Camping in Yellowstone National Park makes a wonderful family vacation. There is so much to see!
We went camping in Yellowstone National Park in June one year.
We had read and heard about the park, of course, but actually seeing the Yellowstone geysers was incredible!
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Although we were in the park for only a day, we saw and learned a lot! I had never even heard of fumaroles, and I certainly didn't know the difference between fumaroles and hot springs. I do now!
If water is heated under ground and turns into steam before it reaches the surface of the earth, that's a fumarole.
If water is heated under ground but remains in liquid form, that's a hot spring.
There may be an underground blockage that prevents the water from reaching the surface easily. Pressure builds up until the steam and water explode from the ground. That's a geyser.
The largest concentration of geysers in the world is in Yellowstone, at Upper Geyser Basin.
The most famous of the geysers is Old Faithful - so named because its eruptions are fairly regular.
Old Faithful erupts about 17 times per day. The length of time between eruptions depends on the length of the last eruption.
In most of the buildings in the area, there are video screens giving the estimated time - accurate to within 10 minutes - of the next eruption. That makes it very convenient for campers like us who have a limited time to spend in the park!
We arrived at the Upper Geyser Basin not long before an eruption was expected. While we waited, we walked the short Old Faithful Geyser Loop. It's an easy hike: less than a mile long, and nice and flat.
When we finished the loop, we still had some time, so we did the Geyser Hill Loop. It's a bit longer and a bit steeper, but still an easy hike. We walked this quickly, not wanting to miss Old Faithful's big moment, but still had time to marvel over the hot pools and smaller geysers that we passed.
Then we returned to the viewing area and claimed spots on a bench.
Here are the boys waiting for Old Faithful…
and here it goes!
Once it has erupted, Old Faithful settles down and hisses quietly until next time.
There are 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone.
Here's my top piece of advice for camping in Yellowstone National Park: make reservations! Even though there are more than 2000 campsites - not counting the backcountry sites - they tend to fill up early, even in the off-season.
However, only five of the campgrounds accept reservations.
To get a spot in any of the other seven, arrive early in the day - and cross your fingers!
We hadn't made reservations.
When we drove up to Madison Campground late in the day and saw the long line of vehicles ahead of us, we didn't feel too hopeful. Our camping karma was good that day, though: we got the second-last site!
There is great beauty at Yellowstone, and also great danger. Be aware of the dangers, stay alert and stay safe!
Those deceptively beautiful hot springs have claimed too many lives. Be sure to read the information displays and warning signs.
If those don't convince you that the danger is real, pop into the bookstore and get one of the books describing the gruesome and tragic deaths that have resulted when people were unaware of the danger.
Bison wander freely through the park.
Don't approach wild animals. Watch the bison from the safety of your closed vehicle.
Black bears and grizzly bears call the park home, too. Read these bear safety tips so that you can avoid a bear encounter.
Now it's your turn!
We'd love to hear about your experiences!