The North Loop Road is more about dramatic scenery, big elevation changes, history, and wildlife. If you have a fear of heights, be prepared for some exhilarating moments on this trip! Wildlife can be found most anywhere along this loop so keep a watch as you travel. Bears tend to be sighted on this drive, especially along the northeast part of the loop. The features below are listed in a clockwise direction around the North Loop drive starting at Norris Junction.
Norris Geyser Basin
An other-worldly place, this basin isn’t for non-hikers. If you have the energy, though, be sure to walk at least part of this 3-hour walk just to take in the smells. It is the hottest and most active geyser basin in the park - perhaps because three fault lines run beneath it! With two days in the park, walk Porcelain Basin one day and Back Basin the other day. Norris's Back Basin is home to the tallest, active geyser in the world - Steamboat Geyser!
Tales tell of this hillside steaming so loudly that it roared. Today, it steams quietly but is still worth a stop.
Frying Pan Spring
A short boardwalk leads to this area where the road used to pass through! Standing at the springs, look south and then north and you can still see the “road cut” in the forest.
Swan Lake Flat
A wide open expanse, this spot has an excellent view of the Gallatin Mountain Range to the West on a clear day. Even if it’s cloudy or raining, stop here, get out of your car (and shut it off), and listen. Coyotes, birds, and other wildlife are there even if you can’t see them.
Golden Gate and Rustic Falls
As you descend from the flats, you will drop into a rocky canyon called Golden Gate. Make sure to stop in one of the pullouts on the right for a view of Rustic Falls.
The large, jumbled, white boulders here are old travertine hot spring deposit that has tumbled down from the cliffs above.
Upper Terrace Drive
If you aren’t in a long vehicle or pulling a trailer, this side trip is well worth it. You will drive by active hot springs flowing up through limestone and maybe even see some wildlife.
The hot springs at Mammoth are quite different from features found in geyser basins on the South Loop Road. The terraces on this dynamic hillside are created by hot water flowing up through limestone, which is softer than the volcanic rock found beneath geyser basins. You won't find any geysers here; however, this colorful hillside is well worth the walk. You can also drive the Upper Terrace Drive for a less strenuous view of similar features.
Mammoth Village & Fort Yellowstone
Headquarters for the National Park Service, this village is has quite a history. The stone buildings are part of Fort Yellowstone which housed the Army back during the Army Years. The recently remodeled Albright Visitor Center is worth a visit.
Just 5 miles north of Mammoth Village, you will find the small western town of Gardiner, Montana. Hosting the first entrance to Yellowstone, early visitors arrived here by train and boarded stagecoaches to travel into the park. The historic stone archway through which they traveled still stands to welcome visitors.
After leaving Mammoth toward Tower, you will cross a high bridge over the Gardiner River, Not long after, you will find a pullout for Undine Falls. Just a few steps down and you can view this pretty waterfall from right by the road.
A right turn here will take you to Roosevelt Lodge - a very “horsey” place. They offer stagecoach and horseback rides. Turning left at this intersection will take you to the Lamar Valley - a great place to look for all kinds of wildlife.
Calcite Springs Overlook
This is a very scenic spot overlooking the north end of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Look for Bighorn Sheep across the canyon above the rocks.
A very cold Tower Creek flows over this waterfall. You can view it from an upper platform or walk the trail into the canyon for a closer view.Thus is a popular spot due to the general store and bathrooms.
If the drive up to this point hasn’t awaken your fear of heights, the climb up and over to this pass probably will. It’s a wide open, scenic area to look for wildlife, including bears!
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
With so many viewpoints, you can visit some on the South Loop and some on the North Loop drive. On the South Rim, be sure to visit Artist Point for a view of the canyon and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone and Uncle Tom's Point for a view of the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone. On the North Rim Drive, Lookout Point has a closer view of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, Grand View has a spectacular view of the canyon, and Inspiration Point has a view that's not for anyone with a fear of heights! The Canyon Visitor Education Center is also worth a visit at Canyon Village.