Here are our five top ways to make the most of a summer day in the park.
1. Eat Breakfast at Mammoth Hotel Dining Room
Bring in the summer with an early morning breakfast in the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room, one of the park’s oldest hotels that has been renovated. Today it lays claims to the first-certified green restaurant for Xanterra, the park’s concessionaire. With floor to ceiling windows, you can gaze out at what was once the parade grounds of Fort Yellowstone and see elk grazing. A stone’s throw away sit the legendary Mammoth Hot Springs, located in the northwestern part of the park. Open 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., it is first-come, first-served. No reservations are accepted.
2. Climb Mt. Washburn
Get an early start for what will likely be one of your most memorable hikes in a national park. Climbing Mount Washburn is a Yellowstone classic and for good reason. This strenuous 2.5-mile one-way climb brings you 1,400 feet up a wide path that cuts through fields of wildflowers before reaching the 10,223-foot-high summit. But the key is starting this hike early in the morning, so you are off the mountain by the time afternoon thunder and lightening storms roll in.
Along the way you may see bighorn sheep grazing. At the top, take in the amazing views of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and read the interpretive exhibits inside the shelter at the base of the fire lookout. Plan on this taking between 3 and 6 hours, depending on your level of fitness.
To start at the Chittenden Road trailhead, which is shorter than the route from the Dunraven trailhead, drive 8.7 miles south of Tower Junction. The path also is used by bikers and park vehicles.
3. Visit Old Faithful
Everyone does it. So join the crowds and see for yourself what happens when Old Faithful, a world-famous geyser erupts. The good news is watching Old Faithful is a spectator sport, so you can rest your legs from your Mt. Washburn climb while you sit on the benches that surround Old Faithful. It erupts every 60-110 minutes.
4. View Wildlife at the Lamar Valley
In the late afternoon and early evening, head to the Lamar Valley in the northeast corner of the park. It’s a fantastic place to spend hours viewing some of the park’s most famous large mammals, including grizzly and black bears, bison and wolves. Develop your herd mentality and you’ll be able to spot these mammals more quickly if you pay attention to where other tourists are pulled off the road peering through their binoculars.
5. Have dinner at the Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room
Built in 1902 near one of President Theodore Roosevelt’s camping areas, the Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room serves great meals in a wonderfully authentic log cabin. It is located in the Tower Fall area just west of the Lamar Valley. Relax and have a drink on the front porch rocking chairs while waiting for a table to open since dinner is first-come, first-served. Once inside you’ll discover a menu that accommodates meat lovers and vegetarians, as well as two stone fireplaces and a log-hewn interior that features something unusual ⎯ bark still on the logs. Dinner is served 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.