While staying in West Yellowstone you will enter Yellowstone through the West entrance. At the park gate be sure to pick up the “Yellowstone Today” and a park map. This park newspaper will give you a wealth of helpful information: updates on road conditions and construction, news about special events and interpretive programs and park regulations.
After entering Yellowstone here you will follow along the famous Madison River. At 2.5 miles is where you will leave Montana and enter Wyoming. Along the way you should take the small pull out Riverside Drive, you will get closer to the river to watch for Canada geese, trumpeter swans and a close look of the cold, clear flow of the Madison River. Just after that, be sure you are watching for the bald eagles in the nesting area. You will not be able to stop but you can watch for them here. You will also have a great view of Mt. Haynes and National Park Mountain.
At the Madison Junction turn right towards Old Faithful. Just south of the junction watch for the Firehole Canyon Drive. This is a one-way drive that takes you along the Firehole River. Look for the numerous cascades and waterfalls, including the 40-foot-high Firehole Falls.
Back on the main road you are on your way to Fountain Flat Drive and the Lower Geyser Basin. This area contains a great part of the world’s geysers. This easy boardwalk trail will give you a close-up look at all four kinds of Yellowstone’s geothermal features: mudpots, fumaroles, geysers, and hot springs. Don’t miss Fountain Paint Pot, Yellowstone’s most famous mudpots. Here you will come across the glop and gurgle of Fountain Paint Pot. Watch out for mud blobs!
Next, drive south to Firehole Lake Drive where you will find more geysers. Look for Great Fountain geyser. Next to Old Faithful this is the only geyser outside of the Old Faithful Area that eruption time is predicted. Great Fountain generally takes 9-12 hours in between eruptions average 100 feet in height.
On your way to Midway Geyser basin don’t miss Grand Prismatic Spring and an easy 5 mile hike to Fairy Falls, at 197 feet this is the fourth highest named waterfall in Yellowstone. Close by is Mystic Falls. Mystic Falls is a 70 foot high drop of the Little Firehole River. If you have time take this easy to moderate 2.2 mile hike.
There is also a biking trail you can take from Biscuit Basin to Old Faithful or take the board walk from Riverside to Old Faithful. You follow the Firehole River, through the Upper Geyser Basin right to Old Faithful and along the way you will see many more geysers than if you stay in the car.
Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin, within 1 square mile of the upper Geyser Basin are some 150 geysers, a higher concentration than anywhere else in the world. With more than 300 geysers and some 10,000 other thermal features in Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful is the most famous. Old Faithful erupts more frequently than any of the other big geysers and lasts two to five minutes. It discharges roughly 4,000 to 8,000 gallons of water, shooting an average of 130 feet into the air. Those looking for the perfect place to watch Old Faithful should try the view from Observation Point.
West Thumb Geyser Basin overlooks Yellowstone Lake, the largest lake at high elevation in North America. This is your chance to get to know one of the largest and most beautiful bodies of water in all the Rockies: Yellowstone Lake. Resting on the eastern edge of the Yellowstone Caldera, a mammoth depression formed by the collapse of ground after an enormous volcanic eruption. Water eventually filled a portion of the depression, in some places to a depth of more than 400 feet, creating Yellowstone Lake. You can try your hand at fishing or have a picnic at the lake. Swimming is not recommended as the average summer temperature is only 45 degrees. You can learn about lake ecology at the visitor contact station near the marina or take the self guided board walk through the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Here you will see Fishing Cone, Lakeshore Geyser and Thumb Paint Pots or “Mud Puffs”.
Fishing Bridge is where you want to be if you are a wildlife lover. Following the Yellowstone River you need to watch for moose, elk, and bison. You will soon come to the parking lot for the Mud Volcano area. The odor of rotten eggs is caused by hydrogen sulfide gas. Just a little farther on the right is a turnout where you can view Sulphur Caldron. This is among the most acidic springs in the entire park.
Hayden Valley remains some of the best places in Yellowstone to observe wildlife and is one of the world’s outstanding wildlife viewing areas especially for bison. Here you can also see wolves, grizzly bear, elk, deer, moose and wolves. In the river and along many of the wet areas, look for trumpeter swans, teal, goldeneyes, Canada geese, pelicans, bald eagles, osprey, and blue heron.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone has twenty-four miles of cascading water and colorful canyons. The 308-foot Lower Falls is twice as tall as Niagara Falls. To see the most famous and spectacular section this canyon, including the Upper and Lower Falls, stop at overlooks along the North and South Rim roads near Canyon Village. Take an easy hike to Artist Point. This easy walk takes you to what come call the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River’s most famous view spot. While here be sure to visit the New Canyon Visitor Education Center.
This ends day one. From Canyon Village you will travel west to Norris and the Madison Junction and then back to West Yellowstone.