Mammoth Hot Springs is a very unique community in Yellowstone. It feels like you are visiting a little town. As you drive in, it looks like a neighborhood just like you see in any suburban area around the country. Mammoth has a large employee housing community which is why it has this feeling to it. There is even a privately owned house! The drive into Mammoth from anywhere in the park is beautiful.
Here are our recommendations for Mammoth Hot Springs:
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1. Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces
The Terraces are one of the coolest looking thermal features in the entire park. The colors range from a pristine white to pink to dark red. The thing that caught my eye is that the different levels of the terrace are extremely flat and level. Being someone who can spot diverging lines from a mile away, I really appreciated this!
There is parking for the lower terrace along the roadside and its just a short walk to the terraces themselves. There is a boardwalk trail that runs from the parking lot and goes the entire length of the terrace so you could bring a stroller if that will make it easier for you. The boardwalk connects to the upper terrace level, so you can walk the entire way, or you can drive to the upper terrace if you’ve had enough walking. Our advice is to just take your shirt off, tie it around your head, and keep on keepin’ on!
2. Albright Visitor Center
Mammoth Hot Springs has a nice visitor center called the Albright Visitor Center. Along with very straight lines, my other weird fetish is grass. I’m talking lush, green, soft, golf course grass. I didn’t see any grass in Yellowstone, it was more like hardy patches of weeds strewn about…except in Mammoth. I’m not the only one who appreciated this grass either. There was a family of elk laying in the grass and even snacking on it (I was tempted to try).
It’s worth stopping in the Visitor Center to check out the displays and learn about some history of Yellowstone National Park. There are a bunch of stuffed wild animals on display in the visitor center, pretty much all of the animals that live in the park. The kids liked seeing the life-sized animals up close without having to worry about things like, you know, getting eaten!
3. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins
There is a hotel, hotel dining room and lounge, Terrace Grill, gas station, and general store. If you plan to stay at the hotel, you have to book WELL in advance. Reservations open in May to book a room for the following year. So book early! The hotel dining room and lounge looked pretty fancy. When we got into Mammoth, one of the first things the kids wanted was ice cream since it was so hot! We went toward the restaurants and mistakenly went in the fancy dining room. With 6 kids barging in the door, I heard the record skip and everyone look up at us. I quickly corralled the kids and we went next door to the Terrace Grill which was much more our atmosphere. We grabbed 6 cones, a few beers, and sat down to relax in the a/c for a bit.
4. Gardiner, Montana
Alright, let’s be honest, after being in Yellowstone for a while, we started missing the city life a bit. A coffee shop. A pizza joint. Heck, even a post office. Well, if you go just 5 miles out of the north entrance you’ll be in Gardiner. You can get a taste of city life here even though it’s a very small city. We wanted to check the city out and especially see the Roosevelt Arch. The road going out of Yellowstone and into Gardiner was under construction and all blocked off by construction tape and barriers, so we weren’t able to actually drive through the arch, but that didn’t stop us from getting some good pictures of it. Yeah, we’re rebels.
5. Yellowstone Pizza Company
Ok, as I said, a good pizza joint is something we had a taste for. There were a couple of them on the main road in Gardiner. We ended up choosing Yellowstone Pizza Company because it had roof-top seating. With 4 small kids, what could go wrong with eating on a roof?!
Well, luckily nothing did go wrong and instead, something amazing happened. As we got out onto the roof, some rain clouds were forming just over our heads. We knew the weather in Yellowstone was weird, it would pour one minute, then the next be super sunny, so we stood our ground and got a table up on the roof. A few minutes later, the sun started peeking out and a huge rainbow started to form! It was a full rainbow too, and the end looked to be in a patch of grass just a few hundred yards from the restaurant. I darn near jumped off the roof to go look for a pot of gold, but I restrained myself. A few more minutes passed and we noticed there was a second rainbow sitting right over the top of the first. A double rainbow! 2 pots of gold!! Sadly, the only gold I got that day was the in the liquid form in my beer bottle, which wasn’t a bad consolation prize 🙂
We really recommend eating at Yellowstone Pizza Company. The pizza is reasonably priced and tasted delicious!!
Here are a couple other things that we didn’t get a chance to do, but would if we went back.
Rent a Spotting Scope. If you are going to be in the Mammoth area you can rent a spotting scope for the day. This would really come in handy when checking out the animals in Yellowstone. However, you do need to bring it back to the city of Gardiner on the same day. It’s a pilot program they are running so make sure to call to verify they have one available if that is the only reason you are making the trip.
Visit Fort Yellowstone. The fort is near the visitor center and was used by the US Army starting in 1886 to help the park’s first superintendent get a handle on all the poaching, squatting, and vandalism that was plaguing the park.
We have also put together a guide showing 10 unique things to do in Yellowstone. These are not your typical tourist stops! Sign up to get it here.