>> Clean up There’s something oddly alluring about bathing in the same building where Theodore Roosevelt once scrubbed his knees. Splurge on a room at Old Faithful Inn ($119 for a double; 866-439-7375; travelyellowstone.com), and marvel at the asymmetrical architecture, designed by Robert Reamer in 1903.
>> Pig out Head to West Yellowstone for grill-your-own steaks at Eino’s Bar. Select your chunk of red meat and toss it on the grill (pay attention–you’re head chef, though a cook gives advice) before bellying up to the bar with a fourth-generation rancher. (406-646-9344)
>> Best dayhike: Shoshone Geyser Basin
Trek 18 miles from the Lone Star Geyser Trail to the Shoshone Lake Trail past the Lone Star Geyser to Grants Pass. Turn right onto the North Shore Trail and tour a geyser basin that’s usually full of bison. Beyond the basin, turn north on the horse bypass back to the Shoshone Lake Trail.
>> Try something new See Yellowstone by boat. Rent a canoe or kayak and then launch in Yellowstone Lake’s open waters. A five-mile tour from West Thumb skirts the protected shoreline and ventures into the geyser basin where underwater geysers effervesce to the surface (Snake River Kayak & Canoe, 307-733-9999).
Beat the Crowds
Everyone wants to see Yellowstone–and mostly all at once. Here’s how to work the system.
>> Start early The traffic jams are infamous. Rise at first light to avoid rubberneckers–and see more wildlife.
>> Sneak away The Old Faithful Visitor Center is the most popular permit office, and it’s often packed with permitees. Beeline for the Bridge Bay Ranger Station on the north shore of Yellowstone Lake instead. The park doesn’t advertise it, but rangers can issue permits there.
>> Ride your bike Each shoulder season–October in the fall, and mid-March to April in the spring–cyclists can cruise Yellowstone’s snow-free, closed roads.
You’re a Tourist, Now Act Like One
When in Yellowstone you have to watch Old Faithful erupt. But don’t shortchange your madras-shorted self. Hightail it to the obvious side path just off the Old Faithful boardwalk before the spout starts spewing. Point, shoot, and capture the geyser–without all the gazers.
Acres 2.2 million
Miles of trail 1,100
Phone (307) 344-7381
2007 visitation 3,151,343 (total), 30,040 (backcountry)