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Reader Request: A Good, Pleasant Four-Day Itinerary

Of course! Four nights in Yellowstone National Park and another two in Grand Teton National Park sounds like the perfect amount of time to spend on the road: It will allow you to see a lot of the Park without killing yourself. The pleasures of Yellowstone National Park are best when savored slowly, with plenty of time for reflection.

We’d recommend the following activities:

Horseback Riding
Though there are other corrals and private horse-tour operators in Yellowstone National Park and the greater Yellowstone area, our favorite is the Roosevelt Corral. Roosevelt is the only part of Yellowstone where you can feel like you’re back in the Wild West; the rugged terrain of the area and horse trail makes for a perfect ambiance. You can take a one- or two-hour horse ride from the Roosevelt Corral. One-hour rides (for $37) are offered throughout the day beginning at 9:45 a.m., while two-hour rides are offered at 12:15 or 12:45 for $56, depending on which day you visit. Combine a horse ride with lunch at the Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room, where the Wild West theme is continued with a menu heavy on smoked meats and other hearty fare.

If you don’t want to drive up to Roosevelt there are horse corrals at Canyon and Mammoth as well.

The geyser fields around the Old Faithful Inn are among the most known and unknown hiking areas in Yellowstone.

How can they be unknown? Because most people stick to the main trails in the geyser basin and don’t venture forth to the more lightly traveled areas. Case in point: Most people turn around at Morning Glory Pool and head back to Old Faithful Inn. Not always a bad plan, especially if they’re at the end of a longer walk.

But the area past Morning Glory Pool is fascinating in its own right, extending almost a mile to Biscuit Basin. Because most folks stop at Morning Glory Pool, you’ll have the trail to yourself. Though there are several pools and geysers along the way, there are highlights: Atomizer Geyser and Artemisia Geyser. Atomizer Geyser takes its name from the apparatus on the top of a fragrance bottle that dispenses a fine mist; this geyser is known to spray a fine mist from a single cone during major eruptions. If you’re lucky you’ll see one of these major eruptions, which are unpredictable, fly 50 feet high, and usually occur twice a day. Artemisia Geyser is named for the sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) found mostly in the valleys of Yellowstone National Park, as the geyserite on the edge of the pool is the same green seen in the sagebrush. Farther down the trail Baby Daily Geyser erupts fairly often. Keep on the path to hit the underrated Biscuit Basin.

By the time you hit Biscuit Basin and come back to Old Faithful Inn you’re put together a hike approaching four miles — and a fairly easy one at that.

Hiking with a Ranger
The folks who know the most about Yellowstone National Park are the ones there everyday: the Park Rangers. We’re huge fans of talks and hikes led by Rangers and try to make one during every trip to the Park.

While in Canyon we’d recommend the “Walking the Edge” hike, which lasts for 90 minutes and takes you along the South Rim Trail in a relatively easy one-mile walk. Along the way a Park Ranger will point out highlights; you’ll get good views of the Upper and Lower Falls, the totality of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and more. The tour begins at Uncle Tom’s Parking Lot (which is shown on the Yellowstone map given when you enter the Park) daily at 3 p.m.

While at Old Faithful Inn we’d recommend the “Geyser Hill Walk,” which leaves daily at 8:30 a.m. from the temporary Old Faithful Visitor Center. True, you can have a perfectly good time walking through the Old Faithful geyser basins on your own. But a Ranger can fill in the details and history about each geyser, point out some small features you would most likely miss, steer you toward active and spouting geysers, and answer any questions you may have. The walk lasts for 90 minutes.

There are other walks with Rangers at Canyon and Old Faithful; in addition walks are led from Canyon, Mammoth, Fishing Bridge/Lake Village, Madison/West Yellowstone, Grant Village/West Thumb and Norris. A detailed schedule is presented to you when entering Yellowstone National Park.

Learn More About the Old Faithful Inn
A great activity during a rainy day is a guided tour of Old Faithful Inn. Every day four tours (9:30 and 11 a.m., 2 and 3:30 p.m.) are led by specialists who know the ins and outs of the Inn. The tours meet next to the huge fireplace in the lobby.

On the Water
Bridge Bay Marina offers motorboat rentals ($47/hour), but Yellowstone Lake is awfully big, especially when you don’t know what you’re looking for. We’d recommend the one-hour scenicruise on the Lake Queen II, which leaves five times daily (9:15 and 10:45 a.m.; 1:15, 2:45 and 4:15 p.m.) from Bridge Bay Marina and goes out to Stevenson Island. The cost is very reasonable — $14.25 for adults, $9 for kids — and you’ll see both the grandeur of the lake and some of the history of the area. Before or after head to West Thumb and take a look at the geyser basin, an underappreciated feature of the Park.

Sample Itinerary:

Day One: Arrive at Old Faithful Inn. Hike back to Biscuit Basin. Grab a bite at the original Hamilton Store fountain, then head back and walk through the remainder of the geyser basin, timing your return with an Old Faithful eruption.

Day Two: Take “Geyser Hill Walk” with Ranger, then take a leisurely drive to Norris and Madison and stop by the Fountain Paint Pots and the Norris Geyser Basin. Don’t miss the side drives to Firehole Lake Drive and Firehole Canyon Drive. If your legs are up to it, hike back to Fairy Falls: it’s an easy hike and the falls should still be pretty in August.

Day Three: Get an early start and hit the road — one of the best times to see the Yellowstone wildlife — while heading for Lake. Take a boat tour of Yellowstone Lake, followed by a hike through the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Stop by the Lake Hotel for lunch; the deli has casual food, while the dining room has a wider selection for a more relaxing experience. Head up to Canyon and catch the “Walking the Edge” Ranger tour at 3, followed by dinner somewhere in the Canyon complex.

Day Four: Head to the Roosevelt Corral for a 9:45 a.m. horse ride, followed by lunch at the Roosevelt Lodge. In the afternoon, head south and take in the many sights of the Hayden Valley, where bison and bears are frequently spotted. Stop at Mud Volcano and hike the short (less than one mile) trail. Highlights: Black Dragon’s Cauldron and Dragon’s Mouth Spring.

Have a question about Yellowstone? Drop us a line at editors@augustpubications.com.

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