Julie United States 37 Comments

Yellowstone National Park is a wonderland of geothermal activity, stunning landscapes, and abundant wildlife. Steam hisses out of the ground along walking trails, bison stop cars in their tracks on the main park road, and technicolor hot springs never fail to amaze even the most seasoned traveler. In this post, learn about the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park.

We have visited Yellowstone National Park on multiple occasions. In recent years, we have been here in mid-August 2019, the last weekend of September in 2020, and the first week of October in 2021. It’s amazing what a difference six weeks can make. In the summer, the days are long, the grasslands are green, and crowds are enormous. In September, temperatures cool down, the grasslands turn a vibrant golden-yellow, and crowds start to diminish. By early October, crowds are even lower and it’s possible that snow could be falling.

We love this park, which is why we keep coming back. Every time I am here, it amazes me even more. The sheer size of this park, with the landscapes and the animals that it protects, is astonishing. Colorful hot springs, herds of bison and elk, geysers and bubbling mud pits, waterfalls and canyons…Yellowstone is a spectacular park. I can’t wait to share it with you in this post. 


Map of Yellowstone National Park

Below is a map of the Yellowstone National Park. The pink lines are Grand Loop Road and Norris Canyon Road. The park entrances and main areas of the park are also labeled to give you an idea where things are located.

Yellowstone Map

Yellowstone National Park Map

Interesting Facts About Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is not only the first national park in the United States, it is the first national park in the world. Established March 1, 1872 by president Ulysses S. Grant, this land was set aside for the enjoyment of the people and to preserve these natural wonders. This started a worldwide movement. Now, there are 63 national parks in the United States.

In terms of land mass, Yellowstone is the second largest national park in the United States, outside of Alaska. It sits in three states: Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, with most of its land located in Wyoming.

Yellowstone is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. It received almost 5 million visitors in 2021, putting it 3rd on the list of “most visited parks” for that year. Visitation was down in 2022 because of the flood. 3.3 million people visited Yellowstone in 2022, ranking it 7th on the list of “most visited parks” for that year.

Crowds are huge in the summer months. Expect major difficulties finding a parking space midday and be prepared to share walking trails with many other visitors. However, there are places to escape some of these crowds, which you can read about later in this post.

Most of Yellowstone sits atop a supervolcano. It last erupted over 640,000 years ago and is overdue for its next eruption. When that inevitably happens, it could be cataclysmic for the human race.

This supervolcano powers the geothermal activity in the park. Yellowstone has the highest concentration of geothermal features of anywhere else on earth. The land literally smokes, bubbles, and hisses. Numerous geysers erupt on a daily basis, including the most famous geyser in the world, Old Faithful.

Best Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park

With over 2 million acres of land and 5 park entrances, there are A LOT of things to do in Yellowstone National Park. 18 things to do may sound like a lot, and it is, but this is narrowed down from an enormous list of things to do. For the first time visitor to Yellowstone, this is a great starting point to see the best of the park.

While in Yellowstone, please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

1. Old Faithful

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the name “Yellowstone?” For many people, that answer would be Old Faithful.

Old Faithful is the world’s most famous geyser. For decades, this geyser has been erupting on a very reliable schedule. So reliable, in fact, that you can even get expected eruption times online to help you plan your visit.

Old Faithful Eruption Schedule: Old Faithful geyser erupts roughly every hour and thirty minutes, give or take 10 minutes (although on rare occasions, it can take up to 2 hours for the next eruption). The eruption typically lasts 3 to 4 minutes. Get the next predicted eruption time here.

There are three different ways to view the eruption of Old Faithful.

Grab a seat on the boardwalk that surrounds the geyser. Plan to get here 20 to 30 minutes early because the boardwalk gets packed with visitors.

Yellowstone in August

Old Faithful best things to do in Yellowstone

Old Faithful | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

Hike to Observation Point for a bird’s eye view of Old Faithful. With just a handful of people, this is a great place to escape the crowds and still get a stunning view of the eruption. To get here, it is a 1.1 mile round trip hike. It’s a short, strenuous uphill walk to get the viewing area. We got here 30 minutes before the predicted eruption time and had a picnic lunch while waiting.

Overlook best things to do in Yellowstone

Old Faithful Overlook

Old Faithful from Observation Point | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

Take a seat at the viewing deck at the Old Faithful Inn. Get a drink at the bar, have a seat, and enjoy the view.

For full details on how to visit Old Faithful, with tips on how to avoid the crowds and how to plan your time, read our Guide to Old Faithful.

How Much Time Do You Need?

If you get lucky, Old Faithful could erupt right when you get here. Or, you could get here within minutes of an eruption. So, a visit could last as little as 20 minutes or as long as two hours.

However, there is more to do here than just watch the eruption of Old Faithful. Check out the historic Old Faithful Inn, get lunch or a snack at one of several restaurants and general stores nearby, go to the visitor center, or explore the Upper Geyser Basin (mentioned next).

What We Did: We assembled a picnic lunch at the Old Faithful General Store, hiked to Observation Point, and had lunch while awaiting the eruption. Then, we hiked out to Solitary Geyser, walked through the Upper Geyser Basin, and visited the Old Faithful Inn. Kara and I watched a second eruption before leaving the Old Faithful area.

By the way, it’s a nightmare trying to exit the parking lot immediately after an eruption, especially midday. We sat in a horrible back up trying to get out of the parking lot onto the park road.

2. Upper Geyser Basin & Geyser Hill

Within 1 square mile, there are over 150 geothermal features, making this one of best places in the park to see hot springs, geysers, and thermal pools. Old Faithful is the main attraction but there are more great things to see and do here.

Upper Geyser Basin best things to do in Yellowstone

Upper Geyser Basin | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

It takes about two hours to walk the boardwalk trails in the Upper Geyser Basin and the hiking trail to Geyser Hill, if you thoroughly explore the area. A visit here, combined with watching Old Faithful erupt, can last from two to three hours.

Notable Geothermal Features:

Solitary Geyser. To get here, it is an uphill walk on a dirt trail from Old Faithful, or a short walk from Observation Point. Most eruptions occur 4 to 8 minutes apart and last 1 minute.

Solitary Geyser best things to do in Yellowstone

Solitary Geyser | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone


Castle Geyser. This is a cone geyser that erupts every 10 to 12 hours and lasts about 20 minutes. We got very lucky and saw the eruption from a distance.

Castle Geyser best things to do in Yellowstone

Castle Geyser | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone


Morning Glory Pool. It’s a long walk to get here but worth it. This colorful pool is one of the prettiest features in the Upper Geyser Basin.

Best of Yellowstone

Morning Glory Pool | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone


Grotto Geyser. Grotto Geyser only erupts every 8 hours, but once it gets going, the eruption can last anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours.

Grotto Geyser best things to do in Yellowstone

Grotto Geyser | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

3. Grand Prismatic Spring & Midway Geyser Basin

The Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone’s most colorful, vibrant hot spring. A visit to this rainbow-colored thermal pool is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park.

This is the largest hot spring in the United States. The vibrant colors are the result of microbial life along the edges of the hot spring. The colors can change depending upon the presence of different microbes and the temperature of the water.

The Grand Prismatic Spring has a different appearance in the summer and winter. In the summer, it tends to be orange and in the winter the edges tend to be dark green.

There are two ways to experience the Grand Prismatic Spring. You can get up close by walking the boardwalk trails through the Midway Geyser Basin or you can get a bird’s eye view from the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook.

Midway Geyser Basin

Walk the 0.8-mile boardwalk trail to get up close to the Grand Prismatic Spring. Along the way, you will also get to see a few smaller hot springs, such as Excelsior Geyser Crater, Opal Pool, and Turquoise Pool. The boardwalk trail is one-way only.

Excelsior Pool

Midway Geyser Basin | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone


Grand Prismatic Spring Close Up best things to do in Yellowstone

Grand Prismatic Spring | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone


Midway Geyser Basin best things to do in Yellowstone

Parking: Good luck finding a parking space if you arrive here between 9 am and 6 pm. The parking lot is ridiculously small for the number of visitors that the Grand Prismatic Spring gets. Most of the parking spills out onto the park road. Normally, I would recommend waiting for a space in the parking lot, but if everyone did this, it would create stand-still traffic on the park road. There are large turn outs on the park road very close to Midway Geyser Basin. If the parking lot is full, park in one of these turn outs.

Parking in Yellowstone. Parking at the most popular sites has become a big issue due to high crowds. There is just not enough parking for the number of visitors. You can get real time updates on parking availability and traffic conditions on the Yellowstone National Park website.

Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook

For a jaw-dropping view of the Grand Prismatic Spring, don’t miss the view from the overlook. On a sunny day, the colors are spectacular.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

Getting Here: It’s a 0.8-mile walk to get to the overlook (1.6 miles round trip). Everything I read online lists this distance as 0.6 miles, but I walked the trail two days in a row with two different GPS devices and both gave the distance as 0.8 miles. It took us 15 minutes to walk here and we were walking fast, so I doubt that it is really 0.6 miles.

The trail starts off wide and relatively flat. The final 0.2 miles is more strenuous, an uphill walk on a dirt trail.

It takes 15 to 20 minutes to walk to the overlook from the Fairy Falls parking lot, so plan on spending about 45 minutes to visit the overlook.

Park at the large Fairy Falls parking lot. RV’s, buses, and cars pulling trailers are not permitted to park in this parking lot.

Best Time to Visit the Grand Prismatic Spring

Midday, on a sunny day, is the best time to visit the Grand Prismatic Spring. The colors are brilliant and the morning steam has lifted. Just be aware that this is also the most crowded time to visit the spring.

In the morning, a mist covers the spring, hiding the bright colors. In my opinion, it’s worth battling for a parking space midday to see the Grand Prismatic Spring in all of its glory.

Grand Prismatic Spring in Morning

Grand Prismatic Spring in the morning.

4. Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls is one of Yellowstone’s tallest waterfalls. You can only get here by hiking and it is easy to combine a visit to Fairy Falls with the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook.

Yellowstone Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

There are two ways to get here. From the Fairy Falls parking lot (the same parking lot used to visit the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook) it is a 5.4 mile round trip, easy hike. You can also park at the end of Fountain Flat Drive for a 10-mile round trip hike.

Most of the hike is through a lodgepole forest. It is possible to encounter bear and other wildlife on the trail.

Fairy Falls is worth the visit if you are looking for an easy hike and want to see one of Yellowstone’s tallest waterfalls.

Read more about visiting the Grand Prismatic Spring and hiking to Fairy Falls:

The Grand Prismatic Spring and the Hike to Fairy Falls

5. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

For thousands of years, the Yellowstone River has been carving out this canyon. With numerous overlooks and hiking trails, it’s easy to spend a half of a day here.

Stretching along each side of the river are two rims: the North Rim and the South Rim. From these two rims, visit the scenic overlooks and hike the short but sometimes strenuous trails for more unique views of Upper and Lower Falls. It’s definitely worth visiting both sides of the canyon in order to get the full experience.

North Rim

North Rim Drive is a one-way road along the north rim of the Yellowstone River. Here is what you can see along the way.

Brink of the Lower Falls. To get to this viewpoint, it’s nearly a half mile walk, and all of that will be downhill. It’s a strenuous walk back up (with 600 feet of elevation gain) to the parking lot, but it’s worth it for an up close view of the Lower Falls as it thunders over the edge.

Brink of the Lower Falls best things to do in Yellowstone

Brink of the Lower Falls | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone


Lookout Point. From the North Rim, this overlook offers the best view of the Lower Falls.

Best Things to do in Yellowstone

Lookout Point | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

Red Rock Point. Like Brink of the Lower Falls, you hike down into the canyon for an awesome view of Lower Falls.

Red Rock Point Yellowstone

Red Rock Point | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

Grand View Point. In my opinion, this viewpoint really is not all that grand. You cannot see the Lower Falls from here, just an OK view of the canyon.

Inspiration Point. From here, Lower Falls is far off in the distance.

Inspiration Point best things to do in Yellowstone

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you are short on time, skip Grand View Point and Inspiration Point. Brink of the Lower Falls is awesome and the view from Lookout Point is worthwhile.

South Rim

If you only have time to visit Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from one rim, I recommend the South Rim. From here, you get the iconic view from Artist Point and the fun but tiring walk on Uncle Tom’s Trail.

Uncle Tom’s Trail. It’s 328 steps down to the base of Lower Falls. This trail was closed during each of our visits from 2019 through 2021, but Tim and I did this on our visit to Yellowstone in 2000. It was one of my favorite experiences in the park. 

Artist Point. A view of the canyon from Artist Point is one of the best things to do in Yellowstone. This is the place to take the iconic photograph of Lower Falls. Park in the large parking lot and it is a short walk to the overlook.

Artist Point Yellowstone

Artist Point | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

6. Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley is hailed as being the best spot to view wildlife in Yellowstone. What can you see here? Bison, elk, pronghorn, bear, coyotes, and wolves are all known to make appearances.

The best times for wildlife viewing are in the morning and evening.

Kara and I visited Lamar Valley one evening and we saw herds of bison. It was an incredible experience. We also saw bear and deer.

Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone


Lamar Valley Bison

Best things to do in Yellowstone photo

Lamar Valley at Sunset | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

Be prepared to drive slowly and to get stuck in “animal traffic jams.” Bison tend to stop smack in the middle of the road, blocking traffic in both directions, creating traffic jams. 

Getting Here: Lamar Valley is located in north Yellowstone. It’s a long drive to get here (one hour from Mammoth Hot Springs and one hour from the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone) but worth it for the best opportunity to spot wildlife in the park.

Bonus: Hike to Trout Lake

While you are in Lamar Valley, consider hiking to Trout Lake. It’s a very pretty lake and to get here it’s a short, uphill hike through a forest. Since this is in bear country, hike in groups and bring your bear spray. We did this hike hoping to see wildlife but weren’t that lucky. However, it was still very nice seeing this lake.

Trout Lake

Trout Lake | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

7. Hayden Valley

Hayden Valley is another very popular place to see bison. Since it is located between the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Yellowstone Lake, it is easier to get here. But it will also be more crowded.

During our most recent visit to Yellowstone, we drove through Hayden Valley twice. On our first day, we saw two bison and a small herd very, very far away from the road. On day two we hit the jackpot. A huge herd was just hanging out along the roadside. We spent at least an hour here, watching the bison from our car.

Yellowstone Bison best things to do in Yellowstone

Bison Hayden Valley

Bison in Hayden Valley | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone



Hayden Valley


Stay Safe: Do not get out of your car to get a closer view of the bison. These animals look slow but they can move fast and have been known to charge at people. Pull into a turnout and view the bison from your car. Not only are you staying safe but you are also not blocking traffic. If you have an SUV with a sunroof, pop your head out of the sunroof and enjoy the view.

Traffic back-ups in Hayden Valley are very common. It could take 30 to 60 minutes to drive through the valley, especially if the bison are hanging out along the roadside.

Yellowstone National Park Guide

8. Dunraven Pass

For gorgeous views of the park, drive over Dunraven Pass. There are many overlooks and turn outs where you can stop and enjoy the view.

Dunraven Pass

Driving in Yellowstone

Dunraven Pass | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

9. Hike to the Peak of Mt. Washburn

For panoramic views of Yellowstone National Park, hike to the peak of Mt. Washburn. This is one of the most popular day hikes in the park.


There are two ways to get here. The more scenic trail starts at the Dunraven Pass Trailhead on Grand Loop Road. It is a 6.2-mile round trip hike.

You can also hike to the top of Mt. Washburn from Chittendon Road. Chittendon Road is a narrow, dirt road that ends at a car park. From here, it is a 5-mile round trip hike.

This is best done on a clear day. When we did this, a storm was moving in so the peak of Mt. Washburn was stuck in the clouds.

10. Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs is a large complex of hot springs that is located in north Yellowstone. Hot, steaming water spills out over travertine terraces, making this one of the most unique geothermal areas in the park.

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces

Mammoth Hot Springs | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone


Mammoth Hot Springs best things to do in Yellowstone

A visit here can be quick, with a short walk to one or two viewpoints. Or, you can spend an hour or two walking the boardwalk trails past each of the viewpoints.

11. Roosevelt Arch

When Yellowstone first opened, the north entrance was the main entrance into the park. In 1903, this stone arch was erected. People would travel to Gardiner by train and then take horse-drawn carriages into the park.

The cornerstone of the arch was laid down by President Theodore Roosevelt. The inscription at the top of the arch reads “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”

Roosevelt Arch

Roosevelt Arch | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

A visit here is very quick and you can walk or drive through the arch. Right around the corner is Gardiner, a great place to get a bite to eat or use as a home base to visit the park.

12. Boiling River Hot Spring

Located between Mammoth Hot Springs and the Roosevelt Arch is a naturally occurring hot spring where you can go swimming. Not far from Mammoth, a hot spring enters the Gardner River. This natural hot tub is a popular swimming hole. Note: This has been closed since the flood in 2022.

Boiling River

Boiling River Hot Spring | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

To get here, park at one of two parking lots on North Entrance Road. To get to the hot spring, it is a flat, half-mile walk.

13. Blacktail Plateau Drive

Blacktail Plateau Drive is lightly-trafficked scenic drive. This 7-mile, one-way dirt road heads parallel along the Grand Loop Road between Mammoth and Tower. If you get lucky, you can spot bison, elk, and bear (we were not so lucky). Even so, it’s a fun, enjoyable ride with beautiful scenery.

Blacktail Plateau Drive best things to do in Yellowstone

Blacktail Plateau Drive | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

It takes about 30 minutes to do this drive. A 4×4 is not necessary but it does make the drive easier. We saw minivans and sedans on this road. I drove a Jeep Compass. RV’s, buses, and trailers are not permitted on this road.

Blacktail Plateau Drive is open from June through September.

US National Parks List

14. Norris Geyser Basin

Similar to the Upper Geyser Basin, this is another fairly large collection of geothermal features. It’s also one of the most rapidly changing basins in the park.

A visit here consists of seeing two basins: Back Basin and Porcelain Basin.

Back Basin

Back Basin is the larger basin.

It is here that you can see Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest active geyser. Major eruptions are very unpredictable but the geyser can spew hot, steaming water more than 300 feet in the air (for reference, Old Faithful eruptions are somewhere between 100 and 185 feet high).

Steamboat Geyser best things to do in Yellowstone

Emerald Spring Norris Geyser Basin

Emerald Spring | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

There are numerous other hot springs and geysers in Back Basin, including Emerald Spring, Green Dragon Spring, Porkchop Geyser, and Puff ‘N Stuff Geyser (our favorite named geyser).

Porcelain Basin

Unless you catch Steamboat Geyser in action, Porcelain Basin is more thrilling. There is a lot of activity here. Steaming hot springs, light blue thermal pools, and noisy fumaroles that really get your attention.

Porcelain Basin

Porcelain Basin | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone


Porcelain Basin Norris Geyser Basin

Porcelain Basin

15. West Thumb Geyser Basin

Kara and I really liked this geyser basin. It’s quick to visit (about 30 minutes) and you get to see not only Yellowstone Lake but some brilliantly blue hot springs.

Abyss Pool is the highlight but it is also very cool to see geothermal activity right along the edge of Yellowstone Lake.

West Thumb Basin

West Thumb Geyser Basin | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone


West Thumb best things to do in Yellowstone

16. Artist Paintpots

Just south of Norris Geyser Basin is Artist Paintpots, a small area that contains several hot springs and mud pots. It feels like a long walk to get from the parking lot to the geyser basin (about a half-mile one-way) but it’s worth it. We loved the view from the upper boardwalk trail and the bubbling mud pots.

Artist Paintpots best things to do in Yellowstone

Artist Paintpots | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

17. Fountain Paint Pot Trail

From this short trail, see all four of the major hydrothermal features found in the park: hot springs, geysers, mud pots, and fumaroles. It’s only a half-mile walk on a boardwalk trail past these features.

Fountain Paint Pots best things to do in Yellowstone

18. Tower Fall

This is a popular waterfall to visit since it is located almost right along the roadside. From the Tower parking lot, it is a short walk to the overlook.

A lot of people visit this waterfall and it’s not all that thrilling, in our opinion. However, since it is so popular, I felt like I should at least mention it. If you will be driving through the area, it might be worth a quick look.

Tower Fall best things to do in Yellowstone

Bonus! Two Scenic Drives Outside of Yellowstone

These technically sits outside of Yellowstone, but there are two very scenic drives that sit right outside of Yellowstone National Park. If you have several days in the park, or will be traveling through the northeast or east entrance, these are worth adding to your things to do in Yellowstone list.

Beartooth Highway

Beartooth Highway is a 68-mile road that starts at the northeast entrance of Yellowstone and ends in Red Lodge, Montana. 

This drive is absolutely spectacular. Along Beartooth Highway, you will travel through several national forests, view the tallest peaks in Montana, see numerous alpine lakes, and have the option to add on short hikes to viewpoints and waterfalls. It takes 2 to 3 hours to do this drive and the road is typically open from June through early October.

Beartooth Highway best things to do in Yellowstone

Beartooth Highway | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

Wild Bill Cody Scenic Byway

Wild Bill Cody Scenic Byway is a 50-mile drive that runs next to the North Fork of the Shoshone River. It connects Cody to the east entrance of Yellowstone. 

Wild Bill Cody Scenic Byway

Wild Bill Cody Scenic Byway | Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

Best Things to Do in Yellowstone: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

How Many Days Do You Need in Yellowstone?

To see everything on this list, it takes three very busy days or four to five leisurely days. Yellowstone is enormous and with a max speed limit of 45 miles per hour, it can take a while to get from place to place. In peak season months of July and August, traffic jams and extra time waiting for a parking space can eat up more of your time. Learn how to plan your trip:

Yellowstone Itinerary: How to Spend 1 to 5 Days in Yellowstone

If you only have one day to spend in Yellowstone, what should you do? The answer to that depends on where you are coming from and where you are going next. With one day in Yellowstone, most likely you will be planning a road trip through the park and we have an article with six different routes through the park.

Yellowstone in the Summer

During the summer months of June, July, and August, expect enormous crowds in Yellowstone. In fact, this was by far our most crowded national park experience yet (we were here in early August). 

To avoid the worst of the crowds, we avoided sightseeing midday (on all but one of our days in Yellowstone). Kara and I would wake up very early and tour the park from 7 am to 11 am. We spent the middle part of the day at our hotel and then we would go back out at 5 pm. It worked very well, we were able to see most of what is one this list with low crowds, plus, we had a better chance to spot wildlife. The only downside is that we did a lot of driving.

Yellowstone in the Fall

Autumn is a gorgeous time to visit Yellowstone. The days are shorter and the temperatures are cooler, but the low crowds and beautiful fall colors make this a great time to visit the Yellowstone region. On our two most recent visits, we were here the last weekend of September and during the first week of October and here are our photos.

Yellowstone in Autumn

Hayden Valley


Yellowstone in Fall

Black Sand Basin

 Grizzlies in Yellowstone

Two grizzly bears guarding an elk carcass (the elk is buried on the riverbank and you can see the antlers).


Old Faithful best things to do in Yellowstone

Old Faithful

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days do you need in Yellowstone National Park?

If you want to see Yellowstone’s top sights, plan on spending three full days in the park. This gives you enough time to drive the south and north loops, visit the long list of geyser basins and hot springs, hike a few trails, and spot wildlife in the park. 

When is the best time to visit Yellowstone?

The best time to visit Yellowstone is from June through October, when all of the park roads are open. July and August get the largest number of visitors (about 1 million people per month), so if  you want to visit the park with lower crowds, go in June, September, or October. Our favorite time to visit Yellowstone is from mid-September to early October.

Where is the best place to stay in Yellowstone?

The best place to stay in Yellowstone depends on your travel itinerary. Yellowstone is a very large national park, with 5 park entrances, multiple villages inside the park, and small towns that sit outside of the park boundary. If you have plans to spend several days in Yellowstone, we recommend that you stay in two different areas, in order to minimize how much driving you will do. 

More Information about Yellowstone

YELLOWSTONE TRAVEL GUIDE: Read our Yellowstone National Park Travel Guide for important travel information, sample itineraries, and links to all of our articles about Yellowstone.

YELLOWSTONE PARK ITINERARY: Take the guesswork out of planning your trip to Yellowstone with our Yellowstone Itinerary Planner. If you will only have one day in Yellowstone, don’t miss our guide for the Best Way to Spend One Day in Yellowstone.

WHERE TO STAY: Choosing where to stay in Yellowstone can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to. In our Where to Stay in Yellowstone Guide, we cover the best hotels, the best lodges, and the best locations, based on your travel itinerary.

ROAD TRIP ITINERARY: Learn how to put together Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks into one amazing 10 day road trip. Another alternative is to combine Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore, and Badlands National Park into a 10 day road trip.

 If you have questions about the best things to do in Yellowstone or if you want to share your experience, comment below!

Read About More National Parks in the USA:


Read all of our articles about the United States in our United States Travel Guide.


Best Things to do in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Things To Do


Yellowstone Best Things To Do List

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Comments 37

  1. Avatar for Erica Maize
    Erica Maize

    I plan on visiting YNP in August, anyone have any suggestions on a good steakhouse? I looked and was not impressed with alot of the menus. I am looking for Filet Mignon super elegant restaurant. Any suggestions would be great.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Erica. I don’t know of any elegant restaurants in or around Yellowstone. You best bets are to look at restaurants in Jackson, Wyoming and Bozeman, Montana. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Sierra

    Great article! I have been to YNP several times and am planning a trip for my husband and I, where it will be his first time in the summer. I want to make sure we hit the highlights for him!

    Did you see that the Boiling River is no longer accessible after all the flooding in 2022? I am viewing this on my phone and probably missed when you published the article. But I wanted to make sure to pass it along because it is no longer a viable attraction.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, I am aware it is closed. I’m surprised I didn’t update that but I’ll check it right now. Thanks so much for the update and have a great time in Yellowstone! Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Kathy

    Thank you so much for this great information and sharing highlights! Your hard works makes it a little easier for us newbies traveling to Yellowstone. Can’t wait to visit in early June this year and very much appreciate what you do!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  4. Avatar for Cyndie Pinson
    Cyndie Pinson

    Hi, Loved the article. We are planning our first trip 4-20-2023 -4-26-2023. Will we be able to go places or see things? Will the park be open? I’m kind of worried. Thank you so much.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Cyndie. April is a challenging time to go to Yellowstone. Not all of the roads will be open so you will be limited in what you can do. For 2023, parts of the west side of the park (Mammoth to Norris to Old Faithful and Norris to Canyon Village) are planned to open April 21, depending on weather conditions. The rest of the park will be closed. You can see the road opening dates here. You can still visit Yellowstone at this time. It won’t be crowded but again, not everything will be open. 6 days is a long time to spend here with half of the park open. If possible, delay your visit for another month when more of the park will be open. Or, just visit the parts of Yellowstone that are open and then do something else in the area (parts of Grand Teton will be closed as well until April 30 so that’s not a great option, either). If it were me, I’d go to a different park that time of year. Here’s a list of national parks that are great to visit in April. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Pamela Fisher
    Pamela Fisher

    How can I save or print your 18 best things to do in yellowstone? It’s so wonderful. I’m planning a trip in 2023. Thanks,

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I’m glad you like it! You can save it and then print it as a PDF. Press CTRL+P (command+P on a mac) to bring up the printer dialog box. From you can save it and print it. Just be aware that it will be a lot of pages since our website is not optimized for printing. Cheers, Julie

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  9. Avatar for Bill Cole
    Bill Cole

    Hi Julie,
    Great article, very informative. And Great pictures! We are excited to be planning our first trip to Yellowstone!

    In August, We are flying into Bozeman mid day, staying in West Yellowstone 3 days.
    Plan is to hit Mammoth Hot Springs on the way down.

    Any suggestions on a plan for the next 3 days?
    First 2 days we’ll be returning to West Yellowstone; 3rd day we need to end up in Jackson as we’ll be going to Grand Teton from there.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      That’s very exciting that you are planning a trip to Yellowstone! Take a look at our Yellowstone Itinerary. Using the menu, you can fast forward to the 3 day Yellowstone itinerary. Follow this basic itinerary with some modifications. Do day 1 as it is written. On day 2, you can do it as it is written OR visit Lamar Valley in the afternoon. I recommend doing Lamar Valley because it is one of the best parts of the park for wildlife sightings. Just note the road closure and you will have to detour back to Norris and Mammoth to get to Lamar Valley. And it will be a long drive back to your hotel. But in my opinion it’s worth it because you should see bison and you could see elk and bear as well. On day 3, visit Norris Geyser Basin, then Hayden Valley, and drive to Grand Teton. Have a great time in Yellowstone! Cheers, Julie

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