Yellowstone National Park: Beyond Old Faithful
Shortly after the turn of the century, President Roosevelt spoke about Yellowstone National Park, “as a beautiful natural playground…for all those who have the love of adventure.” The good news is that through the years many of us adventure lovers have taken his words to heart—more than three million people visit the park annually. The bad news? More than three million people visit the park annually.
But this is our first national park we’re talking about—renowned for its sprawling landscapes, bountiful wildlife and geothermal activity—so it makes sense that so many people come to visit each year. The park’s “must-see” attractions like Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and Mammoth Hot Springs are all spectacular. You just might need to throw some elbows to get a good view. Fortunately, there are still places to experience the enchantment of Yellowstone away from the crowds.
Take a step off the boardwalks, beyond Old Faithful, and you may find yourself someplace extraordinary, and extraordinarily without people, like Cascade Lake. Not too far from Yellowstone’s “Canyon,” the Cascade Lake Trail is easily accessible on a day hike and will bring you, if not completely away from the crowds, to a place where you don’t have to create your own elbow space. Take your tackle and fishing permit and you’ll likely have some luck with the trout there.
Want to see the park by paddle? A day of kayaking on Yellowstone Lake, one of the park’s more intimate experiences, will also afford you up-close views of steamy geysers, bubbling mud pots and hot springs seldom seen by most visitors.
Or, you could drive southwest to the Bechler area, one of the least visited regions of Yellowstone, and explore “Cascade Corner,” named for the abundance of waterfalls in the region. Cave Falls, located on the Falls River and within easy road access, is an awesome display, especially from within the cave beneath the falls. Be aware – you may get wet! While in this region, be sure to visit Colonnade Falls and Dunanda Falls as well, and bring your hiking boots (getting to these sites is a bit more strenuous, but well worth the effort).
So, don’t let the park’s overwhelming popularity discourage you. The adventure lover in all of us can still experience the quiet wilderness of Yellowstone National Park in its finest form. You just have to know where to look.
Photos: National Parks Service Photo Collection; OARS