Some of the most extraordinary features in Yellowstone are in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. Planning a trip to Yellowstone can be pretty exhausting. To make it easy for you, we’ve put together our recommendation of top things to do in the Mammoth Hot Spring area.
1. Visit the Mammoth Hot Springs
The most incredible feature in the Mammoth Hot Springs area is the travertine, the rock that forms the popular terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. These living terraces are constantly changing, with a few vents getting clogged and a few new vents opening up. One can access the boardwalk either from the parking lot near the Lower Terraces, or drive a couple of miles to access it from the Upper Terrace Drive. I recommend parking the lot at the Upper Terraces, starting from the Overlook, and walking down.
Although I loved all the terrace-like formations in the Mammoth Hot Springs, resembling min waterfalls, my two favorite features are the aerial view of the terraces from the Upper Terrace Drive and the Minerva Terraces.
2. Book a Lamar Valley Excursion Tour
Atop everyone’s list in Yellowstone is to see animals in the wild. Lamar Valley has the highest concentration of wildlife, making it one of the best places to spot wildlife in Yellowstone. I recommend booking the Historic Yellow Bus Lamar Valley Excursion Tour in advance; it’s one of the most popular tours and get booked up pretty quickly.
During our tour, we saw a black bear, hundreds of bisons, a herd of pronghorns, ospreys and its chicks, wolf and their cubs, and bighorn mountain sheep.
3. Do the Historic Town Walk
When in Mammoth, I’d definitely carve out an hour’s time to walk through the historic town. To save Yellowstone from poaching, vandalism, the U.S Army marched into Old Mammoth in the late 1880s to guard the national park. Today, they are private residences, but one can still walk around to see the buildings that were once occupied by the officers, the building that was used as a prison, the building that was a hospital. Elks and their calves have comfortably made the grassy area around their buildings their home!
4. Go out at midnight for stargazing
A number of places are great stargazing spots in the Mammoth Hot Springs Area. One is right outside the Mammoth Hotel, facing the wide grassy area. Another is by driving a few miles south, until you reach the open area near Swan Lake.
The spot right outside Mammoth Hotel is good, not the best, but definitely the safest option. The spot on the pullover to the Swan Lake is better because the flats are wide open, but it’s too dark and the wildlife around makes it a little unsafe. When we went stargazing near the Swan Lake, we heard the sound of howls from a distance. But what was scary is a soft growl sound from right across the street. To this day, I have no clue what it was, but that growling sound made us quickly jump inside our cars and leave the place immediately.
5. Take a short hike to see the Wraith Falls and Undine Falls
I wouldn’t go out of the way to see the Wraith Falls and Undine Falls because they aren’t as impressive as other falls you’ll see in Yellowstone. However, if you are driving from Roosevelt to Old Mammoth and have about 30 minutes to spare, I’d stop to take a short hike to the Wraith Falls. The 0.8 mile trail to the Wraith Falls is pretty flat most of way, through the grassy meadows, with the last few meters turning uphill, leading you to the viewpoint to the see 100 feet cascading falls.
The Undine Falls is within a 2 minutes’ drive from Wraith Falls and can be easily accessible from the parking lot. I thought the Undine Falls was more splendid than the Wraith Falls.
6. See the Roosevelt Tower Falls
The Tower Falls is about a 30 minutes drive from the Mammoth Hot Springs Area. If you are driving from Roosevelt to Mammoth or vice versa, I’d definitely stop here to see the Tower Falls. Easily accessible by a short hike from behind the General Store in the Roosevelt area, it makes an easy, family-friendly hike. The 132-foot falls itself is pretty admirable, plunging as a perfect water column, crushing into the rocks at its base.