See the erupting geysers! Hear the hissing fumaroles! Smell the sulfurous mud pots! For sensory stimulus, Yellowstone is a destination like no other: a threadbare patch in the planet’s carpet where the earth’s crust is just a few miles thick. As a result, half the geothermal marvels in the world—more than 10,000 hot springs and steam vents—bubble up within the park’s confines. Some, such as Old Faithful, are as famous as any celebrity (and at upwards of 350ºF, definitely hotter). No wonder Yellowstone was set aside as the first national park in the United States back in 1872. It’s also no surprise that more than 3 million visitors travel here every year to gaze up at the world’s tallest geyser (Steamboat, almost 400 feet); photograph bison; fish for rainbow trout; straddle the Continental Divide; and—even in the dead of winter—soak in the soothing heat of Boiling River. Who knew that the planet’s thin-skinned spot could be so much fun?
This article was first published in March 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.