1 Day In Yellowstone National Park - Lower Loop - Bozeman CVB

1 Day In Yellowstone National Park - Lower Loop

West Entrance

Bozeman is the ideal location for exploring Yellowstone National Park. Situated between the West and North Entrances, it's easy to explore different areas of the Park while enjoying the shopping, dining, and entertainment Bozeman offers. The West Entrance, located in West Yellowstone, is a 90-mile drive through the picturesque Gallatin Canyon. It's a beautiful but busy canyon drive, so pack your patience and enjoy the views!

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Lower Loop

Yellowstone can be divided into two loops, the Upper and Lower, which is a great way to explore each area more deeply. Highlights in the Lower Loop include Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Lake, Hayden Valley, and The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Keep in mind that while the mileage may be short, the time it takes to drive during the busy season is longer. This map also provides drive times during peak seasons.

If you have kids, stop at the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center and pick up a Junior Ranger book, which is an excellent way to engage children in exploring the natural wonders of the Park.

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Midway Geyser Basin

Yellowstone National Park is home to almost half of the world's active geysers. Over 500 hundred geysers dot the Park, which was established mainly to protect the hydrothermal areas.

Your first stop will be Midway Geyser Basin, where Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser sit, two of the largest hot springs in the world. Grand Prismatic, the most colorful geyser, measures 370 feet in diameter. Its bright colors are made from different bacteria, and their color differs based on the temperature. Once erupting nearly 300 feet high, Excelsior Geyser is now dormant and discharges more than 4050 gallons of boiling water per minute into the Firehole River.

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Old Faithful

From Midway, you'll venture to Old Faithful. This legendary geyser is one of a handful that rangers can predict, but this area is also home to most of the Park's geysers. Within one square mile of Upper Geyser Basin, there are at least 150 of these hydrothermal wonders. Be sure to allow time to explore the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, which has exhibits on Yellowstone's hydrothermal features, life in these extreme environments, the volcano beneath Yellowstone, and ongoing scientific research. Kids love the Young Scientist exhibit room with a geyser model and hands-on exhibits.

Be sure to stop in the historic Old Faithful Inn with its massive stone fireplace and hand-crafted clock. Built in 1903-1904, the Inn is made of local logs and stone and is one of the most significant log-style structures in the world.

This is also a great place to grab a bite to eat; five different dining options range from casual to fine dining. Breakfast and lunch are first come, first served, but dinner at the Old Faithful Inn requires reservations.

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Yellowstone Lake

From Old Faithful, continue on to Yellowstone Lake, North America's largest high-elevation lake (7,733 feet.) The lake completely freezes over in the winter and only reaches a temperature of 41 degrees in the summer, so, unfortunately, swimming is not recommended in this lake! You can tour the lake via boat tours through Yellowstone National Park Lodges.

While you're there, stop at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. This beautiful hotel is a historic landmark that has been recently renovated. Enjoy a beverage in the elegant sitting room overlooking the lake, or admire the views. Tours of the hotel are also available.

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Hayden Valley

Just past the lake, Hayden Valley, once an arm of Yellowstone Lake, is one of the prime locations for wildlife watching. The vast, open grassland with the Yellowstone River running through it is ideal for bison, elk, and the occasional wolf or grizzly. It's also an excellent place for birdwatching, with hawks, eagles, pelicans, ducks, geese, great blue herons and Trumpeter swans. Plenty of pullouts exist in this area of the Park, so remember your binoculars!

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Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is another geological wonder of the Park. There are driving routes with accessible lookouts, or you can hike around the rims and explore the trails. Six hundred and thirty thousand years ago, a volcanic eruption created a sizeable underground magma chamber. Eventually, the ceiling collapsed, forming a massive caldera 30 miles wide and 45 miles long. It slowly filled with lava and sediment for thousands of years. Scientists believe the oldest Grand Canyon formed here 160,000 to 140,000 years ago.

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Norris Geyser Basin

For the trip's final leg, explore Norris Geyser Basin, the Park's hottest, oldest, and most dynamic thermal area, as you loop back toward West Yellowstone. While there, stop at the Norris Geyser Basin Museum, one of the original trailside museums, and The Museum of the National Park Ranger, located in the historic Norris Soldier Station, where you can talk with a retired NPS ranger.

While it's a long day, returning to Bozeman on the same day is possible, or you can weigh the options of Staying in Bozeman Versus Yellowstone National Park.

If you plan to spend a night in West Yellowstone, get a reservation in advance. While there, take advantage of the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a wildlife sanctuary for animals who can no longer survive in the wild. Learning about these beautiful animals up close and personal is an experience you won't forget!

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