Tips for Responsibly Visiting Yellowstone National Park
Written by Nick on October 1, 2022
Whether it’s your first visit to Yellowstone National Park or you’re a back for another adventure, you’ve surely seen some people who didn’t do the best job visiting Yellowstone National Park.
We know they’re out there. It’s possible – maybe even likely – you’re one of them. You know, the tourons. For reference, check out this list of the three dumbest Yellowstone tourists of 2021.
Shockingly, there are some pretty easy ways to avoid not only being classified a ‘touron’, but to make you a better Yellowstone visitor as a whole – and therein, making your Yellowstone experience better as well.
Start with a good itinerary. Most first-time visitors to the park underestimate the size and are unfamiliar with the layout. Certainly thank your park ranger for the park map you’ll be handed upon entering the park, but before that, consult your timeline and what primary sights you’d like to catch. One of the best tips to keep in mind is visiting high-traffic areas like Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in the morning, preferably before 10am. The busiest hours in the park tend to run from 10am-5pm, so if you can get at least a couple of the big sights done before the crowds arrive, use the daytime for hikes or exploring Yellowstone Lake, where you can rent a boat for the afternoon.
On the note of renting anything in the park, a huge help when visiting Yellowstone is to book as many things as possible in advance. Not just lodging (if you want it), but activities, tours, hikes, boats, and so on. Save yourself a headache and maximize your experience with ease.
If hiking during the day, your options are endless. Trails start all throughout the main loop and all you need do is just out of the car, check the trail sign, and determine if the length of the trail suits your needs and abilities. Downloading the AllTrails app can be a huge help, letting you scour all around the park without physically having to be there. The app also provides hiker reviews and dates, so you can remain up to date on the quality of the trail.
Trails like Ice Lake, Trout Lake Trail, and Wraith Falls are just a few of the quietest hikes you’ll find – just 20 minutes and you won’t bump into many other explorers. If considering using your day time to hike the park, make sure to pack some easy picnic lunches for the crew, and plenty of water at all times. Be prepared with binoculars, a camera if you want, and options for clothing as the weather can turn without much warning.
Of course, one of the primary draws for visiting Yellowstone National Park is the wildlife. While hiking, you may see some, but it’s also easy to catch sight of them in the Hayden or Lamar Valleys, especially around sunrise or sunset. While driving through the park in the day, bison and elk are fairly common to glimpse on the wayside – just be aware of stopping rules and always pull out of the way for other traffic.
Above all, to be a better visitor during your time in Yellowstone: respect the rules. You know what that means, and if you’ve ever read a single headline, you’ll know what happens. Stay on the boardwalk at all times, no exceptions. Be bear aware. Never approach any of the wildlife. And especially, as stated on t-shirts in many Yellowstone gift shops, “don’t pet the buffalo.” That one is a straight ticket to touron behavior.
When you visit Yellowstone, consider traveling through Cody, Wyoming. Why Cody, you ask? The unique blend of history and western culture offers an experience like no other, for a trip you’ll never forget.