The US is home to some of the world’s great wilderness areas and boasts some immense national parks, like Yellowstone. This is undoubtedly one of the country’s most famous nature reserves and among the best ways to explore it is on foot.
Here’s a brief guide to Yellowstone National Park and the kind of hiking you can look forward to within its boundaries.
Yellowstone: the basics
Yellowstone National Park is huge, spanning some 2.2 million acres, with much of it managed as a wilderness area. Trekkers are well catered for here, as there are 1,770 km of trails to follow and some spectacular landscapes to discover.
The reserve is open 365 days a year, but there a couple of months (November and late March to early April) when many of the entrances are closed to allow the roads into the park to be prepared for the coming snow – or to clear them when the weather starts to warm up. The North Entrance is always open, however.
You should bear this in mind if you intend to visit Yellowstone during the winter and take appropriate precautions to prepare for the colder weather and snowy conditions.
Top landmarks in Yellowstone
Yellowstone is home to numerous unique geological formations, which only add to the spectacular nature of the scenery. Here are just a few of the highlights you may want to include as part of your trekking trip in the reserve.
• Geysers – There are various geysers in Yellowstone, including the famous Old Faithful. However, there are some other amazing hydrothermal vents in the park, including Riverside Geyser, which creates a rainbow by shooting out of the ground at an angle over Firehole River, and Steamboat, which is the largest in the world and produces eruptions of 300 to 400 ft in height.
• Tower-Roosevelt area – This part of Yellowstone has varied rock formations, including large boulders dotted between the Lamar and Yellowstone Rivers, peaks such as Mt Washburn and petrified trees along Specimen Ridge.
• Grand Canyon of Yellowstone – Running for 20 miles, this canyon is home to the Upper and Lower Falls, with the Yellowstone River flowing through it. The Lower Falls are particularly spectacular and can be seen from several places, including Red Rock Point, Artist Point and along the South Rim Trail.
Wildlife in Yellowstone
In addition to the stunning landscapes, the wildlife is what draws many of the people who travel to Yellowstone for the trekking. The area is renowned for being home to grizzly bears, which are thrilling to see but can be dangerous.
Advice from the National Park Service includes hiking in groups and making noise as you walk to alert bears to your presence and prevent them from being startled.
Wolves also inhabit Yellowstone, but are seldom seen by trekkers, while bison are another creature to keep an eye out for. These are the largest land mammal native to North America and the park has a population that varies between 2,300 and 4,500 bison.
Preparing for trekking
As much of Yellowstone National Park is a wilderness area, you should always be prepared when walking here. Take plenty of water and food with you, as well as layers of clothes and waterproofs to be ready for a change in the weather.
If you’re not confident striding out alone, you can book a tour of the area with an experienced guide who can not only ensure you stay safe while you’re walking, but also teach you about the flora and fauna in the reserve.