Yellowstone National Park! - East Entrance & Eleanor Lake
The trek through Shoshone Canyon going west on U.S. Highway 14 sets the stage for things to come when approaching the East Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. After passing the gates and paying the entrance fee, the eyesore billboards and tourist trap signs that act as reminders of civilization become a thing of the past. The pristine peaceful Yellowstone wilderness awaits and the feeling is like a sigh of relief when taking a vacation from the hustle and bustle of everyday life!
Just like U.S. 14 in Shoshone Canyon, the long Yellowstone East Entrance Road is busy with tourists that are in a hurry to get to the famous scenic geyser areas that lie further on down the road. Relatively few visitors think of spending the day in the East Entrance wilderness area, so other than the constant traffic on the road, this region of the National Park tends to be less crowded. Parking spots are easy to find and there are plenty of wide open spaces for weary travelers to unwind.
The drive into the eastern end of Yellowstone National Park first traverses cloud draped mountain peaks that overlook the entire Yellowstone Lake Basin. The unobstructed views from the scenic overlooks extend to the horizon nearly 100 miles away. During the summer season, the pine and aspen forests are green and lush. Barren areas covered with lifeless tall tree trunks from previous forest fire cycles show signs of new life. The winters are long in the Wyoming high elevations and the spring wildflower blooms usually occur mid summer, so those who want to catch a glimpse of colorful wildflowers will be in luck.
Wildlife spotting along the East Entrance Road is easy this time of year. Young deer foals, bear cubs and bird hatchlings from spring are just now learning to fend for themselves. The wild animals are busy gathering food and fattening up for the next winter, which starts early in autumn each year. The creatures are so busy in the woods looking for food that they are often too preoccupied to care if humans are nearby. The summer feeding season presents great wildlife photography opportunities in the eastern end of Yellowstone, so be sure to pack a good camera and a telephoto lens.
There are a few streams that wind their way through the canyons and valleys in the eastern portion of Yellowstone National Park. The streams fill a few small lakes along the way as the water travels downhill. Some of the small lakes and ponds take some hiking to get to and the effort is rewarded with a place to spend a day where few others go.
If spending the day relaxing by the waterside sounds a dream come true, one of the largest lakes in the East Entrance wildlife area is located next to the road. The long shoreline of Eleanor Lake offers many great shaded picnic spots and places to do some fly fishing. Lazing the day away on a picnic blanket by Lake Eleanor is as relaxing as it gets!
When relaxing by the lake, it does pay to keep the eyes open for fleeting glimpses of wildlife in action, because eagles sometimes fly close by while plucking fish out of the water. A sight like this definitely creates memories that last a lifetime! Wetland bird spotting is easy to do at Eleanor Lake and there are several bird species that are unique to this area. The little songbirds provide all the music that one needs in this peaceful spot.
After traveling several hundred miles to get to this National Park, taking the time to enjoy the Yellowstone East Entrance wilderness area sure beats diving right into the thick of things in the crowded geyser areas. This National Park is so large that it requires a minimum of three days to explore by car. A few hiking or camping ventures along the way can easily turn the experience into a week long vacation, so the best strategy for visiting Yellowstone is to relax and not be in a hurry. Relaxing in the peace and quiet of the East Entrance wilderness while having a picnic lunch next to Eleanor Lake is a good way to start a Yellowstone National Park venture!