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Yellowstone FAQ: Top 10 Curiosities

a canyon with a mountain in the background

You’ve probably seen images of Yellowstone’s famous geysers blasting toward the sky. Perched atop a dormant super volcano, this 2.2-million-acre wonderland was America’s first national park. It’s home to Old Faithful, the video-worthy cone geyser that’s erupted every 45 minutes to two hours since 2000 (watch the live webcam here), as well as colorful hot springs and a 136-square-mile lake.

Yellowstone’s allure extends far beyond its picture-postcard beauty. Fishing, boating, and horseback riding are among the activities allowed inside the park, though permits are required in some cases. There are dedicated events for kids, as well as Park Ranger talks about the history and wildlife of the area. If you’re considering a visit to Yellowstone National Park, here are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers to satisfy your budding curiosity.

1. Could Yellowstone’s volcano erupt?

If you’ve seen the late ‘90s disaster flicks Volcano and Dante’s Peak, you might be wary of Yellowstone’s super volcano, or caldera, that sits under the surface.  Any active geothermal feature has the potential to blow, but here’s the good news: Scientists at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory would be able to detect an impending eruption weeks, or months, prior to the first visible signs. So you can rest easy that visitors won’t be running from lava flows anytime soon.

2. What are the most popular months for visitors?

June, July, and August are the peak months for scenic travel. With tourists numbering in the hundreds of thousands during the high season, expect crowded roads and trails. The park is open year-round, however, so we recommend visiting during the fall to capture bursts of color, or see the pristine, snow-covered pines in the winter season. Because some roads are closed to standard vehicles at that time, traffic is low and snowmobiles are the transportation of choice. Winter in Yellowstone is eerily quiet, yet magical.

3. When should I head to Old Faithful?

The park’s most popular feature starts to get crowded an hour or two after the park opens. Try visiting early in the morning, or closer to dusk, when most park visitors have moved on.

4. Is Yellowstone dangerous?

Crime rates are relatively low and major animal attacks are infrequent. Follow the park’s Safety Tips to help reduce the likelihood that you or a family member will be hurt. The largest cause of injury is the hot springs, so make sure to stay on marked boardwalk paths.

5. What should I pack?

Temperatures average in the high 70s during the summer months, with nighttime lows in the 40s. Wear layered clothing that can be easily removed during the day when the sun is at its zenith. Binoculars are recommended for wildlife viewing. Pack plenty of water (hydration is key) and non-perishable snacks such as granola bars and nuts.

6. How about a bathing suit? Can I swim at Yellowstone?

There are streams, waterfalls, and lakes at Yellowstone, but don’t jump right in. The park has only two designated swimming areas: a watering hole at Firehole River and a smaller area at Boiling River that’s only open in the fall to early winter.

7. Are there really bears in the park?

Yes, several hundred grizzlies call Yellowstone home sweet home. Thankfully, they tend to keep to themselves. Stay alert, on marked trails, and hike in groups to reduce your risk of encountering a bear. If camping, pack any food items in airtight containers.

8. What other wildlife will I see?

There are around 50 small mammals, dozens of bird species, deer, snakes, and fish scattered throughout Yellowstone. Lucky visitors may also spot larger mammals such as coyotes, mountain lions, bison, and wolves.

9. Can I stay overnight?

Of course! The park is so massive and spread out that experts are still trying to determine its exact size. The more time you spend onsite, the more you’ll see. There are many lodging opportunities around the park if you’re looking to stay indoors during your trip. However, if you’re staying the night in one of the park’s 12 campgrounds, you’ll need typical outdoor essentials ranging from tents and cooking gear to flashlights, toilet paper and games or other activities to keep your family occupied when campfire storytelling isn’t cutting it.

10. Will I get cell phone reception inside Yellowstone?

Not likely. According to the National Park Service, cell service and bandwidth are extremely limited within park boundaries. We’re not sure exactly how that works with Yellowstone’s handy trip-planning app, but it’s worth downloading ahead of time even if you can’t access data 24/7. As for photos, snap away. But you’ll likely have to wait to post your selfies until you leave the park proper.

If you have more questions about a trip to Yellowstone, our team at Scenic Safaris is well versed in the area and can help answer any inquires you may have. Call us at 1-888-734-8898 and we’ll be happy to help you plan your next vacation to Yellowstone.