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9 reasons why this is the greatest national park in the USA

Recently updated on July 28th, 2023 at 01:39 pm

It’s the oldest national park in the USA and one of the biggest, spanning three states. With 3.8 million guests last year, it’s one of the world’s most popular parks. It’s home to more than half the world’s hot springs and geysers. You can see extraordinary wildlife like bears, bison and moose. Its beauty is unrivalled with lush forests, hundreds of waterfalls, towering mountains, and mesmerizing canyons and lakes. It’s Yellowstone and nothing else on earth quite like it. 

Yellowstone has just celebrated its 151st birthday, so we’re honoring this national treasure by sharing our top 9 reasons why it’s the greatest national park in the United States

EXPERIENCE IT: National Parks Wonders

Image of a waterfall at Yellowstone National Park, surrounded by rocky hills and pine trees

1. Yellowstone is the oldest national park in the USA

Trailblazing Yellowstone was the first national park in the US and inspired a global national parks movement – and that’s just one of the reasons why we love it. Established in 1872, Yellowstone became a national park almost 20 years before Wyoming, Montana and Idaho became official states. To this day, Yellowstone is one of the most beloved national parks, with over three million visitors each year.

RELATED CONTENT: 150 years of Yellowstone: 5 reasons to cherish it

Image of an elk in the forest at Yellowstone greatest national park

2. Yellowstone is enormous

Yellowstone definitely takes the cake when it comes to size. Encompassing more than 2.2 million acres or nearly 3,500 square miles, Yellowstone is one of the biggest and greatest national parks in the US. It’s so big, it sprawls across three US states – Wyoming, Montana and Idaho (although its mostly located in Wyoming), and it’s bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island put together.

EXPERIENCE IT: Western Frontiers

Aerial mage of the multicolored  Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone National Park

3. Yellowstone is a hot spring paradise

One of the most magical reasons why Yellowstone is the greatest national park is because it’s home to half of the world’s hydrothermal features, with more than 10,000 active hydrothermal features spread across it. Sitting on top of a dormant supervolcano, the park is dotted with hot springs, geysers, mudpots, fumaroles and travertine terraces. Over 60% of the world’s active geysers alone are found in Yellowstone, and you can see these natural hot springs shooting boiling water and steam into the air all over the park. 

Image of a shooting geyser at Yellowstone National Park

You’ll want to see the famous ones like the Lone Star Geyser, which spouts hot water 45 feet into the air. There’s also the iconic Old Faithful geyser, which is a must-see for all visitors to Yellowstone. This thousand-year-old geyser has been erupting water into the sky approximately every 90 minutes for centuries – which is how it got its name. Each incredible explosion lasts anywhere from 90 seconds to 5 minutes and catapults up to 8,400 gallons of boiling water up to 184 feet high.

While you’re waiting for the geyser eruptions, you can marvel at the technicolor hot springs and bubbling mud pots. The vibrant blue, green and orange colors you see are caused by trillions of microorganisms called thermophiles. Although they can’t be seen with the naked eye, they love the heat and come together to create the dazzling colors you can see.

RELATED CONTENT: 8 incredible natural sights to see in Yellowstone National Park

Image of a multicolored hot spring at Yellowstone National Park

4. Yellowstone is full of remarkable wildlife

You don’t get the title of the greatest national park without some amazing wildlife. America’s first national park has long protected some of the country’s most endangered and important species including grizzly bears, black bears, bison, moose, elk, wolves, bighorn sheep and mule deer. Home to an estimated 67 different mammals, 300 bird species, and 16 fish species, Yellowstone hosts the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states.

In one day at Yellowstone, you could experience a handful of extraordinary wildlife sightings, from bear cubs tumbling after their mothers to bison roaming the great plains and bighorn sheep scrambling up the rugged mountains.

Bison are a particularly special sighting at Yellowstone, as the park is the only place in the US where bison have continuously lived since prehistoric times. If you’re lucky, you might get to experience a famous ‘bison jam’, where herds of bison congregate on the roads.

EXPERIENCE IT: Wild West, Cowboys and Buffalos

Image of bison walking on the road at Yellowstone National Park

5. Yellowstone has hundreds of waterfalls

Forget what TLC said about not chasing waterfalls. Yellowstone is a waterfall wonderland, with hundreds of waterfalls across the park. While there are around 50 named waterfalls, there are hundreds of lesser-known falls you can reach by walking along the 900 miles of stunning hiking trails. If there’s any place to go chasing waterfalls, it’s Yellowstone!

RELATED CONTENT: The 7 best places in the USA and Canada for families to reconnect with nature

Image of a waterfall seen through trees at Yellowstone

6. The scenic beauty is unparalleled

If you hold the crown as the greatest national park in the USA, you’ve surely got the beautiful landscapes to match. Yellowstone does not disappoint, with some downright magnificent wilderness landscapes. From soaring mountains to plunging canyons, and from lush ancient forests to the glittering Yellowstone Lake, this park is a nature lover’s and photographer’s dream. The best part is you can get right up close to it, with plenty of outdoor’s activities like hiking, boating, and camping. It’s also accessible to everyone with handicap-accessible wooden boardwalks where you can get into the middle of the action, to more challenging hikes into the backcountry. 

You can spend two nights completely immersed in Yellowstone’s treasures when you join Trafalgar’s national parks trips. Our National Parks Wonders, Western Frontiers, Wild West, Cowboys and Buffalos trips all include an enchanting two-night stay at the National Park Lodges within Yellowstone National Park and you’ll have two days to roam through Yellowstone ‘til your heart’s content. 

RELATED CONTENT: Love nature? These are the 6 ultimate Trafalgar trips for you

Image of flowing travertine steps at Yellowstone

7. Yellowstone has a rich cultural heritage

It’s not just about the nature and wildlife. Yellowstone has an incredible cultural heritage spanning thousands of years. There are almost 2,000 archaeological sites in the park, some with physical evidence showing people began living and moving through the area more than 11,000 years ago.

Once home to 27 Native American tribes, including the Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfeet, Crow, and Lakota peoples, Yellowstone continues to preserve the cultural traditions of these ancestral lands. There are several sites and exhibitions where you can get to know more about the history and culture of Yellowstone’s Native American tribes. Be sure to visit the Yellowstone Tribal Heritage Center which showcases Native American artists and scholars.

RELATED CONTENT: We asked, you answered: these are the best National Parks in the USA

Image of the Milky Way and a starry sky over some trees at Yellowstone

8. Yellowstone is a world-class act in conservation

Yellowstone is undoubtedly the greatest national park in the USA – and we need to keep it that way. The park works tirelessly to strengthen the ecosystem, protect wildlife, and honor the Indigenous guardians of the land. Native American campaigns advocate relocating bison to their lands, rather than culling and have helped protect grizzly bears. Hundreds of Native American leaders, led by the late Don Shoulderblade, a Cheyenne spiritual leader, created the Grizzly Treaty to prevent the removal of the grizzly bear from the US Endangered Species Act. As Yellowstone continues to enact world-class conservation programs, it’s on track to achieve green list status from 

As it continues to demonstrate world-class conservation impacts, Yellowstone could likely achieve the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) green list status, a certification for successful nature conservation. 

RELATED CONTENT: 8 off the beaten path destinations in the USA you’ve never thought to visit

Image of a brown bear in the forest at Yellowstone

9. Yellowstone won an award as the greatest national park in the USA

Don’t just take our word for it… Everyone thinks Yellowstone is the greatest national park in the United States! Yellowstone was named the best national park in the USA by Travel + Leisure readers in T+L’s 2022 World’s Best Awards. Rated for its natural wonders, wildlife, activities, lodging, accessibility, and cleanliness, Yellowstone beat out other iconic US national parks like Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and Yosemite National Park in California.

That settles it! Yellowstone is the greatest national park in the USA. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below…

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