Labor Day weekend starts today—and what better way to spend it than in Yellowstone National Park?
Traditionally, Labor Day has marked the passage from the summer season into fall. It’s the autumn counterpart to Memorial Day, where visitors arrive in droves to greet a new summer in Yellowstone. Likewise, visitors coming to the Park around Labor Day tend to come and say goodbye to the Yellowstone summer.
Labor Day also marks the closure of certain Yellowstone businesses for the season: repair shops, Bride Bay Campground, the Roosevelt Lodge & Cabins, the Bridge Bay Marina Store. In addition, Park officials will be conducting vehicle checkpoints the whole weekend.
For the rest of Yellowstone National Park, however, it’ll be business as usual, for visitors coming in for a day or two, or (perhaps) for fourth grader families with Every Kid in A Park passes. Nonetheless, Labor Day is still a special time to visit the Park.
In fact, here are ten ways to make the most of your Labor Day weekend visit to Yellowstone.
Ten Things To Do During Labor Day Weekend
See Old Faithful
Seeing Old Faithful is always a given in the Park, but this year, there’s another reason why you should tramp over to Yellowstone’s most famous geyser.
Earlier this season, Michelin crews laid down a new pavement material around the geyser. Called Flexi-Pave, made by K.B. Industries, the pavement is made to be more durable to accommodate Yellowstone’s mounting visitor presence. It’s also more environmentally friendly. Its porous surface helps curb erosion by allowing groundwater to flow more easily; it also diffuses water flow. In addition, the new pathway, unlike asphalt, will not leach oil into the surrounding ground.
Most interestingly, the pathway uses material from 900 Michelin tires originally donated to Yellowstone for use on their vehicle fleet. After 100,000 miles, the tires were transformed into the material and lain across 6,400 square feet of the Park.
Ideally, the use of such materials will signal a shift away from asphalt and forge the way forward toward a Yellowstone infrastructure that places less stress on the ecosystem. Hopefully, such collaborations will also foster further environmental conscientiousness.
Stroll through Norris Geyser Basin’s Back Basin
Back Basin contains some of Norris’ (and Yellowstone’s) most notable thermal features, ranging from the gargantuan Steamboat Geyser to favorites like Echinus Geyser and Porkchop Geyser. It also has numerous hidden gems, ranging from tucked away features like Green Dragon Spring and Black Hermit Caldron to the remains of features like Minute Geyser.
True, it’s not as compact as Porcelain Basin, but Back Basin offers ample opportunity to stroll and take in the surroundings, from the nascent stands of lodgepole pine to the uniquely altered landscape. Be sure and take advantage of the benches that dot the pathway, especially if you’re traveling with small children or people with medical conditions.Also, whether on your way toward or back from Back Basin, consider stopping into the Norris bookstore as well as the Norris Geyser Basin Museum.
Visit Artist’s Paint Pots
A little ways off the Grand Loop Road outside of Norris Geyser Basin, Artist’s Paint Pots combines some of the most eccentric terrain in Yellowstone National Park with a double dose of awesome scenery.
As mentioned, you have to hike a bit to get back to this feature: a large hill riddled with steam vents and thermal features, with mud and paint pots strewn about its base. It is a majestic oddity. It’s a supreme treat to visit in fall (during or after Labor Day weekend) because of its relative distance from the main road.The walking is a little steep when you climb the hill in Artist’s Paint Pots, but once you get to the top, it’s well worth the climb.
Drive through the Lamar Valley
A hub for wildlife and wildlife spotters, the Lamar Valley is home not only to bison but also to Yellowstone’s burgeoning wolf population. If you’ve got the time (and the equipment) consider doing some wildlife watching. Or consider hiking around a bit or stopping at a picnic area to enjoy the scenery.
If you go up closer to the Northeast Entrance, you’ll be able to see some of Yellowstone’s tallest and most spectacular peaks: The Thunder, Baronette, and Abiathar Peaks.
Hike to Lone Star Geyser
This is one of the most stunning and accessible backcountry thermal features in Yellowstone National Park, whether you go by bike or take a hike from the Old Faithful Area. In addition, before or after you go visit Lone Star, you can take a peek at Kepler Cascades, one of Yellowstone’s most prominent and popular waterfalls.
See Tower Fall
Tumbling between grand spires of rock and lush verdant scenery, Tower Fall (at 132 feet) is not the tallest in the Park but it is perhaps the most picturesque, second only to the Grand Canyon falls.While you won’t be able to stop at Roosevelt Lodge for anything, since it closes so early, you can still bop over the Tower Fall General Store to satisfy any immediate food and beverage needs.
Visit Midway Geyser Basin
Midway Geyser Basin is a study in grandeur. Consisting of two impossibly large thermal pools—including the remains of the (once upon a time) largest geyser in the world, Excelsior Geyser—Midway excels on its compactness. Besides Excelsior, Midway is home to the beautiful Grand Prismatic Spring, whose loveliness has often been remarked upon. Midway is also a delight for the amount of water it discharges into the Firehole River, turning the surrounding rock an unreal orange. Midway approaches magic: you have to cross a bridge through a wall of steam (and the river, incidentally) to arrive at Midway.
Visit Fountain Paint Pots
An ever popular destination on the western half of Yellowstone, Fountain Paint Pots is Artist’s Paint Pots more well-known, accessible cousin. By this time of year, the pots may have thickened up a bit, but you should still be able to see Clepsydra Geyser sputtering away.
Have a sit-down in the Bear Pit Lounge
One of our favorite destinations in Yellowstone National Park, the Bear Pit Lounge is Yellowstone’s premier bar establishment, offering tasty fare like hot wings and a bison burger. You can grab a craft cocktail, a Montana beer, or a glass of wine and amuse yourself looking at the etched glass artwork.
Visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Visiting the Grand Canyon this time of year affords a few advantages over summer. Firstly, since temperatures are cooling, you won’t be under such hot glare as you stand on the canyon rims, as you would be in July. Secondly, as the sun sets, it’s easier to see the canyon at twilight, dappling the walls in gold and damask hues.