Last Updated on December 14, 2023

Running as soon as I heard small gurgles of water slowly rising from the ground, I prepared to capture the famous video every visitor wants. I started laughing because I never expected to be the one chasing Geysers at Yellowstone National Park. However, after witnessing my first, I realized why my friends planned this trip and how having no expectations can result in amazing discoveries.

Planning a Road Trip to Yellowstone National Park

Though I’d visited Utah’s five national parks, I had yet to visit any others. My friends and I talked about doing a road trip reunion and decided on Yellowstone National Park. The four of us would meet in Portland and spend seven days together.

During the planning, two friends found hotels and one of my friend’s husbands said that he definitely wanted to see the geysers at the park. Usually, I plan out what to see and do before a trip, but for some reason, I did no pre-planning this time.

I was game for anything and told my friends my main goal was spending time with them. We have traveled together before, so I knew whatever we did, it was going to be fun.

A stop at Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon in Idaho.
Craters of the Moon in Idaho. Photo courtesy of Paul Capiral

Months later, our road trip began, and along the way, one friend asked if we could stop at Craters of the Moon in Arco, ID. As the name suggests, it feels like you’re actually walking on the surface of the moon.

Visitors walk on lava tubes composed of thin sheets of black rock and while exploring the area,  notice these spatter cones from lava sticking together.

As I headed up a black sand dune to the Inferno Cone overlook, I started humming ‘Into the Unknown’ as I had no idea what to expect when we reached the top. Visitors will find hints of faded red mountains in the background, with pockets of green shrubbery and black gravel looming in the distance.

It’s understandable why NASA sends astronauts to train here. While exploring the various lava tubes and formations, including jagged layers of dried lava and uneven flat rocks, I imagined dozens of astronauts training, walking on the terrain, and studying the geology.

I was grateful for this pleasant surprise because I was not in any way expecting a stop here.

The surprises continued escalating as we reached Yellowstone National Park.

My friend downloaded the Guide Along app, which provides fascinating park details. Such as, Old Faithful, the park’s most famous geyser erupts approximately every 60 to 90 minutes (give or take 10 to 15 minutes) and gushes 4,000 gallons of boiling water with each eruption.

I mentioned my interest in seeing the Mammoth Hot Springs with its layered stone terraces and was game for anything else in the park.

Old Faithful Geyser

One of my friends wanted us to see Old Faithful first. At least 100 visitors were sitting on the bench just behind the site, waiting, while others, including my group, were on the grass behind the crowds in the park.

Suddenly, the water started to gurgle, and then hot boiling water began spewing up high in the air. I started walking toward the crowd to take a video. I could not believe the water’s power and kept repeating time and again, “wow, this is incredible!”

After Old Faithful, I realized why my friend wanted to see the park’s incredible geysers. We made it a point to see as many as we could. There are roughly 1,283 geysers in Yellowstone National Park according to the Guide Along app.

Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park.
Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Erin Coyle

Waiting for Geysers

I recall sitting for 45 minutes at the Norris Geyser Basin, and as we started walking away, the water began spitting up from the ground. We all laughed, did a short happy dance, and decided it was well worth the wait.

Before seeing Old Faithful, I wondered if I would have stayed this long to see an unpredictable geyser.

Our awe continued as we made our way around the park. I watched with intrigue at the Artist Paint Pots – boiling mud pots burbling in the ground. I could have stayed here for hours watching this mud bubble because of its babble and splatter noises.

I was fascinated with everything we visited, especially the formations resembling castles and the turquoise, sky-blue, orange hues pools. I was amazed by the diversity of the springs, more than 10,000 hot springs and thermals.

I never imagined the park being so large – almost 3,500-square-miles – another reason my friends and I continued to say that a trip can be full of surprises when there are no expectations.

Chasing geysers

The more we walked around, I more often found myself running on the wooden boardwalks toward a geyser once I’d hear the unforgettable gurgles of water, opening my camera along the way preparing to take a video.

Laughing at one point, I exclaimed, “wait until I get there to erupt!”

Yes, I was becoming obsessed.

The Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.
Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Erin Coyle

One site that will forever stick in my mind is the Grand Prismatic Spring: circular with a turquoise-colored water pool surrounded by yellow and orange rocks with bluish-colored steam drifting through the air.

Fissures spread into giant uneven blobs outside the circle, showcasing the mud and salts in a light brown shade. I’m sure I continued spouting dozens of adjectives, including ‘spectacular’ and ‘magnificent.’

I have never seen something so vivid.

Traveling Without Expectations

The rest of our trip included more wow-moments, and I’m grateful to have seen as much as I did in my two days in Yellowstone. Despite all the ballyhoo surrounding the Park, I was not expecting these glorious sites, and for once, I’m happy that I did not do any research before my visit.

Sometimes, having no expectations adds to the magic.

Author

  • Erin Coyle

    Traveling with friends, solo and in group tours, I have explored Southeast Asia, Oceania, Europe, the Middle East, South America, East Africa, and South Africa. I am currently a freelance travel writer living in Sur, the Sultanate of Oman. I taught English in a foundation program at a university in Sur for four years. Before this, I taught English at a university in Nanchang China, for five years.