Although every week in Montana has been full of adventures, this is the week we have been looking forward to the most. My family traveled up from San Antonio for a visit and to explore Yellowstone National Park with us! We stayed outside the park in a cabin on the Yellowstone River between Livingston and Gardiner (or, as my mom prefers to say in her best French accent, “Gardin-YAY”….because it sounds much fancier that way. Love ya, Mom!).
Yellowstone is enormous; it covers more than two million acres! There are five different entrances to the park and we came through Roosevelt Arch at the north end. It was built in 1903 (when visitors still entered the park by horse-drawn carriage) and inscribed with the words “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”. You can’t help but feel like you’re entering someplace really special when you pass through the arch.
There are so many incredible sights to see in Yellowstone that it’s impossible to cover them all in one visit. My very favorite spot was the Grand Prismatic Spring (its vibrant colors are produced by pigmented bacteria growing around its perimeter!) Excelsior Geyser Crater, Yellowstone Falls and, of course, Old Faithful are other must-see attractions for any visit to Yellowstone.
The main attractions were packed since most of the 3 million people who visit Yellowstone each year come during the summer months. However, we found that if you hike a little ways off the beaten path, it feels like you have the entire park to yourself. Do you know why?
Americans are lazy, that’s why.
Seriously, almost every hiker we passed on the back-country trails was visiting from a foreign country. Americans, on the other hand, were driving from one attraction to the next in their huge, gas-guzzling SUVs with the air-conditioning on full blast while eating ice cream. I wish I were kidding. It’s really a shame, too, because you miss some of Yellowstone’s most scenic views if you never venture off the beaten path.
Scenic views like BEARS!!! Thankfully, we were in the car when we saw this guy! As you can imagine, seeing a bear was the highlight of the trip for me. After all, what’s better than seeing a black bear?
I will tell you. Seeing TWO black bears!
That’s right, we saw not one, but two! In Yellowstone, a bear sighting commonly causes “bear jams” where the traffic backs up for miles while tourists literally abandon their cars in the middle of the road and run closer to get a better view. That’s what happened to us – we saw traffic backed up and knew it had to be due to a bear sighting. So, being the wise and rational adults we are, we jumped out of the car and dashed to the scene of the action! It was a young cub about 1.5 years old that, according to the park ranger, had been kicked out of its den a couple months prior by mama bear. He was foraging in the woods for berries and it was the. cutest. thing. EVER. Totally could have put him in my backpack and taken him home as a souvenir! The other bear, not so much. He was significantly larger and we spotted him several miles down the road from the first bear sighting (both in the Tower-Roosevelt area, for any future Yellowstonians hoping to catch a glimpse of one!).
Throughout our weekend in the park, we also spotted elk, bison, antelope, pronghorn sheep, etc. Let’s be honest, though – all that wildlife is pretty lame sauce compared to BEARS!
On Saturday morning we went whitewater rafting on the Yellowstone River. It was a chilly way to start the day, but still really fun.
Later that day, the boys went fly fishing in the Gardin-YAY River, while Mom and I suntanned on the banks, read our books, and kept an eye out for hungry bears who might mistake us for dinner.
We topped off our trip with a five mile hike on Sunday. The Beaver Ponds Loop Trail was a fun-for-the-whole-family, moderate hike that offered panoramic views of Mammoth Hot Springs. It also offered tired-muscles-for-the-whole-family and we were lucky to make it back down just as a big storm blew in.
Such a memorable weekend exploring Yellowstone with the fam and we’re already talking about what we’ll see and do on our next visit to the park. In the meantime, Jason and I better start planning our next roadtrips because we only have two full weekends left in Montana!