A Montana and Yellowstone Photo Guide: Day 2
We left Bozeman around 7 in the morning for a 2 hour drive to Yellowstone National Park’s West entrance. The drive south down U.S. 191 follows the meandering Gallatin River. When entering Yellowstone from this direction, you actually enter the boundaries of the Park well before you reach the West Entrance. This area of Yellowstone was almost entirely burned by the 1988 Yellowstone fires and the massive extent of the fires is still very much evident. Thousands of fallen and scorched lodge pole pines stretch out to the horizon. In some areas, the ground remains black and bare, but in most places, 20 year young lodge pole pines have grown to fill in the landscape where their fore bearers once stood.
We followed a loop to see as much of Yellowstone and the surrounding area as possible.
Stop 1: Midway Geyser Basin
Yellowstone has the largest number of geysers on earth. The geysers are fueled by magmatic heat created by three massive volcanic explosions which occurred 2 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and 640,000 years ago. These explosions caused the central part of Yellowstone to collapse, creating a 30 by 45 mile-wide basin called a caldera.
We drove past the large crowds at the Lower Geyser Basin and pulled into the parking lot for the Midway Geyer Basin viewing area. The geyser pools are absolutely stunning and other-worldly. In fact, NASA has done research here to learn how life might thrive in similar hostile conditions on other planets. Click for larger images.
Stop 2: Old Faithful
A visit to Old Faithful is sort of obligatory; you can’t skip the most famous geyser in Yellowstone. I was worried about the crowds, but happily, this was not an issue for us, even though we were visiting during the week of the Fourth of July. The parking lots were huge. Though we didn’t plan it, our timing was perfect. We ended up arriving about 10 minutes before it erupted. Here’s the video we captured.
After seeing Old Faithful, we toured the surrounding geyser basin and took a peak inside the Old Faithful Inn. Built in 1904, this is the National Park system’s most famous and popular lodge. It’s generally recommended that you make reservations a year in advance. Rooms in the oldest part of the lodge, called Old House, start at $132 with private bath ($98 with a shared bath). There are no televisions or air conditioning in keeping with the rustic nature of the lodge. Portions of the Inn are undergoing renovation.