We truly did maximize day three of our travels at Yellowstone National Park. Jam packed itinerary with jam packed fun! Check out our early morning Photo Safari Adventure and our visit to the Middle Geyser Basin and Norris Geyser Basin to get a glimpse of the fun earlier in the day.
I was determined to squeeze in the famous Mammoth Hot Springs into day three before calling it a night, so that day four could be dedicated to exploring the picturesque Yellowstone Canyon (YAY!). Yes I did hear it from Yang for packing up our vacation, but I managed to have the upper hand with some emotional blackmail around my 30th birthday celebration! Jeez...I love it when you can play the right cards and WIN (#relationshipgoals).
Mammoth Hot Springs
The landscape of Mammoth Hot Springs is quite different from the rest of Yellowstone park, so it's definitely a must see. Located about 20 miles from the Norris Geyser Basin, it took us about 30-40 mins. to make our way to our destination. I took the time to catch a happy snooze while Yang enjoyed the serenity without my chatter! A win-win situation for both of us:)
We pulled up at a parking lot close to the Upper Terrace of Mammoth Hot Springs. We spent about an hour and a half here exploring the area. We began our journey by walking from the Upper Terrace to the Lower Terrace through a stairway.
So if you're wondering why this place is unique, the science geek in me cannot help but share some very interesting facts that I learned along the way (#yinyangfactcheck). The region is marked by ever-changing limestone terraces that are like living sculptures on the surface that is constantly being shaped by nature's forces.
Millions of years ago, the area was covered by a vast sea that left behind limestone deposits. The Mammoth Hot Springs like other regions of Yellowstone has an underground heating and plumbing system that we referred to previously on our blog.
When the hot water from beneath the Earth mixes with dissolved carbon dioxide, it forms a weak carbonic acid that rises to the surface through the cracks and fissures of the Earth. This reacts with the calcium carbonate in the limestone deposits to form deposits of travertine, the rock that form the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs.
If science is not your forte, the artist in you will definitely be impressed with the sculptures carved out artfully by nature in this region. I couldn't help but notice the splendid colors all around with light yellows, browns, orange, dark greens, and lots of white due to the limestone deposits.
An iconic landmark of Mammoth Hot Springs includes the dynamic Minnerva Terrace, named after the Roman goddess of artists and sculptors. During our visit in September, the terrace was damp with an active stream of hot water flowing through the terrace.
Another beautiful terrace, as seen in the image below, is the Cleopatra Terrace with it's mystic air.
After our leisure stairway hike, we climbed back up to our car and then decided to drive through the Upper Terrace Drive. We were lucky to see more unique rock formations all along the way. We finally bid adieu to the patterned rocks and decided to take a rest stop at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.
Just when we thought we had seen everything Mammoth had to offer, we were pleasantly surprised by the best thing ever! Yang and I could not believe our eyes when we saw a herd of elk leisurely grazing on the front lawn of the hotel.
I mean if we had known it was this easy to spot elk in the middle of a town, we would not have woken up at 6:00 am to do a photo safari in the wild.
Believe it or not, this was smack in the middle of the town square, where fellow humans and these gorgeous animals happily co-exist. After much convincing, I decided to leave these beauties to enjoy their space. We drove away from the hotel and took an inner road to make our way to our campground for the night. And what do you know, we saw more elk spread out all over the place! They were playing and running across the street, grazing in front of the church, and gazing stealthily at passersby. Such a blissful end to a very satisfying day! We even saw little elk cuddling and grazing with their mom as a cool September breeze blew over them.
Canyon Village Campground- Comfortable stay with a full bathhouse. We ate a wholesome meal, freshened up, and snuggled into our cozy camper van parked inside Canyon Village. The silence of the air filled the space with an odd nightly calm. We enjoyed the serenity and reminisced about the day that had passed.