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  • Writer's pictureAndi Johnson

One day in the World's First National Park: Yellowstone!

Updated: Jun 5

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

I would like to share with you my experience of how my plan went awry and provide advice on how to adjust your mindset when even your most well-planned endeavors encounter obstacles. Back in June 2020, I took a 6-state, 12-day solo car camping trip. I spent hours upon hours researching and planning my trip - which was supposed to include crossing over into Canada, as well as 2 additional states that I ended up not getting to. The first leg of my trip was to the Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming and you can read about that experience in my blog post.

If one has the time, it's a natural transition to go from Grand Tetons National Park to Yellowstone National Park which is a magical place, full of natural wonders, wildlife, and breathtaking landscapes. With only a 45-minute scenic road trip from the north entrance of Grand Teton, to the southwest entrance of Yellowstone; it's a great destination for those who enjoy hiking and outdoor adventures. When I visited in June 2020, the park had only been open for a short time due to Covid restrictions, the campgrounds were closed, and one of the main roads was closed for repairs. Because of those things, as well as my plans to continue on to other parks in the area, I only had one entire day in Yellowstone. Looking back now, I can see what things I would have done differently, but as they say, "hindsight is 20/20"- which is comical given the year I visited was 2020!

Bluebell Pool, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

I started the day driving into the southwest entrance and walking the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake. This is quite literally 3 minutes after entering the park. So straight away, once you enter from this point, you are greeted with the magic that is Yellowstone. From Abyss Pool, Painted Pool, Black Pool, and Surging Spring, to Yellowstone Lake, you are immediately encompassed by so much incredible beauty and wonder our planet has to offer. I highly recommend starting here as early as possible as the boardwalk trail is easy for all skill levels and a short walk. By going at first light, you'll not only experience the wonder of nature, but you won't have many people around you - which is my jam when being out in nature. I do highly recommend wearing multiple layers as I was there in mid-June and around 8 am, it was very chilly!

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

From there I moved on to the northwest to Old Faithful, and the Visitor and Education Center. Once there, I found out I would have to wait over an hour before good Ol' Faithful would let off some steam. At this point I was finding out very quickly I wasn't going to have much cell service all day. On top of that, hardly any campsites within an hour's drive outside of the Park were open and available, and my food resources were getting more and more limited. So it was at this point, that despite all the planning, things were quickly going awry.

As one might imagine, this caused a bit of anxiety about how I, a single female, would be spending the night and what I would be eating for dinner. One major thing I worked on that day was staying present despite all the challenges I was facing. Since I only had a limited amount of time in the park, limited places I could visit in the park based on the time and access, as well as lack of cell service, I grabbed my hydration pack - here is my latest one - and picked 2-3 places that were at the top of my list to visit and made the most of it.

That's not to say it was a cakewalk from there on out. Imagine if you will, what it is like to rely on your feet to get you places, soak it all in, but also go as fast as you can. And oh yeah, as the day wore on, it became more crowded in the Park so traffic - both vehicle and foot traffic - was also becoming an issue. Thankfully, I had my Merrell hiking boots that provided me with all the support and comfort I needed that day. Additionally, I discovered that many of the public toilets that were usually set up - typically port-a-potties due to the geological structure of the area - weren't set up and available due to Covid and the lack of personnel to assist with them. So not only was I running around while trying to "soak it all in", I had to go to the bathroom and couldn't do so close to the trails, and(!) I had no idea where I could safely sleep that night.

Andi Johnson standing in front of Fairy Falls, in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Because of all of those things, I skipped nearly all the trails near Old Faithful and drove on past Saphire Spring, Biscuit Basin, Mystic Falls, and so many more. When I tell you that you could spend 2 weeks in Yellowstone and still not experience all it has to offer, I'm not exaggerating! But anyway, I parked at Fairy Falls trailhead and headed out to the fall. This trail takes you right past Grand Prismatic Spring - the one most of us have seen in pictures and reminds me of Lord of the Rings. This is about 4.8 miles out and back and is primarily a flat trail throughout. As most people were only headed for Grand Prismatic, the Fairy Falls trail was relatively empty and quiet. Some fellow hikers and I spotted a bear a good deal away while taking in the fall; now is a good time to remind you to always be aware of your surroundings and carry bear spray in bear country!

Bison grazing on grass near a river in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

From there I headed northeast to Canyon Village, as I heard from fellow hikers that this area wasn't to be missed. As I made my way over, I took in the beauty of the mountains, rivers, trees, and wildlife along the way. I saw people fly fishing in the rivers, bison taking naps under the trees, and grazing on tall grass in meadows. It was quite possibly one of the most idyllic drives I had experienced to date. Once I got to Canyon Village area, I discovered more areas of the park/roads being closed - I should also mention that while camping in the Grand Tetons, Montana and northern Wyoming had been hit with a snowstorm which caused several main roads to be closed - another part of my plan going awry.

Grand View, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

But this led me to one of the most magnificent views of the entire trip, which was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone! While there, I met a retired couple from Florida and they provided me with so much knowledge of the area and campgrounds. The woman is a talented photographer, and her husband is supportive and tags along for the ride. They typically work campgrounds in the summer months up in Yellowstone and the surrounding area. However, due to the Covid restrictions, they were having to wait around to see if their services would be put to use as so much was up in the air. As we climbed down the winding trail, complete with stairs and steep slopes, we came to the Grand View. And my was it grand! I highly recommend taking in any and all parts of this part of the park if you're able.

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

After we hiked back up - about 2 miles out and back total - it was coming close to 6 pm and I still had a solid hour drive to my final spot before leaving Yellowstone Park. So, as I made my way up to the north entrance/exit, I stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs. And with my visit nearing its end, I was hit with a fresh wave of anxiety and had to choose to stay present and fight to not let it overtake me. Thankfully, being out in nature and exploring new-to-me areas is my medicine. Therefore, as I focused on the geological phenomenon of the springs, I was enraptured by the thought of all of those who over 100 years ago made their way across barren, and rocky lands to explore our beautiful Earth. And then to set aside this land to protect it and create roads and regions for us to traverse safely just kept me in awe.

Once I reached the Rosevelt Arch at the north entrance/exit of Yellowstone National Park, and my cell service came back online, it became apparent that I would need to trek on to Bozeman, Montana for the evening. After a long day of driving, hiking, and working to stay in a positive mindset, I settled in at a restaurant in downtown Bozeman for dinner around 8:30 pm. I then took some time reflecting in my journal to capture my day. It is without exageration to say, that every person I came into contact with, whether it was in the National Park, and in Bozeman, was every bit the epitome of hospitable, never once making me feel unwelcome or as an outsider. Therefore, I can adequately say that a visit to Yellowstone National Park, and the surrounding areas are quite possibly all you need to restore your spirit and mind!

Andi Johnson standing in front of Grand Falls, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

I hope you found this post insightful, helpful, and inspiring. I would love to know if you have visited Yellowstone, or if you have any questions, as I’m happy to answer them as best as I can. This blog post has affiliate links throughout, and I greatly appreciate you using them when you shop, as it provides me with monetary support.

As always, be sure to leave no trace - which means, stay on the trails, pack out what you brought in, and leave what you found, be mindful of wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors. Happy roaming!



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