14 things you should know before visiting Yellowstone. (Braidyn Photographer Sheridan, WY)
I had the opportunity to live right at the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park all Summer. It was easily one of the best summers I've had to this day. I spent approximately fourteen weeks living in this remarkable national park. Fourteen weeks calls for fourteen things everyone should know before visiting!
1. If you're house is shaking, you're not crazy.... It's probably an earthquake.
It was estimated that around 878 earth quakes hit Yellowstone in a time frame of just two weeks. Yep, I felt a lot of them... and every single time I thought it might be the wind, or a bear trying to break in. Nothing that actually made sense.......
2. Yellowstone is the WORST place to break down. Make sure your car is serviced and ready to go.
OH MY GOSH! The nightmares. I worked for a car rental company while I was there. Almost everyday someone was calling because they had car issues. Luckily, the mechanics in West Yellowstone are incredibly quick and proficient. However, if your car IS broken down during peak times of the year, car rentals are usually slim to none. Don't rely on it as an option. Most people have had their car reservations for months. And one-way rentals? FORGET about it... it's slim pickings guys. Make sure YOUR car is capable of the high elevation changes and any other complications a car might have. We can't always control what happens when traveling... but you should be prepared as best you can.
3. Uber is fantastic, but Wyoming does not have it!
Sorry guys, if you're relying on Uber to get you into the park or anywhere else-- it doesn't exist. In fact, not many cab companies are in Yellowstone at all. If a local offers you a ride, it might be safer then walking and running into wild life on the roads. It was amazing how many people relied on Uber to get them from point A to B. If the app says all the drivers are "busy," it's because there are no drivers.
4. Everything is expensive. Everything.
You are in one of the most visited places in the country. I can't even tell you how many different licenses I saw renting cars. Businesses have about four solid months to make as much money as they can. Most businesses shut down during the winter time. If you're just planning a weekend trip and expect to get the same deal as someone who booked a car or hotel a year ago-- it won't happen. It's going to be expensive, but the stuff you see is worth every penny. Just make sure you have some extra money for those "just in case" moments.
5. You can find a surplus of T-shirts, but if you're looking for a cute dress-- good luck!
My roommate can back me up on this. West Yellowstone has every t-shirt about Yellowstone you can imagine. You can get a Star Wars themed for your brother, flower themed for grandma, or tye-dye for you're crazy Aunt Cindy. However, if you live there and need a nice outfit for a party or possible family event, it's really hard to find.
6. A national park is not the same as a petting zoo.
Those signs posted around the park that say "Do not approach wild animals" are there for your safety. Yes, it's amazing seeing these beautiful creatures in such a beautiful space... but stay away from them. I witnessed first hand a buffalo charging a vehicle. It was terrifying, and even more terrifying trying to watch people take a selfie with one! If you want to see animals close up, I suggest the Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. They have a lot of information on the animals you see and the wolves come right up to the window. It's really cool.
7. Don't expect to see many animals during July and the first part of August.
The best time, hands down, to see animals is the first part of June. After June, it's not as likely until the weather cools down a bit. Is it impossible? No, it's not! However, all the animals I saw were during cooler parts of the season. These animals are built to stand through nasty winters, they don't like the heat.
8. If you're traveling in an RV, consider renting a car or pulling one behind you.
If you want to make the MOST of your Yellowstone trip, and you're traveling by RV this is definitely something to consider. The roads are very narrow and some roads don't permit RV travel. There are a lot of beautiful drives you will miss if you decide to make your journey by RV (Fire-hole Drive is a favorite). It's also a lot harder to pull over when you spot an animal on the side of the road. If you plan to rent a car, book ahead.
9. Bring warm clothes, even if it's in the middle of summer.
It gets cold, especially at night. Make sure to pack your favorite hoodie or jacket. Yellowstone was still getting snow the end of June. It happens, be prepared.
10. If you can find a nice river to swim in, it's definitely recommended.
I wouldn't usually recommend swimming in rivers. They're cold and if you're not used to the cold it might not be a good thing. Yellowstone has a lot of thermal pools that run into the rivers which surprisingly warm it quite a bit. Am I suggesting you swim next to the thermal pools? No, I'm not. However, I am passing on my knowledge of the rivers being slightly warmer then most mountain rivers.
11. Drink lots of Water.
I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life. I am trying to tell you how to have a better vacation. Drink water. The climate is unbelievably dry in that area. There's really no sense in an unexpected trip to one of the medical clinics in the park if you can help it right? Drink water... and when you think you've drank enough.. drink one more bottle! :)
12. There's no cell phone service!
Get ready for an "unplugged" adventure, because there's no service in the park! If you're relying on a phone GPS to get you from point A to B, I'm sorry to say it's not going to work. I think if you have Verizon or AT&T, sometimes you can get service at old faithful. Don't worry though, the amazing park rangers provide a very detailed map of the park at the gate! It's a good way to refresh your map reading skills.
13. Visit the Tetons!
Trying to decide if it's worth the drive? I'm here to tell you, yes.. it's most definitely worth the drive! The Tetons are some of the prettiest mountains I've seen to date.
14. The nostalgia is real after you leave.
Be prepared for a couple days of depression after you leave this amazing place. I left about two weeks ago and I'm just now able to finish this blog post! The experiences you have, along with people you meet are one of a kind! It's perfectly normal to feel a little down when going back to work or meeting the demands of your "normal" lives. Enjoy every minute of while you're in Yellowstone! It's truly a remarkable place.
A special thanks.....
To my boss, Dawn! Thank you for giving me this chance to experience a little more of life. I appreciate all the time off I was granted to attend business and family endeavors. Our conversations at work were always interesting and I'm glad I had someone I could share my favorite places to eat with. lolThank you!
Marko! My insanely tall friend. You always made my day a little better. I'm pretty sure I never saw you in a bad mood. It helped, a lot. Your heart is kind and you're just an amazing dude all around. Thank you for continuing to send me drunk texts, even after I left. They always made my day. lol
Ivan... I always questioned who was actually the pregnant, grumpy one, me... or you? Lol Your "seize the moment" attitude is something anyone can look up to. You never wasted a minute of your life. That's really amazing. Thank you for showing me a new appreciation for birds, before Roger I really didn't like them.
Jordan, your over abundance of the word "whaaaaaat?" made me laugh. No matter what I'd tell you, you always seemed excited or genuinely shocked. Even if I only saw you for 2-3 hours a day, I really felt like you were listening to me. Thanks for that!
Fray.... I will not be jumping in a car with you anytime soon, especially if you're driving.... I'm sad you didn't start the summer with us, but your laugh is so contagious. You're so kind. Thanks for the little time you did spend with us.
Hannah. OH my Hannah. You were the bombest (not even a word) roommate that a girl could have. I seriously questioned my ability to be able to live with another female. You proved me wrong in every way! I feel blessed to have made a great new friend. Your heart is made of gold. Thanks for being my buddy all summer. It was amazing watching your personal growth, don't let no fool hold you back. You're amazing and I'll go anywhere with you so you don't have to go alone. You're always welcome at our house. I love you Hannah!
Mother Vicki. You are the reason I stayed. Every time I wanted to give up, your attitude changed mine. I'm so grateful for everything you did for me in the last fourteen weeks. Your the most selfless person I've ever met, truly one in a million. You were there for me when I thought my pregnancy was coming to an end. You were there for me when I needed someone to talk to. You were just always there, and never made me feel like I was a burden to listen to. Thanks for being the life of the party, and gifting us with uncontrollable laughter. I only hope I can be as excited about life as you are in my 50s. I love you Vicki. When I pop this baby out the whole family is coming to visit. ;)