USA // The Rockies //

Yellowstone National Park

Millions of visitors arrive yearly at YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, America’s oldest national park, to glory in its magnificent mountain scenery and abundant wildlife, and to witness hydrothermal phenomena on a grand scale. Measuring roughly sixty by fifty miles, and overlapping slightly from Wyoming’s northwestern corner into Idaho and Montana, the park centres on a 7500ft-high plateau, the caldera of a vast volcanic eruption that occurred a mere 600,000 years ago. Into it are crammed more than half the world’s geysers, plus thousands of fumaroles jetting plumes of steam, mud pots gurgling with acid-dissolved muds and clays, and of course, hot springs. All this activity is on such a scale that the entire region is often characterized as a supervolcano, a full-force eruption of which might be capable of destroying the human species.

A visit to Yellowstone offers an extraordinary experience, combining the colours of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, massive and deep-azure Yellowstone Lake, wildflower-filled meadows and rainbow-hued geyser pools; the sounds of subterranean rumblings, belching mud pools and steam hissing from the mountainsides; the constant smells of drifting sulphurous fumes; and, in the closest US equivalent to a safari park, the sights of shambling bears, heavy-bearded bison, herds of elk and more than a dozen elusive wolf packs on the prowl. The key to appreciating the park is to take your time, plan carefully and – particularly if you visit in summer – exercise patience with the inevitable crowds and traffic. While you can explore a representative proportion in a day-trip, allow for a stay of at least three days to see the park fully.

  • Winter in Yellowstone
  • A brief human history of Yellowstone