BY JOEL EBERT
Every year, Yellowstone National Park sees over three million visitors. With over a million visitors milling through the park during July and August, it can be quite difficult getting away from the crowds. But within its 2.2 million acres of land, you can still find plenty of solitude. Here are five places that will take you off the beaten path.
1. Uncle Tom’s Trail
Not so much a trail but rather a bunch of paved inclines followed by just over 300 steps, Uncle Tom descends more than 500 feet to a platform, allowing you to take in an alternative view of the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Although many people may attempt the descent, only the truly dedicated should actually do it. Whether you’re an expert or amateur, you’re sure to be sucking serious wind on this long, slow ascent to the trailhead.
2. Sunrise in Lamar Valley
Almost every morning you can find a crowd gathered on the side of the road in Lamar Valley looking for a sighting of the illustrious wolves. Undoubtedly the highlight of countless family vacations, buck the trend and wake up a little earlier to catch the sun rise amongst the rivers, streams and bison. By the time the coffee-carrying wolf watchers arrive, you’ll already have acclimated yourself to the inclement weather and have some amazing photos to go with it.
3. Lonestar Geyser
With over 2/3 of the world’s geysers located inside the park, it can be a daunting task deciding which ones to watch. Hoards of gawkers gather around Old Faithful – the park’s most famous geyser – at all hours of the day. But if you feel like stepping off the well-worn boardwalks and taking a short hike for a private showing that won’t disappoint, be sure to check out Lonestar.
4. Queen’s Laundry
One of the most obscure places to visit in the entire park, this aging log cabin was proposed by a superintendent in 1881 to serve as a bath house for guests. Unfortunately the plan didn’t take and the building was neglected. One of the hardest places to find in the entire park, the Laundry is only for devoted explorers.
5. Grand Prismatic Spring
The largest hot spring in the US, Grand Prismatic is among the most popular sights in Yellowstone. But unless you’ve got a spare airplane, there are only two ways to view this colorful creature: on the boardwalk or off the grid. Ignore the endless stream of tour buses, motorhomes and Subarus heading for the Midway Geyser Basin and drive south towards a parking lot for Fairy Falls. From there look for a faint path and head to the top of this ash filled hilltop. You’ll be sucking wind a bit, but you won’t regret it once you work your way through the tree filled path and take in the grand beauty.