Yellowstone National Park

Old FaithfulLocation: Wyoming, USA

Visited: July, 2009

Site Type: Natural

Inscribed: 1978

Background and Opinion:

In 1871, the famous American geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden made a successful survey of the Yellowstone area and pleaded his case to congress. For his time, the proposal was pretty ludicrous, but he managed to convince our lawmakers. He argued that there was more to gain by leaving the land aside than to auction it off to developers. In March 1st, 1872, Yellowstone National Park became the first National Park in the world.

Yellowstone NP

While he couldn’t have known then, Hayden sparked a new era of not just Americans, but ecologically conscious human beings who realized that nature is not just something that can me hacked and slashed for a profit. Nations all over the world followed the US’s example and now, we have over 90 countries that have designated large parts of their territory as ‘national parks.’

Hiking in Yellowstone

Back in 1872, Yellowstone might have been impressive, but with so many other parks now in the US and abroad, how does the original stack up to the competition? With 50% of all geothermal activity and 2/3 of the world’s geysers, it blows almost everything else out of the water. Yellowstone has a ton of bison and its fair share of grizzly bears too, meeting even your highest expectations. It is not only a true marvel of nature, but a testament that humans are not destructive by nature and can live side by side with the environment.

Atop Avalanche Peak
Atop Avalanche Peak

I went to Yellowstone back in 2009 on a straight-shot, 18 hour road trip with my friend Nate and his buddy Tomac. I had been to a few NPs before, but nothing could compare to what we were in for. As soon as we drove in, we were met immediately by a herd of bison. After setting up camp, we slept early and I even woke up at 5am to see one of the most incredible sunrises in the world in front of Yellowstone Lake.

Sunrise over Yellowstone Lake
Sunrise over Yellowstone Lake

We were there for a total of 5 days and did hikes up “Elephant’s Back” and “Avalanche Peak.” The latter has been one of the best and most diverse hikes I’ve ever been on. You start at the bottom with dense forest and end up at the snow peaked top with some incredible winds. On the way down, Nate and I slid down the snow, but the details of who actually won the race are disputed to this very day.

The Great Snow Race
The Great Snow Race

Evaluation

1) Completeness / Preservation (13 out of 15): The National Park Service is one my favorite government organizations. However, even they cannot stop the relentless power of nature. A massive fire that took place over 25 years ago in 1988 still shows damage to this day.

Yup, I am half the size of Albania!
Yup, I am half the size of Albania!

2) Extensiveness of the Site (15 out of 15): Yellowstone NP is about the size of the country of Montenegro and has over 100 hiking trails. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

3) Natural Significance (25 out of 25): Without the example of Yellowstone, would we even have green spaces left? In addition, Old faithful is as amazing as advertised.

Old Faithful

4) Personal Impact (15 out of 15): My mind was blown.

5) Logistics (7.5 out of 10): Due to the massiveness and remoteness of Yellowstone, there is no public transportation. This is a bummer to travelers who do not drive as it would be difficult or very expensive to fly into one of the smaller airports near the park. Your must drive, but this also gives you the freedom to explore it as your own pace.

6) Uniqueness (15 out of 20): It is said to be comparable to sites in Iceland and Rotarua, New Zealand (which I will visit soon!) However, the statistics speak for themselves and as the mouth of possibly the largest volcano in the world, there is no comparison.

Yellowstone 2

Combined Score: 90.5/100

Is this a good score? Find out how it compares with other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in our rankings.

Curious how the scores are derived? Check out the scoring criteria.

The ranking of this site has shown me how very strange it is to compare a natural site to a cultural one. I am considering splitting the ranking of the two, but will leave it for now to see what happens. Also, I am aware that the pictures are CRAPtastic. Sorry, it was in a pre-DSLR era.

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Julio Moreno

Julio is a California native who has lived abroad since 2009 as an expat in South Korea and New Zealand. He is especially passionate about experiencing other cultures and visiting as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible.
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