5 Unusual Things to Do in Yellowstone and How to Avoid Summer Crowds
America’s first National Park, Yellowstone National Park, graces volumes of pages of tour books but I give you 5 unusual things to do in Yellowstone that you won’t find in the guide books. These tips also help you avoid summer crowds in Yellowstone while still seeing the major sites.
This national park gem in the northwest corner of Wyoming sparkles not only because of the intense thermal features, but also for the abundant roaming wildlife. As a frequent visitor to the park and traveler of its 8-shaped loop, I never tire of the adventures to uncover in this national treasure. As always, I’ll let the guidebooks point you to the best trails, views, and stays. Here, I share my 5 unusual things to do in Yellowstone National Park to avoid the summer crowds.
1. Find your own spot to see Old Faithful.
As you can imagine, Yellowstone’s most popular attraction is the geyser, Old Faithful. Predictably, people queue up in a timely manner to see the geyser blast. The National Park Service conveniently provides stadium seating to see this marvel. But if you take a simple ten minutes, you can avoid the crowds. Instead of sitting in the stadium seating with all the other old faithfuls, walk around to the back side of the geyser. There, you can comfortably sit on the edge of the boardwalk and have your own private viewing. It’s worth the ten-minute jaunt. It’s a fun thing to do in Yellowstone National Park, but it lets you see the geyser without all the crowds.
2. Seek a private viewing of the Upper Falls
Just like the crowds at Old Faithful, you’ll find the same hoard, albeit smaller, at the Upper and Lower Falls at the Grand Canyon. It’s even worse at Artist’s Point. Instead, take another short walk. Park in the Upper Falls parking lot. Instead of going to the overlook, walk to the left of the overlook. There’s a short trail that goes over two wooden bridges. When you get to the end, you’ll have your own private viewing of the Upper Fall. If the sun is shining and with a bit of luck, you’ll see the rainbow generated from the Fall’s spray. Again, it’s an unusual thing to do in Yellowstone, but a quick walk away from the crowds puts you in the best viewing spot for the Upper Falls.
Want to do a tour instead? This Yellowstone National Park tour is fantastic.
3. Bathe in a thermal pool
Everywhere in Yellowstone, you’ll see thermals pools, most of which you wouldn’t dare swim in. They’d boil you alive. When you get to the Mammoth area of Yellowstone National Park, you’ll see the best of the thermal pools. You’ll also see hundreds of signs all over the park telling you not to go into them or throw anything into them. But there’s a secret thermal pool you can swim in just 10 minutes from Mammoth.
From Mammoth, drive out the North entrance about 3 miles. Right after you cross over the sign that says Entering State of Montana, but before you leave the park, you’ll see parking lots on the right and left. If possible park in the one on the right. Head up the 1/3 mile trail. You’ll still be in the park.
You’ll see the Boiling River, which is a thermal river running into the Gardiner River. Follow the trail, and you’ll find where you can safely float in the Gardiner at the mouth of the Boiling. The two water bodies mix, forming a wonderful stream of warm joy. Enjoy.
4. Find Bison taking steam baths
The Bison range around Lamar Valley, but near Mud Volcano, you’ll find a treat. Remember, don’t pet the fuzzy cows!!!! After you’ve parked and visited the pools at Mud Volcano, don’t get back in your car. Instead, walk across the street. You’ll see fantastic picturesque views of the Yellowstone River. If you’re in luck, across the river you’ll also see Bison. If you’re even more lucky, you’ll see the Bison enjoying the steam from the two geysers. Again, it’s unusual to not want to follow what everyone else is doing, but if you want to get unique experiences at Yellowstone, you have to do things just a bit differently than everyone else.
5. Marvel at the Redwoods
A long time ago, Yellowstone used to be covered in a Redwood forest, just like Yosemite National Park. One Redwood tree remains. Petrified, you can find it on the way between the Roosevelt area and Mammoth. It’s worth the stop if not to just boggle your brain. It’s an unusual thing to do in Yellowstone because it’s unusual to still find Redwoods in Yellowstone National Park.
Avoid the Crowds, Enjoy Yellowstone
Yellowstone is a gargantuan park with a million things to do. Sadly, most visitors only do a handful of them. Even if you only do those few things, there’s ways to avoid the crowds and get to know Yellowstone on your own terms. I hope you’ve enjoyed my 5 unusual things to do in Yellowstone to avoid summer crowds in Yellowstone. What did you do?