As said in the post about Yellowstone, apart from Old Faithful and Mammoth village, in Yellowstone you can also visit Lake Village, Canyon Village and Grand Village.
They are in a only couple of hours of driving from each other, so if you have your own car you are all set. You can also try hitchhiking because it is legal in the park, and secondly, people are usually very nice and they will try to help you as much as they can. From my experience, if you decide to hitchhike, you should start early in the morning because sometimes not many cars are passing your village and it takes a while before someone picks you up. When travelling to Mammoth we were extremely lucky as it took us only two cars to get there and it is about 1,5-2 hours by car.
As the name suggests, the village is situated on the banks of the Yellowstone lake. Huge lake, it gives the impression of a small sea! I visited Lake Village twice and as much as I liked it, I was always driven towards other places more. They have a hotel, a restaurant, gift shops and a visitor center, so all the basic infastructure other villages have.
There is an option of renting a boat which is really cool thing to do, so if the weather is good enough, you should definitely try it out. For Xanterra employees (one of the companies that employs people in Yellowstone National Park, we will write a separate post about it) renting a boat is a bit cheaper as they get some discount, about 20-30%. My friend and I did exactly that and it was truly an amazing experience. There are particular parts of the lake that you can go to while on your boat but since the lake is very big it takes you a while to go around. You can drive, enjoy sun and just relax!
Apart from that there are some nice hikes to do around Lake Village:
1. Natural Bridge
It is one of the shorter hikes, about 30 minutes of hiking in the woods. Even though it is not too long, you should still have bear spray with you and walk around with at least one person, you never know what can happen. We didn’t see any bears on our way there but we did see a marmot (photo below) and some footprints of bigger animals so that is always a sign that they are in the area, ready to defend themselves if needed.
2. Pelican Valley
I haven’t been there but Josip has and he says it is both, the best and the worst hike he ever did. The best because the whole trail is in a bear management area in YNP, you can go there from 7 AM to 7 PM. It takes you through the huge valley (Pelican valley – apparently one pelican is the boss because there was only one that he had seen during the hike, hehe). There is lots of wildlife on the trail such as bison, wolves and grizzly bears but you can also notice some birds like Sand Martins, pelicans, Ospreys, Great Gray Owls, or very cool Wilson’s Phalarope.
Better part of the trail is visible, however, after some time you start following the path which leads you to nowhere and then you realize that you “lost”. You either find your way out, which is time consuming, or you will do what Josip did – try to go around and do the loop, get lost and jump above streams (there is an actual path, but they couldn’t find it). As Josip and his friends didn’t know where to go, around 9 PM they were still on the trail, getting back to the car around 10:30 PM.
There was a wolf that was following them at some point, they saw grizzly bears and lots of footprints. Important thing to remember: always bring a sunscreen with you! Yellowstone itself is located on a higher elevation, has thinner air and you burn more easily. If you walk around for hours in the open area, you will be red as a lobster.
Again, as you can guess from the name of the village itself, there is a canyon right next to it. It is definitely not as big as the Grand Canyon (it is actually called the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone) but it will still take your breath away. The nature in Yellowstone is amazing and no matter where you go, you will see what I’m taking about. Here is a list of hikes/places worth seeing while you are there:
1. Artist point
It is the most famous place in the village – from the parking lot (where you need to be lucky to actually park, if you are there with a car of your own) you go up the stairs to the lookout point. It is just 0.1 mile of walking and when you get there, you will know why it is the most photographed place in Yellowstone NP. You will see the V-shaped canyon with waterfall which gives you a incredible view. The best of all, it is amazing that basically everyone is able to get there – people at every age can go up there to observe the picture which is not the case with most of the strenuous hikes.
Also, Josip would like to point out, that if you go there, you can observe an Osprey nest! Depending on the time of the year, you can witness the parents feeding the chick, or if you are really lucky, you can observe the first flight of a young eagle.
If you park your car on the parking lot on Upper Falls and go down the trail that starts there you will come to a small balcony where you are basically standing on the top of the waterfall. The feeling is indescribable – the waters flows with an enormous energy right under you and falls down about 30 meters and you will most likely see the rainbow appearing over the canyon. See by yourself:
3. Casade Lake
Being only about 2 miles of walking, this hike leads you to a beautiful lake. Together with a group of friends, I hiked about 2/3 of the trail since we were going only to the campsite. It took us less than an hour to get there and we were followed by a black bear! We didn’t notice that until we got to the campsite and actually saw it going the same road as we did 5 minutes earlier. We weren’t worried about it as we were in a group, we had bonfire and it was a black bear, not a grizzly, so we were kind of safe. And also, we had bear spray with us!
If you are thinking about camping anywhere in Yellowstone, you need to get a permission from rangers, and those you can get at the Visitor Center.
I will be honest – I have never ever been in the village because according to everyone this village is so small there is nothing to do there. I guess there are some nice hikes to do around it but for longer stay it is a definite no. However, I thought I will mention it since I am talking about Yellowstone in general. I did only one hike that is close to the Grand Village:
1. Riddle lake
My friends and I decided to do this hike because of its name – it sounded mysterious and we really wanted to check it out. It turned out great! The hike is 4.8 miles (7,7 km) round trip so it is a bit longer one but for hikers it is not a problem at all. You are walking first in the woods and then you get to the lake. You need to get back to the parking lot going with the same trail but since it is so gorgeous that you don’t really care. We were lucky to see American White Pelicans relaxing at the edge of the lake. We also saw moose or elk footprints but we unfortunately didn’t notice them anywhere.
I thought it will be a good idea to put also other hikes which are not in Yellowstone but are worth checking out.
This trail is situated outside of Bozeman, Montana (about half an hour of driving from Bozeman towards Yellowstone). There are signs on the road leading you to the parking lot so you cannot miss it. The hike is 6 miles (9,6 km) round trip and it is one of the more difficult ones. Since the trail is going up basically all the time, you need a lot of strength and determination to survive that one, or at least, we needed it.
About 1/3 of the way, I was begging to stop and go back to the car because I was so tired. Fortunately, my friend didn’t let me do that and somehow we managed to get to the end of the trail. The view – OMG – I was so happy up there. I don’t think I have good enough words to describe what we saw, so I will just leave a photo here and let you see by yourself.
The water is pretty damn cold so I would not recommend swimming (unless you are a walrus!). We spent about 1,5h of just lying there on the rocks, enjoying ourselves and just trying to catch a breath after hiking. The hike took us about 5-6 h round-trip but it was definitely worth it.
2. Tetons – Amphitheater lake, Surprise lake
Grand Teton National Park is located to the south from Yellowstone. It is about 1,5 h of driving from there. I really like driving a car through the parks in the USA because the views on the way anywhere are breathtaking. We didn’t have much time to actually explore Tetons more but at least we did one hike (but Josip was there a bit more than I was, so he will write a short post about it in the future, stay tuned!).
The trail starts, as it was in the case of other ones, from the parking lot. The hike itself is 10.2 miles (16,4 km) and it is described as strenuous, and so it is. At the beginning the road goes a little bit up but it is kind of flat. After about 1/3 of the trail, it becomes to ascend and that’s the point where you realize you weren’t expecting that at all. I do love hiking, but this trail kicked my ass. It sounds a bit embarrassing but I had to stop quite a few times to rest.
After about 4,5 hours of walking, we finally got to the first point – Amphitheatre lake. And it was so rewarding! The water was cold, which was not surprising, but the views of mountains and the nature around you make you just staring at everything, not thinking about swimming. After relaxing a bit, we went to the second point, Surprise Lake, which is only about 15 minutes of walking from the first one. It looked very similar but since we went so far already, we didn’t want to miss it. The walk back is much faster, about 2,5 h but at this point our legs hurt so much we were done. It is worth looking around carefully while hiking there as you might see lots of wild animals around you. On our way up there and back we saw few marmots (one was even trying to get rid of us!) and something that turned out to be a Dusky Grouse.
We strongly recommend doing literally ANY hike in or around Yellowstone as all of them are amazing and will give you memories you will never forget. Being in nature there is something you should experience on your own.
Stay tuned and follow our footprints!