Do you have a favorite national park? Which is it? Please join the fun by voting in the poll below.
Without question, my vote goes to Yellowstone National Park. To see the absolute best that mother nature has to offer, you simply must see Yellowstone. It has everything– the most amazing landscapes with mountains, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons, forests, valleys, all teeming with wildlife, and geysers, mudpots, and fumaroles thrown in for good measure. In fact, Yellowstone has more geysers than everywhere else in the world combined, according to the ranger that led us on a geyser walk at Old Faithful. Established in 1872 and dedicated by President U. S. Grant, Yellowstone was the first national park in the United States and in the entire world. It’s that remarkable.
Yellowstone is the eighth largest national park in the U.S. (the top 6 are in Alaska and number 7 is Death Valley), 63 miles long from the north border to the south and 54 miles from east to west, and 3472 square miles. Just the drive in and out each day from hotels outside the park takes considerable time. I tried to find accommodations in the park months before our trip with no success. On a whim, I called the reservations number the morning of our arrival in September, 2013, and the Lake Yellowstone Hotel had a room for 2 nights. What serendipity! The oldest operating hotel in the park, the Lake Hotel was built in 1891 and is on the list of national historic places. It’s currently in the process of a massive refurbishment and we were fortunate to get a room in the yet unrefurbished section for $200 per night. They told us the rate would be $339 per night after renovations are complete, which is outside my travel budget so we’re lucky to have stayed when we did.
Lake Yellowstone Hotel
What a great experience to stay in this iconic hotel with such historic and elegant ambiance. I loved having no television but admittedly suffered with no internet. We took the free tour of the hotel and because it was just days before the end of season, we were the only two people on our tour. We hit it off right away with our guide, a retired woman from Oregon who tried to recruit us to work in the park before the tour was over. The tour essentially covered expansions, additions, and renovations to the hotel but we were particularly interested to hear about the recovery of one of the historic touring cars. The 11 passenger touring car with a removable canvas top was produced by White Motor Company replacing the stagecoach or surrey to provide tours within the park. Private vehicles were allowed in the park beginning in 1915 but use was strongly discouraged and the admission cost was prohibitive. Today the restored touring car is used once again to provide tours allowing the guest to focus on watching wildlife rather than the road. With over 3.6 million visitors each year, that’s a good thing.
Today, there are 67 species of mammals in Yellowstone and all species of large mammals that were present when Europeans first explored this territory have been restored to the park. Wild bison have inhabited the area continuously, the largest concentration of elk in the world is here, a large grizzly bear population is protected in the park, and the gray wolf was reintroduced in the area in 1995. We saw plenty of bison and elk and even saw a bear but the pictures I took couldn’t capture it so far back in the trees.