A drive along Yellowstone's north loop reveals dramatic scenery, big elevation changes, history, and wildlife. If you have a fear of heights, be prepared for some exhilarating moments! However, climbing in elevation showcases Yellowstone's beautiful scenery. Wildlife can be found most anywhere along this drive so, keep a watch as you travel. Yellowstone's north loop is a great place to watch for elusive bears, especially along the northeast part of the loop. The features below are listed in a counter-clockwise direction around the day 2 North Loop drive starting at Norris Junction.
Norris to Canyon
Virginia Cascade Drive
This one way drive travels along the upper Gibbon River and passes by Virginia Cascade. It is a good place to look for the elusive moose! If you fear high places and steep drop offs, you might pass this one by in favor of the lodgepole pine forest viewed along the main road.
Canyon to Tower
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.
Driving up and over this pass may trigger your fear of heights but the view is spectacular. Be sure to stop at one of the pullouts on the downhill side, get out your binoculars, and look for wildlife - including bears!
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.
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 left turn at Tower Junction will take you to Roosevelt Lodge - a very “horsey” place. They offer stagecoach and horseback rides.
Tower to Mammoth
After leaving Tower Junction for Mammoth Hot Springs, you will wind through a diverse landscape dotted with glacial ponds and sagebrush. Continue to watch for bears as you go! Not long before arriving to Mammoth, you will find a pullout for Undine Falls on the right. Just a few steps down and you can view this pretty waterfall from right by the road. After leaving this spot, you will descend to a high bridge over the Gardiner River.
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 cavalry back during the Army Years. The recently remodeled Albright Visitor Center was once bachelor officer's quarters for cavalry troops.
The hot springs at Mammoth are quite different from features found in geyser basins on the South Loop Road. You won't find any geysers here. 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. This colorful hillside is steep but the hike up is beautiful.
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 to board stagecoaches for travel through the park. The historic stone archway through which they traveled still stands to welcome visitors.
Mammoth to Norris
Upper Terrace Drive
This lesser-traveled side drive is narrow and winding but provides a unique view. You will drive by active hot springs flowing up through limestone and might see wildlife like elk or bears. For those with mobility issues, you can also view the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces from above without the hike to get to the top.
Golden Gate & 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.
Swan Lake Flat
A wide open expanse, on a clear day, this spot has an excellent view of the Gallatin Mountain Range to the West. 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.
Tales tell of this hillside steaming so loudly that it roared. Today, it steams quietly but is still a good photo 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 north to see the road cut in the forest.
Norris Geyser Basin
An other-worldly place, this basin isn’t for non-hikers. If you still have the energy after your drive, be sure to walk at least part of this 3-hour walk. 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!