We decided to make the famous Old Faithful geyser our first stop for the morning, so we walked over from our cabin ~20 minutes beforehand to find a nice viewing angle. Thankfully we had enough layers as morning temperatures were in the 30s! A few minutes after predicted, but within the window published by the park service, Old Faithful erupted into the sky. Quite the sight to behold.
After breakfast we loaded our gear into the car and began our all-day lower Yellowstone circuit. Our first stop was Biscuit Spring.
Next was Midway Geyser Basin, featuring steaming waterfalls and the famous Prismatic spring (too steamy to see well unfortunately). Even so there were plenty of colors at the other pools, and extra points for bison near the path.
We continued down the road that paralleled the Firehole River, when eagle-eyed Leandra spotted an osprey in tree. She pulled a NASCAR turnaround and got us back to the spot just in time for us to watch the osprey catching a trout in the river, then flying off.
After passing Gibbon Falls, we parked and took a short hike on the Artist Paintpot nature trail for more geothermal activity, interesting colors, and our personal favorite, the gurgling mud pits with lots of sound effects (bloop, bloop… bloop). As a bonus we enjoyed a nice view of the mountains from the top of the loop trail.
Gibbon Falls and views from the top of the Artist Paintpot hike
Our next destination was Virginia Cascades, accessed by the one-way Norris Canyon Road. Along the way a herd of bison caused a 25 minute traffic jam – they were really close! And taller than our car…
you shall not pass!
Unfortunately, Virginia Cascades lacked a pullout for photos due to some construction, so we continued on our way to the Yellowstone River canyon. We started along the north rim of canyon where we especially enjoyed the Red Rock overlook – lots of stairs, but a nice view over the canyon and fewer people than the other viewpoints. Simply beautiful.
We also stopped along the South rim, where we enjoyed the view from Artist Point, but felt it was too crowded by buses.
Driving south we stopped at Mud Volcano, where we had our first, and only, grizzly sighting of the trip.
The Hayden Valley, an expansive grassland, was beautiful to drive through with far ranging views and quite a few birds, including a sighting of a bald eagle.
Our final stop for the day was the West Thumb geyser area. It was quite interesting and different from the Old Faithful area, with lots of colors and a beautiful view of hot springs running into Yellowstone Lake. Even better, it was not too crowded in the late afternoon.