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Traveler's Checklist For Yellowstone

What can you do during a visit to Yellowstone? Answering that can run the gamut from watching Old Faithful to learning about Thomas Moran, but to give you a head-start here are 10 items that should be on your "to-do" list when you visit the park.

1. Watch Old Faithful perform. Early mornings offer you perhaps the best opportunity to avoid the crowds that can congregate around the geyser throughout the day.

2. In late spring and early summer (through mid-June), head early in the day (right around sunrise isn't too early) to the Lamar Valley to look for wolves, grizzlies, elk, and bison. You just might luck out and catch the howl of a wolf hanging in the air.

3. Backpack down to Shoshone Lake, where the Shoshone Geyser Basin sputters, fumes, and boils 'round-the-clock.

4. If you're experienced, paddle into the park's backcountry via either Lewis, Shoshone, or Yellowstone lakes. Yellowstone Lake offers a portal into one of the wildest places in the Lower 48, a place where you can listen to wolves, photograph bald eagles and herons, watch grizzlies, and fish for trout. You'll also enjoy some of the most incredible sunsets in the park.

5. Check out the Museum of the National Park Ranger near the Norris Geyser Basin. Located in the original Norris Soldier Station near the entrance to Norris Campground, this museum offers exhibits that depict the development of the park ranger profession from its roots in the military traditions through early rangers and to the present array of NPS staff specialized duties. A small auditorium shows a laser-disc production of the 25-minute movie, "An American Legacy," which tells the story of the development of the National Park Service.

6. If you're a history buff, plan a visit to the Yellowstone National Park Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Montana, just north of Mammoth Hot Springs. Inside the center's walls you'll find almost 3,000 linear feet of historic records, 90,000 photographic prints and negatives, 20,000 books and manuscripts, 300,000 cultural and natural science specimens, over 35,000 archeological artifacts and approximately 10,000 plant specimens. Call (307) 344-2664 to reserve a spot on the public tours.

7. Walk to Artist Point near Canyon. This spot offers perhaps the best view of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River.

8. Explore the Norris Geyser Basin, which is the hottest, and maybe the most colorful, thermal basin in Yellowstone.

9. Make a dinner reservation at Roosevelt Lodge. Before dinner or after, snag a seat in one of the rocking chairs on the lodge's front porch for a relaxing view of the Lamar Valley.

10. Learn about the supervolcano slumbering beneath Yellowstone at the Canyon Visitor Education Center.

There you have it. It's not an all-inclusive list, but it's a good start if you're wondering how to spend your time in the park.

Yellowstone National Park

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide