my dad has spent his adult life traveling to montana to fish on the madison river. for as long as i can remember he'd leave for a week every summer to go to this magical place called montana. honestly, i've always wanted to go see this place because in my mind montana was a whole bunch of nothing for a long time. (and actually, it still is a whole bunch of nothing)... BUT it wasn't until my parents booked flights for our family to spend a week together in my dad's favorite place that i realized that montana is freaking beautiful.
luckily where we were staying on the madison we were only a few hours away from yellowstone national park in wyoming which is where the magic truly is. i know we joke about wyoming being this estranged random state but guys... wyoming will blow your mind. i've never seen anything so beautiful and breath-taking.
our little trip has inspired me to rethink how i want to live my life. i want to live a life where i not only find beauty in the day-to-day but i also seek out things that God put on this planet for us to look and be in awe of. because y'all... i've never seen anything so unreally beautiful.
just past tower falls there is a small turnout parking lot for the calcite springs. we stopped here for just a "park and peek" as i like to call it. so worth it. this view was spectacular and the colors were unreal. it looks like a painting in real life. stop at tower falls and hike down to the falls FOR SURE but do not miss this small roadside stop off.
during the summer this is where the bison like to hang out. if i had been staying in the park i would have headed up much earlier than we did because apparently you can see wolves in the hills every morning – how insane is that?! but please, remember to be careful with the bison. there will most likely be a park ranger wherever bison. hot tip: call the ranger station and ask there will bison have been spotted instead of driving around for hours like we did.
this would for sure be my lodging of choice if i were to stay in the park other than setting up camp. this place feels so authentically yellowstone because its very rustic but still has plenty of amenities. it would be great for a couple of friends in need of some affordable lodging. you can get a bunk room for like $95/night.
mammoth hot springs
i knew that i had to see these hot springs. i'd seen pictures online and i knew it was going to blow my mind. you walk up to them and the first thing you think is "is this a set at disneyland?" because its so unreal. the whole mammoth area is a little confusing to me because its like a town and we didn't spend much time there. if theres anything you can't miss its these hot springs though. the colors are insane and it makes you think "wow this earth is literally insane what the heck?!"
geysers and hot springs
we stopped at a couple that were mostly over populated with tourists – which makes a lot of sense. these geysers literally blow your mind. at one point i even questioned if they were real because they had a "showing time" for the old faithful geyser... but i guess thats why its called old faithful! the grand prismatic was beautiful but i wish we had hiked up into the hills to see it from above (there's a trail for that!). don't miss out on the hot springs at the west thumb either... a bit of a drive but you get to go over the continental divide twice on the way which is prrreeeetty cool!
grand canyon of yellowstone
do. not. miss. this. hike down to the south falls to see literal tons of water falling over a mountain side right in front of your eyes. stop off at inspiration and artist points to see a view of the falls/river from far away. whatever you do... do not miss seeing this canyon from every point of interest that you can. the colors of the water and rocks and everything will have you feeling all the feels.
I'd recommend packing lunches and snacks as i was not very impressed with the food inside the park - that being said, i did not each much of it anyways. the food at the old faithful in was average at best. it makes sense since its in the middle of nowhere. but i did appreciate that most places had gluten-free and vegan options marked on every menu.
i also highly recommend hitting up the gift shops in the park because i've never been to a national park with such a good selection of souvenirs. i probably went a little overboard on the patches and enamel pins!
** for your reference, the north loop was where my jaw spent most of its time on the floor - the southern loop felt much more touristy and amusement park-like **