The Grand Prismatic, Yellowstone National Park; (photo/Jim Peaco via NPS)

Happy Birthday, Yellowstone! Here’s How to Celebrate the National Park’s 150th

Today, Yellowstone National Park turns a spry 150 years old. Here’s a history of the park, some of our staff’s favorite things to do there, and how to celebrate.

Get out the confetti: Yellowstone National Park is celebrating its 150th anniversary. In tribute to the occasion, we thought we’d salute the park with our favorite Yellowstone moments over the years. Plus, we share how you can honor Yellowstone on your next visit.

History of Yellowstone National Park 

Yellowstone might get a bad rap in the news for things like bison maulings and various other clashes between wildlife and visitors, but there’s so much more than meets the eye. Namely, the park’s 3,000-plus square miles and its abundance of wilderness, wildlife, history, and trails.

Here’s a brief history of Yellowstone through the ages:

  • 1872: Through the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act, signed on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the United States’ first national park site
  • 1916: The National Park Service was created
  • 1929: President Hoover signed a bill expanding the park’s boundaries
  • 1932: President Hoover added another 7,000 acres to the park
  • 1948: Yellowstone reaches 1 million visitors
  • 1959: A 7.5-magnitude earthquake strikes west of Yellowstone (resulting in fatalities and damages)
  • 1971: Yellowstone first welcomed overnight visitors in winter
  • 2018: Yellowstone reinstates endangered species protections for grizzly bears
  • 2019: Yellowstone elects first woman as Chief Ranger
  • 2021: The NPS expands bike and transit options for all national parks
  • 2022: Yellowstone to open Tribal Heritage Center to celebrate and preserve Native peoples’ history in the Yellowstone region (estimated opening in May-September 2022)

“Yellowstone’s 150th anniversary is an important moment in time for the world,” said Park Superintendent Cam Sholly.

“It’s an opportunity for us to reflect on the lessons of the past while focusing our efforts to strengthen Yellowstone and our many partnerships for the future. I applaud and share the vision of Secretary Haaland and Director Sams on our responsibility to more fully engage with Tribal Nations, to honor and learn from their ancestral and modern connections to Yellowstone.”

What to Do

Hunting, fly fishing, rafting, hiking, backpacking, swimming, sightseeing, and more — Yellowstone National Park offers a ton within its borders. (And outside of its borders, it’s surrounded by six national forests.) There’s also camping aplenty.

And don’t forget, Yellowstone made our list of America’s Best Swimming Holes!

There’s so much to do at Yellowstone, you really can’t go wrong. (Except for maybe this: Here’s what not to do.)

How to Stay

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Yellowstone Birthday Events

The National Park Service will be hosting several festivities in honor of the park’s big birthday. Here are a few:

  • March 1: Wind River Reservation (Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes) Virtual Gathering and Celebration — this event will commemorate the park’s anniversary while elevating the Tribal community’s voice in conserving and managing Yellowstone
  • March 1: National Park Service “150 Years of Yellowstone” commemoration video
  • March 1: Discounted admission at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone, Mont.
  • May 6: Yellowstone National Park Lodges 150th Anniversary Event
  • May 19-20: University of Wyoming’s 150th Anniversary of Yellowstone Symposium

Look for more events later in 2022 once Yellowstone National Park opens for the summer season.

Visit Yellowstone

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Mary Murphy

Mary is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and is based in GearJunkie's Denver, Colo. office. She has a degree in English and journalism, and has a background in both newspaper and magazine writing. Her outdoor interests span from running to sport climbing, from landscape photography to skiing to pack-paddleboarding. If she's not writing, you can most likely find her at the top of a fourteener, or in a local bakery.