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It’s often said that the national parks are America’s best idea. No argument here. And it all started with designating Yellowstone National Park, a particular stroke of genius. This remarkable landscape of hot springs, geysers, and incredible wildlife became the country’s first national park in 1872, starting a revolution in protecting special landscapes in the United States and around the world.

A visit to Yellowstone is a life-list experience for people across the globe, and no wonder. The park—bigger than some states—offers wild trails for hiking and horseback riding, the highest concentration of geysers in the world, and the chance to spot animals like grizzly bears, bison, elk, and golden eagles in the wild. Consider this your guide to the park’s highlights—and the perfect bourbon to sip while you’re visiting (or just dreaming) about Yellowstone.

Making the Most of a Trip to Yellowstone National Park

The only problem with visiting Yellowstone? It’s so enormous, and its attractions so varied, that starting to plan a trip can be intimidating. It’s also deservedly popular, so you have to take crowds into account. But it’s possible to thread the needle, experiencing the best of Yellowstone without joining the throngs. Here’s how.

Geysers

Upper Geyser Basin, home to Old Faithful as well as 150 other spouters, is ground zero for geyser gazing. But it’s also notoriously crowded during the high season. You can catch the Old Faithful show without the hordes by hiking the 0.8-mile (one way) Observation Point Trail to a sweeping vantage point over the basin. Looking for even more solitude? Visit Upper Geyser Basin via snowcoach in winter. For another geyser experience with a fraction of the traffic, trace the Firehole River 2.5 miles (one way) on the Lone Star Geyser Trail for a 45-foot eruption every few hours.

Grand Prismatic Yellowstone
Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo: Yellowstone Bourbon)

Waterfalls

They don’t call it Cascade Corner for nothing: you’ll find a dozen-plus waterfalls in Yellowstone’s remote southwestern tip. Union Falls stands out from the rest for its height—at 250 feet, it’s the second-tallest waterfall in the park—and solitude. It takes a 16-mile round-trip hike to reach Union starting from the Grassy Lake Trailhead, so it’s best done as an overnight backpacking trip. Or visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and its world-famous views of the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. Just go at sunrise for great light and to beat the crowds.

Wildlife Watching

The Lamar Valley deserves its nickname of America’s Serengeti: bison, wolves, elk, deer, and grizzly bears (to name just a few) roam a wide, lush river corridor in the park’s northeastern segment. Plentiful pullouts along the Northeast Entrance Road grant excellent views from the car. Tip: Look for people with spotting scopes—they’re often volunteers who know where the wolf packs are hanging out. For a more immersive experience, hike part of the 33-mile Lamar River Trail—just be sure to travel in groups and carry bear spray, as this is prime grizzly territory.

Bison in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is home to many species of wildlife. (Photo: Steven Cordes)

The Perfect Bourbon Pairing

This year, Yellowstone Kentucky Straight Bourbon celebrates its 152nd birthday—just like Yellowstone National Park. That’s no coincidence. The smooth, traditional-style spirit was crafted in 1872 to honor the brand-new park. Seventh-generation distiller Stephen Beam is proud to carry on the family tradition by producing Yellowstone Bourbon through his Limestone Branch Distillery in Kentucky—his great-great grandfather, J.W. Dant, introduced it a century and a half ago. “It’s been on the shelf continuously ever since,” Beam says. (On the other side of the family, Beam traces his history in distilling back to 1795, when his great-great-grandfather sold his first whiskey; Beam’s great-grandfather’s cousin was the famed distiller Jim Beam.)

The brand’s flagship style, Yellowstone Select, is a complex yet approachable blend of four- and seven-year-old bourbons with a smoked-caramel palate and a smoky oak and brown sugar finish. “It’s a great bourbon for the bar because you can make a cocktail with it or drink it neat,” Beam says. Together with the rest of the Yellowstone Bourbon family—the Yellowstone American Single Malt, Yellowstone Special Finishes Collection, Yellowstone Limited Edition, and Yellowstone Hand-Picked Single Barrel—the brand offers something for every taste.

Yellowstone Bourbon
The perfect bourbon to sip while you’re visiting (or just dreaming) about Yellowstone. (Photo: Yellowstone Bourbon)

Even better, sipping Yellowstone Bourbon means supporting its namesake park. Since 2018, the distillery has donated almost $500,000 to the National Parks Conservation Association to help protect America’s treasured landscapes. “I think it’s very important to not just be in business, but to give back to the community as well,” Beam says.

Supporting the national parks was a natural fit for Beam, who traces some of his happiest childhood memories to trips to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and visits Yellowstone several times a year. (Beam’s favorite destinations: Lower Falls of the Yellowstone and Grand Prismatic Spring.)

Taste the Flavors of Yellowstone

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Founded by pioneer distiller Joseph Bernard Dant, Yellowstone Bourbon was named for our country’s very first national park in 1872. In 2011, seventh-generation Master Distiller Steve Beam—a descendant of both the Dant and Beam distilling families—founded Lebanon, Kentucky-based Limestone Branch Distillery and resurrected the Yellowstone brand with the creation of Yellowstone Select Bourbon. Since then, Yellowstone has been one of the fastest-growing American Whiskey brands in the industry. Today, the Yellowstone family of brands includes Yellowstone Select, Yellowstone Limited Edition and Yellowstone American Single Malt Whiskey. For more information on the Yellowstone brand, visit yellowstonebourbon.com or follow us on Instagram.

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