Yellowstone National Park is America’s first National Park, giving it a special, celebrated place in the history of the United States. World renowned for its spectacular natural phenomena, this vast stretch of sublime wilderness encompasses an impressive 3,472 square miles. This makes it one of the largest areas of untouched land in the entire US. But where, exactly, is it? Surprisingly, Yellowstone expands over not one, but three states: Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Even more confusingly, the park has five different entrances spread across these locations, meaning you’ll have to do a little research into which is best if you’re planning a visit. We look into the three different locations of Yellowstone in more detail, and how they contribute to its unique and enduring identity.
The majority of Yellowstone Park (96%) is situated in Wyoming. Here, you can expect to find some of the natural world’s most breath-taking phenomena, from mud pots to hot springs and waterfalls. One of the most visited sites here is Lower Falls, a spectacular feature of Yellowstone River. Twice the height of Niagara Falls, this epic waterfall gushes water so fast it leaves great puffs of white vapor around it.
Yellowstone Star Attractions: Mammoth Hot Springs and More
One must-see attraction in Wyoming is Mammoth Hot Springs, a vast complex of naturally occurring hot springs filled with rainbow colored water. Another is Mud Volcano, a smelly, volcano-like cone that erupts natural sulphuric acid into the surrounding landscape. There are two entrances into the Wyoming area of Yellowstone Park: the South entrance, in Jackson, Wyoming, and the East Entrance, in Cody, Wyoming.
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A much, much smaller portion of Yellowstone (3%) exists in Montana. Even so, there is still plenty to see and do in the Montana country of Yellowstone. It is a popular destination for day-trippers and campers, who pursue flyfishing, kayaking and horse-riding adventures through the abundant natural forestlands.
An Important Gateway to Yellowstone
Montana is also home to three of Yellowstone’s entrances, giving greater accessibility to the larger parkland than any of the other two states. This makes Montana’s area of Yellowstone a vitally important gateway into the wider parklands. They are the North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana, the Northeast Entrance in Cooke City, Montana, and the West Entrance in West Yellowstone, Montana. From here, visitors to Yellowstone can take a relatively short trip to the park’s wider attractions in Wyoming.
Of the three, the West Entrance proves the most popular, because it brings you closest to the greatest landmarks that Yellowstone has to offer. Meanwhile, near to the North Entrance in Gardiner is the Roosevelt Arch, a ceremonial archway entrance named after American President Theodore Roosevelt, who happened to be visiting the park during its construction, and once delivered a speech from beneath the arch!
Just a tiny section of Yellowstone (1%) can be found in Idaho. But this tranquil area of Idaho country has its own pull for visitors. 50 square miles of stunning, untouched forests and rivers provide homelands for a great many wildlife inhabitants including pronghorn, deer, moose, elk, and even wolves. There are no roads, buildings or houses here, so it really is a true wilderness. The area is surrounded by great stretches of water, making it a popular hotspot for fly-fishing, kayaking and water sports. Buffalo Lake is one of the area’s most popular attractions, as is the surrounding Buffalo Lake campgrounds, where the most daring and intrepid visitors can experience a wild adventure off the beaten track.