I need to start this post by saying that, in general, our family loves Yellowstone. We went there two years in a row (plus a few other times) and we’ve seen most of what there is to see there, but some sites are definitely better than others. After our last trip there, I asked my children what things they thought were a waste of time and these are the top three places we decided we are never going back to and we wouldn’t recommend them to anyone. After all, there are so many places our whole family loved, you don’t need to waste your time on places your children will say: “We came all the way here for this?” (Sigh) If you want to know what places we do recommend, check out our other posts about Yellowstone.
Petrified Tree in Roosevelt Area
All of my kids thought it was the lamest thing ever. They did not get the point of it (and although I understood it was basically now a rock instead of a tree, I thought it was a waste of time myself). They couldn’t figure out why a person would want to look at an old tree stump. I remember thinking the same thing when I was a teenager. The only consolation is that it wasn’t far from our cabin at Roosevelt, the Lost Lake hike across the parking lot from it was nice and it’s a very short hike to see the tree. My kids were more excited about the weasel we saw in the parking lot while we were there.
Norris Geyser Basin
Norris Geyser Basin is not one of my families favorite places in Yellowstone – unless you are lucky enough to see Steamboat Geyser go off. I would say that it may be worth a hour or so break from driving if you happen to be traveling from Madison Junction to Canyon via Norris junction.
We saw no active geysers. Just a bunch of steam, cones, fumerales, etc. but really a waste of time, if you ask me. Unless you get super-lucky and happen to see one of the non-predictable geysers go off. Steamboat is the most famous one, but it’s very unpredictable. They are so infrequent and unpredictable that you can see a listing of when it has gone off here. It can be years between erruptions, but if you’re lucky enough to be there when it goes off, you’ll get to see the world’s tallest currently active geyser. I’m sorry, but I’m just not that lucky. I’m never going back there again. But, if you like walking around on a bunch of boardwalks with stairs and seeing a lot of steam, then give it a try.
Here’s a photo of Steamboat geyser and what it looks like pretty much all the time. Pretty boring.
Tower Falls Overlook
The walk to Tower Falls overlook is not far (.25 Mile). If you only go to the overlook, then turn around and come back, it’s not the hugest waste of time ever. But if you keep hiking down the trail, it’s a huge waste of time.
The view of the falls is not as good as it use to be because trees have grown a blocked more of the view. It used to be good but all you can do now is go to an overlook with a far off view of the small waterfall then hike down a pretty steep hike down to the bottom where you can’t even see the falls.
But, if you like waterfalls, the short walk to the overlook might be worth your time. On our last trip to Yellowstone (2015), I had planned to hike to the base of the falls, but I was out of luck. Apparently in the last few years the trail crews have had a hard time maintaining the bottom section of the trail so it was closed when we went. So instead of hiking to the base of the falls we took the Yellowstone river fishing access trail to the river. Here the kids had fun messing around for a while before attempting the climb back to the parking lot. So if you are in for a 1.5 mile hike, like I was, best check at the Tower gift shop before taking the time to hike down the trail past the overlook to the base of the falls.
Myself and hundreds of other people didn’t see the small sign saying the trail ends before you get to the falls, so a bunch of us were sweating for nothing. On the other hand, I quite liked the gift shop at Tower. We took the below image of Tower Falls, which makes it look like you can get up close to it, but you can’t. This photo is zoomed in far. It’s far enough away, that my children thought it was lame because they could barely see it far in the distance.
Do you agree with me? Do you think these three places in Yellowstone are good places to skip? Would you add others to the list?