Yellowstone Fun Facts: 25 Things You Didn’t Know About the National Park

Yellowstone is often considered the jewel of American national parks. The history, the scenery, the wildlife… this place has it all.

Every on who loves nature and road trips should make the trek to Yellowstone at least once. Some of my favorite national park memories were from my time hiking and camping there.

yellowstone fun facts

And it’s an officially-designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re a national park junkie, you may already know some of this trivia, but everyone should find something new to learn from this list.

Here are some Yellowstone fun facts about the interesting history of the park, its animals, and its geological features.

Yellowstone Fun Facts In-Depth

roosevelt arch - yellowstone images
The Roosevelt Arch at the north entrance in Gardiner, Montana.

1 Yellowstone was the world’s first national park

The park was established by Congress and President Grant in 1872. Most of Yellowstone (96%) is in Wyoming, but parts extend into Montana and Idaho.

The park’s elevation ranges from 5,282 feet to 11,358 feet (at Eagle Peak.) About 80% of the park is forested.

2 Yellowstone is home to half of the world’s geothermal features

That’s pretty remarkable when you think about it. Most people are familiar with Old Faithful, the geyser that shoots out scalding water every 90 minutes or so.

Yellowstone fun facts - hot springs

But the park has around 10,000 thermal features, including about 500 geysers, as well as hot springs and mudpots.

3 Old Faithful was once used as a laundromat

In the 1880s, members of the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition discovered that clothes placed inside the crater became totally clean once ejected by Old Faithful.

They found that linen and cotton washed just fine, but wool clothes were shredded by the geyser. It was the world’s first heavy-duty washing machine!

old faithful

4 Old Faithful is not the park’s largest geyser

That distinction belongs to Steamboat Geyser, which can shoot water as high as 300 feet, more than 100 feet higher than Old Faithful. Steamboat Geyser’s eruptions are unpredictable, though.

Between 1992 and 2014, it only erupted nine times, with the amount of time between eruptions varying from 30 days to nine years.

However, in 2018, Steamboat erupted 14 times between March and August. In 2019 and 2020, the geyser tied its record with 48 eruptions each year.

5 Yellowstone is home to the most remote spot in the lower 48 states

As reported in a book by Tim Cahill, the southeast corner of the park is home to the Thorofare Ranger Station, the most remote occupied dwelling in the lower 48 states.

This place is more than 32 miles from any other road or dwelling!

bison yellowstone

A park ranger travels by horse to reach this station. It sounds like an awesome place to visit… if you’re not a people person!

6 Deaths from bear attacks inside Yellowstone are extremely rare

While the park has plenty of grizzly and black bears, visitors to Yellowstone are almost never killed by bears. In fact, there were no deaths from bears between 1986 and 2011.

Unfortunately, in 2011 a grizzly killed a man when he surprised the bear, who was with its young. Later in 2011, a second person was killed in a bear attack. And in 2015, a solo hiker was killed.

So incidents do seem to be on the rise. But the park notes that there’s still only one bear attack for every 2.7 million visits to the park.

Yellowstone visitors spot bears all the time — I saw a few on my hike to Mount Washburn — and generally, the animals keep their distance from humans.

yellowstone bear warning

Wyoming officials claim there are more than 1,000 grizzlies in the park — too many, they say, and they’re trying to get the authority to cut the population.

Check out my article on where to see bears in Yellowstone if you’re interested in having a bear experience. Keep your distance and stay safe!

7 The strongest Yellowstone earthquake in recorded history came in 1959

One of the more interesting Yellowstone fun facts is its recent earthquake history. With all the crazy geological features and the instability of the land underneath Yellowstone, you’d think there would be powerful quakes there all the time.

Indeed, there are more than 2,000 quakes here a year. But the strongest was the 1959 quake in the Montana portion of the park that registered between a 7.3 and 7.5 on the Richter scale.

It destroyed roads, created new geysers and was said to cause a landslide that killed 28 people.

8 Yellowstone is a supervolcano

The Yellowstone Caldera is known as a “supervolcano.” Its eruptions helped form the Snake River Plain. Molten lava is believed to exist perhaps as little as two miles below the surface.

Its most recent three eruptions were 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and 640,000 years ago. Do the math – we may be due for another eruption sometime soon!

grand canyon yellowstone

9 Yellowstone has a Grand Canyon

Creatively titled “The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone,” this waterfall was carved by the Yellowstone River and reaches up to a half-mile in width.

This is one of nearly 300 waterfalls inside Yellowstone National Park, and stopping by here to take some photos is one of the most popular things to do in Yellowstone.

10 Yellowstone is bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined

Yellowstone is 2.2 million acres, or roughly 3470 square miles. That’s huge! It’s only the 8th-largest national park in the country, however, behind mostly remote parks in Alaska.

That means Yellowstone is bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined! Delaware is 2488 square miles, and Rhode Island is 1033, so their combined total of 3421 is smaller than Yellowstone.

Let’s start a petition to make Yellowstone the 51st state!

yellowstone lake

More Yellowstone Trivia Bits

Here are some more quick-hitting facts about Yellowstone that you may not have known.

11. Yellowstone sits right on US Route 20, aka the longest road in America! That road stretches from Oregon to Massachusetts.

12. Microscopic organisms called thermophiles live in the park’s geysers and hot spots. That’s what gives them their bright colors!

unstable ground boiling water - yellowstone weird trivia

13. A 50-square mile section of Yellowstone in Idaho is sometimes known as the “Zone of Death.”

Due to a loophole in the law, it would essentially be impossible for anyone to be prosecuted for any crime that takes place there. Here’s the confusing explanation for why that is the case.

14. Yellowstone receives an average of 150 inches (22.5 feet) of snow per year across the park. Higher elevations, though, can get up to 400 inches a year!

15. Riding snowmobiles is one of the most popular Yellowstone winter activities when the roads and trails are covered with snow.

yellowstone fun facts
Tourists watch two wolves in the distance.

16. Park rules require visitors to stay at least 100 yards – that’s a full football field – away from bears and wolves. For other animals, the distance requirement is 25 yards.

17. Yellowstone has 67 different mammals. That’s the most of any park in the lower 48 states.

18. The park has a detailed bison management program to keep population levels healthy. That includes allowing tribal hunting, and giving some bison to various tribes, rather than killing the animals.

baby bison
Aww, look at the cute baby bison!

19. Yellowstone is hit with 1000 to 3000 earthquakes every year. The vast majority of these are small and never felt by humans.

20. The park has 466 miles of roads and five official entrances.

21. The coldest temperature ever recorded in the park is -66 F, while the hottest is 99 F. As temps continue to rise, it’s a good bet that Yellowstone’s first triple-digit day is coming.

squirrel yellowstone

22. Yellowstone is obviously a hiker’s paradise. The park has 92 different trailheads, nearly 1000 miles of trail, and 15 miles of boardwalks.

23. Yellowstone had its largest number of guests ever in 2021, with 4,860,242 visitors. That number dropped in 2022 all the way down to 3.3 million, mostly due to the closing of the northeast entrance due to flooding.

In 2023, park attendance rebounded to 4.5 million visitors.

yellowstone attendance
Tourists await the eruption of Old Faithful.

24. Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana weren’t even states when Yellowstone became a national park.

25. There are only six reptiles in Yellowstone. There’s the sagebrush lizard, and five kinds of snake: bullsnake, prairie rattlesnake, rubber boa, common garter snake, and terrestrial garter snake.

Do you have any weird or amusing Yellowstone fun facts to share? Leave a comment!