How to go off the grid in some of the most secluded areas of our nation’s first national park
Yellowstone National Park
on September 4, 2019
Roosevelt Lodge was built in 1920 near a place favored by President Teddy Roosevelt; today its charming Roughrider cabins are still heated with wood burning stoves.
Yellowstone makes you want to disconnect from the digital world. There’s just too much to see: This park has the highest concentration of thermal features in the world, one of the planet’s most nearly intact ecosystems, and wildlife from wolves to bison, moose, and grizzly and black bears.
Despite the park’s wildness, many of its lodges do have Internet service and most developed areas have cell phone service. If you’re finding it hard to tear yourself away from technology, here are some suggestions for places in the park where you don’t have a choice. Time to embrace a digital detox.
Soak in Hot Springs on the Gardner River
Despite Yellowstone’s abundance of thermal features (more than 10,000), streams and rivers (about 2,500 miles), and lakes and ponds (more than 600), there aren’t many opportunities to swim or soak in the park. The temperatures of thermals often reach the boiling point. In August, some lakes might get as warm as 60 degrees. But 50 degrees is more likely. Just north of Mammoth Hot Springs, though, a thermal feature meets the snow-fed Gardner River and the result is a string of natural pools that are the perfect soaking temperature. (Open seasonally.) So jump right in; the water’s fine.
Backpack the Bechler area, and Meet Mr. Bubbles
Your phone isn’t good for anything but taking photos on this 32-mile point-to-point hike from the Bechler Ranger Station to the Lone Star Trailhead (near Old Faithful). This southwestern corner is among the least developed areas in Yellowstone. There aren’t even footbridges over the Bechler River for the three times you have to cross it (so hikers ford it)! There are more waterfalls than you can count and a 20-foot-diameter, chest-deep, bubbling hot spring — named Mr. Bubbles — that you’re allowed to swim in though.
Hike Uncle Tom’s trail down into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Descend about 500 vertical feet down 328 steps — not that we’ve ever counted — into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to the base of Lower Falls and you’ll feel like you time traveled back to the Jurassic Age. A phone here looks more out of place than a pterodactyl would, and the thunder and thick spray generated by the 308-foot waterfall feels primeval. (Note: This trail is closed until late summer 2019 due to construction in the area.)
Catch the Sunset at Lake Butte Overlook
Just before the highway between Fishing Bridge and Yellowstone’s East Entrance leaves the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake, a 1-mile side road takes you to Lake Point Overlook. At 8,346-feet in elevation, this overlook offers what could be the best views of the lake in the park and, on clear days, you can even see the Tetons in the distance. The sun setting behind these mountains is more attention grabbing — they can look like they’re on fire — than your favorite app.
Overnight in a Roughrider Cabin at Roosevelt Lodge
In the Lamar Valley, the Roughrider Cabins at Roosevelt Lodge, which was built in 1920 near a place favored by President Teddy Roosevelt and today has neither cell service nor Internet access, are heated with wood-burning stoves and lack plumbing. (There are communal showers and bathrooms; if you really want your own bathroom, consider one of the lodge’s Frontier Cabins.) They’re among the most charming overnight options in the park.
Camp on the South Shore of Yellowstone Lake
Yellowstone Lake is the largest high-altitude lake in North America. It has about 141 miles of shoreline and there are no roads (or other signs of civilization) on its southern half. The Bridge Bay Marina shuttles campers to the lake’s south shore, which is only accessible by boat. If you’re looking for a longer adventure, a fifth drop-off point puts you at a campsite from which you can then jump onto the Thorofare Trail and head south (with a well-provisioned backpack) into one of the most off-the-grid areas in the Lower 48 States, known simply as “the Thorofare.”
How to Explore
With nine unique lodging options, including the renowned historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Yellowstone National Park Lodges allows you to have the ultimate park experience. Staying in the park is the best way for visitors to experience all it has to offer, including the exciting wildlife watching. Once the day-visitors leave, Yellowstone remains for the in-park overnight guests alone. Yellowstone National Park Lodges offer tours and activities guided by Certified Interpretive Guides that help create memorable experiences. For more information on lodging, tours, and vacation packages visit, yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311.
For a multi-day visit of Yellowstone, consider the six-day guided walking tour from Country Walkers, “Montana & Wyoming: Yellowstone,” or the six-day walking tour from VBT, “Yellowstone & Grand Teton: Walking America’s First National Park.”
For more than 40 years, Country Walkers has provided active and immersive travel experiences on five continents. They offer two distinct ways to explore: scheduled, small-group Guided Walking Adventures and independent Self-Guided Walking Adventures. On tour, guests enjoy superb local cuisine, first-class guides, fine accommodations, and authentic cultural and natural encounters. Visit countrywalkers.com or call 800-234-6900 for more information.
VBT Bicycling Vacations is the value leader in active biking vacations and has been rated among the “World’s Best Tour Operators” by the readers of Travel + Leisure for six years. VBT offers more than 55 deluxe, small-group bicycling, walking, and barge & sail vacations in 27 different countries and 10 U.S. states. Unlike other companies, VBT also includes round-trip international airfare from more than 30 U.S. cities and select Canadian cities for all overseas vacations. Visit VBT.com or call 800-245-3868 for more information.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from the Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/stories.