The short answer: yes. But certainly not without my hesitations.
I had heard from many people just how spectacular Yellowstone National Park is. There’s Old Faithful, geysers galore, and heaps of wildlife like buffalo and even wolves. It sounded to me like something out of a Wild West movie.
In the end though, we spent one night in the park and then high-tailed it out. Here’s why we loved and loathed Yellowstone:
Visually Stunning. It’s really indescribable. Having previously visited the Tetons just days before, and knowing the parks are literally only hours and miles apart, we couldn’t imagine that the two could be drastically different. How wrong we were.
Whereas the Tetons consisted of mountains and lakes mostly with grassy areas (from what we experienced), Yellowstone had an entirely different landscape. Stark mountains, rolling hills, flowing rivers, gushing waterfalls, geysers, and thermal pools like I had never seen before. It literally felt like we were driving through Jurassic Park, wandering around in a territory so vast and magnificent that minuscule people seemed wildly out of place and expendable.
Overcrowded. Being such an incredible natural wonder, thousands of people flock to the park every year to see it. One of the difficulties is preserving the park and wildlife while allowing people to observe, learn, and enjoy. These are all things I am very aware of, but was still shocked to discover just how busy the park still was.
Knowing it would be crowded at Old Faithful but not sure what to expect, we arrived at a scene similar to Disney World. We thought we might beat the crowds going to see Old Faithful at 7 in the morning, but hoards were already gathered around waiting for the explosion. If we couldn’t beat the masses that early in the morning, we never knew when we would.
Of course, everyone was there just for the same reasons we were, so at the same time I feel like I really can’t complain. Rather, I’m writing this just to raise practical awareness to what someone else’s experiences and expectations should be.
COVID Caution. We meticulously planned the details of our road trip to avoid as much human contact as possible and stick to the confines of our tent and the wilderness. Hoping that Yellowstone might be quieter during this time, we found that that was absolutely NOT the case. Many people, dare I say most, were not wearing masks and certainly not adhering to social distancing standards. There were many times I was strongly debating jabbing an elbow out because that’s how close people were to me.
Aside from the point, we quickly realized how overcrowded it was, particularly considering the current situation, and jetted out of the park as fast as the backed-up roads would let us.
Overall: In no way do I mean to downplay the beauty or natural vibrance of Yellowstone. It is undeniable, spectacular, and something I will never forget so long as I live. While I appreciate the park, whether I would return or not is questionable. Unfortunately, we were left with a bad taste in our mouths given the crowds and lack of COVID awareness.
I would like to say I’d return again, but it definitely would not be in the summer. Maybe the off season, if even a thing exists for a park like Yellowstone. But, in the end, I am grateful to have visited and understand why thousands of people flock to the park every year.