Continental US

4th of July Weekend at Yellowstone National Park

Ever since I saw the colorful hot springs in Rotorua, New Zealand, I have been wanting to visit Yellowstone National Park even more! Flights to Yellowstone is always expensive especially from Boston but when we decided to go to South Africa, I started to think on how to maximize the value of the miles! I booked just before United got rid of the free “one way” so our itinerary started on July 4th from Jackson Hole to Boston and then from Boston on July 28th to Johannesburg returning from Cape Town on August 6th….all for only 80,000 miles. I still need to figure out on how to get from Boston to Jackson Hole and luckily, I found saver availability on American Airlines for only 12,500 miles per person. Traveling around 4th of July weekend to Jackson Hole cost over $800 from Boston!

A week before our trip to Yellowstone, there was news about earthquakes in Yellowstone and the possibility of the supervolcano erupting which might be the end of the world….I was not concerning as if it’s really going to be the end of the world, the last thing I want to do is to travel and see the world as much as I could with my husband! Our flight was delayed and we landed in Jackson Hole around 9:30 pm (supposed to be 8:18 pm), shuttled to the Dollar Car Rental office in town, and drove to have our late dinner. The restaurant that I planned to go was already closed so we went to Thai Me Up. The choices were limited but it was better than the average restaurants near national parks. On our way to our hotel, Motel 6, we saw a supermarket still open so we went in to buy drinks and a can of bear spray! I read TripAdvisor and the Yellowstone National Park website and all warned about bear encounter so I rather be prepared…even though the bear spray was expensive at almost $50!

We slept for few hours and woke up before sunrise to check out and drove to the airport to pick up my brother, cousin, and friend who drove all the way up from Salt Lake City (cheaper to fly into there) and did an overnight drive up to Jackson Hole to join our trip. Our first stop was to Chapel of the Transfiguration, located inside Teton National Park where we purchased the America the Beautiful Pass (unlimited access to national parks for one year) for $80. It was a good investment as we’ll be visiting 2 national parks on this trip and more throughout the year. The infamous Teton Range as we were driving into the park:

We arrived at the church and we were the only ones there as it was so early in the morning. It was quiet, peaceful, the air was crisp, the location couldn’t be better with the snow-capped Teton Range as the backdrop! Group photo except for Jason who was taking the photo.

We went in the church and the first thing that caught my eyes were the beautiful stained glass that pictured the landscape of the farm and mountain rather than religious figures.

The church is famous not only for its location but this huge window that framed the Teton Range perfectly. And my brother posed for his Instagram shot!

Next, we drove to T.A. Moulton Barn, another famous photo spot of the barn and the snow-capped mountain range. This would be excellent location for sunrise photos!

Moving on our journey to Yellowstone! There was barely any cellphone signal from Teton to Yellowstone so luckily I have the HERE WeGo map that doesn’t require connection as the maps have been downloaded. It was a long drive to Yellowstone and we came across an area with dried out brown leaves trees, they stood out because the rest of the landscape was much greener.

After 2 hours of driving, we finally reached our first destination in Yellowstone National Park – the most famous Grand Prismatic Spring! Originally, I planned to do West Thumb Geyser Basin then Old Faithful as they are on the way but thinking we should head to the most famous first before the crowd. We arrived before 9 am and the parking lot already full but we were able to find parking on the street right outside the parking lot. We walked down on the trail and it smelled more and more like boiling egg (the typical sulfur smell at geothermal areas). The boiling water flowing down into the river, look at those sulfur!

The first hot pool we saw was Excelsior Geyser Crater, the smoke covered the pool that it was barely visible. We waited till the wind blow and for the few seconds, we were able to have a look at the turquoise-colored pool.

Continued on the trail, that must be the famous Grand Prismatic Spring, look at how many people standing there!

The colors were AMAZING! Even the smoke was blue! I finally have seen the Grand Prismatic Spring, it was much bigger and colorful than what I imagined. The wind was totally co-operating that we could see the colorful spring clearly! The only regret was that the hiking trail to go up for the aerial view was closed due to the construction of the new observation platform so we couldn’t get the iconic aerial views of the colorful spring 🙁 However, it was still incredible though! Look at the layers of colors and the “wave” pattern of the sulfur underneath the thin layer of water!

It was tricky to take good photos as the boardwalk was very narrow and people constantly passing so hard to careful while moving around to compose the photo. You must stay on the boardwalk as it is very dangerous to fall into the boiling water!!!

Don’t just focus on what’s in front of you, look back, there might be a different perspective 🙂 The weather and lighting condition were perfect with blue sky and white clouds!

Alright, time to go to the next spot!

The lesser colorful and smaller in size – Opal Pool:

We finished the loop and back to the first Excelsior Geyser Crater, now the wind direction was right that we could see more of the turquoise-colored pool and bubbling water!

We were heading to Old Faithful and suddenly a lot of cars pulled over so we wondered what’s going on….a deer!

We arrived at Old Faithful and we decided to have lunch at Geyser Grill first and again we made the right decision because once we had lunch, a bus load of people came in so the place was filled!

The food was expensive and not that great as like inside other national parks, it was cafeteria style, casual but at least fast!

After the quick lunch, we went in the visitor center where they posted the prediction time of Old Faithful’s next eruption. They said their prediction accuracy is 90% with with plus or minus 10 minutes of the predicted time! The next eruption will be half an hour away so we walked out to wait….look at how many people were there already!

All the benches were filled and we found a corner on the boardwalk to sit down and wait. The wait was painful on my butt and my hands LOL as my finger was on the shutter button ready to click any moment on high-speed shutter mode! The geyser fooled us a few times when we thought it was about to explode, it didn’t! We had seen erupting geyser before in Iceland and it just blasted with only a second of warning by looking closely at the “bubble” getting big and explode. However, Old Faithful is far away from the boardwalk and not visible of the bubbling condition so it was hard to tell.

Unlike the geyser in Iceland, Old Faithful started with water splashing and it lasted for few minutes so plenty of time to take photos!

The smoke aligned perfectly with the clouds!

After the eruption, we started the walking trail to Upper Geyser Basin, forgot the name of this bubbling blue pool:

Anemone Geyser:

Beehive Geyser, it looked just like it named!

I think this is the Depression Geyser, I like the clear blue color even though it’s small!

Heart spring, the shape does look like the human heart?

I don’t understand why this is called the Liberty Pool, do you?

Spasmodic Geyser, definitely not the spa you want to try out.

Belgian Pool:

The splashing West Triplet Geyser:

Economic Geyser, urg, I don’t get the name.

Beauty Pool, what part of it is related to beauty?

The Giant Geyser, erupts once per 5 years then?

Next to it is the Catfish Geyser.

We came on time for the Grotto Geyser!

When I was sitting there for Jason to take a photo of me, my brother and cousin started to making sound and I was like what’s going on?

It was starting to erupt again OMG!!! We were running in to have photos with the eruption haha!

We turned on the loop to Daisy Geyser where it was predicting to erupt in the next 15 minutes so we sat and waited.

The prediction timing was pretty accurate!

The landscape was incredible, don’t know how some of those trees can sustain the hot and sulfur environment! Some trees were like bleached to white color!

The boiling water under the grass created the fogs.

Forgot the name of this one but it’s very colorful:

We were heading to Morning Glory and saw the park ranger outside the restroom, he said the restroom is closed due to the bison is blocking the entrance :O

Wow, Morning Glory is so beautiful!!!

There was a group of tourists there so we waited patiently for them to leave and then we had it all for ourselves to take photos with 😀

On our way heading back, the bison was still there!

Castle Geyser:

A detailed explanation of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features:

After the whole loop, we drove to Biscuit Basin and there was a traffic jam that we were stuck in for half an hour! The reason was there was a queue of cars trying to get in Grand Prismatic Spring parking lot. Thankfully, we went there first thing in the morning, otherwise, it’ll be impossible to find parking!!! Literally, people were parked half a mile away! We finally reached Biscuit Basin!

First milky turquoise-colored is the Wall Pool where it is located right across the river from the parking lot.

The sulfur river from the overflowing water from the pool:

The big Sapphire Pool, the shades of clear blue were incredible!

And the smallest pool so far – the Shell Spring:

While this one is called the Mustard Spring:

And more white bleached trees, looking like snow-covered? haha!

The Silex Spring looked like some flakes are breaking off the edges.

The Fountain Paint Pots looked very cool with bubbling light pinkish-violetish muds!

A waterfall, I bet the water is hot too!

I really like the layout of Yellowstone that it’s divided into different sections so people are scattered out and you wouldn’t feel like crowded.  Many of the trails are easy with boardwalks, please stay on the boardwalks while enjoying the beautiful and unique landscapes!

After seeing many colorful pools and springs, it was time to get to our lodge where we stayed 2 nights at the Canyon Lodge. Canyon Lodge is located in the Canyon Village section of the park with a General Store that you can get snacks and drinks, one restaurant (reservation is required), and a cafeteria-style eatery. You need to be early for dinner otherwise, you’ll be stuck in the queue for a LONGGGGG time! The food was mediocre at its best and expensive!

The cafeteria divided into two lines…one for American food and one for Asian stir-fried and both are staffed by college students. Sometimes you can see the inefficiency of the place for such simple food sigh. Our stir-fried box…almost tasteless so you need the sauce!

After dinner, we checked into our lodge, our room was clean and modern but very small!

The restroom is barely a closet!

That it doesn’t even have room for the vanity so it’s located out in the room.

There’s paid wifi but the receptionist said don’t bother because it barely works! Sometimes we got signal from our cellphone (T-Mobile) but not even 3G speed so you’ll definitely feel disconnected in the park which is not an issue for us 🙂 Three of them booked late but luckily there was still availability for the cabin style.

It was definitely older style and it was wicked hot inside!

They only provided a fan….urg…but it was okay at night as it get cold quickly.

For sunset, we tried our luck at Great Fountain Geyser. We were the only ones there and there was a lot of mosquitoes! The reflections were amazing there, however, not much of a sunset. It would be stunning with a beautiful sunset!

The sun has set and not much colors, we went to the nearby White Dome Geyser and it erupted when we arrived!

It started to get dark and we decided to go back in our car to wait for complete darkness to see the Milky Way. That didn’t happen as it was cloudy….awwww 🙁 We were the only car there so once it got dark, it was a little bit scary whenever there was some noise…..we looked around and check if there’s a bear haha! It was like telling ghost stories in the dark, that was fun to scare ourselves!

After the first day seeing tens if not over a hundred of geysers, springs, and hot pool, Yellowstone did not disappoint; it is much more colorful and bigger than I have expected!

6 thoughts on “4th of July Weekend at Yellowstone National Park

  1. Great pictures from Volcano disneyland!Always beware of what is below.One of my favorites.You have had a couple very active travel years.Galapagos and Egypt for your color quest.Himeji Castle(newly painted and renovated. in Japan for your castle quest.

    I did Yosemite in early October.Just as magnificent in a totally different way.Monterey coast, Carmel by the sea has funky colored castles homes for your color and castle quest.

    1. Tom, how did you like Yosemite? It’s on my list of next national parks to go 🙂 When will be a good timing to visit the park?

  2. I liked the sequoia groves ,glacier point ,the village and Tioga pass.It took some work ,but i got my capital dome reflection with the new landslide scar.

    Waterfalls are better in the spring.Tioga Pass opens in June and closes in mid to late October.Check the travel report for Yosemite to be safe.

  3. Summer weekends are nutty in the park.I f you are not a huge waterfall fan, September after school starts would be easier.A little snow on Tioga pass is pretty.

    1. The thing about waterfalls is after we have seen the waterfalls in Iceland, others are not impressive anymore LOL! We definitely want to avoid the crowds!

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