How to do Yellowstone in 3.5 Hours

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If you only have a few hours to work with, your chances of exploring Yellowstone’s 2.22 million acres are slim to absolutely no shot in hell. On a quick 4-day road trip, my gal and I broke up our drive to Salt Lake City with a quick stop at one of the most popular national parks in the nation.

Although vast, it is possible to check out a few famous spots within an afternoon. All you need is a full tank of gas and a splash of caffeine.

Within a few short hours, we managed to hit up three worthwhile locations on Yellowstone’s west side (the East side was not yet open).

1. Fountain Paint Pots

This is a cool spot, and it’s super easy to find. After driving in through the park’s west entrance, take a right and head south for 10 miles or so (I should warn you I’m bad with numbers). Don’t worry about getting lost; Yellowstone has great signage on most roads.

A quick tip: watch out for Bison. These furry bastards have a death wish and will no doubt try and end their lives on the hood of your speeding car. I may or may not have almost slammed into one approximately 50 yards from the park’s entrance.

Named after the variety of mud colors within the area, the Fountain Paint Pots are easily accessible from the road you come in on. A short boardwalk takes you out to a beautiful view within minutes. Here’s a shot Trisha took:

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No photoshop was used in the making of this photo.

2. Grand Prismatic Spring

Once you head a little further south on the west entrance road and past the Fountain Paint Pots, you’ll soon stumble upon this breathtaking feature. Another nicely built boardwalk circles the nation’s largest hot spring, allowing you to venture out and see the psychedelic colors for yourself. My fiancee and I watched as the bubbles and steam rose up from the Earth’s innards.

I promise you, from one adventurer to another, you will not be disappointed by the Grand Prismatic Spring.

Below is a shot of a pool located near the Grand Prismatic Spring. This pool gives off a brilliant blue tint, a hue you’d expect to see in the Caribbean or something.  You will see it on your walk to the spring itself:

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This is the main hot spring pool within the Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone.

And here’s a decent shot of the Grand Prismatic Spring:

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The colors are created by pigmented archaea and microbial mats.

3. Old Faithful

Lame. I’m sorry to anyone who feels differently about this feature, but it is truly one of those things you see just to be able to say you saw it. It’s a pressurized geyser that blows its top every 35 to 120 minutes – the end! If you’re expecting anything more than some water gushing up 90 feet or so, you may be slightly disappointed.

If you really want to see this thing in action, be sure to save a chunk of time for yourself. Although it’s the most predictable geographical feature on Earth, you may end up sitting around for an hour or more.

Here’s a photo of the old blow hole:

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Sorry for the lack of contrast; photography is not my strong suit.

So there you have it! If you just have a few hours to work with, it is possible to hit up some of the main spots in Yellowstone National Park. Just remember – slow down for those hood smashin’ Bison.

Do you have any recommendations to those visiting Yellowstone on a time crunch? Share your adventures and ideas in the comments below!


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