Off The Beaten Path: A Guide To Yellowstone's Best Kept Secrets

Off The Beaten Path: A Guide To Yellowstone's Best Kept Secrets

Ulysses S. Grant established Yellowstone as a national park on March 1, 1872. Since then, the park has hosted more than 4 million visitors from all over the world. Naturalist John Muir said of Yellowstone, “The air is electric and full of ozone, healing, reviving, exhilarating, kept pure by frost and fire, while the scenery is wild enough to awaken the dead. It is a glorious place to grow in and rest in.”

Of the more than four million people who have visited the park, 3,200 agreed with Muir so strongly that they decided to move in. These people made the decision to live and work in the park and because of their dedication, they were rewarded with the rare opportunity to spend their time off exploring the park and reveling in it’s wonders. Each of these employees came from their own unique walk of life, but the “healing, reviving air” held its grip on each of them. Through their combined experience, these five employees have found all of the most unique parts of their home

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As an employee, are there places you know about that not very many people visit?

“I would say the base of Tower Falls. You can hike to an overlook of the Falls, but it just doesn’t do. If you walk a bit down the trail...it’s so beautiful and you will always be the only one there. It transports you into another world.” - Morgan Hitt

“Hoodoos near Mammoth Hot Springs, [they] are literally right off the main road and people just pass them by without batting an eye.” - Ellen Centa

“The Mammoth Hot Springs parade grounds.” - Tessa Cargile

“Fairy Falls.” - Maya Balassa

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What are the best places to go for a day hike in the park?

“If you are up for a challenge, Avalanche Peak is for you. It goes up 2,000 feet in a little over four miles and gives you a magnificent view of Yellowstone Lake. If you aren’t quite as adventurous, then taking a waterfall tour of the park is amazing as well. Hiking out on the shorter paths or some of the amazing waterfalls, like Wraith or Mystic Falls.” -Ellen Centa

“Osprey Falls or Fairy Falls with the Grand Prismatic side hike.” - Megan Brown

“It really depends on what you like. If you like waterfalls, I’d say Fairy Falls. It’s a grand day hike because it includes so much to see. You first get to see Grand Prismatic from an overlook which is the best place to see it. Then you walk through tall these young trees to the waterfall. Fairy Falls is so whimsical and a great place to swim. After the Falls, you walk to a hot spring and the Imperial Geyser. It’s constantly going off so you don’t have to wait an hour like Old Faithful. There’s also the boiling mud pots. Another good thing or dangerous thing, is the fact that there is no fences around those features so you can get as close as possible for grand pictures.” -Morgan Hitt

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What is your favorite part of the park?

“The best part about Yellowstone is how untouched it is. Besides the hotels and restaurants, the park is kept very natural. I think that is a very rare and special thing to be able to experience.” - Maya Balassa

“Each part is so different, but I’d have to say the Lake area. That lake is so stunning with the mountains right behind it and it’s so massive. Lake Hotel also offers such great places to sit and enjoy the view.” - Morgan Hitt

“I love the Lake area, specifically the Lake Butte Overlook. On a clear day, you can see all the way down to the Grand Tetons, and you have the most amazing sunsets.” - Ellen Centa

“The smells and the colors.” - Tessa Carglie

“Lamar Valley is my favorite.” - Megan Brown

If you were interested in seeing wildlife, where would you go?

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“To see wildlife, I drive from Mammoth to Mt. Washburn. You will always see something grazing in the valley or bears in the woods.” - Morgan Hitt

“Personally, I enjoy going down to the southern part of the park, near the Grant Village area. Camping out at Lewis Lake overnight (Make sure to keep your bug spray handy!) and going out in the morning to drive around the lake.” - Ellen Centa

“Lamar Valley at dusk.” - Tessa Carglie

“There is wildlife everywhere. Going off the regular trails* can help to catch wildlife in their natural habitat as well.” - Maya Balassa

“Lamar Valley in the morning and Mammoth Hot Springs for elk. Always.” - Megan Brown

*Always be very careful when going off trail! If you're new to hiking, check out our Ultimate Hiking Survival Guide before heading out!

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What’s something that a lot of people visit that they could skip on their next trip to the park?

“Old Faithful can definitely be skipped. The only reason it’s so popular is because it’s consistent. There are many more spectacular things to see besides Old Faithful.” - Amy Thurman

“The Petrified Tree is so disappointing. Maybe if you are interested in that kind of stuff, it’d be cool. I get how awesome that whole petrification process is, however, it just looks like a stump. I honestly think that Mammoth Hotel and that area in general could be skipped. The hotel is fairly ugly. The Springs are a bit disappointing as well. However, it is a great place to see elk and their babies just sitting in the yard.” - Morgan Hitt

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Where is the best place to eat in the park?

“So far I would have to give honor to the little grill at Fishing Bridge. It’s a near 50’s style diner nestled into a large general store and has an amazing staff.” - Ellen Centa

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Click to Shop The Parks WILD Dad Hat!

“I have only eaten at the Old Faithful Inn dining room. It was fairly good. But not worth the price. I would honestly just pack your own lunch and eat it while looking at some astounding view. I do hear that Lake Hotel has incredible food though.” - Morgan Hitt

“The Roosevelt Cookout.” - Tessa Carglie

“Wonderland in Gardiner outside of the North entrance and Lake Hotel inside the park.” - Megan Brown

What is the best experience you’ve had in the park so far?

“That’s another hard one because I’ve had so many. My most recent would have to be hiking Mt. Washburn for the sunset. It was so windy and so long, however getting to that peak and seeing the view was so rewarding. The sunset made it that much better.” - Morgan Hitt

“Getting to see a nesting Peregrine Falcon.” - Tessa Carglie

“The best moment is when you make it to the top of a peak and you can see the 360 views. It’s like being as tall as the mountain.” - Maya Balassa

“Honestly, I don’t think I could choose just one. But if I had to, it would be meeting all the amazing people I’ve worked with and remaining in touch even if we have gone our separate ways.” - Ellen Centa

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The wild wonderland that is Yellowstone spans a massive 2.2 million acres and even the employees who live and work here haven’t had the chance to explore it all. Stepping where Presidents have stood, being engulfed by the majesty of the landscape surrounding you, you can't help but feel the magic in your bones. The best part of a wilderness is the part that teaches you the most. The part that reaches into your soul, past the things that you have told yourself are so important, to who you are. Yellowstone does that every year for the 4 million visitors that see her.

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From the bubbling mud pots to the mist rolling off the mountains, there is something truly marvelous within yellowstone for everyone.