Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

I have visited Wyoming and Montana a number of times and I have been to the parks more than once, yet they remain some of my all time favorites to this day and I revel in pictures of friends visiting the parks every time they post on Facebook. If I could choose where to live in the US, Wyoming would be among top 3 on my list – less people, more nature and wildlife! Now onto facts, images, and history…

Yellowstone was established in 1872 as the 1st National Park in the United States, even before the territories of Wyoming and Montana were designated states! It is #8 in size of all US national parks and #6 in annual visitors, right after Rocky Mountain National Park, CO and Zion National Park, UT, which I wrote about earlier in the year! Native Americans hunted in Yellowstone for at least 11,000 years. Aside from visits by mountain men during the early 19th century, organized exploration did not begin until the 1860s. Management and control of the park originally fell under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior, however, the U.S. Army was subsequently commissioned to oversee Yellowstone for a 30 year period. In 1917, administration of the park was transferred to the National Park Service, which had been created the previous year.

First look into Yellowstone from the South Entrance

The first white explorer to see Yellowstone was Colter (Lewis Clark expedition in 1805). He came back from Wyoming with stories of boiling mud that were thought to be fake or delusional. The first detailed expedition of Yellowstone didn’t happen until 1860.

Colter Bay named after the first white explorer to see the area

Yellowstone Lake is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano on the continent. So yes, to be scientifically correct, you are walking over a volcano the whole darn time you are in the park!

West Thumb part of Yellowstone Lake, with its surface geysers, is known as a caldera over a caldera.

Various geothermal features can be observed in Yellowstone and if you are short on time, the best place to see all of them is the Fountain Paint Pot area.

  • geysers
  • hot springs
  • mud pots – highly acidic
  • fumaroles – steam vents (no, I don’t f*rt pretty white clouds 🙂 #cutethough

For a spectacular color display stop by Biscuit Basin to check out all the heat loving bacteria (thermophiles). It is not minerals in the rocks that change the color of the geysers, blame it on tiny little bacteria 🙂 Their colors vary based on the temperature of the water in which they thrive! So you can gauge the temperature of the geyser by the color of the bacteria that lives in it 🙂 #adorable #mothernatureatitsbest

NB! Please DO NOT attempt to dip in a geyser! Despite all the warnings and signs every year multiple deaths are recorded in Yellowstone due to drowning, scalding, or “disappearing’ in geysers. They can be highly acidic, with over 200F water temp, and can decompose any matter that falls in them in a matter of minutes (organic or not).

Old Faithful geyser is neither the tallest nor the largest one in the park (those characteristics can be attributed to Steamboat Geyser) but it is the most predictable and with some luck (and a short wait) you can watch an eruption! It erupts every 44 to 125 minutes – they call that predictable for a geyser!!!

In addition to idyllic and diverse landscapes and an enormous amount of geological/geothermal info, Yellowstone is famous for wildlife watching opportunities. The Yellowstone Bison herd is the oldest and largest free roaming herd in the country.




Beware, bison crossing! #dontpetthebison

Bears (yes, grizzlies, grrr), bison, elk, all types of birds, if you are lucky even wolves… Don’t be #bearbait, keep your distance >100ft (we saw him from the car)

There is #vanlife, there are RVs, and then there is THIS!

Grand Teton National Park is one of the 10 most visited national parks in the US. It is geologically young with the Teton Range being the youngest mountain range in the Rockies at around 7 million years old (that’s young for a mountain :-), compared to the Colorado Rockies which are over 60 million years old.



In 1807-08 Colber was the first Caucasian to see the Teton Range on a fur expedition. No sources of economically viable mineral wealth were found in the region and that together with VERY harsh winters, short growing season, and rocky soils deterred early settlers from Wyoming.

GTNP was established in 1929 and to this day it is considered a pristine eco-system with the same species of flora and fauna that have existed in the region since prehistoric times. (Thank God no gold was found in the Tetons…) The Shoshone Indians that roamed the region relocated to the Wind River Indian Reservation (100 miles SE of Jackson Hole) after it was established in 1868.

Tourism and exploration, cars, and improved roads eventually brought dude ranches to Western WY, where city men could experience the life of a cowboy raising cattle (as well as watch wildlife, shoot wildlife, and grill wildlife #elktenderloin yum). Dude ranches exist to this day and are a favorite attraction of mine to show to visitors 🙂

This is Cookie Monster ❤

In terms of hiking and backcountry camping, there are SO MANY opportunities in Grand Teton that I couldn’t name them even if I were to devote this whole blog to the park. Depending on season, weather conditions, how much time you have, and what is your skill level, stop by a Ranger Station and ask for suggestions. We were there in Fall, there was snow on the peaks already, Jenny Lake was too easy of a route for us, so we chose Taggart Lake, which was not difficult at all but a longer and more peaceful hike.

#soromantic An elderly couple we met on the hike to Taggart Lake who have been doing this hike every year around their anniversary and the wife writes with a stick in the mud their names and for how many years they have been married – 44 this year!!!

If you ask me which park I prefer, I couldn’t tell you. They are both so majestic and so different, so picturesque and so stunning. So close, yet at times seem like worlds apart. Go experience Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks – MORE THAN ONCE!

The infamous herds of elk that cross the road at their own pace and time 🙂 #bewareofelk #elkcrossing #suicidalelk




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