Summary: Yellowstone was established in 1872, as the world's first national park. Our second day in this amazing Park was from the North Entrance, which included a drive through the wildlife-rich Lamar Valley, a visit from a black bear almost to our car window, a hike to the top of Bunsen Peak, ice cream in the Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District, and Mammoth Hot Springs. Like the first day, we did a ton of driving so we recommend making frequent stops and throwing in at least one hike mid-day.
What Gear You Should Bring. We packed sandwiches, a ton of snacks and lots of water so we wouldn't be caught trying to find a place to eat in this large Park. We also brought layers to accommodate the changing temperatures, rain jackets, and ponchos, though we were lucky to avoid any rain on our June trip. Sun screen, a hat, and a good pair hiking shoes is preferred since the terrain is often without shade and rocky.
Driving Route. In our second day, we did an "out and back" route. From our AirBnB near Bozeman, Montana, the drive is about 100 minutes to the North Entrance of Yellowstone. We left at 6:00 a.m. so we could try to catch the most wildlife when we drove through Lamar Valley. Leaving early also helped beat crowds at the entrance and on the roads in general. At the entrance, we grabbed a map and then continued on Grand Loop Road until we hit Highway 212 (NE Entrance Road), which takes you through Lamar Valley. At the Pebble Creek Campground, we turned around and headed back. This section of Yellowstone ventures in and out of the states of Montana and Wyoming.
First Stop - Roosevelt Arch. Right at North Entrance of Yellowstone sits Roosevelt Arch. This 52 feet arch marks the location of the original main entrance to the Park. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone and thereafter, it became known as "Roosevelt Arch."
Next Stop - A Visit from a Bear. We had expected to first spot wildlife when we reached Lamar Valley but much to our surprise, we immediately encountered antelope right at the entrance. Not one mile into the park, we spotted some black bears from our car (photos below). Just down the road, another black bear walked right up to our car and grazed right next to us. We definitely had one of those moments where we thought, you know, we should raise our windows about right now!
Next Stop - Lamar Valley. Next we drove through Lamar Valley, stopping somewhat frequently for photos and to view wildlife. One stretch had a large heard of Bison and a solo wolf sitting under a tree watching. The wolf was much too far away to photograph but it was cool knowing he was there chilling in the shade. Lamar Valley is filled with wildlife, with best encounters coming early in the day. Next we drove back towards Mammoth Springs to hike Bunsen Peak.
Hike to Top of Bunsen Peak. This hike is moderately challenging in that there is approximately 1200 feet of elevation gain in just two miles. Also, the hike starts at elevation, and reaches a peak of 8564 feet, which higher than many mountain ranges. To put in perspective, if you are familiar with Lake Tahoe, California, Donner Pass peaks at 7,056. This is all to say, you may also feel the elevation on this hike as well. That aside, it is very much worth the effort. You won't want to miss the 360 degree views at the top.
Mammoth Historic District and Fort Yellowstone. This District contains a 35 structures that date back to the 1890s. The Albright Visitor Center is located here as well though, like most other areas of the Park, it was closed during our due to the pandemic. We did, however, walk around the area and stop for ice cream in the central store. Here, we also purchased Yellowstone souvenirs, including a favorite shirt I wear all the time.
Mammoth Hot Springs. From the historic district, we walked the Mammoth Hot Springs Trail in and around the hot spring. You can walk all or part of the 3.5 mile loop through this geothermal network of limestone springs.
Drive Back to Bozeman/Gallatin AirBnB: We drove back late afternoon and early enough to pick up some dinner to-go to enjoy back at the AirBnB. With the early wake-up call, we were ready to have a quite evening at the house.