Discover America’s Cowboy Country

(Courtesy Neal Herbert, Yellowstone National Park)

Over the next year, leading up to the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, our new virtual intern will be publishing blog posts on various U.S. National Parks. The first is the great Yellowstone National Park.

Virtual Intern, Ryan Valencia, on the top of Mt. Whitney. Photo credit: Ryan Valencia.
Virtual Intern, Ryan Valencia, on the top of Mt. Whitney. Photo credit: Ryan Valencia.

But first, a little bit about Ryan…

My name is Ryan Valencia and I am in my final year at the Penn State University in Pennsylvania, USA, where I study International Politics, History, and Anthropology. I am originally from Los Angeles, California, where I fell in love with the wilderness due to the abundance of incredible national parks that exist in my home state. Of all my adventures, I can say that my proudest moment was climbing to the top of Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain of the lower-48 states. My passion has led me to work for the National Park Service in the past and I am ecstatic that I have the opportunity to share my love for the great outdoors with you.

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Discover America’s Cowboy Country, by Ryan Valencia.

Interwoven into the fabric of America is the need to protect the last remnants of a wild America, untouched by the hands of man. With that idea, the National Park Service was founded in 1916 to oversee the protection of our natural wonders and treasures. No national park epitomizes the beauty and grandeur of America’s open spaces better than Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone, the country’s first national park, was founded in 1872. To many, it is the golden standard of what a park should be — an escape for visitors to meet the history hidden in the trees, earth, and wildlife that roam the lands. Located in the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park contains vast forests of green, crystal-blue lakes and rivers, and towering mountains. Within the park, there are plenty of opportunities for the explorers, naturalists, and adventurers in all of us.

(Courtesy Diane Renkin, Yellowstone National Park)
(Courtesy Diane Renkin, Yellowstone National Park)

If wildlife is what you seek, Yellowstone is the park for you. With wildlife galore, everyday naturalists can find wolves, elk, grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and the iconic bison roaming the park. For wildlife viewing, key hours are early mornings and late evenings during feeding times. It is not out of the ordinary for drivers having to pull over on the side of the road to let bison cross their domain. With a careful eye and persistence, one can find a diverse array of wildlife across the park, varying on the seasons and weather. Though, I’d recommend a pair of binoculars and some caution with the gentle giants.

(Courtesy Neal Herbert, Yellowstone National Park)
(Courtesy Neal Herbert, Yellowstone National Park)

Throughout the year, explorers can find a wide range of activities to do within the park. From cycling to hiking to camping, visitors can rough the wilderness. In certain areas of the park, visitors can enjoy boating experiences and fishing colorful trout along the waterways. Wish to experience cowboy country like the settlers of the past? A number of horseback riding outfitters can send you on your way — not to mention the chance to trek with a llama at your side. There are also 12 campgrounds within the park, with some operating on a first-come, first-served basis while others must be reserved in advanced. For our younger explorers, family-friendly ranger-led programs occur throughout the year. Ranger programs provide an opportunity for newcomers to see what the park has to offer from the experts themselves!

Though the clear summer months are when the park reaches peak visitation, winter is not without its own special beauty. With the coming of the silent snow-filled meadows, the character of the park changes. Visitors can explore the park in news ways via cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

(Courtesy of Neal Herbert, Yellowstone National Park)
(Courtesy of Neal Herbert, Yellowstone National Park)

For the more extreme explorers out there, Yellowstone offers hundreds of miles of pristine trails to blaze and backpack. Along the backcountry, visitors will come across quiet green prairies contrasting the beautiful snow-filled peaks. The park has a designated a backcountry campsite system, which requires backpackers to obtain a backcountry permit 48 hours in advance. But explorers be warned! The further they enter the wilderness, the more likely the encounters with wildlife. As it is bear country, visitors should exercise caution when setting up camp.

(Courtesy of Jim Peaco, Yellowstone National Park)
(Courtesy of Jim Peaco, Yellowstone National Park)

Perhaps one of the most unique features of the park is its collection of hot springs and geysers. While hot springs rest as geothermally heated pools of groundwater, geysers refuse to stay calm, with their water exploding through a vent after enormous pressure builds below the surface. The infamous geyser, Old Faithful, is only one of nearly 500 geysers that exist in the park. Visitors gather near the geysers for the incredible showcase of splashing water reaching towering heights.

(Photo courtesy of Jim Peaco, Yellowstone National Park)
(Photo courtesy of Jim Peaco, Yellowstone National Park)

With a grand array of canyons, waterfalls, and wildlife, Yellowstone stands as a monument to the American Wild West, where the buffalo and explorers can roam.