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Your guide to the world's first National Park
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August 24, 2022 | View OnlineSign Up

Few places brandish the might of nature as spectacularly as Yellowstone.


Drawing power from the vast supervolcano hidden under its surface, the United States' first national park is home to almost 2.2 million acres of kaleidoscopic beauty and immense wilderness.


Of course, the explosive nature of its big-ticket attractions is worth the visit alone, but step away from the swarms of tourists jostling for a peek at Old Faithful, and you’ll find a land of cascades, canyons, and critters big and small. Inimitable in every sense of the word.


Take a walk on the wild side.


Welcome to Yellowstone National Park.

| FUN FACTS

Original and best

National Parks are hotly debated topics among outdoorsy types, and Yellowstone has always had its hat in the ring for the finest one in the States. But whether it's your favorite or not, it will always be the first official National Park.


It was initially designated as a park in 1872 by then-President Ulysses S. Grant, almost forty years before the actual National Park Service was founded. After seeing the rapid development of sites like Niagara Falls in the North, several naturalists advocated to have it protected, believing it would only become rarer and more special as time went by.


Looks like they were right. There are now 63 national parks for everyone to enjoy, free from overdevelopment.

| KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

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Grab your visitor pass early

If you've ever visited a national park before, you’ll know you need to pay a fee to enter with your vehicle. Yellowstone’s current fees come in at $30 per vehicle, regardless of how many people are inside. If you’re heading in with a bike or on foot, it’s only $20. Both passes work for seven days, which is good because you’ll need a while to see the entire park.


If you live relatively close or know you’ll be heading back more than twice a year, you can slash costs on the year pass, which costs $70. For $80, you can grab an “America the Beautiful” pass for $80. That gets you unlimited entry to every National Park in the country. Grab them before you go, and download them onto your phone for easy access- it’ll help you save some time. If you rent a car, you’ll have to wait until you know its registration number. 


Just keep on top of which entrances are open before you go, as weather conditions, natural disasters, or maintenance works could see some of them closed.

Be prepared - but not overprepared

If you’re renting a car for your Yellowstone trip, you might be coerced into grabbing a 4x4 or some other beasts of a vehicle. Expect conflated descriptions of driving over mountain ranges and challenging road conditions. The reality is that the roads in Yellowstone are great. Maybe don’t get the cheapest economy vehicle, but don’t worry about having a sedan.


On the other hand, there’s not going to be wifi or cellular in the park. Download the Yellowstone app, as well as google maps of the region. Maps.me is also brilliant for downloading detailed regional paths as well.


Other than that, have a portable battery charger ready to roll and list the locations of all the places you want to see saved offline too. Keep a healthy supply of snacks with you too. Save yourself the sometimes futile search for food.

Avoid crowds and animals

We really hope we don’t have to tell you to stay away from animals, but please, stay away from the animals. Yellowstone is home to thousands of bison, hundreds of bears and pronghorns, as well as wolves, moose, and a host of other majestic creatures. There’s a fair chance you’ll end up in a bison-related traffic jam, but please don’t be tempted to hop out for a closer look. Stay at least 25 yards away from bison and elk where possible, and 100 yards between you and bears or wolves.


The only risk the crowds of humans pose is a disappointing trip. Commit to getting up early, and pick strategic moments to visit some of the more popular parts of the park. It’ll go a long way to making it unforgettable.

| TOGETHER WITH

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| THINGS TO DO

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Check out Old Faithful and the other Geysers

Old Faithful is arguably the park’s most famous landmark, and no trip to Yellowstone would be complete without a visit. The geyser is the most dependable of the park’s nearly five hundred and one of the most spectacular.


It erupts roughly every ninety minutes (hence the name), making it the best place to see the spout of water and steam erupting. The big caveat with Old Faithful is its popularity. Tourists often swarm straight to its viewing decks and can’t ruin the experience a little. Pick your time wisely to have fewer crowds. Going as early as possible is the best advice.


Don’t ignore the other geysers, though. The Grand Geyser goes off every six or seven hours, firing water as high as fifty meters into the air. The Riverside Geyser has one of the more prolonged eruptions, which can work to your benefit. Most people don’t stay for the entire length, so patience will give you some epic views without so many crowds.


Here’s a list of some of the best geysers to visit along with all of their most revent eruptions so you can try and plan your visit

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Get hiking

You’ve made all this effort to drive out to Wyoming, don’t lessen the visit by only venturing outside your car at the viewpoints. Sure, the roads winding their way through the park make for one of the most astounding road trips of your life, but you’re missing out on 95% of the experience by not getting your boots a little dirty.


One of the best day hikes is up Avalanche Peak. The route itself is only two miles there and back, but don’t be fooled. You’ll be gaining around two thousand feet in that short trip. The payoff is a remarkable view over the park and even some snow as late as July.


The Beaver Pond loop is perfect for families or those seeking a more gentle day out. It’s still a long walk, pulling in around 5.5 miles, but it gifts the marvelous opportunity to see the anonymous dam-building mammals and other wildlife. It also doesn’t double back, keeping it fresh the entire way.


For a super-challenging full-day affair that gets you up close and personal with some of the best features of Yellowstone, try the Seven-mile hole trail. The whole thing is, you guessed it, ten miles long (gotcha) and leads hikers down into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Well worth the challenge. These are only a few of the hundreds of options available, including the daunting Mount Washburn.

Tick off the natural landmarks

Geysers might be the big attraction, but Yellowstone is packed with unique natural landscapes and features, some relating to its location on a volcano and others not.


Arguably the most iconic is the Grand Prismatic Spring. The astoundingly beautiful hot spring is the third largest in the world and is known for its kaleidoscopic array of colors. The hypnotizing colors are the product of microbes thriving in the volcanically heated spring water, producing what can only be described as nature’s painting board. Truly stunning.


The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (mentioned above) is a spectacular formation, giving visitors a glimpse into the hundreds of thousands of years of work that time has imparted on the landscape. From the initial gushing waterfall plummeting a thousand feet to the snaking valley of the river, the Grand Canyon is a special place to experience.


The unique Mammoth hot springs are also a must for any visit. The springs have combined with an assortment of calcified minerals to form a natural steaming staircase that has to be seen to be believed.

| WHERE TO STAY

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Wild or luxurious; you choose

Staying in Yellowstone is a simple affair compared to picking a hotel in the city. All accommodation has to be booked via the Yellowstone website. They have an assortment of hotels, lodges, and campsites available for booking, but it’s important to reserve a room early. There are only two thousand rooms inside the park itself, and with no visitor caps, it can fill up quickly.


If you don’t feel like staying in the park, there are plenty of options within a half-hour drive of the entrances, so depending on your goals for the stay, you have plenty of choices.

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Our Top Pick: Old Faithfull Inn

Yellowatone National Park, Wyoming
$$$ | See inside

Yellowstone is home to a wealth of iconic natural wonders. What you might not know is that it’s home to an equally iconic property in the hotel world. One of the original National Park lodges, its unique log design was replicated for decades to come. 


It’s one of the largest log structures in the world and sits just meters from the Old Faithful Geyser. This doubles the value, as staying here gives you constant access to a beautiful view of its scheduled explosions - minus the vast amounts of crowds.

Book Your Stay

Other Top Picks

| WHERE TO EAT

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Image: Yellowstone NPS

As varied as the nature in the park

Sure, on a day trip, you might have stuffed enough snacks and sandwiches to keep you fueled, but if you’re adventuring for a little longer, you’ll want to know the best places to grab some grub. Luckily, the park has several brilliant options, as well as some basic stores and bars, so you’re never far from a quick bite or serious meal.


The Mammoth general store is your go-to for everyday items, and if you’re (rightfully so) more interested in getting out there, they have a selection of sandwiches and other grab-and-go items. For restaurants, check out or picks below.

Our Top Pick: Roosevelt Old West Dinner Cookout

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
$$$$ Menu

Less dinner, more experience. Yellowstone has some more typical eateries, but you’re not visiting a typical place. The Old West Dinner Cookout starts at Roosevelt lodge, where you’ll choose to ride horseback or hop in a wagon and enjoy a sunset ride through that area of the park.


Upon arrival at the dinner site, you'll be handed a cup of coffee to keep warm by the fire before digging into some steak with all the trimmings cooked right on the flame. Dinner isn’t complete without a generous helping of cobbler, so go with a full stomach, and let the glorious outdoors seep into your evenings too

Reserve a table

The Best of the Rest

| WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING IN YELLOWSTONE

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