To ensure a campsite, I drove down the evening before and slept in the Westy next to the park entrance. Bright and early at 5 AM I woke up and drove to Norris campground to stand in line for a site. Since we couldn’t find much on how the check-in process works, we didn’t want to take chances by driving an 1.5 hours after Fin wakes up at 8 AM. It turns out to have not been so necessary (see our post on how check-in works) and made us very late in checking out from our AirBnb (we really pissed our host off), but live and learn, right?
Driving into Yellowstone
We decided to enter from the North entrance, the first entrance to Yellowstone. From miles and miles away we could see the mountains of Yellowstone, so the van was filled with our yells of “Look!!”. In the rush to check out of our AirBnb I forgot the chicken and pork in the freezer, so we stopped in Gardiner, the town directly North of Yellowstone, for some last-minute supplies. Fully stocked, we officially entered Yellowstone through the famous Roosevelt arch.
Mammoth Terrace Springs
After climbing a couple miles of hill, the buildings of Mammoth greeted us. The army built a fort at Mammoth in 1886 (the Japanese would have built an onsen hotel) to protect Yellowstone form poachers, vandals, squatters, and various ne’er do wells, which the rangers have converted to offices, a visitor’s center, housing, and a museum. While we love museums, we were there for other things. Things like the Mammoth Terrace Springs.
Parking can be a bit of a bitch with all the stuff there, but drive around and you’ll find something. Everything you need is walkable, so anywhere is fine. After that, all you need to do is wander among the stunning terraces. From a distance they stun, from up close they stun. As you approach the multi-colored terraces, smaller and smaller details present themselves until you find yourself on your knees on the boardwalk staring and coral-like formations of minerals.
They’ve been active for thousands of years and that history is evident as you watch water trickle down the latticework of calcium deposits. The boardwalks have been laid out in such a way that you can view every terrace from a couple different angles and this you must do. walk every last inch of those boardwalks, because the next spot will surprise you. We thought that we had seen it all only to find one of our favorite terraces hidden at the end of a long boardwalk.
Since we were in the North side of the park and had a campsite reserved, we decided to stay up North for the day and check out Wraith Falls. The rain had begun, but the hike out to Wraith Falls is only .5 mile out so we decided to do it.
The falls were beautiful, but I wish we had a sunnier day to see it on. Fin didn’t care too much for the cold and rain, so we hiked up there, saw, and headed back to the Westy. We were ready for camp.