National Parks

7 Top Things to See at Mammoth Hot Springs This Fall

At the northern entrance the Mammoth area of Yellowstone find lots of grazing elk along with travertine rock formations. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Located in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, the Mammoth Hot Springs area is open year-round. Due to its lower elevation, the roads are easier to keep open and it is accessible through the North Entrance. With close proximity to Bozeman, Montana, and its large airport, many visitors use the North Entrance. Home to Mammoth Hot Springs and Fort Yellowstone, this area is a must for a Yellowstone National Park trip. From its visitor center to the hot springs, here are the top things to see at Mammoth Hot Springs. 

Top Things to see at Mammoth Hot Springs 

  • Visit the Albright Visitor Center 
  • Walk the boardwalks of Mammoth Hot Springs
  • See Liberty Cap
  • Hike to Palette Spring 
  • See Opal Terrace
  • Drive the scenic loop of the Upper Terraces
  • Walk through Historic Fort Yellowstone
  • Walk through the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel’s Map Room
  • Spot Some Elk

Albright Visitor Center 

Named after the second Director of the National Park Service, Horace Albright, this visitor center was once the 1909 bachelor officers’ quarters. It underwent a renovation and its interpretive area focuses on the wildlife of Yellowstone. 

Visitors will find restrooms, water bottle fillers and book store. The rangers are available for questions and hand out maps and Junior Ranger booklets. Fishing permits are also available at the Albright Visitor Center. 

Located at Grand Loop Road and Parade Grounds Road. Open daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Free to enter. 

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Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace
The Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace in Yellowstone National Park. credit: Catherine Parker

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces 

One of the top things to see at Mammoth Hot Springs is the most protected travertine depositing hot springs in the world. Best of all, visitors can explore the terraced hot springs to see all the hot water action.

With a series of boardwalks and overlooks, visitors can climb throughout the different levels of the terraced limestone. Starting either at the top (accessible by car) or the bottom, visitors can hike the Mammoth Hot Spring Trail.

Divided into the Upper and Lower Terraces, the boardwalk features a series of stairs to see all the limestone features. There is one trailhead for the Upper Terraces and three trailhead for the Lower Terrace.

Runoff water seeps into the fractures in the ground to be heated by volcanic heat source. It then bubbles back up to the surface at Mammoth Hot Springs, depositing limestone in the form of travertine. 

Like many of the geothermal areas of Yellowstone, the water is hot (over 160F) and visitors need to stay on boardwalks. Visitors need to practice Leave No Trace principles and refrain from throwing anything into Mammoth Hot Springs. 

Top Features of Mammoth Hot Springs

  • Liberty Cap
  • Devils Thumb
  • Palette Spring and Terrace
  • Minerva Spring and Terrace
  • New Blue Spring
  • Highland Terrace
  • Canary Spring
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Best Hiking at Mammoth Hot Springs 

Palette Spring

An add-on to the Mammoth Hot Springs Trail, it’s a .3-mile in-and-out trail with a 29-foot elevation gain. Find the trailhead along Grand Loop Road and its parking lots and its the same area as the trailhead for Beaver Ponds Loop. 

Opal Terrace

Located basically in the backyard of a historic 1908 house designed by Robert Reamer. It is located across the street from Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace. 

Mammoth Terraces 

If you hike the entire Mammoth Terraces Loop, it’s 2.2-mile boardwalk with a 324-foot elevation gain, via stairs. It offers several trailheads along Grand Loop Road in the Mammoth Hot Springs Road. 

Beaver Ponds Loop

It’s a moderate 5.5-mile loop with a 764-foot elevation gain. Find the trailhead at Grand Loop Road and its parking lots, near Palette Spring Trailhead. 

Bunsen Peak

This is a moderate peak hike, closest to Mammoth Hot Springs. It is named after the inventor of the Bunsen Burner, who studied geysers as well. It’s a 4.4-mile in-and-out trail with a 1,282 -foot elevation gain. 

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 Mammoth Hot Springs Formations
Travertine formations in Mammoth Hot Springs. credit: Catherine Parker

Scenic Drives at Mammoth Hot Springs 

Upper Terrace Drive 

This 1.5-mile one-way drive that winds through the features of the upper terrace. It is a great alternative for those who don’t want to hike the boardwalks on Mammoth Hot Springs. 

Fort Yellowstone 

As the headquarters of the park, this area offers more than the Mammoth Hot Springs. In Yellowstone National Park’s the first few decades, U.S Army patrolled the park, securing it from poachers and rogue campgrounds. 

The U.S. Army was stationed at Yellowstone National Park for 32 years. In 1891, the U.S. Army constructed Fort Yellowstone. 

From the 1890s to the early 1900s, 35 structures remain from the U.S. Army occupation. It is a National Historic Landmark District and the buildings still sport their red clay roofs.

For travelers interested in touring Fort Yellowstone, walk up Officers Row Road. Though many of there buildings are in use, therefore stay on the street. 

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Top Things to See in Fort Yellowstone

  • Parade Ground
  • Batchelor Officers’ Quarter (Albright Visitor Center) 
  • Captains’ Quarters 
  • Double Officers’ Quarters 
  • Double Calvary Barracks (Yellowstone Administration Building)
Find animals. What to see in Yellowstone National Park with kids.
Find a bison on your trip to Yellowstone National Park though keep a safe distance and use a zoom lens to get up-close photos like this one. Credit: Catherine Parker

Wildlife in Mammoth Hot Springs

Who doesn’t love a luxurious grass lawn? The park’s elk munch grass in front of the hotel and visitor center frequently. When not wandering the streets of Fort Yellowstone, the elk retreat to the bluffs above the Mammoth Hot Springs.

Since the National Park Service considers the grass an historic lawn, it is irrigated. The elk can be spotted sitting like cattle nibbling its tender green blades. 

On every one of my trips, I have seen or heard the elk bulge at Mammoth so keep a lookout.Though visitors should remember to keep at least 25 feet away from elk. 

Elk in Mammoth
The Elk nibbling on grass at Mammoth Hot Springs. credit: Catherine Parker

Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park 

I recommend Hayden Valley or Lamar Valley, along the river for the best wildlife spotting. Best times to spot animals is dawn and dawn when animals are most active. Check in with the Park Rangers who know where animals frequent or take a guided tour.

  • Bison
  • Moose
  • Elk
  • Grizzly Bear 
  • Black Bear
  • Wolf
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Mule Deer
  • Coyote
  • Pronghorn
  • Pika
  • Marmot


  • Stay at least 25 feet away from elk and bison along with other wildlife. For bear and wolves, stay 100 yards away.
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Junior Ranger badge. Things to do at Old Faithful with kids.
After completing the requirements for a Junior Ranger badge, turn it at the Junior Ranger Station near the Madison entrance. Credit: Catherine Parker

Kids at Yellowstone

The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet.

Kids love Yellowstone and kids love animals. So buy a Junior Ranger booklet at the nearest bookstore. In Yellowstone, the Junior Ranger booklets are $3 but kids who complete their booklets get a badge.

Yellowstone National Park divides Junior Ranger booklet into three age categories, with age-appropriate activities. Kids 4 to 7, 8 to 12 and 13 and older each complete as many activities as their age.

Old Faithful Visitor Education Center also offers a Young Scientist Patch Program. Buy the $5 booklet at the visitor center’s gift store. The visitor center also checks out a pack of equipment needed to conduct experiments. Best suited for students spending a couple of days in the Old Faithful Area to finish the program.

Try to turn in your Junior Ranger booklet at Yellowstone’s National Park Junior Ranger Station, located near the Madison entrance on the west side of the park.

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Yellowstone National Park sign.
The Yellowstone National Park sign. credit: Catherine Parker

History of Yellowstone National Park

On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National Park became the first national park in the world. An idea that’s flourished across the world.

Though Yellowstone’s significance began long before. Approximately two million years ago, a super volcano erupted in Yellowstone forming a caldera, or basin. Find it in center of Yellowstone National Park measuring 45 miles across, now home to the largest concentration of geysers in the world.

The railroad arrived to the northern edge of the park in 1883. Then the first roads started to bisect the park allowing visitors more access to the geothermal features and the animals. More people meant more building with Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Old Faithful Inn a few of the surviving early lodges.

It was on the western frontier so the U.S. Army built a fort to keep the law and chase away the poachers.

 Filet Mignon at the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room.
The six-ounce Filet Mignon at the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room. credit: Catherine Parker

Where to Eat at Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hotel Dining Room

Completely renovated, the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room features an Art Deco design atheistic. It feels a bit glam for a national park though the dress is casual. Like the rest of Yellowstone National Park, hiking boots are welcome. 

Its menu features several items that are sourced within 500 miles of the park, including Montana Beef and local trout. During my meal, I sampled the Blistered Shishito Peppers and the Smoked Trout Dip. I followed that with the 6-ounce Petit Filet Mignon.

Other option include Colorado Lamb Rack, NY Strip and a Pork Rib Chop. The menu offers gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian optios as well.

The Mammoth Hotel Dining Room closes for the fall season the third week of October. It reopens for the Winter Season December 15 and stay open until mid-March. Open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Reservations are required for dinner. 

Mammoth Terrace Grill

For quick meals, to-go items and fountain drinks, the Terrace Grill offers efficient service. During my stay, I had a breakfast sandwich on a bagel with egg and cheese, perfect for a day of exploring. 

It also serves lunch and dinner items, like burgers, sandwiches and salads. Ice cream is also available. 

It is located next to the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room at 305B Albright Ave. It is open daily from late April to mid-October from 6:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. 

Map Room Bar

For an evening wind-down, the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel’s Map Room Bar serves a selection of wine, beer and classic cocktails. In the evening, a pianist plays standards in the corner and there is a lot of seating, This is the place to meet and share stories with other travelers. 

The Map Room is located just off the main lobby and the map is a focal point of the Map Room, covering an entire wall. Designed by famed architect Robert Reamer (designed the Old Faithful Inn), the map includes 2,544 pieces of woo from 16 different trees, native to nine different countries.

The Map Room Bar is open from 4:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. when the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. 

Mammoth General Store 

The Yellowstone General Stores sell packaged snacks along with ice cream. This location also sells gas. 

Picnicking Around Mammoth Hot Springs

  • Lava Creek Picnic Area
  • Mammoth Picnic Area

Where to Stay at Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins

Located in the Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District, this property 

underwent a major renovation of the its gathering spaces and guest rooms. Near the Northern Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, it is also open for winter visits in addition to the summer. 

The majority of the hotel was built in 1936 and features a retaining wing of guest rooms originally built in 1911. Its signature Map Room contains a large wooden map of the United States, constructed of 15 different kinds of wood from nine countries. Steps away, visitors will find a bar with local beer and wine along with nightly live music. 

Guests enjoy a variety of accommodations at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, some even feature original clawfoot tubs. The rooms are well appointed and feature mini-fridge, microwave, coffeemaker along with chair and reading lamp.

A choice of bedding is offered with king or double queen rooms. None of the rooms at Mammoth Hot Springs Hot feature air-conditioning, a TV or radio. Pets are not allowed at this property.

A few steps away from the hotel, guests will find the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel Dining Room. Its menu features locally sourced products from beer and wine to beef and fish. Reservations recommended for dinner. Additional there is the casual MammothTerrace Grill for quick meals and grab and go. Coffee is available in the lobby. 

Close to the Mammoth Hot Springs and Fort Yellowstone. And there is even a chance to spot elk grazing outside the hotel.

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Cabins at Mammoth 

Hot Tub Cabin

These cabins are available in the winter and offer an outdoor hot tub within an enclosed patio. Each cabin offers one queen bed along with heat and a bathroom with a shower only. It offers a front porch, a coffeemaker, a telephone, a hair-dryer, alarm clock and fan. No air-conditioning, TV or radio. Sorry, pets and cooking aren’t allowed. 

The following are summer only cabins:

Frontier Cabin

With two queen beds, this cabin features heat and a bathroom with a shower only. It also offers a front porch, a hair-dryer, an alarm clock and a fan. No air-conditioning, TV or radio. Sorry, pets and cooking aren’t allowed.

Cabin Without a Bath 

This cabin offers one queen bed and a sink though no toilet or shower. It features heat, alarm clock, hair dryer, and a fan. Sorry, pets and cooking aren’t allowed.

Two Room Cabins without a Bath

This cabin offers one queen bed and two full beds, so good for families and groups. It has a sink though no toilet or shower. It features heat, alarm clock, hair dryer, and a fan. Sorry, pets and cooking aren’t allowed.

A communal bathhouse with showers is located in the area. 

Camping at Mammoth Hot Springs 

Mammoth Campground—Closed for 2023

  • Year-round 
  • Reservable from April 1 to October 15
  • 85 sites 
  • Potable Water and Flush Toilets, No Showers
  • RV Limit: 40 feet 

Camping fee starts at $25 a night, reservable through

Indian Creek Campground

  • Seasonal
  • Reservable from early June until early September
  • 70 sites 
  • Potable Water and Vault Toilets, No Showers
  • RV Limit: 35 feet

Camping fee starts at $20 a night, reservable through

Winter Visits to Yellowstone National Park 

From mid-December to March, Mammoth Hot Springs Hot is open for winter visits. Daily guided tours depart the Mammoth Hotel for Lamar Valley, Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon and Old Faithful.

For those who like to ski and snowshoe, the Bear Den Ski Shop is located in the gift shop. It offers equipment, lessons, tips, and tours for cross-country skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts.

The road is plowed and open to vehicles from the North Entrance and across the Grand Loop Road, Mammoth-Tower. For other destinations within Yellowstone, road coach transportation is required and available through

Getting Around Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. Use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or purchase a 7-day pass for $35 per vehicle.

Yellowstone National Park offers five entrances.

Disclosure: I was hosted at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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