Park was dedicated as a public park “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”


Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone for the arch in 1903 during a visit to Yellowstone National Park.



The Roosevelt Arch Stands At The North Entrance Of Yellowstone National Park

The Geology

For the last 150 million years, countless natural processes have shaped the landscape that we now know as Yellowstone National Park.  The continuation of these events is on constant display in the park’s dynamic and otherworldly geology.  Yellowstone is considered an active volcano, in fact a supervolcano, with more than 10,000 thermal features including approximately 500 geysers, and numerous hot springs, fumaroles, and mud pots.  With more thermal features than anywhere else in the world, it’s difficult to choose a favorite.  Old Faithful is unquestionably the most famous geyser in the world, and a famously reliable erupter, and Steamboat Geyser (just up the road at the Norris Geyser Basin) is the tallest erupting geyser in the world (though frustratingly unpredictable).  The Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is one of the most strikingly beautiful natural features on Earth, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was boasting its grandness for almost 50 years before Grand Canyon National Park (in Arizona) was even established.  Breathtaking rivers, valleys, mountains, meadows, canyons, creeks, lakes, waterfalls and forests all punctuate an environment that has steamed, bubbled, and sprayed itself into an unsurpassed place in humanity’s collective consciousness. 

Geysers Erupt With Superheated Jets Of Water And Steam In Yellowstone National Park
Tourists Snap Photos Of The Rainbow Colors Of The GrandP Prismatic Spring In Yellowstone National Park

The Wildlife

Regardless of your age or interests, it is unfathomable to not be awestruck by Yellowstone’s wild residents.  On a landscape like no other lives an abundance of wildlife that harkens back to a world uninfluenced by human civilization.  A wildlife safari tour through Yellowstone National Park immerses you into the ecosystem where predators and prey compete, and where North America’s most iconic animals live their lives as they have throughout time.  Home to 67 species of mammals, and nearly 300 species of birds, there are endless opportunities for even the most well-traveled wildlife watchers.  Yellowstone boasts America’s largest wild herd of bison, the largest wild animals roaming North America.  The National Park is also one of the best places on Earth to see wild wolves, an animal that has stirred human emotions for eons.  Grizzly bears and black bears wander amongst herds of elk, while coyotes and cougars wonder if today will be the day that they catch up with the American pronghorn, the world’s second-fastest land animal.  Witnessing even a brief moment of Yellowstone’s epic wildlife saga will remind you that a life lived wild is a life well lived.

A Grey Wolf Stands In Sagebrush In The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Off the Beaten Path In Yellowstone

The special scenes in Yellowstone are the ones least commonly seen.  While the roads undeniably lead you to many of the National Park’s most revered highlights, leaving the roadways allows for an immersion into a world that is just waiting to be explored.  Whether hiking during the summer, or snowshoeing during the winter, getting off the beaten path is an experience that few visitors to Yellowstone National Park ever embrace.  There are few feelings more incredible than finding yourself in the middle of nowhere, and there are few experiences more magical than sharing the landscape with our wildest neighbors.  Sprawling over 2.2 million acres, you’ll never see every inch of the park, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.   

A Grizzly Bear Wades Into The Wetlands Along The Yellowstone River In Yellowstone National Park
A River Otter Climbs Out Onto The Snow After A Successful Fishing Expedition In The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Photography Opportunities

Here at Yellowstone Safari Co., we operate under the Leave No Trace Principles, striving to ‘Leave only footprints, and take only photos.’  In today’s world of digital imagery, there’s almost no end to the amount of visual souvenirs you can claim from Yellowstone National Park.  Out in the backcountry, or simply out the car window, the photo opportunities in Yellowstone National Park will give you an overload of optical offerings while leaving the scenery untouched for the next visitor to enjoy.  

Grant Johnson Is A Professional Naturalist Guide With Yellowstone Safari Company, Operating In The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
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Grant Johnson

Naturalist Guide
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