Yellowstone National Park was America’s first National Park and set the groundwork for the subsequent national parks to be named as such. This well-loved national treasure sees millions of visitors a year, meaning that many of the best-known spots tend to get crowded. This list looks at 6 slightly more off-the-beaten-path things to do in Yellowstone that may be a little less busy.
1. Check Out Fairy Falls Trail
The Grand Prismatic Spring is one of Yellowstone’s most well-known thermal features (after Old Faithful, that is), and Fairy Falls Trail is a fun, slightly lesser-known way to see it. Instead of traversing the boardwalks that weave around the colorful hot spring, you’ll head out on a 5.4-mile hike that takes you past a gorgeous viewpoint of the hot spring and ends at the titular Fairy Falls. Fairy Falls itself is a 200ft tall waterfall that cascades into The trail heads past several smaller hot springs as well, making it a great way to get to see some little-known thermal features in the park. The trail typically opens in late May, depending on wildlife activity in the area, and remains open until the end of the summer season.
2. Go Boating
If you’re looking for a unique way to see more of the park, consider exploring by water. Several locations in the park, including Lewis and Yellowstone Lake, welcome boaters and those looking to enjoy similar forms of recreation, including paddleboarding. The boating season typically opens around Memorial Day weekend and runs through the end of October. If you don’t have a boat of your own, rentals are also available from Yellowstone National Park Lodges.
3. Explore Norris Geyser Basin
Here’s another great option for those looking to see some of the stunning thermal features the park offers besides Old Faithful. Norris Geyser Basin is one of the six main geyser basins within the park and is home to several unique features that make it worth a visit. Steamboat Geyser, for example, is noted as one of the largest geysers in the world, erupting upwards of 300ft of water. Steamboat Geyser’s eruptions are far from as regular as Old Faithful’s, but the basin is home to several other beautiful springs that make it worth the visit even if you don’t get to see the geyser erupt.
4. Go On A Trail Ride
Here’s another way to see normal parts of the park in a more unique way. Horseback riding offers a fun, memorable, and one-of-a-kind way to explore the park. Several private groups are licensed to operate in Yellowstone, such as Adventures Outfitting, which offers trail rides in a couple of areas within the park. This is also a pretty family-friendly option. Several of the groups have options for a wide variety of age ranges, including children. Typically, no experience is necessary for trail rides as well.
5. Camp In The Backcountry
Here’s an option for the wilderness savvy readers – camping in the Yellowstone backcountry. This is truly off the beaten pathway to see more of America’s first national park. There are a wide variety of backcountry trips. Shorter trips, such as the hike out to Shoshone Geyser Basin (approximately 8 miles) can be done in a day. However, many choose to camp at one of the backcountry sites in the area to allow more time to explore. The park also has options for longer backpacking trips lasting several days. If you are wanting to camp in the backcountry, permits are required for any overnight stays. Additionally, make sure you’re fully informed and have plenty of applicable experience for your chosen adventure, as even popular spots in the park have spotty reception and are fairly remote should help be needed.
6. Check Out Mystic Falls Trail
Here’s an option for those looking for a pretty and beginner-friendly hike in Yellowstone. Mystic Falls Trail is 2.4-miles, though some opt to continue past the falls. Thi will add an additional 1.5 miles on to reach an overlook of the Upper Geyser Basin. This trail isn’t nearly as popular as spots like the Old Faithful area. However, can still get a fair amount of foot traffic during the afternoon. Those looking for a little more quietness may want to consider heading out early.
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