Yellowstone National Park
Mammoth Hot Springs & Gardiner

Mammoth Hot Springs is a "must see" - it's a completely different kind of hot spring in the park. Limestone rock is dissolved in the hot water that seeps up to the surface; as it cools it solidifies into new shapes, like a white frozen waterfalls. The white terraces are colored by tiny organisms living in the hot water pools - yellow bacteria live in the hottest water, orange and brown colors indicate the water is cooler.

Mammoth Hot Springs -
At the Lower Terraces, stop to take a look at the Liberty Cap first. It's 37 ft high pillar of rock formed by slow deposits over thousands of years. Early explorers thought the rock looked like a hat popular in the French Revolution, but to us it seemed more like a lopsided clay class creation. The Palette Spring is just mesmerizing - the whole effect like a huge caramel and vanilla ice cream sundae flowing into layer upon layer of iced cakes.
Upper Terrace Drive - Be sure to take the Upper Terrace Drive and visit the Canary Spring. The huge wide pool is edged with a pale yellow "frozen" rock, and the landscape here seems very alien, with wizened trees poking out of the terraces.
Visitor Center - At the visitor center, find out about the wildlife of northern Yellowstone (bighorn sheep, elk, lynx, coyote, gray wolf, river otter, beaver), and Native Americans who lived and hunted here, plus lovely paintings of Yellowstone by Thomas Moran in 1871. Check out the petrified tree stump in front of the visitor center.
Beaver Ponds Trail - A nice day hike is the loop trail to the Beaver Ponds. The trail, five miles round trip, goes through high open sagebrush, meadows with wildflowers, with views of the hot spring terraces in the distance. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, pronghorn and moose along the way, and look for the beaver dam at the largest pond (you typically won't see the beavers themselves as they are nocturnal).
Mammoth Horse Corral - Go on a one hour horseback ride through the high country meadows and sagebrush, a three mile loop. For kids 8 and up, helmets available upon request, May to September.
Gardiner - The town of Gardiner is located just outside the park boundary, at the north entrance to the national park.
Go rafting - Take a scenic float trip on the Yellowstone River as it flows north. On the two hour float trips, you'll see osprey and bald eagles, and marvelous high plateau scenery. There are also two hour rafting trips (everyone has to paddle and you'll get wet), wetsuits, water shoes, and life jackets are provided in kid's and adult sizes.
Tip: If you go rafting, to make it easy for the morning schedule, it's most convenient to stay in the area, in Gardiner itself or the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.
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