Put four girls together, one car, 34 hours driving and Luis Fonsi singing “Decpacito” all way long. The result? Best road trip ever.
Emma Chase once said:
“The greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way”
And there was a lot of stuff going on during that trip.
So let’s start!
Who is going to guess where we celebrated the 4th of July? Someone could say watching fireworks on a lake shore sitting on a cozy blanket. Someone else could say drinking beer at a barbecue party. All very attractive alternatives. However, can that be compared with a long and hot wait in an auto-repair garage in Billings, Montana? What the heck were they doing in Billings on the 4th of July?! Fair question. Well, the day before Independence Day, our car’s brakes broke (no pun intended). It wouldn’t have been an issue if we hadn’t all had to work the day after in Wisconsin.
I always try to look at the bright side of a bad situation. My point was that, at least, the car broke the day before of our last day trip. We would have had plenty of time to look for someone available to fix our car and then drive all night back to Wisconsin. And voila. We found out this car-repair garage in Billings opened 24h – even in a National Holiday. And you know what? We made it! We got our car fixed and we got back in time to work the day after!
Mishaps aside, I would do it over and over again because that place left me speechless. So, welcome to the Yellowstone National Park. The Park spans an area of 3,468.4 square miles (8,983 km2) and covers no less than three States – Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. It is divided into two Loops – the Upper and the Lower Loop.
Our trip was four days long and included a stop to Mt. Rushmore on our way back home. Two days driving and two days spent at the Park. Since we arrived from the northeast, the most logical choice was entering the Park from the North Entrance and visiting the Upper Loop first.
DAY #1 Upper Loop
I like to call it the “slow” loop. Even though there are not as many pit stops as in the Lower Loop, it was really relaxing going up and down through the snow-capped mountains, stopping at the crystal-clear rivers and discovering hidden waterfalls. The landscape was spectacular and the sun made everything so sharp that even the best pictures can not possibly do the colors justice.
The must see spots of this loop are essentially three – Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin and Canyon Area.
THE MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS
This spot is known for the terraces – formed over centuries of hot water bubbling up from the ground, cooling and depositing calcium carbonate. The sulfur smell is very strong over there but the view is totally worthy.
THE NORRIS GEYSER BASIN
This Geyser is characterized by the presence of colorful and above the boiling point geothermal hotspots. We did not make to stop there but if you will have more time I would not want to miss it!
THE GRAND CANYON OF YELLOWSTONE
This Canyon has been dug by the Yellowstone River. Three waterfalls feed the River – the Lower, Upper and Crystal Falls. Since we were out of time, we stopped just at the Lower Falls in order to have a full image of the Canyon, the River, and the Fall all together.
DAY #2 Lower Loop
After spending the night in a very rustic log cabin at the Blue Moon Saloon, we made our way to the Park’s West Entrance. We began the Lower Loop tour from Madison and then we followed the road until the East Entrance. The Lower Loop has the greatest number of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features. Sure you do not want to miss the Midway Geyser Basin, the Old Faithful Area, the West Thumb and all the amazing views of the Yellowstone Lake.
THE MIDWAY GEYSER BASIN
It hosts the world-famous Grand Prismatic – one of the most brilliant of Yellowstone colorful hot springs. Minerals dissolved in the hot water are deposited and gradually build the gracefully terraced shoulders of this features. Simultaneously, billions of microorganisms called “Thermophiles” make the hot spring a burst of colors.
On the way to the Midway Geyser Basin, we were lucky enough to catch an amazing sight of the Old Faithful Area geysers in the distance through a field of purple flowers. That’s the best part of road trips. You are free to stop whenever you want and be amazed of what the road offers you!
THE OLD FAITHFUL AREA
The Old Faithful Area hosts the largest concentration of active geysers. The path built among the little fumaroles will lead to a viewing area where people can sit and wait for the geyser eruption. Clik here to watch the eruption video.
The average between the geyser’s eruptions is currently 74 minutes. Visitors can check for posted prediction times in most buildings in the Old Faithful Area. Eruptions normally last between 1.5 to 5 minutes for an amount ranging from 3,700 gallons to 8,400 gallons of water. The average temperature is about 204°F (95.6°C).
Before heading out, the Park gave us one last gift – an amazing view of the Yellowstone Lake. No better way to conclude an already awesome trip!
So, here we are! Our car got fixed and we hit the road one more time. Since it was on our way back to Wisconsin, we decided to make a quick stop in South Dakota and visit the famous sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
Although I really appreciate the place, it let me a little disappointed. On the base of the publicity built around the place, I would be expected more. Moreover, there is nothing else to visit around but Mount Rushmore. Therefore, I am glad we included this stop on our trip because I do not think is worth going there just to see the sculpture of the presidents’ faces – it does not take more than half an hour.