Actually, there are so many things to see that the real problem (if you can call it a problem) is there are so many things to see. It’s impossible to see all of it, certainly in one visit — maybe even in a lifetime. Still, one of the duties of a guide is to help you make choices.
It helps to know three things:
- How much time you have.
- Where you are coming from and going to (roughly).
- Your sightseeing preferences.
How Much Time You Have
For many people, this is the least flexible factor in their visit, which makes it all that more important to try to figure how much can be seen in a given amount of time. Time in this case is usually measured in days, not hours. It takes four to six hours just to drive through the Yellowstone Region, even if you didn’t stop for sightseeing at all. If you plan to see anything along the way, then one full day (implying staying overnight in or near the park) is a minimum. The distances in and around Yellowstone Park are great, usually measured in hundreds of miles. The presence of so many mountain ranges makes driving in a direct route nearly impossible. Even if you have what seems to be a luxurious amount of time, say a week, it’s still beneficial to plan for what to see in that time.
Where You are Coming From and Going To
If you look at a map of the Yellowstone Region, you’ll see that roads tend to hub around Yellowstone National Park — in fact, it’s sort of tentacle-like with the park being the octopus. That means that which direction you come from, and which direction you use to leave the park will, in part, determine what you’ll see. Of course, if you have the time (see above) you can double back, loop around, or otherwise explore parts of the park without thinking much about where you come in and go out. That’s great. However, a majority of people should give some thought to which park entrances (and exits) they want to use. We call this transit touring. People who live in Denver and are on their way to visit Seattle will probably enter the Yellowstone Region from the south to east and exit from the west to north. Which of the highways to and from the park, as well as what part of the park they’ll visit may be part of this crossing pattern. In this case, selection of what to see may be determined by the route.
Everybody is different, of course. For one thing, some people have seen Yellowstone many times, others are seeing it for the first time. Some people are really into taking pictures of wildlife; others want one picture of the kids standing in front of Old Faithful. Some people are fascinated by museums where they can pick up information about Yellowstone; others get sore feet in a museum in about ten minutes. And so forth.
Many people do have preferences about what they would like to see when they visit Yellowstone and its environs. That’s a reasonable help in choosing what to see. It’s particularly true if you been to the park before, at least within memory. Maybe you don’t care to see Old Faithful, yet again. Maybe you’d like to hit some of the out-of-the-way places. Or not. If it’s your first trip to Yellowstone, then why not see the most famous sights?
Okay, let’s get more specific. Below are links to information at Yellowstone Insider that can show you the options.
“Must See” — Yellowstone Insider recommendations for the six most outstanding things to see in the Greater Yellowstone Region.
The Sightseeing Table — A more or less complete listing of the most important things to see in the Yellowstone Region, listed by road access, and ranked as Major Highlight, Good to See, and If Time Allows.
Touring the Park – suggestions for 1-, 2-, and 3-day tours within Yellowstone National Park.