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Top Shots in Yellowstone National Park

Todd Rightsell takes us on a photographic truck camping adventure through Yellowstone National Park including wildlife encounters, geothermal features, and some of the best hikes in the world.


One of the primary reasons I purchased my Northstar truck camper back in 2005 was Yellowstone National Park.  I didn’t know much of anything about the place, but I was hell bent on going!

Yellowstone was the best destination decision I ever made, a real truck camper’s paradise.  That first trip literally changed my whole way of thinking about the world and life in general.  The next seven trips to Yellowstone just embedded it.  It’s a truly amazing place.  Put this one on your bucket list!


Yellowstone National Park is the first, and best, National Park in the country.  This national treasure is the crown jewel of the US Park Service and the envy of the entire world.  The park is also the blueprint for every National Park, not only in the United States, but the world over.

You could literally spend months at Yellowstone (I have) and just barely scratch the surface.  There is so much to do and see in Yellowstone that planning a trip there can be overwhelming.  I’m hoping that the information in this article can help cut through some of the confusion and give you ideas for your first, or next, trip to the park.

Because Yellowstone is such a special place and has so much to offer, it warrants a slightly different approach from the traditional Top Shots format.  So rather than just show you a few photos from this past summer’s stay in the park, I have decided to take you on a journey through the whole of Yellowstone from my own (albeit sometimes different) perspective.

The pictures below offer a glimpse of what you will see as you enter Yellowstone through the main gate and drive the figure eight park road.  I hope you enjoy the tour.


No matter what direction you approach Yellowstone National Park from, you simply will not believe how beautiful it is.  As you get closer to the park, the anticipation builds as the scenery gets better and better.  Even before I got to the entrance gate, I knew I’d be back again.

Roosevelt Arch stands like a sentinel at the main entrance in Gardiner, Montana.  Before entering the park, take a bit of time to explore Gardiner.  It’s really small, but a neat place with some interesting shops.  Do not plan on buying groceries here.  You‘ll be sorry if you do!

“For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”; like the sign says, enjoy it.


After entering the park through the arch, you will climb steadily uphill to the even smaller town of Mammoth Hot Springs.  The park headquarters is here and, consequently, this is one of the most developed and crowded parts of the park.  The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is here as well as several shops, two restaurants, a visitor’s center, and a gas station.  The main draw however, is the terraced slopes of the Hot Springs, but only when the resident elk aren’t lying around the town square!

The campground at Mammoth Hot Springs is the only campground in the park open year round.  If you feel like braving the -30F temps of February, knock yourself out.


Traveling south a few miles from Mammoth brings you to the Golden Gate area and Bunsen Peak.  At 8,564 feet in elevation, Bunsen Peak is a great day hike affording panoramic views of the entire northwestern quadrant of the park.  It’s a bit of a grunt to get to the top, but the views from along the trail and the top are well worth the effort.

If you have the stamina to climb the 1,300 feet to the summit, you’ll be treated to sweeping views of Swan Flats to the south and the Gallatin Mountains to the north and west.  In my opinion, this is one of the best hikes in Yellowstone.  The views are some of the best in the park, chances of a wildlife encounter are pretty good, and the summit register at the top is inspiring.  The small notebooks in this steel box date back decades and make for great reading while eating your lunch.

All in all, it’s a great way to spend a half a day or more in the park.  To the top and back is about three miles, or you can make a loop of about seven miles which will take you down the back side of Bunsen Peak and past Osprey Falls before returning to the trailhead.

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