1st Trip to Yellowstone


Ready For More
Jul 23, 2013
In August, I had the opportunity to accompany a youth group consisting of young men from our church congregation on a trip to Yellowstone National Park. This trip would be my first trip to this iconic, world-famous park.

Day 1
Wednesday - August 2, 2017

Day one consisted mostly of driving and became a task of just trying to make it to our camp before dark despite leaving plenty early. Near the top of the hill going up out of Malad, Idaho, about a half hour before Pocatello, my car's engine failed and lost all its power. Fortunately, despite being in such a rural area, I still had a cell signal that allowed me to call another driver in our group. They were about 20 minutes ahead of me and ended up turning around and coming back to get me. In the mean time, I began to think about all the options for how to solve the problem I now had being so far away from home now and having so much food and gear sitting in my car. I had volunteered my car to hold most of the group gear and food.

Once the other group arrived, we discussed the problem further. Luckily, there was still another open seat in their Mercedes Sprinter for me. It was decided that we'd travel on down to Pocatello and secure a Uhaul trailer and bring it back up to load all the food and gear into. While securing the trailer in Pocatello, I made some additional phone calls and was ultimately able to locate a mechanic not far away who could tow my car away from the freeway so I did not have the liability looming over me the whole trip.

Once back at my car, the tow man showed up not long after, and after emptying out my car, I said my last farewell to my old beater 1995 Mitsubishi Montero, for I had decided to just mail the mechanic my title once I got back home rather than pay for the expense to have the engine swapped or rebuilt and then make another long trip up there just to pick it up. It already had over 200K miles on it it was well worth moving on to another vehicle at this point.

Saying goodbye :(

The rest of the drive into Yellowstone went smoothly and without incident. We had just enough daylight to get our camp setup before the dark of night fully settled in.

Day 2
Thursday - August 3, 2017

The next two days couldn't have gone better. After a hearty breakfast, we started out our day's agenda with a stop at the park's beloved geyser, Old Faithful and toured the upper half of Upper Geyser Basin system to be found there.

Waiting for the others to wake up

Breakfast is served

The group fueling up for the day


Old Faithful billows out steam in the distance

Close up of steam billowing out from Old Faithful

Blue Star Spring

Castle Geyser

A sunburst in the reflection

Hanging out waiting for Old Faithful to erupt

Old Faithful eruption

From Old Faithful, we drove a minute down the road down to Black Sand basin to checkout Cliff geyser, Sunset Lake, and the other little features of that basin. While there, we got to see some elk, including some calves playing down along a creek.

Cliff Geyser

Rainbow Pool

Sunset Lake

Emerald Pool

Elk calves

Mother elk

Emerald Pool

From Black Sand Basin, we moved on another short distance down the road to Biscuit Basin. There, we'd take the trail along the back side to go check out the newly opened view point for Grand Prismatic and then hike on to Fairy Falls.

Grand Prismatic comes into view

Grand Prismatic closer up

Even closer of Grand Pristmatic

Grand Prismatic from new viewpoint

Some fellow tourists taking in the vibrant blue across Grand Prismatic

Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls

Group photo at Fairy Falls

Flowers at Fairy Falls

Flowers at Fairy Falls

Black bird at Fairy Falls

Once we had our fill of Fairy Falls, we made our way back down to the cars, and gathered back up to return to camp. Back at camp, we changed into our swimsuits walked on down to Yellowstone Lake for a some fun in the water. Our group had a bunch of tubes that we brought for floating in, while others just decided to take a swim. I had brought a new inflatable kayak I to test out.

Floating some tubes out on Yellowstone Lake

Some taking a dip

Locked and loaded for a drive by shooting

Cruising the shoreline

My kayak proved to be lots of fun. Not only because I was more mobile with it than the others on tubes, I had a lot of fun being able to squirt the boys from with some water guns I had stowed away.

With the sun getting lower in the sky, we called it quits at the lake and walked on back into camp to settle in for the night, having dinner and huddling around the campfire.

Gathered around the campfire

Day 3
Friday - August 4, 2017

Day three's agenda was another full day of sight seeing. We started out by driving up around Yellowstone Lake and along Yellowstone River until we reached the Mud Volcano area. There, we got our first looks at some resident bison, in addition to more geothermal features such as Mud Volcano and Dragon Mouth Spring.

Bison near Mud Volcano site

Bison opting to sleep in

Bison looking stoned

Along a Mud Volcano boardwalk

Mud Volcano

Dragon Mouth Spring

From Mud Volcano, continued on up the road, our next destination being Artist Point to gaze up Lower Yellowstone Falls and the great, even grand canyon, of the park that gives the park its name.

Bison quenching its thirst on Yellowstone River

View of lower falls and Yellowstone's Grand Canyon from Artist Point

Selfie at Artist Point

Lower Falls in Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Lower Falls

Closer up of Lower Falls

After Artist Point, it was on over the brink of the Upper Falls.

Brink of the Upper Falls

Floating, bloating bison carcass swirling around beneath the falls

Brink of the Upper Falls

Brink of the Upper Falls

After the Brink of Upper Falls, we moved on down the road further to check out the Brink of Lower Falls.

Brink of Lower Falls

Looking down canyon from Brink of Lower Falls

Upper Falls as seen from above brink of Lower Falls

Now it was time to circle out to Artist Paint Pots, where we had a quick lunch in the parking lot and hiked the short walk to check out the pots.

View from along Artist Paint Pots trail

Some of Artist Paint Pots

Bulging bubble at Artist Paint Pots

Bursting bubble at Artist Paint Pots

Animated bubble at Artist Paint Pots

After Artist Paint pots, we drove on to the Fountain Paint Pots area with a brief stop at Gibbons Falls along the way. The fountain paint pots themselves were nothing terribly exciting, but the geysers just beyond sure were.

Gibbons Falls

Silex Spring at Fountain Paintpots

Fountain Paint Pots

Fountain Geyser group

Fountain Geyser group eruption

Fountain Geyser group in action

With some time to spare on our way back to camp, we pulled back into the Old Faithful area for another view of that great geyser in action. To kill a bit of time before sitting down to wait out the eruption, I took a walk down to Castle Geyser to get a closer look at it.

Return to Old Faithful

Castle Geyser

Castle Geyser

Crested Pool

The crowd anticipating the next Old Faithful Eruption

Old Faithful

Old Faithful in action

Satisfied with the day's experiences, we returned to camp to whip up some tasty cowboy stew, relax, and retire for the evening.

Preparing dinner

Our cowboy stew

Telling stories around the fire

Moon shot

My tent

Day 3
Saturday - August 5, 2017

Our final day would require the better part of it being back on the road, so our agenda only included a few stops along the way. Before everyone woke up to pack up and eat some breakfast, I took the opportunity to head back down to Yellowstone Lake to catch the sunrise.

Anticipating the sunrise

Panorama of Yellowstone Lake just before dawn

The edge of the sun comes into view


Rising higher

Dawn at Yellowstone Lake

Sky reflection

Purple flower near Yellowstone Lake shore

Yellow flowers near Yellowstone Lake shore

Bridge at Grant Village Campground

Underneath bridge at Grant Village Campground

Bridge at Grant Village Campground

Back at camp, we finally packed up, enjoyed a quick breakfast, and got on the road to start heading back home. On the way out of the campground, we were immediately greeted by an elk on the road.

Since we opted to drive back home via Wyoming instead of Idaho, we were able to make a stop for some views of the Grand Tetons and to check out the old Mormon Row historic district where a few old homesteads still stand. Unfortunately, with all the smoke lingering in the air from regional wildfires, the air was quite hazy.

Grand Teton Range from across Jackson Lake

Grand Tetons

Buck Mountain...I think...

Grand Teton close-up

Grand Tetons

Mormon Row homestead

Outhouse at Mormon Row

Prairie Dog at Mormon Row

Mormon Row Barn

Group shot in front of barn
Nice pics! What a great place for a youth group trip. I have many fond memories of trips like this in my youth.
Thanks for the images, and the memories that they bring of our September 2011 road trip initiated by my nephews wedding in Estes Park, that took in RMNP, Dinosaur NM, Tetons and finally-Yellowstone. Yellowstone was at the very end, and we only had a day and a half there which we made the most of in a dawn to dusk blitz. Gotta get back!
No mention of the "Geyser Geeks" or whatever they call themselves? We found that they were a great aid in being at the right place at the right time to catch eruptions, thus making the most of our whirlwind visit.
Nice report @WasatchWill . Sorry to hear about your vehicle but glad you made it to Yellowstone for the first time. You guys packed a lot into three days.

I like your shots of the stoned bison and your first shot of the sun rising over Yellowstone Lake. I wonder what the story is on the bison that apparently went over the upper falls and your cowboy stew shot is starting to make me hungry! Every time I see a picture of Gibbon Falls, I have to ask, "Did you see my can of bear spray along the steep terrain on the east side of the falls?" :) I was doing a cross country hike years ago and made my way down on the east side of the falls, then headed down the Gibbon River about two miles where I forded the river and made my way back to my bicycle. I know I had my spray before I started descending the rocky terrain, but after I forded the river, I realized it was no longer with me.

Now you have to get you and your family to explore some of the backcountry in the coming years.
Fabulous shots! The one of the lower canyon and sunrise on the lake are really exceptional. Really great trip report.

Your story about your car reminded me of a couple of years back when I was returning from Alaska and was driving from Soda Springs across some back road to Star Valley and my alternator started acting up. I turned around and made it to Malad Pass, where my FJ conveniently died at the rest stop. A nice couple kept giving me a jump every few miles all the way to Malad, where I got it fixed, probably by the same mechanic that towed your car.
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Cool pics! And sweet trip.
BTW I think the prairie dog pic is probably a Uinta Ground Squirrel.
Great pictures! Only 4 more months and the park will be open, from my side, again. Geeze those pictures made me want to get in there. I'm glad you had a great trip--except for your vehicle.
Awesome pictures. Where campsite were you at? Heading there this upcoming September and I'd love to basically replicate your trip!
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