Yellowstone: From dream to reality - Arrival and discovery of the park

Written by Sandrine Published on 13/02/2017

Yellowstone Park has always made me dream. I don't know how I found out about the park or what convinced me so much at the time, but long before I was 10 years old, I promised myself I would go there one day. Over the years I have grown up, always with this goal in mind. So when we took our Canada in 2013, I jumped at the opportunity to add a step to our program.

We had to go, so I could finally realize one of my most beautiful childhood dreams. So from Montreal, we took a flight to Billings in Montana to spend 5 days in the park before heading to New York. Of course, this getaway did not fit in logically with our itinerary, but it was inconceivable for me to return to France without having discovered Yellowstone National Park.

The road to Yellowstone Park

On September 18,2013 at 8:20 a. m., we boarded the plane in Montreal. After a stopover in Minneapolis we arrive early in the afternoon at Billings, one of the big cities with an airport near the park. Finally, when I say "near", it's relative, because 300 km still separates us from the park, which is located in an area not very inhabited and therefore not well served by air transport.

We pick up our rental car and head west to West Yellowstone, a small town-stage west of the park, which will be our base camp for the duration of our stay.

The road crosses beautiful landscapes, but the strong wind does not help for driving. The weather is chaotic, with some lightning strikes alternating with heavy thunderstorms. We are already at 1500 meters of altitude and we can see in the distance some summits at more than 3000m. The highway stops at Bozeman. We then turn off on a national highway that will take us to West Yellowstone.

The closer the road gets to the park, the worse the weather is. After the rain comes the fog. It's getting colder and the snow is not far away! The first buttresses of the park appear and already we notice the impressive damage of the 1988 fire. Like tooth cures, the remains of burned and stripped fir trees scatter the valons as far as the eye can see. At their feet, the new generation is growing, gradually filling the voids caused by this sinister natural origin and allowing vegetation to regenerate.

After 3h30 of driving, we finally reach West Yellowstone after a very stressful day's journey. Outside it's cold duck (4°) and we're frozen. The night falls, we fall asleep, very impatient.

First steps in the park: when wonder is permanent

In the early morning the weather is grey but it does not rain any more. Temperature's cool and around 0°C, it froze last night. It's almost 7:45 a. m. when we leave, eager to discover the park. After we have stocked up for the day, we pass the entrance check and pay the $25 of our 7-day pass. Yellowstone is finally opening its doors to us, my dream is about to come true.

The road is beautiful and runs alongside beautiful meadows lined with pine trees. Quite quickly we reach a river from where a net of fog escapes. In the distance, large white, opaque clouds rise from the ground, reminiscent of a fire. A thrill runs through my whole body. Here we are!

Under the heat of the earth, the whole soil smokes and plunges us into an apocalyptic universe. The geothermal activity is felt to be very close. Like grown-up children, we watch this marvellous show as we keep moving forward. We don't talk to each other, we just feel the emotion.

After a few kilometers we see elk not far from the road! Further on, we meet our first buffalo looking at us, impassive from the side of the road. Here they are completely free and have priority on the roads.

The road continues along the river, which seems to be getting warmer and warmer. The pine forests give way to beautiful, peaceful clearings. After 45 minutes, we reach one of the main roads of the park which connects all the points of interest forming a large 8.

On the way south to Yellowstone: a succession of incredible landscapes

For this first day, the weather is not good in Yellowstone Park, so we decide to travel further south, to discover Grand Téton National Park and its superb peaks at more than 4000 meters. So we take the road to the south.

The kilometers follow one another, revealing a succession of solfatares, geysers and hot springs near the road, but we try not to look too closely to keep ourselves surprised when we come back.

The road gradually ascends and now enters a fir forest. The snow begins to fall and the vegetation quickly covers itself with a beautiful white mantle of about 3 to 4 cm. The road becomes slippery so we advance cautiously, taking the time to admire the beautiful landscapes that reveal themselves.

We cross a small pass, then on the other side the snow shower ceases and very quickly the road clears. In a few minutes the setting changes, offering us new colours. The road passes by, the landscapes follow one another and are not alike! We now follow a river that winds its way through a vast meadow. Further on, the rustling of a small waterfall disturbs the quietness of the surroundings. We breathe deeply and enjoy every minute of this beautiful nature.

Unexpected and furtive meeting: oh a bear!

After about 2 hours drive, we approach the Grand Téton NP entrance when the car we follow stops. Asked we look around us and to our left, on the other side of the road, we see a bear! It is only a few tens of meters away and its walk quietly at the edge of a forest. We jump for joy! Seeing a bear after only a few hours in the park was totally unexpected!

Quick, we're going through our bag to get the telephoto lens. The bear gently advances with its head down. He doesn't seem to be disturbed by the ten or so photographers coming out of their cars in the greatest silence.

Amazingly, we don't leave the scene until the bear returns to the forest. Unfortunately, we will lose 2 days later our SD card with all the photos of our SLR. We'll console ourselves with a photo taken on the fly with our compact camera.

After this unexpected encounter, we continue southward to the high peaks of Grand Teton National Park. It's almost 11:00 in the morning. The best is yet to come!

To be continued!

The translation may not be accurate. If you detect any errors, please let us know , and we will correct them immediately. Thank you and sorry for this inconvenience. Sandrine & Flo

  1. Author avatar

    Je suis allée deux fois à Yellowstone. Une fois avec mes parents, je devais avoir 18 ans et cet endroit est resté à mes yeux le paradis sur terre. J'y suis retournée quelques années plus tard avec mon mari, il y avait un énorme incendie et nous n'avons pu visiter tout le parc, des routes étant fermées. Je n'ai qu'une envie : y retourner un jour. Du coup, tes articles me rappellent de bons souvenirs (oui, meme celui du camping! :D )

    • Smartrippers avatar

      Oh quel dommage pour l'incendie, je n'ose pas imaginer votre frustration à ce moment :-( Je vous souhaite vraiment de pouvoir y revenir pour compléter votre découverte! C'est un lieu dont il est impossible de se lasser, tant la nature est belle, sans parler des sources chaudes qui changent d'allure à chaque saison! Et pour le camping, c'est plutôt chouette au final (si on a pas froid ^^)

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