Yellowstone is our planet at its most communicative. At the Brink of the Lower Falls — in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone — you can listen to the rage of the water, a chorus of 635,000 gallons spilling over the falls’ edge every second. On the maze of boardwalks surrounding the Midway Geyser Basin, tune your ears to the bubbling and boiling beneath and above the surface. Move your attention to somewhere far away in the distance, where a coyote howls from the caldera’s ridge and the wind rushes through the lodgepole pine.
Here, the Earth is alive. You’re standing on an active supervolcano, a hot spot that’s formed one of the largest calderas on the planet. Look at the rim above you — a remnant of a massive explosion 640,000 years ago — as you scan for bison and gray wolves in the grasses of the Lamar Valley. Under foot, the planet is churning, blowing off steam at Old Faithful, forming hot, bubbly mud pots and multi-colored travertine terraces at Mammoth Springs, and creating rainbows at Grand Prismatic Spring. It’s alive with people, too. Traffic builds up in “bison jams,” hundreds gather every hour or so to witness Old Faithful, and crowds flock to magnificent overlooks like Artist’s Point — especially in the warmer months. But with an area bigger than both Rhode Island and Delaware combined, you should be able to carve out your own Yellowstone adventure.
It all begins with where you stay. With four entrances and a long list of hotels and lodges vying to be your home base, below is a helpful breakdown to simplify the process — and make this the best trip possible to the world’s most famous national park. As Alice put it, “Tell me, is this not Wonderland?”