Yellowstone National Park isn’t a theme park, and it’s a mistake to treat it like one.

My husband and I spent a year living out of a pickup truck driving cross-country. During that time, he took a seasonal job in Yellowstone National Park, and we ended up living there for three months.

I’d spent a lot of time in national parks prior to this, but the mistakes that I saw travelers consistently making here were shocking.

Things were especially rough during the busy summer season when most people treated the park more like a shopping mall on Black Friday than a shared space in nature.

If you’re going to Yellowstone — especially if you’re visiting this summer — don’t make these mistakes.

Stopping in the middle of the road

I saw many near accidents caused by travelers suddenly stopping in the middle of the road to look at animals in the distance.

Instead of braking without warning, find a safe spot to pull over and then walk back to see wildlife. Taking the time to find a place to park off-road may jeopardize your chance to see certain animals, but it can keep you from getting rear-ended.

Only sticking to the classic tourist spots

There’s more to Yellowstone than Old Faithful.

Yellowstone National Park is 2.2 million acres — don’t make the mistake of spending your whole trip only seeing a series of popular spots that wouldn’t even cover a single acre.

Looking off the beaten path allowed me to see boiling mud pots, soaring eagles, and herds of pronghorns without crowds. Before your trip, look up more than just the most popular attractions to find other spots and trails to explore.

Thinking you can see the whole park in a day

You can’t see all of Yellowstone in a day. I didn’t even see all of it during my three months living there.

If your time is limited, put just a few things on your itinerary and take the time to see, enjoy, and learn from them.

Don’t spend the majority of your days driving all over the park just to check things off of a must-see list or to post photos to the internet of attractions. There are plenty of those already.

Treating wildlife like pets

Unfortunately, I saw travelers harass animals often. They aren’t there for your entertainment — respect them and their homes.

Just because animals in Yellowstone don’t run away from you doesn’t mean that you should head toward them, either.

Bison look cute until they gore you. Elk are just giant deer until they swing their antlers like a sword. Feeding prairie dogs your lunch can expose you to disease while potentially making them sick.

Being unprepared

As someone who has been freezing cold in Yellowstone in August, I recommend being prepared for temperature swings as big as 40 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few hours.

Wear hiking boots and layers you can add and subtract from throughout the day to stay comfortable. Pack snacks and plenty of water so that you can stay hydrated and fueled.

Having what you need can help you comfortably stay out in the parks even longer.

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