I wish to defend Yellowstone National Park. The park still has many trees
burnt from the great fire of 1988 as well as some much smaller fires from
other years. Since I have never seen a forest burned by fire before
especially at this magnitude I found the sight fascinating. The park has
the largest collection of geothermal features (geysers, hot springs,
terraces, mud pots, etc.) in the world. If you like this stuff then you
will greatly enjoy Yellowstone. If you can't stand the rotten egg smell and
feel if you seen one geyser or hot spring you seen them all then maybe you
should skip this park. The park can be very crowded, but I found it
uncrowded but busy in early September after Labor Day. You definitely must
reserve lodging well in advance if you wish to stay in the park. A year in
advance is useful. I believe many other popular U.S. National Parks must
have lodging reserved well in advance. Dining is limited in Yellowstone but
it is good. I don't go to National Parks for the dining but to enjoy
nature. Yellowstone offers some other things as well. One is the many
opportunities to view wildlife. Wild bison are found in few places and
Yellowstone is one of them. One can find Bison in a town as I did with a
bison standing in front of the post office. Numerous elk are found at
Mammoth Hot springs. The chances of seeing other animals like big horn
sheep, bears, coyote and wolves are very good. Yellowstone has a very large
canyon beautifully painted yellow with many greens, oranges and reds mixed
in. The canyon has a large waterfall that formed it. Quite a sight.
When you visit the park you must see at least the Old Faithful Geyser Basin and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The place to stay at Old Faithful Geyser Basin is Old Faithful Inn. The inn is quite lovely being a very large log cabin basically. The lobby with 2 huge fireplaces where guests can relax is my favorite. Tours of the inn are given regularly. You should walk around this geyser basin. You should purchase a map of the basin which was only $0.25 in 1997. Also the park service posts the predicted times that the more regularly erupting geysers will erupt. These times are only estimates so you should arrive early and expect to wait for the geyser to erupt. Definitely see Old Faithful geyser erupt and maybe see some of the other 3 regular geysers erupt which are Riverside, Castle and Grand if you have the time. Grand Geyser is the largest of the three and Riverside is one of the more dependable to erupt. There are many other geysers you will probably see erupt as well in this basin. Don't forget to look at the many hot springs and fumaroles as well. You will probably see elk and bison relaxing around Old Faithful Geyser Basin. You can also drive to several other geyser basins nearby Old Faithful. I recommend you take a short walk at Biscuit Basin near Old Faithful for a rewarding view of Biscuit Basin, Black Sand Basin and the Old Faithful Geyser Basin. The walk is at the Mystic Falls Trail. The trail head is located at the back of the basin. The walk is 3 miles round trip with a shallow elevation gain then a very short but steep elevation gain. You then walk along the top of the hill then back down again. The trail is rated moderate. You will be treated to a view of Mystic Falls (100 ft. drop) then to a hill top view of the 3 basins. The trail has only burnt trees but this gives you to a view of the basins as you walk. If you go on a sunny day bring water and sunscreen. Also bring good footwear since the hill can be slippery in places. Hiking boots are not needed and insect repellant was not needed in September.
I stayed at Canyon Lodge Frontier Cabin which was fine but not noteworthy. It is located very close to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. You could stay at Yellowstone Lake which is further away from the canyon (half hour drive) but a shorter drive from Old Faithful. I stayed at a cabin in Yellowstone Lake Hotel. Although the cabin was the cheapest lodging at the park, it was uncomfortable with poor heating and ugly looking. So avoid the cabins of the hotel. First, purchase a $0.25 map of Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Definitely take the scenic drive around the canyon. You should stop and look from Inspiration Point, Grandview Point and the Brink of the Lower Falls which are along the North Rim of the canyon. Along the South Rim stop at Upper Falls Viewpoint, Artist Point and Upper Falls Overlook. I recommend you take the trail at the Brink of the Lower Falls stop. The trail is smooth but drops 600 ft. for only 1.5 miles round trip. You will get to see the power of the falls up close, and probably see the rainbows formed by the waterfalls if the day is sunny. You will also see how yellow the walls of the canyon are from this view.
I liked 2 walks in the canyon area. The Clear Lake/Lily Pond Lake trail will show many views of the canyon from the top of it. Also pass by a few ponds and walk over a geyser basin. But I would recommend the Mount Washburn trail the most. The trail is very popular for a reason. One gets a top of the world view of Yellowstone National Park. The trail starts at Dunraven Pass of Mount Washburn. Two parking lots are located here which can be completely full. If you get there early you should have parking space. I got there 8:30 am and the parking lots were almost empty. The trail is 6 miles round trip and has a 1400 ft. elevation gain. The terrain is smooth. You will walk to a ranger station building at the summit (10,243 ft.). You will see the Grand Teton Mountains far away, Yellowstone Lake, the crack along the ground which is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Red Mountains, Hayden Valley, Absaroka Mountains and some other stuff. A great view. Rangers are usually at the building to answer questions and a chart is place along the view to show what you are looking at. You will have a good chance to see big horn sheep up close. Bring a wind breaker with you as the summit can be very windy but the building offers good shelter.