It’s no wonder, being the world’s first National Park, that Yellowstone continues to draw millions of visitors each year. It’s diverse ecosystems, abundant wildlife, and geothermal features are profound. However, the sheer wilderness beauty of Yellowstone is perhaps its most salient attribute. I wouldn’t send anyone there for the backcountry skiing right now (for sure in May), but if you’re in the area, or planning on passing through, you have no excuse to miss out on a visit to this unique American landmark.

It’s approximately a 15.5 hour drive from San Francisco to Yellowstone, and a few hours less if you start from Tahoe. It’s a long drive, but if you’ve never been, or are planning a cross-country trip this summer, you simply can not pass up an opportunity to visit Yellowstone. It’s a perfect place to bring your kids, and it’s just as great for young adults looking to gape for a day in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. My most recent visit came as a backup plan to utilize the day and location appropriately, in that my partner Jeff and I were having a mellow down-day before attempting a climb of the Grand Teton. A buddy mentioned summer skiing off Sylvan Pass, and combined with the gaping opportunities, we figured this was about as cool of a down-day as we could ask for.

These first few shots are of us skiing off Sylvan Pass. Again, not worth coming all the way out here for, but summer turns in Yellowstone were a fabulous way to start the day.

We got a few glimpses of some other worthy ski terrain near the pass, but the approach looked brutal.

Swimming was a much better option.

Unfortunately most of my wildlife photos from Yellowstone came out poor, probably because I was pulling full gaper-status moves, like driving negative 10 miles an hour while trying to shoot. When I did get out of the van, it was much easier to take in the wildflowers, bodies of water, geothermal pools, and postcardesque backdrops found throughout the park. Here are a few scenics from the day:

No matter what brings you to Yellowstone, it’s a great use of time to spend a few hours exploring the park. Even if all you do is take a quick hike to a secluded picnic spot,

or hire out a guide and learn to fly-fish,

your visit will be memorable. There’s bison, bears, elk, moose, wildflowers, lakes, streams, waterfalls, hiking trails, and something cool to check out around every corner. Even the most mundane scene, due to the extraordinary overall backdrop, is a keeper, and will help create a lasting impression to take away before you head off for your next adventure.

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