If you’re visiting Yellowstone anytime soon, you’ll get more out of your trip if you about abide by these tips:
Get your butt out of bed: We visited the park in June before the real crush of adventurers, but we still stood in line, endured crowds and sat in more than one buffalo jam. Two mornings, however, we set an alarm and entered the park by 6:30 a.m. We saw a lot of sunrise-loving wildlife, enjoyed many-a roadside stops by ourselves and avoided a lot of midday traffic headaches. The sacrifice of sleep was worth it. Nap if you must.
Invest in the Just Ahead app: Just Ahead is a GPS-activated audio tour of America’s biggest national parks. Connect your phone to your car’s audio system (it probably is already), and you’ll be treated to a commentary of the park’s attractions, history, ecology and geology as you drive along. It’s awesome.
Pack snacks (and your dog, if you must): Yellowstone is bigger than you think and in order to take it in, you’ll drive slower and stop more often than you expect to. While there are a number of dining facilities in the park, why not enjoy a picnic? Bring a sandwich, your favorite treats and few beverages, and you can dine alfresco in one of the most beautiful places on earth. By the way, leashed dogs are allowed within 30 feet of roadways and public areas.
Walk the boardwalks: Do not expect drive-bys to do justice to the place. At the very least, get out of the car, walk the boardwalks and read the signage. If you’re really energetic and adventurous, you’ll plan a backcountry hike. The gift shops and particularly the bookstores are fascinating, too. To truly appreciate the majesty of Yellowstone, take a moment to unplug, stop and breathe. Spend a few minutes in a place just observing and being mindful of the breeze, the chirping birds, the angle of the sun.
Don’t be a dumbass: Obey the signage and be aware: Yellowstone is a wilderness, not an amusement park. Reading Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foodlhardiness in the First National Park by Lee H. Whittlesey will dissuade you from testing the hot springs or getting selfies with buffalo. Those aforementioned backcountry hikes? Consult with a ranger so you’re properly prepped.
Now, go and enjoy your visit.