Julie Itinerary, United States 20 Comments

If you are planning your trip to Yellowstone National Park, this is a great place to start. There are many different ways to plan the “perfect Yellowstone itinerary,” depending on your interests and how much time you have.

Yellowstone is the largest national park outside of Alaska. With over two million acres of land, five park entrances, numerous geyser basins to visit, and scenic drives through valleys filled with elk and bison, there is A LOT to do here.

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

About this Yellowstone Itinerary

These itineraries are for the months of May through October. From early November through mid-April, many of the park roads will be closed due to snowfall. It’s still possible to visit the park in the winter, but you will get around by snowmobile or snow coach, which of course will be a much different experience than the summer months.

With that being said, you should know that crowds are huge during the summer months (especially July and August). In 2019, Yellowstone was the 6th most visited park in the USA, receiving 4 million visitors. Expect major difficulties finding a parking space midday and be prepared to share walking trails with many other visitors.

If you plan to visit Yellowstone National Park for at least three days, we recommend staying in two different locations. Yes, it can be a hassle packing and unpacking, but Yellowstone is so large that switching accommodations can minimize travel time in the park. I give recommendations on where to stay in each itinerary. However, if you want to stay in one place for your entire visit, Canyon Village is the most centrally located village in Yellowstone. 

Important Update for 2021: There are planned road closures on Grand Loop Road between Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon Junction. Get the full details on the national park service website. I designed this Yellowstone itinerary to avoid this road closure.

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.

One Day Yellowstone Itinerary

Where should you go if this is your first visit to Yellowstone and you only have one day? In my opinion, the must-see sights for a first-timer are Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and a drive through either Hayden Valley or Lamar Valley to spot wildlife.

If you only have one day, most likely you are on a road trip through the USA. Most people visit Yellowstone on a big road trip that includes Grand Teton National Park. If that is your plan, you can start in Grand Teton, hit the main sights in Yellowstone, and end the day in either Mammoth, West Yellowstone, or in one of the lodges inside of the park.

Below is an itinerary that starts in Grand Teton and ends in central/north Yellowstone. We also have an article with five different ways to spend one day in Yellowstone National Park which you can read here. This article includes many different routes through the park to fit your road trip itinerary. 

Here is a map if you start in Grand Teton and end in Mammoth (but it also works if you are traveling in the opposite direction).

One Day Yellowstone Itinerary

Here is a sample one day Yellowstone itinerary. All times are approximate, to give you an idea of how to plan your time.

7 am: Drive from Jackson/Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone. From Jackson, it is a 60-mile drive to the south entrance of Yellowstone and takes approximately one hour and fifteen minutes (95 miles, 2.25 hours to Old Faithful).

9:30 am: Old Faithful. Old Faithful is the world’s most famous geyser. It erupts every hour and half, give or take ten minutes. While you are here, you can also explore the Upper Geyser Basin. A visit to Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin typically lasts two hours.

12:30 pm: Grand Prismatic Spring. Take in the breathtaking view from the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. It’s a 1.6-mile round trip walk from the Fairy Falls parking lot. Then, brave the crowds at Midway Geyser Basin for an up-close view of the Grand Prismatic Spring.

4:00 pm: Hayden Valley. Hayden Valley is one of the best places in Yellowstone to see bison. If you are lucky, there will be a large herd on the roadside so you can get up close with these animals.

5:30 pm: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. You can visit both rims of the canyon, either driving or hiking to the overlooks. If you are doing good on time, it is worth it to see both sides of the canyon. But if you are short on time (or low on energy), go to the south rim and visit Artist Point, the iconic view of the waterfall and one of the most popular sites in Yellowstone.

Once finished at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, check into your hotel. Canyon Village is the most convenient place to stay. If you have plans to drive on to Glacier National Park, stay in Mammoth or Gardiner, Montana. You can also stay in West Yellowstone.

Doing this in Reverse Order: You can also do this in reverse order, starting in West Yellowstone, Mammoth, or Gardiner, and ending in Grand Teton. Go first to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, drive through Hayden Valley, visit Grand Prismatic Spring when the sun is still high in the sky (to see the most vibrant colors) and end with Old Faithful.

Old Faithful Yellowstone Itinerary

Old Faithful


Yellowstone Boardwalk Trail

Boardwalk trail on the Upper Geyser Basin

 Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone Itinerary

The view from Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook


Midway Geyser Basin

Midway Geyser Basin

 Yellowstone Itinerary Summer

Bison in Hayden Valley


Artist Point Yellowstone Itinerary

Artist Point, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Two Day Yellowstone Itinerary

This two-day Yellowstone itinerary is a continuation of the itinerary above, only you travel at a more leisurely pace and you get to visit a few more places.

Day One

Morning: Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin. Watch the geyser eruption from the boardwalk. For a unique view of the eruption (and much lower crowds), hike up to Observation Point. Take your time walking through the Upper Geyser Basin and Geyser Hill. Have lunch at the Old Faithful Inn or assemble a picnic lunch at the Old Faithful General Store.

Midday: Grand Prismatic Spring and Midway Geyser Basin. Consider adding on the hike to Fairy Falls.

Afternoon: More Geyser Basins. Located in the same area as Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful are several more geyser basins to visit: Biscuit Basin, the Fountain Paint Pot Trail, and Black Sand Basin. Leave the crowds behind and hike to Lone Star Geyser, a geyser that erupts up to 45 feet every 3 hours.

Where to Stay: Old Faithful, Canyon Village or West Yellowstone

Observation Point Yellowstone Itinerary

View of Old Faithful from Observation Point

 Yellowstone Hot Spring

Fountain Paint Pot Trail


Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn

Day Two

If you stayed in Old Faithful the night before:

Morning: Visit West Thumb Geyser Basin and drive through Hayden Valley to see the herds of bison. Optional: visit Mud Volcano, a short trail that takes you past bubbling mud pots.

Morning/Midday: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Visit both sides of the rim, either walking or driving to the overlooks. Midday, parking can be limited, so your best bet is to walk to the overlooks. Our top experiences here include Artist Point and Uncle Tom’s Trail on the south rim and Brink of the Lower Falls and Lookout Point on the north rim.

Afternoon: Visit Norris Geyser Basin. A visit here consists of seeing two basins, Back Basin and Porcelain Basin. Unless you catch Steamboat Geyser in action, Porcelain Basin is more thrilling. Steaming hot springs, light blue thermal pools, and noisy fumaroles are what you will see here.

Late Afternoon/Evening: 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. 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.

West Thumb

West Thumb Geyser Basin

 Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin


Mammoth Hot Springs Yellowstone Itinerary

Mammoth Hot Spring

If you stayed in West Yellowstone or Canyon Village:

Morning: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Midday: Hayden Valley with the option to visit Mud Volcano
Afternoon: Norris Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs.

Where to Stay: Mammoth, Gardiner, West Yellowstone, or Canyon Village

For more information about Yellowstone National Park, click here to read our Guide to Yellowstone National Park. Get important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.

Three Day Yellowstone Itinerary

Our three-day itinerary is similar to our two-day itinerary, with the addition of the amazing Lamar Valley, a scenic drive, and the addition of a big hike.

Day One

Morning: Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin
Midday: Grand Prismatic Spring and the option to hike to Fairy Falls
Afternoon: Geyser basins near Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring

Where to Stay: Canyon Village, Old Faithful, or West Yellowstone

Day Two

Morning: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Midday: Have lunch in Canyon Village. If you want to go hiking, and since Mount Washburn is inaccessible in 2021, you can hike Elephant Back Mountain, a 3.5 mile trail that offers nice views over Yellowstone Lake.
Afternoon: Drive through Hayden Valley to spot wildlife. Optional visit to Mud Volcano. Optional visit to West Thumb Geyser Basin.

Where to Stay: Canyon Village is the best place to stay but West Yellowstone and Mammoth/Gardiner also work well.

Day Three

Morning: Norris Geyser Basin
Midday: Mammoth Hot Springs. Have lunch in Mammoth or Gardiner. See the Roosevelt Arch, a stone arch that was constructed in 1903 and marks the main entrance into the park at that time. Consider taking a swim at Boiling River Hot Spring, a naturally occurring hot spring that is located near Roosevelt Arch and Mammoth.
Evening: Visit Lamar Valley at dusk. This is the best place in Yellowstone to spot wildlife.

Where to Stay: Mammoth, Gardiner, or Canyon Village

Boiling River

Boiling River Hot Spring

 Lamar Valley Sunset

Lamar Valley at Sunset


Gardiner Yellowstone Itinerary

Gardiner, Montana

PRO TRAVEL TIP: When driving through 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.

Yellowstone Bison

Four Day Yellowstone Itinerary

With four days, you can visit the main highlights of Yellowstone at a leisurely pace. You also have the option to add in a few short hikes.

Tip to Avoid the Crowds: Crowds are largest between 10 am and 4 pm in the summer months. If you have four or five days in Yellowstone, you have more time to work with, so it is possible to plan your days to avoid sightseeing at these crowded times. Start early, visit a site in the morning, relax in your lodge or have a leisurely picnic lunch midday, and then visit another site in the late afternoon.
On our most recent visit to Yellowstone, we were here in August. To avoid the crowds, we woke up very early and toured the park from 7 am to 11 am. We spent the middle part of the day at our hotel and then we went back out at 5 pm. It worked out very well. We saw most places with low crowds and we had a better chance to spot wildlife, since the animals are most active at dawn and dusk. The only downside is the extra driving.

Day One

Morning: Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin
Midday: Grand Prismatic Spring and the option to hike to Fairy Falls
Afternoon: Geyser basins near Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring

PRO TRAVEL TIP: The best time to visit Grand Prismatic Spring is midday, when the sun is high in the sky and the morning mist has burned off of the spring. This is one place in Yellowstone that we recommend visiting midday, during peak hours.

Where to Stay: Canyon Village, Old Faithful, or West Yellowstone

Day Two

Morning: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Midday: Have lunch in Canyon Village. Drive south to Yellowstone Lake and hike Elephant Back Mountain, a 3.5-mile trail that offers nice views over Yellowstone Lake.
Afternoon: Drive through Hayden Valley to spot wildlife. Optional visit to Mud Volcano and/or West Thumb Geyser Basin.

Where to Stay: Canyon Village is the best place to stay but West Yellowstone and Mammoth/Gardiner also work well.

Day Three

Morning: Norris Geyser Basin
Midday: Free time at your hotel
Afternoon: Mammoth Hot Springs and Boiling River Hot Spring

Where to Stay: Mammoth or Gardiner

Day Four

Morning: Optional hike near Mammoth. The Bunsen Peak Trail is a 4.6-mile hike where you climb to a peak for great views of north Yellowstone. The Beaver Ponds Loop Trail is an easy 5-mile hike with a good chance to spot wildlife, just make sure you bring bear spray.
Midday: Relax in your hotel or have a picnic lunch.
Afternoon/Evening: Drive to Lamar Valley. On the way, add on the 7-mile scenic drive on the Blacktail Plateau. Stop in Tower for a quick view of Tower Fall. End the day spotting wildlife in Lamar Valley.

Where to Stay: Mammoth or Gardiner

Morning Glory Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin near Old Faithful

 Blacktail Plateau Yellowstone Itinerary

Blacktail Plateau


Lamar Valley Yellowstone Itinerary

Lamar Valley

Five Day Yellowstone Itinerary

With five days in Yellowstone, I recommend following the four day itinerary and on your fifth day, adding on additional experiences in Yellowstone.

Ideas include:

  • Take a Ranger Guided Tour
  • Go Fishing
  • Spend more time in Lamar Valley spotting wildlife
  • Go horseback riding
  • Go hiking (there are over 1,000 miles of trails in Yellowstone)
  • Plan a backcountry camping trip

For a full list of things to do in Yellowstone, visit the National Park Service website.

Planning Your Trip

Reserving Your Hotels/Lodges

If you want to stay within Yellowstone National Park, in one of the lodges or campgrounds, you need to make your reservation well in advance. 

Reservations open May 1 the prior year for summer (Summer 2021 reservations open May 1, 2020) and March 15 the prior year for winter. Lodges get fully booked one year in advance but cancellations are common, so keep checking back if you can’t reserve the lodge you want.

Get recommendations on where to stay in and around Yellowstone in our post Best Hotels and Locations in Yellowstone.

National Park Fee

It costs $35 per vehicle to enter the park and this is good for seven days.

America the Beautiful Pass: If you have plans to visit Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks, it is worth it to purchase the America the Beautiful Pass. This annual park pass costs $80 and is valid for one year. Not only will you save money on park fees for this trip but you will also get free admission to any other national park or federal recreation sites that you visit within 365 days of purchasing this pass. 

Important Links

Check park conditions and road closures on the official Yellowstone National Park website. 

Yellowstone Entrance Gate

Where Are You Going Next?

If your visit to Yellowstone is part of a bigger road trip through Montana and Wyoming, here are some articles to help you plan your trip.

Grand Teton, Yellowstone & Glacier National Parks: 10 Day Road Trip Itinerary

Yellowstone National Park

18 Amazing Things to do in Yellowstone
Where to Stay in Yellowstone: Best Hotels & Locations
Grand Prismatic Spring and the Hike to Fairy Falls
One Perfect Day in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone’s Old Faithful: 10 Tips to Have the Best Experience
6 Best Geyser Basins to Visit in Yellowstone
The Perfect Yellowstone Day Trip from Grand Teton National Park

For more information about Yellowstone National Park, click here to read our Guide to Yellowstone National Park. Get important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.

Grand Teton National Park

Best Things to do in Grand Teton National Park
How Many Days Do You Need in Grand Teton? A Complete Itinerary
One Perfect Day in Grand Teton National Park
15 Best Day Hikes in Grand Teton National Park

Glacier National Park

10 Best Things to do in Glacier National Park
10 Great Hikes in Glacier National Park
How Many Days Do You Need in Glacier National Park?
How to Hike to Grinnell Glacier
Hiking the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park

If you have any questions about this Yellowstone itinerary, let us know in the comment section below.

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Yellowstone Itinerary and Travel Guide

Yellowstone National Park Itinerary


All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Comments 20

  1. My brother and I are 70 and can not do a lot of walking. Can we see most of the places by wheelchair or moterized cart? Thinking of an October visit.

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      In many of the geyser basins, you will walk or drive your wheelchair on the boardwalks. I think that many places are accessible by wheelchair, but what I cannot accurately recall is if there was step to get onto these boardwalk trails. The national park service website has a section dedicated to wheelchair mobility. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and there are links to the different sections of the park. This is the best place to get accurate info about accessibility. Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi Julie,

    Love your blog!!!

    We are coming to Yellowstone the latter part of May and are wondering if staying in Cody is a good option, after our time in Yellowstone we will be headed to Denver



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      From Cody, it takes an hour just to get to the east entrance of Yellowstone. From the east entrance you could still have 30 to 45 minutes to get to some sights. I think staying in Cody is perfect for your last day/night in Yellowstone, before you head to Denver. But for the earlier part of your stay, getting lodging inside the park is ideal (but might not be possible for this May) or West Yellowstone (this is closer than Cody to the majority of Yellowstone sights). Cheers, Julie

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  3. Hi,
    How are you? Hope all is well…
    I am planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park around May 5 2021 for 3 days / 4 days. I am a tourist from India. Can you help me with below:
    Me (65 years) and my wife (64 years)  are travelling…
    We are not interested in hiking as my wife cannot walk for much. Casual / normal walking is ok.
    We both have strict dietary requirements. We are vegetarians… No meat, No fish, No eggs… Dairy and cheese is ok.
    We will be travelling from Seattle and will leave for Orlando from Yellostone.
    Need help for: tours, accommodation, meals, transport, flight / road trip options, etc etc.
    What is the approximate budget / costs for this 4 days trip to Yellowstone and the itinerary & accommodation options you can offer.

    Awaiting your reply at the earliest.

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      Hello Dinesh. Thanks for writing in. Just to clarify, we are not tour operators or travel agents, so we cannot book your trip for you. However, I can give you some advice. In Yellowstone, you don’t have to do a lot of walking to see the main sites. Places like Old Faithful, Artists Point (Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone), Hayden and Lamar Valleys, and many of the geyser basins do not require a lot of walking. In the villages in the park and the small towns outside of the park, there are convenience stores and restaurants where you will be able to get vegetarian food. As far as what to expect for pricing, a rental car can range from $50 to $100 per day (depending on drop fees), accommodations can range from $100 to $300 plus depending on your budget, and the park fee is $35, good for your entire visit. If you like this itinerary, you can share it with a travel agent and they should be able to help you make your arrangements. Cheers, Julie

  4. Love your blog and willingness to help others. Thank you!!!! I am wanting to see wildlife, wildlife and more wildlife. I am thinking spending 3 days from Cooke City for Lamar and Hayden valley’s and move on from there to see more of the park and then to the Tetons….What would you recommend and where to stay? I do want to see Old Faithful, Lower Falls and Yellowstone Lake. Any thoughts and help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

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      If you like wildlife, there are 2 trails that I know about where you have a good chance to spot animals. The hike to Trout Lake starts in Lamar Valley and goes to a lake that’s popular with fisherman. There is also a good chance that you could see bear. We did this and didn’t see bear but it is a nice, short hike. I also heard that the Beaver Ponds hike that starts near Mammoth Hot Springs is a good hike to do in the morning or late afternoon to spot wildlife.

      Taking into account the road closure, you could spend your first night in Gardiner, Montana or Mammoth. Your first day would be spent in Lamar Valley, doing these hikes, and driving Blacktail Plateau Drive (also can be a good wildlife viewing spot), if you like that idea. Then spend your next 2 nights in Old Faithful or Canyon Village. From here, it is easy to visit Hayden Valley, OF, GPS, and Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone Lake. Then go to the Tetons.

      In the Tetons, I recommend hiking Death Canyon. We saw 4 moose here, including a huge bull moose with with a cow and a calf. You can continue up to the Static Peak Divide. For hiking ideas in the Tetons, here is the link to our hiking post.

      For more ideas on where to stay in Yellowstone, take a look at our Where to Stay post. This has hotel and lodging recommendations. Have a great trip!

      Cheers, Julie

  5. I am working on planning a trip to Wyoming and your website keeps coming up in my searches. I cannot get enough of your blog! You provide the perfect amount of information and your photos are seriously so amazing. Thanks again!

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  6. Looking for 7 day trip starting in Bozeman and ending back there to fly back! We need information on lodging too.

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      Unfortunately, we don’t run tours or work with tour guides. However, you can use the info in our posts to help you plan your trip and travel independently. You could follow this 5-day itinerary and take a look at our Where to Stay in Yellowstone post to pick out your lodging. We also have a lot of info on our Guide to Yellowstone. If you have any specific questions feel free to write in again. Cheers, Julie

    2. What is your blog address We are planning a 7 day trip to YNP starting from Bozeman Mt, airport in late April 2021. Any tips would be much appreciated. Mary Ann

  7. Hi! This is so helpful. Thank you. I am planning trip next summer. I am debating 4 or 5 days in Yellowstone followed by 2 in Tetons. Do you have a recommendation? I currently have 2 nights at Mammoth, 2 at Canyon, 1 at Old Faithful. If I change to 4-where would you recommend cutting out? Also, is it too much to move that many times or do you think that is good? Thank you so much for your help!

    1. Post

      Hello Jenny. If you like hiking, and if you don’t mind being busy, I think 4 days is enough in Yellowstone, in order to give yourself more time in the Tetons. I would take out one night from Mammoth. From Mammoth, do everything on the north end of the park (Blacktail Plateau, Mammoth Hot Springs and Lamar Valley; if you like scenic drives, drive Beartooth Highway, which is near Lamar Valley at the Northeast Entrance, just outside of Yellowstone…we did not do this but it looks great and has been recommended to us by other readers). Then, you can explore the rest of Yellowstone from Canyon and Old Faithful. I think it’s a good idea to change locations in Yellowstone since it’s so massive.

      There are some really great hikes to do in the Tetons. We just spent 6 days here and still didn’t get to everything on our list. I love both of these parks and it will be an amazing trip! Please let us know if you have any more questions. Cheers, Julie

  8. Hi there! your itinerary is so incredibly helpful. Quick question — for your recommendations for sleeping, when you say “day one” do you mean that you should sleep at the hotel recommendations on “day one” or the night before?

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