Rides & Destinations: Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, the crown of the U.S. National Park System, is definitely worth a visit. Just beware of the wildlife, which isn't fenced in.

  • Yellowstone National Park, the crown jewel of the United States National Park System.
    Photo by Joe Berk
  • Riding along Yellowstone Lake at 7,713 feet.
    Photo by Joe Berk

What: Yellowstone National Park, the crown jewel of the U.S. National Park Service, in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
How to Get There:
There are five entrances to Yellowstone from all directions. We entered from the east, taking US 20 from Cody, and exited to the south on US 287 (an added benefit is that US 287 runs directly to Grand Teton National Park, which lies immediately south of Yellowstone).
Best Kept Secret:
When you leave Yellowstone National Park on US 287, stop at the Flagg Ranch just outside the south entrance. Their elk chili is amazing!
The winter months, arriving late in the morning (the traffic is heavy), leaving without checking the weather first, and traveling there without cold weather gear. Stay away from the wildlife. The bison, bear and other large animals are not Disney characters!
More Info:
National Park Service
More Photos:
CSC Blog

Nestled high in western Wyoming, spanning the Continental Divide and spilling over into Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone National Park is the crown jewel of the U.S. National Park System. Declared the first national park in 1872, Yellowstone set in motion the national park concept for the U.S. and the rest of the world. I’ve been to many national parks in the U.S. and other countries; without question, 2.2-million-acre Yellowstone stands at the pinnacle. Yellowstone’s combination of beauty, geological oddities, wildlife and size makes it a magical place.

Yellowstone remains geologically active to this day. Steam from deep in the earth punctuates forests, lakes, meadows and mountains. A deep sulfur aroma permeates much of the place. Mud ponds, hot springs and geysers add to the effect. Riding through Yellowstone is surreal. You’ll see and smell sulfur-laden steam rising from the ground throughout the park. In many ways, a motorcycle ride through Yellowstone is like riding through the set of a superbly scenic science fiction movie. The feeling is heightened by the effects of a massive fire that swept through Yellowstone in 1988, eventually affecting 36 percent of the park. The burned areas are recovering well, with bare trees emerging from scorched ground alongside fresh growth. It makes for interesting scenes and great photo opportunities.

Yellowstone holds the world’s largest concentration of geysers, and of these, Old Faithful is the most famous. Old Faithful is named not so much for its punctuality as its predictability (it erupts roughly every 60 to 90 minutes, throwing thousands of gallons of boiling water a hundred feet or more into the air). It’s an amazing natural event, and one that deserves a spot on your bucket list.

A ride through Yellowstone takes you up to well over 8,000 feet, and even in the summer months it can get mighty cold up there early in the morning. The day I rode through Yellowstone it was only 3 degrees above freezing, and that was in July. On days like that, you can simultaneously see geologic steam emerging from the earth and in front of your face as you breathe.

Wildlife abounds in Yellowstone, including grizzlies, black bears, mule deer, antelope, bison, bighorn sheep, coyote, elk and, since 1995, wolves. It’s not unusual to see several of these species in a single day. None are fenced and none should be approached. On that 35 degree morning mentioned above, I didn’t notice a locomotive-sized dark shape to my immediate right — until I was directly alongside it. When I did take notice, I was shocked. I had passed within 10 feet of the largest bison I’ve ever seen. The locomotive analogy is a good one; the big buffalo exhaled as I rolled by on my 250 and the clouds escaping from its nostrils looked like steam from a locomotive. Yellowstone is that kind of place.

John Botts
2/8/2018 7:41:35 AM

I rode with friends on our motorcycles about 10 years ago. From there we went to Jackson Hole. This was one of the most scenic rides we have ever taken. A word of caution, though. As the author said, be vigilant about the time of year you visit. We got away late in September and found out first hand about weather in the higher altitudes. We encountered freezing rain in Steamboat springs Colorado, and sleet and snow in Wyoming. The weather got progressively better in Montana. This trip is definitely at the top of the "bucket list". See it while you can!

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