Planning the Yellowstone Trail can seem a bit overwhelming at first. After all, it covers nearly 2.2 million acres – 3,500 square miles – and is larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. For this reason, and many others we will discuss later, many visitors to the park miss the wonders of Wonderland.

Plan a trip to America’s Wonderland

In 1872, Yellowstone became America’s first national park. It is also considered the first in the world. In an effort to attract tourists, and capitalizing on the recent popularity of the Alice in Wonderland adventures, the Northern Pacific Railroad developed a marketing campaign to sell Yellowstone as the “New Wonderland.” The large prismatic spring is the most impressive attraction in the park!

Having visited the park several times, it is quite easy to understand how the comparison between the fictional wonderland and the physical Yellowstone came about. The sights, sounds and colors in Yellowstone are like nowhere else in the world – the imagination is the limit, with geothermal features such as Demon Cave, Dragon’s Mouth, Cooking Hill, Skeleton Pool and Hurricane Wind. It is easy to see why the Lamar Valley, located in the northeastern part of the park, is called the “Serengeti of America.”

With proper planning, travelers can be confident that their visit to Yellowstone will go smoothly. At the same time, trying to include as much as possible in the itinerary can ruin the adventure. Therefore, it is important to find the right balance between an efficient itinerary and not overdoing it.

View your Yellowstone trip with the right attitude.

One of the biggest complaints we get from people is that they feel they spend too much time in their car. Don’t worry, we’ll cover this issue in more detail below. But for now, it’s time to tackle the elephant in the room, and that’s the beauty of the park. The Sapphire Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin seems like the most beautiful place in the world to swim, but it doesn’t have to be! The water temperature varies between 200°F and 202°F.

We don’t go to Delaware and Rhode Island for three days to see everything. As with almost every other major destination on earth, it is almost impossible to cover every little detail. So you need to make sure your Yellowstone itinerary includes the places you will regret if, in the worst case scenario, you never return.

A little pep talk

At certain times in life, the stars may not all align and unforeseen circumstances can affect your experience. This is true of almost any vacation you can take. As for Yellowstone, during our visit there were road closures that prevented access to some parts of the park, and all park accommodations were closed due to VIDOC. Audrey admires the ridged geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin at Old Faithful.

When we encounter obstacles in our lives or journeys, we rely on a few simple rules or reminders so we never leave disappointed:

  1. Make sure you see or do the little things you expected as much as possible (if possible).
  2. Gently remind yourself that there is no way to see everything.
  3. Enjoy what you are doing now.
  4. It is the best we can do at this point in our lives.
  5. If you love him so much, you can always come back.

If you’re lucky, you can visit Yellowstone again in the future. For example, we visited Scotland for the first time in 2015 and have returned two more times, as we just did. If you hear the saying: “You never know what the future holds,” we assure you it is true.

Understanding the fundamentals

Understanding the basic map of the park will help you map out the perfect route to Yellowstone. Yellowstone National Park is shaped like an eight and is called the “Big Loop” or Grand Loop Road. The southern entrance to Grand Teton National Park. Therefore, the best lodging options are in West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cooke City.

Therefore, the lower part of 8 is called Lower Loop Road and the upper part of 8 is called Upper Loop Road. There are also a number of villages along Big Loop Road with restrooms, stores, etc.

The best route for the main loop depends on which entrance(s) you will use to enter or exit the park. Also, make sure the driveway(s) you plan to use are open.

Unless you come to the park by snowmobile or snowshoes, most roads are closed from early November to mid-April, except for the north entrance. It is recommended that you check for road closures in the park before beginning your trip. For example, the road between Tower Roosevelt and Canyon Village is closed until May 2022.

Park entrance

Before you visit the park, you must buy the National Parks and Federal Recreational Grounds Pass series. The passes cost $80, and we sold them for $68 on eBay about two months after we bought them. Also, many of the park entrances have special pass lanes, which makes entry much faster! Welcome to Yellowstone National Park.

The park has five entrances: south, west, east, north and northeast. Most visitors enter the park through the south or east entrance. The towns of West Yellowstone (west entrance) and Gardiner (north entrance) offer the most lodging and dining options.

Winter Trips: Many beautiful tours are offered in the winter. The tours range from day trips to multi-day excursions. These are some of the most unique ways to explore Yellowstone :

Private Snowmobile TourPrivate Snowmobile Tour
YellowstoneMultiple Day Group TourNational Park 5 Day Tour in
Yellowstone with the

Best time of year to visit Yellowstone

The best time of year to visit Yellowstone is from mid-May to mid-June and from mid-August to mid-October. At these times, the park is generally less crowded and temperatures are generally pleasant for sightseeing. A very special experience to see a bright orange baby bison!

As for wildlife, in the spring there are many opportunities to see bears with their cubs, bison, wolves and other mammals. In the fall, the rut takes place when elk bulls go in search of rutting cows.


If you want to be sure of accommodations in Yellowstone, book as soon as possible. In peak season, rooms and campsites can sell out a year in advance.

Another important consideration is the location of your home. Accommodation prices increase exponentially the closer you get to the park and can be shockingly high inside the park. Therefore, we recommend that you stay outside the park for cost and convenience reasons. Grand Teton National Park is located on the southern border of Yellowstone.

For example, we spent four nights in Jackson to explore Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park and the southern part of the Yellowstone Ten, and we spent one night on the outskirts of West Yellowstone at the Super 8 Windham West Yellowstone, mainly because of the savings and good reviews.

When planning your itinerary, think about the logistics, such as where you will sleep each night, where you will run errands or where you will eat. After a long day exploring, the last thing you want to do is spend the evening looking for food. We give you some tips in the itinerary below.

Three accommodations are included:

1. within the park

Yellowstone National Park has nine different accommodations with more than 2,000 rooms. In general, the park’s accommodations are open from late spring to fall. Only the Old Eternal Snow Lodge and the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel remain open during the winter months.

2. outside the park

Yellowstone has three small towns on the edge of the park and three large communities to choose from if you stop outside the park. Below are the names and locations of the three towns, which are discussed in more detail in the “Directions” section.

  1. West Yellowstone, Montana (border with West Inlet)
  2. Gardiner, Montana (on the northern border)
  3. The town of Cooke, Montana (5 miles from the northeast entrance). One of the cute rental houses in Cook City, Montana.

Below are three main host communities and some recommended accommodation options:

  1. Jackson, Wyoming (60 miles south)
    Budget saver: Elk Country InnMedium class
    Wyoming Inn Jackson Hall
  2. Cody, Wyoming (50 miles east)
    Economical: Cody Legacy Inn & SuitesMedium: Robins Nest Bed &
    BreakfastLux: Chamberlain Inn
  3. Dubois, Wyoming (80 miles southeast)
    Budget saver: Longhorn Ranch Lodge & RV ResortMedium class: Jakeys Fork Homestead VillaSuite: Brooks Lake
    Lodge & Spa

Even in the small towns adjacent to the park, there are plenty of accommodations, cabins, hotels and rentals available through Airbnb (if you’ve never used Airbnb, here’s a coupon!). While Airbnb is not the most economical option, some travelers appreciate the amenities many accommodations offer. For example, some have fireplaces, fully equipped kitchens, washers/dryers, grills, patios and hot tubs.

3. the gate

There are two different types of campgrounds in Yellowstone: reserved and standby. Specifically, there are five campgrounds with 1,700 reservations and seven campgrounds with 450 spaces on a first-come, first-served basis. Backcountry campgrounds are also available with permission.

The most important features at a glance

Yellowstone offers 2.2 million acres of natural beauty to explore. It is known for its surreal landscape – erupting geysers, rainbow-colored hot springs, geothermal features and travertine terraces.

Most travelers won’t have enough time to explore the entire park, so it’s important to focus on the highlights and make sure you visit the attractions. For those lucky enough to have time, there are 300 active geysers, 1,000 miles of hiking trails and 350 waterfalls. In other words, there is a lot to see and do here!

Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin

Geysers are another natural feature of Yellowstone. In fact, there are more geysers in this park than anywhere else in the world. Geysers are natural hot springs that often erupt under pressure.

The most famous geyser in the park is Old Faithful. It erupts every 60 to 110 minutes and attracts large crowds, especially in the summer. Some people recommend watching the eruption at night to enjoy the tranquility of the place with a sky full of stars.

Visitors can try to catch one of the other spectacular geysers, such as Steamboat, Grand or Castle. However, they are much less predictable.

Old Faithful Inn

Built of stone and logs in 1903-1904, the Old Faithful Inn is a National Historic Landmark. Because of its central location, it is considered by some to be the most desirable place to stay in Yellowstone National Park. The Spirit of the American West is famous for its wooden decor and live music.

Guests will be amazed by the imposing fireplace, large hearth and observation deck overlooking Old Faithful and the surrounding geysers. The Old Faithful Inn is considered the largest log cabin in the world and is one of the last remaining log hotels in the United States.

Insider tip: If you go to the second floor, you will see a covered terrace with a fantastic view of Old Faithful. Some travelers prefer to grab a packed lunch or order a drink from the bar. It’s often less crowded and offers shade from the hot summer sun.

Spring Grand Prismatic and Middle Geyser Basin

Yellowstone’s most photographed thermal attraction is the Grand Prismatic Prism. The brightness of the spring colors is due to thermopylae, special bacteria that thrive in extremely high temperatures. Other light sources in the park include Morning Glory, Opal, Perforated and Turquoise Pools.

Norris Geyser Basin

The Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest geyser in Yellowstone. It is also considered the most unpredictable and exciting pool in the park, and is home to the world’s largest active geyser, the Steam Geyser.

With about 24 active geysers (the number of which is constantly changing), steam rising from the ground everywhere, and a sinister lunar landscape, you will feel like you are on another planet when you explore this part of the park. Many visitors feel uncomfortable when they visit the Norris Geyser Basin, everything in their body telling them to walk away.

Yellowstone Waterfalls

There are hundreds of waterfalls to explore in Yellowstone. One of the best places to explore the falls is the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. Three of them are visible from the ridge – the unsurpassed Crystal Falls, the scraping Upper Falls and the magnificent Lower Falls. Note that Lower Falls is the tallest waterfall in the park, at 308 feet and twice as high as Niagara Falls.

Yellowstone itinerary grand canyon of yellowstone

Yellowstone itinerary Yellowstone Falls

Hayden and Lamar Valleys

Yellowstone is where Americans go for the best wildlife safaris in the country. Generally, the highest concentrations of animals are found in the Lamar and Hayden Valleys. These parts of the park are home to free-roaming wolves, bison, grizzly bears and more than 300 species of birds.

Insider tip: Head to the wildlife viewing area, located in the northeast corner of Lamar Valley and near the center of Hayden Valley. Here you will be rewarded with beautiful mountain views and meandering streams.

Take a stroll along the Mammoth Hot Springs boardwalk.

The landscape of Mammoth Hot Springs seems unusual! Fortunately, the place is easy to explore with its 1.75 miles of rugged forest walks that offer soaring views. From above, it’s easy to see the different shades of brown, white and orange that emerge from the natural hot pools created by the travertine deposits.

Fort Yellowstone

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Fort Yellowstone welcomed U.S. Army soldiers stationed in the area. Their job was to protect the land from vandals, squatters and poachers who were exploiting the park’s natural resources.

For example, people destroyed geysers and poachers killed wild animals. In addition, tourists camped, seeded the ground and used the hot springs for washing and bathing. Today, the historic fort still has 35 structures and is the official headquarters of the park.

An itinerary of Yellowstone in 1 day.

Unfortunately, some people only have one day to “do” Yellowstone. Although Yellowstone’s most popular sites can be visited within 24 hours, we do not recommend this. Again, the park is so large that it can take you 2½ 3 hours to get from the north entrance to the south entrance.

The best one-day Yellowstone itinerary includes visits to the locations listed below. In brief, here are the features and attractions you should see, along with an estimate of the time needed for each stop.

1. Upper Geyser Basin: see the eruption of Old Faithful and take a walk along the boardwalk.-2 hours.

2. The Midway Geyser Basin: Many consider the Great Prismatic Spring to be the most impressive attraction in the entire park.

3. Norris Geyser Basin: visit the boardwalk along Porcelain Hollow and Rear Hollow, moonscape experience. 2 hours.

4. Yellowstone Falls: consists of the upper and lower waterfall and numerous scenic viewpoints in what is considered the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.” 1 hour.

5. Lamar Valley: considered the “Serengeti of America” because of its large and easily observable population of large animals. Fans of fauna and flora will undoubtedly find a highlight of their trip here. 1-2 hours.

Please note that the above schedule is a particularly aggressive route to Yellowstone. The driving time for the route is approximately 2.5 hours.

Back to the past

Consider also that if you encounter wild animals during your visit to an attraction or when going from point A to point B, you can spend a lot of time admiring their beauty. Therefore, the time spent observing wildlife will be deducted from the time spent visiting “must-see” attractions. It is therefore advisable to set aside at least two days for a visit to the park.

Knowing that wildlife viewing takes time and patience, we were disappointed, for example, that we did not see any of Yellowstone’s “Big Five.” Only on our last day in the park did we see four bears and a huge moose bull.

Anyway, you can include Mammoth Hot Springs in your day trip if you get up early, hike through the park very efficiently and feel you have a little more time.


West Yellowstone is the perfect place for a night out. It is truly beautiful! There are many options for lodging, dining and shopping.

We recommend eating at Firehole BBQ CO. or the Wild West Pizzeria & Saloon. There is also a grocery store near the pizzeria where you can buy snacks for the next day’s visit to the park. Below are some recommendations for lodging in the town of West Yellowstone.

Budget and Economy: Wyndham West Yellowstone Super 8Mid-Range
: Evergreen MotelLuxury:
Kelly Inn West Yellowstone

Tours: Tourists who want to relax and leave the rest to the professionals can enjoy the Yellowstone day tour from Jackson. Another option is the two-day Grand Teton and Yellowstone tour that takes place in Cook City, near the northeast entrance.

Yellowstone’s two-day itinerary ….

The average tourist spends two full days in Yellowstone and will feel that they have had a good tour of the park. Adding a second day to your Yellowstone tour will give you more time to see more geothermal features.

In addition, the Yellowstone route allows you to take a breather on one day so you don’t feel rushed. If you didn’t visit all five sites on the first day, you can make sure you don’t miss any of the park’s main attractions on the second day.

The best route out of Yellowstone takes you to a new part of the park in two days (loop bottom right) and includes three features. Start day two with a hike on the West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail and head north from there. Spend the night in Gardiner, near the northern entrance.

1. West Finger Geyser Basin Trail: Along the boardwalk and sidewalk are attractions like Painted Pool, Fishing Cone, Abyss Pool and legendary views of Yellowstone Lake.

Yellowstone itinerary west thumb geyser basin elk drinking

Yellowstone itinerary west thumb geyser basin

2) Mud Volcanoes Trail: hike the 0.6-mile trail to see one of the park’s strangest sights, the Dragon’s Mouth Spring.

3. Gibbon Falls: hike the Gibbon Falls Hiking Trail and enjoy breathtaking views of the 84-foot-high waterfall. 15 to 30 minutes.

4. Mammoth Hot Springs: explore the boardwalks above the hydrothermal springs. Then head to the nearby town of Mammoth and visit historic Fort Yellowstone (1-2 hours).


Gardiner has all the charm of a small town in Montana. Located near North Inlet, Gardiner offers a wide variety of accommodations, restaurants and stores. It ranks second in attractiveness, just behind West Yellowstone.

We recommend eating at Firehole BBQ CO. or the Wild West Pizzeria & Saloon. There is also a grocery store near the pizzeria where you can buy snacks for the next day’s visit to the park. Below are some recommendations for lodging in the town of West Yellowstone.

Budget en economisch: Travelodge by WyndhamMid-Range
: Roosevelt Cottages of Yellowstone RiversideLuxury
: Dreamcatcher Tipi of Yellowstone Gateway Inn

Excursions : Two-day excursions include a visit to Yellowstone National Park: a two-day excursion with lunch.

The Yellowstone Road in 3-5 days

Setting aside three to five days (or more) to explore Yellowstone allows you to discover the park at a leisurely pace, especially compared to a one- or two-day roundtrip. Moreover, the extra day(s) will allow you to visit unseen areas or features, discuss the most interesting features, and participate in fun and interesting activities. It will also prevent you from feeling like you have been in the car all day. If certain attractions (like the white dome geyser you see here) caught your attention during the first two days, it’s a luxury that you have a third day to revisit them.

If you are exploring uncharted territory or want to participate in some tours or activities, the following list is the ideal addition to your current itinerary through Yellowstone.

View of the Firehall Falls

A small 40-foot deep waterfall in the Fire River with canyon walls made of lava.


Yellowstone has only two swimming areas: the Firehole River and Boiling Point. The Firehole River is not heated by hot springs and has a cool temperature, while Boiling Point is considered warm because it mixes hot and cold water. Check the current park conditions page to see if swimming is allowed during your visit.

Make a grand entrance at the Roosevelt Arch.

The original entrance to Yellowstone and the only official trail ran along the north boundary. In 1903, the Roosevelt Arch was built to welcome visitors. The triumphal arch still stands at the north entrance and bears the message, “For the good and pleasure of the people.

Go for a walk.

We like to use Alltrails to find local hikes – they have reviewed over 100 hikes in Yellowstone. Four of the best hikes:

  1. Large prismatic spring
  2. Mystic Falls, Fae Creek and Little Fire Loop.
  3. Upper geyser basin and old loop of faithful observation points
  4. West Finger Geyser Basin Trail

Catch a fish

Go private trout fishing with up to five anglers on Lake Lewis or go fishing yourself.

Relaxing with a picnic

Our two favorite picnic sites in Yellowstone are Sand Point Picnic and Nez Perce Picnic. Both sites have picnic tables, restrooms and great outdoor seating. As mentioned earlier, the Old Faithful Inn has a shaded patio where guests can enjoy picnic baskets.

Trip to the small town of Cook

If you are near the Lamar Valley and are a little hungry, go to the northeast entrance. Cook City is about 5 miles from the park.

Stop at the Beartooth Café for a bite to eat – it has a nice outdoor area. Afterward, take a walk through the Town of Cooke’s store, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in the late 1880s, the store is worth a visit because much of the architecture and furnishings are original.

A guided tour

Visitors looking for a four-day Yellowstone safari can enjoy Grand Teton and Yellowstone 4 days 3 nights.

Tips for visiting Yellowstone National Park

Logistics is an important factor in the success of visiting Yellowstone. With these insider tips, you’ll feel prepared and well informed.


Depending on the number of visitors, congestion in the park can significantly increase travel time. The speed limit is 45 m.p.h. for most of the park. However, it is advisable to drive slower at night, as it is much more difficult to predict which wild animals will cross the road. In addition, an encounter with wild animals can quickly spoil a trip. Bison walking in the middle of the road, another day in Yellowstone!

cellular maintenance

There are only a few parts of the park where cell phone reception is available, and even that is sporadic and unreliable. Come prepared with maps, guidebooks (we recommend Lunar USA National Parks: A Complete Guide to All 62 Parks), audio guides and travel apps already loaded.

Here are some free options:

Yellowstone AppNational
Parks App by Chimani

Pick up a free visitor’s guide, which is handed out at the park entrance. It contains seasonal information about the park, such as road closures, special events and event schedules.

Come prepared.

Get ready for a real road trip. Stock up on snacks, water, lunch, cell phone chargers and sunglasses. Visitors who plan to hike should bring comfortable hiking shoes and bear and insect repellent. Please note that it is illegal to bring bear spray in checked luggage. Hikers must purchase it after boarding.

Trip to Yellowstone

The Yellowstone Regional Airport is located at the eastern entrance of the park and about 5 miles from Cody, Wyoming. It generally offers direct flights from Salt Lake City, Chicago and Denver. Jackson Hole Airport is also about 60 miles south of the park and offers connections from several cities, depending on the season. The current schedule can be viewed here. The nearest major airport is a five-hour drive from Salt Lake City, Utah.

In addition, both airports offer car rental and shuttle services to park pavilions, nearby towns and hotels in the area.

If you are driving in the United States, you will encounter many places where your cell phone does not work. If you are a student (like us), you may enjoy traveling with the Rand McNally 2021 Road Atlas & National Park Guide (Rand McNally Road Atlas).

Is a visit to Yellowstone worthwhile?

Of course, yes! As the largest national park outside of Alaska, Yellowstone is one of the country’s major attractions. It is considered the Serengeti of North America and is probably the best wildlife refuge in the United States. Spotted a few unconditional fans!

Yellowstone is consistently ranked as one of the top attractions in North America. If you have any questions about your next visit to Yellowstone, we are happy to help with feedback.

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Frequently asked questions

How many days do you plan to spend in Yellowstone?

Ideally, you will need at least three to four days to visit Yellowstone National Park. However, if you are short on time, you can visit the main attractions even if you only have a day or two.

Are two days in Yellowstone enough?

And it’s impossible to see it in just two days. You can spend a week here and not see everything. But you can stand out! Start early and stay late – you don’t want to miss anything. Here are some of our favorite things to see during a short visit to Yellowstone.

How can I visit Yellowstone for 3 days?

The best of Yellowstone: a three-day itinerary – Explore now or…

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