The Old Faithful Inn.
If you have a couple of lifetimes at your disposal, go and check
out Yellowstone National Park. There’s only three-and-a-half thousand square
miles of it, packed with spectacular sights and scenery, so it shouldn’t take
more than a hundred or so years to take it all in.
If, however, you’re like most of us and only have the standard
four score years and ten, you may have to be a little more selective.
Yellowstone is huge, and there’s so much to see that trying to cram it all in
would be exhausting.
You might think it strange, then, that in a region of such phenomenal natural
wonders this article is focusing on a building: the Old Faithful Inn. The Inn
is just a short walk from the geyser of the same name – not the biggest in the
park, but surely the most famous. The Inn was first built as a hideaway for
wealthy park visitors in the earliest years of the twentieth century, and it’s
been continuously extended and rebuilt ever since.
Old Faithful Geyser
As you walk into the huge lobby it almost feels as if you’re
entering a space more wild and natural than the park outside. What strikes you
as you walk through the huge doors is the sheer woodiness of the place. The
entrance hall is two storey high, with balconies from upper floors running
around the walls. And everything is supported not by poles, or columns, but by
what look like whole tree trunks.
The wood theme continues throughout the Inn. One of the
definitive Yellowstone experiences is to sit on the great wooden terrace
balcony and drink your coffee looking out over the hills and forests of the
Of course, great though the Inn is, you just have to get
outside. As we’ve said, seeing everything Yellowstone has to offer would take
years. So here are just three ‘must sees’, aside from Old Faithful and the Inn:
The Yellowstone Lake is a truly awe-inspiring body of water, a dozen or so
miles to the east of Old Faithful. It’s at its best in spring. Then you can
stand in a stiff breeze on the lake shore and look northwards to the
snow-capped hills and mountains beyond.
Further afield, in the remote north-eastern corner of the
park, check out Lamar Valley, one of Yellowstone’s many great wildlife
habitats. The valley is home to wild bison and bears. Two of the park’s most
popular endangered species, the grizzly bear and lynx big cat, can be found
here. Make sure you take advice from one of the park visitors’ centers about
the best way to see wildlife. Explaining to an angry bear that actually you
have only the best of intentions towards it rarely impresses. Every year people
get killed or badly injured in wild animal attacks in the US – don’t be one of
At the park’s north entrance – right by the main Visitors’ Center and Park
Headquarters – you’ll find Mammoth Hot Springs. These pools and waterfalls of
boiling, bubbling water have been heated by hot rocks deep in the earth’s
crust, and then forced by the pressure of their own steam to the surface. The
Hot Springs Drive is great if you have a car – and you’re going to struggle in
Yellowstone without some kind of transport. At the nearby Visitor’s Center
check out the wildlife museum, where you can find out all about the park’s
fauna and conservation efforts to manage and protect the many thousands of
different species that live in Yellowstone.
One thing you can just never get over is the sheer size of the
park. It takes up a good proportion of Wyoming (as well as bits of Idaho and
Montana) and, in itself, dwarfs several eastern states; Delaware and New
Hampshire could pretty well hide in the deep forests and high mountain valleys
Maybe, of course, you’ve come to Yellowstone as an adventurer rather than a
straight tourist. Real heroes – with proper equipment, training and experience
– can climb Eagle Peak, at 3,462m Yellowstone’s highest mountain. For those who
like a little adventure rather nearer sea-level, there are all kinds of
canoeing and hiking opportunities. The Park has miles and miles of trail
suitable for mountain biking, too.
Yellowstone Upper Falls
But for whatever reason you go to
Yellowstone, visit the Old Faithful Inn. It’s a fantastic building, and
a reminder of the age when gracious living really meant something – at least to
those who could afford it. A visit is, in many ways, a trip back in time. Take