Julie Itinerary, United States 153 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. 

Record Floods in Yellowstone

On June 12, 2022, Yellowstone and northern Montana had record floods. These floods washed aways portions of the roads between Gardiner, Montana and the north entrance of Yellowstone and roads near the northeast entrance of the park. 

These floods altered the landscapes of Yellowstone and some roads are expected to be closed for an extended period of time.

At the time that I am updating this, the north and south loops of Yellowstone are open. The road between Gardiner and Mammoth is closed, as is the Northeast Entrance of the park. 

As of July 2, the park cancelled the Alternating License Plate System. Visitors can enter the park on any day they like, regardless of license plate number. Currently, there is no timed entry reservation system in effect, but I recommend getting updates on the official website, just in case this changes.

Stay Updated about Park Conditions

Conditions are constantly changing in the park and will continue to do so throughout the summer. I plan to keep this article updated but the best place to go for current conditions is the official National Park Service website.

About this Yellowstone Itinerary

This Yellowstone itinerary works best during the months of June through October. From early November through late-May, 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 2021, Yellowstone was the 3rd most visited park in the USA, receiving 4.9 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. 

A Quick Geography Lesson

Yellowstone is the second largest US national park outside of Alaska. With over 2 million acres of land and 5 park entrances, this place is massive.

Yellowstone National Park is primarily located in Wyoming, although it does spill over, just a little bit, into Idaho and Montana.

If you look at the map of Yellowstone below, you will see that the network of roads inside the park forms a figure of eight. The main loop is called Grand Loop Road. Bisecting this loop, and making the park roads resemble a figure of eight, is Norris Canyon Road. The majority of sights you will visit are located on Grand Loop Road.

Yellowstone Map 2022 Flood Update

I modified this nps.gov map to highlight Grand Loop Road, the park entrances, and the main sights in Yellowstone. The yellow lines are the road closures (at the time of the most recent update of this article) and the pink lines are the roads that are currently open.

There are five park entrances, one on each side of the park (north, east, south, and west), with an additional entrance on the north side. Because of the park’s location, and the multiple entrances, it makes an awesome road trip destination. A visit to Yellowstone is usually combined with Grand Teton National Park, Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore, and Glacier National Park.

It takes three to five days to see and do everything inside of the park. If you are staying for 3 or more days, I recommend staying at two different locations in Yellowstone to minimize driving time. You can get recommendations on where to stay in our Where to Stay in Yellowstone article.

Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

Here is a list of the best things to do in Yellowstone:

  • Old Faithful & Upper Geyser Basin
  • Grand Prismatic Spring & Midway Geyser Basin
  • Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
  • Wildlife sightings in Hayden and Lamar Valleys
  • Norris Geyser Basin
  • Mammoth Hot Springs
  • Go for a hike (Mt. Washburn & Fairy Falls are popular options)

The wildlife spottings in Yellowstone are incredible and every day offers a different experience. The best time of day to see the bison, elk, and bear are early and late in the day, so plan your visits to Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley during these times. But it is possible to spot wildlife anywhere in the park, so always be on the lookout.

Things to Do in Yellowstone

How Many Days Do You Need in Yellowstone?

You need a minimum of three full days to see the top sights in Yellowstone. Since Yellowstone is so large, you will potentially spend several hours each day driving from sight to sight. Add in extra time for wildlife sightings, animal traffic jams, and maybe even circling the parking lots midday for an empty space.

If you want to thoroughly explore Yellowstone, I recommend spending at least four to five days here. That’s plenty of time to visit the top sights without feeling like you are in a race.

How to Get to Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is located in the northwest corner of Wyoming. Here are the distances and driving times from nearby airports:

  • Idaho Falls Regional Airport, Idaho: 110 miles, 2 hours
  • Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, Montana: 80 miles, 1.5 hours
  • Yellowstone Airport, West Entrance of Yellowstone: 3 miles, 10 minutes
  • Yellowstone Regional Airport, Cody, Wyoming: 55 miles, 1.25 hours
  • Jackson Hole Airport, Jackson, Wyoming: 70 miles, 1.5 hour
  • Salt Lake City International Airport, Utah: 325 miles, 5 hours
  • Rapid City Regional Airport, South Dakota: 440 miles, 7.5 hours

Both Yellowstone Airport and Yellowstone Regional Airport are very small airports, so your options will be limited. You might have better luck finding convenient and economical flights at Bozeman, Idaho Falls, and Jackson Hole. We usually fly into Salt Lake City and visit Grand Teton National Park on the drive up to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone is a very popular road trip destination. Here are nearby travel destinations which you can visit before or after Yellowstone:

  • Grand Teton National Park: 60 miles, 1.5 hours
  • Jackson, Wyoming: 80 miles, 2 hours
  • Cody, Wyoming: 80 miles, 1.5 hours
  • Devils Tower, Wyoming: 375 miles, 7 hours
  • Mount Rushmore & Rapid City, South Dakota: 450 miles, 8 hours
  • Glacier National Park: 380 miles, 6 hours

Note: This driving distances and times are estimates and will vary according to your starting/ending location inside of Yellowstone National Park.

If you have plans to visit Yellowstone National Park on a road trip with Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore and/or the Black Hills of South Dakota, you have several scenic drives to choose from that cross Wyoming. In our guide about how to drive from Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore, we cover the two routes that cross the Bighorn Mountians: Cloud Peak Skyway and Bighorn Scenic Byway.

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 six different ways to spend one day in Yellowstone National Park. 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).

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (places to go and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
 
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added 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

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.

Old Faithful Yellowstone Itinerary

Old Faithful | Yellowstone Itinerary

 
Yellowstone Boardwalk Trail

Boardwalk trail on the Upper Geyser Basin | Yellowstone Itinerary

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.

Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone Itinerary

The view from Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook

 
Midway Geyser Basin

Midway Geyser Basin | Yellowstone Itinerary

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.

Yellowstone Itinerary Summer

Bison in Hayden Valley | Yellowstone Itinerary

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.

Artist Point Yellowstone Itinerary

Artist Point, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone | Yellowstone Itinerary

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 West Yellowstone. Currently, you cannot exit the park from the north entrance so I do not recommend staying in Gardiner, Montana.

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.

For more information, read our article about How to Spend One Day in Yellowstone.

Visiting Yellowstone on a Day Trip from Grand Teton National Park or Jackson

Visiting Yellowstone on a day trip from Grand Teton National Park or Jackson works great. With one day, you can visit the tops sights in Yellowstone, including Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and see the bison in Hayden Valley.

We have a detailed guide on how to plan your day trip from Grand Teton and Jackson. But if you prefer to learn more about Yellowstone from a guide and/or if you don’t want the hassle of driving and parking, there are several highly rated tours that start in Jackson.

 


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.

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (places to go and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
 
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added 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.

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 Itinerary

 Yellowstone Hot Spring

Fountain Paint Pot Trail | Yellowstone Itinerary

 

Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn | Yellowstone Itinerary

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, Lookout Point, and Red Rock Point on the North Rim. Learn more about the Grand Canyon and ideas on how to plan your time in our Guide to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

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 | Yellowstone Itinerary

 Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin | Yellowstone Itinerary

 

Mammoth Hot Springs Yellowstone Itinerary

Mammoth Hot Spring | Yellowstone Itinerary

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: West Yellowstone or Canyon Village

Yellowstone National Park Guide


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. Note: due to the recent floods, Lamar Valley might be inaccessible in 2022.

Day One

Morning: Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin
Midday: Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, and the option to hike to Fairy Falls
Afternoon: Geyser basins near Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring: Black Sand Basin, Biscuit Basin and the Fountain Paint Pot Trail

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

Day Two

Morning: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Midday: Drive Dunraven Pass. This is a good time to hike to the top of Mt. Washburn for panoramic views of the park. It is a 6.2 mile round trip hike.
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.

Important Note: Boiling River Hot Spring, Roosevelt Arch, and Lamar Valley might be inaccessible in 2022.

Where to Stay: Mammoth, Gardiner, or Canyon Village

Boiling River

Boiling River Hot Spring | Yellowstone Itinerary

 Lamar Valley Sunset

Lamar Valley at Sunset | Yellowstone Itinerary

 

Gardiner Yellowstone Itinerary

Gardiner, Montana | Yellowstone Itinerary

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, Midway Geyser Basin, and the option to hike to Fairy Falls
Afternoon: Geyser basins near Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring: Black Sand Basin, Biscuit Basin and the Fountain Paint Pot Trail

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

Morning Glory Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin near Old Faithful

Day Two

Morning: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Midday: Have lunch in Canyon Village. Drive Dunraven Pass. This is a good time to hike to the top of Mt. Washburn for panoramic views of the park. It is a 6.2 mile round trip hike. Or, 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

Where to Stay: Mammoth

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. End the day spotting wildlife in Lamar Valley. Note: Lamar Valley might be inaccessible in 2022.

Where to Stay: Mammoth

Blacktail Plateau Yellowstone Itinerary

Blacktail Plateau | Yellowstone Itinerary

 

Lamar Valley Yellowstone Itinerary

Lamar Valley | Yellowstone Itinerary

Another option to consider is this 4 day tour of Grand Teton and Yellowstone. With a guide, you visit both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Along the way, you will stay in Jackson, Cody, and Cooke City. The fee includes transportation, lodging, and your guide. The tour is designed as a safari, giving you the best chance to spot wildlife.


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
  • Drive Beartooth Highway. This scenic drive is one of the best in the USA and starts at the northeast entrance of Yellowstone. Read our Guide to Beartooth Highway for more information. Note: Beartooth Highway might be inaccessible in 2022.

Beartooth Highway

Beartooth Highway | Yellowstone Itinerary

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

US National Parks List


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 2023 reservations open May 1, 2022) 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. 

Traveling with an RV

We have not traveled with an RV, so we don’t have experience about what it is like to visit Yellowstone with an RV (but we have seen many RV’s on these roads). If you want more information, I recommend taking a look at this website, for an overview of what to expect in the park.

Important Links

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

Tours of Yellowstone

If you prefer to visit Yellowstone with an experienced guide, or want to avoid the hassle of driving and parking, here are several highly rated tours to consider. 

 

Yellowstone Entrance Gate

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. 

Is one day enough time to visit Yellowstone?

With one day in Yellowstone, you can see a few highlights of the park, so it is still a worthwhile experience. This can be done on a point-to-point road trip through the park or as a day trip from Grand Teton National Park. 

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. 

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.

NATIONAL PARKS: The Complete Guide to the US National Parks

ROAD TRIP IDEA: How to Plan an Epic Road Trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
ROAD TRIP IDEA: 
Grand Teton, Yellowstone & Glacier National Parks: 10 Day Road Trip Itinerary
ROAD TRIP IDEA:  Yellowstone, Devils Tower & Mount Rushmore 10 Day Road Trip Itinerary
BEARTOOTH HIGHWAY:  Beartooth Highway: Things to Do, Map, Photos & Travel Tips
MOUNT RUSHMORE: How to Drive between Mount Rushmore & Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

BEST OF YELLOWSTONE:  18 Amazing Things to do in Yellowstone
WHERE TO STAY:  Where to Stay in Yellowstone: Best Hotels & Locations
GRAND CANYON:  The Complete Guide to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
GRAND PRISMATIC SPRING:  Grand Prismatic Spring and the Hike to Fairy Falls
ONE DAY IN YELLOWSTONE:  One Perfect Day in Yellowstone National Park
OLD FAITHFUL:  Yellowstone’s Old Faithful: 10 Tips to Have the Best Experience
GEYSER BASINS:  6 Best Geyser Basins to Visit in Yellowstone
YELLOWSTONE DAY TRIP:  The Perfect Yellowstone Day Trip from Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

BEST OF GRAND TETON:  Best Things to do in Grand Teton National Park
GRAND TETON ITINERARY:  How Many Days Do You Need in Grand Teton? A Complete Itinerary
ONE DAY IN GRAND TETON:  One Perfect Day in Grand Teton National Park
HIKES IN GRAND TETON:  15 Best Day Hikes in Grand Teton National Park

Glacier National Park

BEST OF GLACIER:  10 Best Things to do in Glacier National Park
HIKES IN GLACIER:  10 Great Hikes in Glacier National Park
GLACIER ITINERARY:  How Many Days Do You Need in Glacier National Park?
GRINNELL GLACIER:  How to Hike to Grinnell Glacier
HIGHLINE TRAIL:  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.

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

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 153

  1. Avatar for Mohit Anand
    Mohit Anand

    Hey Julie. Whom to call at Yellowstone NP for lodges inside the park to try our luck? I am not sure if I am dialing the right phone no. Thanks

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
  2. Avatar for Melissa
    Melissa

    Hi – Super helpful information on Yellowstone and Grand Teton. We are looking to travel from Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore, visit Devils Tower on the way. Do you have any other recommendations of where to stop along the drive? My routing has me going from Yellowstone to Rapid City along I-90.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      I-90 makes sense if you will be starting on the west or north side of Yellowstone. I-90 is a fast highway but I don’t know of much to see along this drive. A more scenic drive would be to go out the east entrance to Cody on Highway 14 and then continue through Bighorn National Forest. Just past the Forest, you will hit I-90 and you can take this to Devil’s Tower. I have not done this drive but it looks very nice, from what I have seen. You are looking at a 7 hour drive, roughly, based on your starting point in Yellowstone. Other than Cody, I don’t know of any other notable stops along the drive. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Amanda
    Amanda

    Hi Julie! This is a great article, thank you for putting in the time to make it for others! We’re looking a the four day trip itinerary, but were hoping to spend the nights in hotels rather than park lodging. Do you have recommendations on where to stay maybe outside of the park each night to still stick to the itinerary for the days? Thanks!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Amanda. Yes, we have an entire article about where to stay in Yellowstone. 😊 On this itinerary article, at the end of each day, I list the locations of where to stay, including towns located outside of the park. You can then refer to those towns in the where to stay article for hotel recommendations. We always stay outside of the park, usually in West Yellowstone or Gardiner. Have fun planning your trip and let us know if you have more questions. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Amanda
  4. Avatar for Anthony Armstrong
    Anthony Armstrong

    Hi Julie. First of all, thanks for a great blog; it looks great.

    FYI I actually have plenty of time; I’m probably flying into SLC but will spend up to 10 days in the WY, ID, SD area so, from the sounds of it, given that what I want is scenic drives and overlooks, and shortish walks, it sounds like I could comfortably do Yellowstone in 4 days.

    A few questions for now but, as my trip nears, I’ll probably ask more questions!

    Firstly, am disappointed, to put it mildly, that a chunk of the road is closed for the whole year; necessary but … But, when I looked at the official Park Service map, the two most notable things for me on the closed stretch of road were Tower Fall, and Washspring Hot Springs Overlook at either end of the closed section. Given the road closures, can you get reasonably close to either or both by car, or a 20-30 min each way walk? If the answer is not close, are there similar sites to see in the park instead? I assume there are plenty of similar overlooks of hot springs but am not so sure about the waterfall and, for me that would have been one of the things I’d DEFINITELY want to visit!

    Secondly, given the road closures, how long, roughly, would it take to get from Canyon Village to Tower Roosevelt? I’m sure that’s hard to gauge but a rough idea would help.

    Thirdly, I’m on a fairly limited budget so I’ll have to be coming in from outside the park from places like Jackson, Cody or Bozeman. Given the road closures, and given that I have an hour plus to get to the park, would you recommend staying in three different places? Or would, say, Jackson and Bozeman do fine?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Anthony. In my opinion, having seen both, Fairy Falls is more impressive from Tower Fall. To get to Fairy Falls, it’s an easy mostly flat hike and you can combine this with the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. Here is a link to our article that describes how to do both. If you still want to see Tower Fall, park at Tower Junction and it is a 3.5 mile walk one-way to Tower Fall. There is a hiking trail that runs parallel to Grand Loop Road. I haven’t done this but it might be a nice walk.

      I am not familiar with Washspring Hot Springs Overlook in Yellowstone. I Googled it but still couldn’t find anything out about it. So won’t be able to help you with this one.

      Look into Gardiner, Montana, Cooke City, Montana and West Yellowstone as places to stay too. You will be much closer to the park because it is a very long drive from Bozeman, Cody, and Jackson. And Jackson is not cheap. If you have a longer drive, you will be getting to the park later in the morning, and wait times at the entrance booths could be very long. This year I think Yellowstone is going to smash visitation records. It might be worth paying a little extra to be closer to the park for a better overall experience. Or, just get up very early, if you plan to stay farther way. For four days, I recommend picking two locations. People love Cody and its cowboy ranch theme. Lines might be shorter coming in through the east entrance but that is just an assumption on my part. I think it would be easier to find budget places at Bozeman than Jackson. But I love Jackson and you get to drive along the Teton Range to and from Yellowstone, so that’s a nice bonus. But again, prices should be similar in Gardiner and West Yellowstone to Jackson, so I would look here too and these two towns would be my #1 and #1 recommendations.

      Feel free to write in again as you plan your trip. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Anthony Armstrong
        Anthony Armstrong

        Hi Julie,

        Great. Thanks for the advice, especially the link to the walk to Fairy Falls. At least I can see a good waterfall. May well walk to Tower Falls but I might leave that ’til I’m there and ask in the park what the Falls are like at the time I arrive in mid June. If there’s not much water it’s probably not worth the 2 hour roundtrip!

        Will definitely look in all the towns you mentioned. Knowing I can do Yellowstone in 3 or 4 nights gives my budget a bit more slack as, obviously Yellowstone area is a lot more expensive than many other parts of Wyoming or Idaho or Montana!

        More later!

  5. Avatar for Archana M Jagtap
    Archana M Jagtap

    Hi, I am planning to follow your 4 day itinerary for August 2021. Considering the road closures, what modifications would you suggest? I will appreciate your feedback. Thanks!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Archana. I wrote these itineraries taking into account the road closure so you will not have to modify anything. You can do each day as it is written. Just be aware of the road closure when plotting out your driving route for each day. Lamar Valley is the most “challenging” to get to, due to its location. If you plan to stay in Canyon Village or down by Yellowstone Lake, it will be a LONG drive to get back to your lodge, since you will have to detour around the road closure. If possible, it’s best to stay in Mammoth, Gardiner, or near the Northeast Entrance on the day you plan to visit Lamar Valley (day 4). But it’s a light day with not a whole lot to do, which I did on purpose, so that you have enough time to get to and from Lamar Valley, regardless of where you plan to stay in the park. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Archana M Jagtap
        Archana M Jagtap

        Thanks Julie.
        I have booked 4 nights in West Yellowstone as in park were sold out. Is it ok to do Lamar valley from west yellow stone or I should book a night in Gardiner?

        1. Avatar for Julie Post
          Author
          Julie

          You will have less driving if you stay in Gardiner. You only need to stay here one night, so put it at the end or the beginning of your trip to Yellowstone, and visit Lamar Valley on the same day you plan to sleep in Gardiner. We stayed in Gardiner when we visited Lamar Valley. It’s a long drive but it’s very pretty with lots of opportunities to spot wildlife. If you have the time, drive the Beartooth Highway, which is located outside of the park. So many people have been recommending this to us recently. You can do it on the same day you visit Lamar Valley…just note how much extra driving time and distance you will be adding before committing to it. Cheers, Julie

          1. Avatar for Archana M Jagtap
            Archana M Jagtap

            Makes sense. Would it be feasible to drive to Jackson from Gardiner after checking out next day? Can I include any more spots to visit on the way? We have last night booking in Jackson before 8:30 am flight next day. Thanks again.

          2. Avatar for Julie Post
            Author
            Julie

            Yes, you can drive from Gardiner to Jackson. There are 2 routes: the first is to drive back through Yellowstone, and by this point you have most likely done everything. However, on this drive, you will get to see Jackson Lake in Grand Teton, you will drive past Oxbow Bend (beautiful spot), and you will drive along the Teton Range to get to Jackson. The second route is to drive south through Yellowstone, exit the park at West Yellowstone, and drive to Jackson through Idaho. I have not done this but you would get to see some of Idaho. If you put Gardiner and Jackson into Google Maps, you can see the 2 different routes. They both take roughly the same amount of time. Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Dana
    Dana

    We are staying in the grizzly rv and cabins the end of May. It’s our first time and I’m getting a little nervous. Any recommendations on what or where to start our days? We will be there there Sunday til Thursday. Thank you

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Dana. It looks like you have 5 days, tons of time, which is great! I recommend following the 4 day itinerary in this post, with some minor modifications. You can do these days in any order. I recommend putting the Grand Prismatic Spring on your sunniest day so you can see it in all of its glory and brilliant colors. Follow Days 1 & 2 just how I wrote them. These daily itineraries will work very well from your starting point at the RV park. On day 3, you can visit Norris Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs back to back, or you can do it how I wrote it, taking a break midday in West Yellowstone. Consider adding on the Artists Paintpots which are close to Norris. Yellowstone will be busy midday during your visit, most likely, and since you have so much time, you can take a break midday, and visit the hot springs in the morning and afternoon, when crowds are a little lower.

      For day 4, consider doing a hike in the morning (we have some hiking recommendations on Day 4) and spend your afternoon/early evening in Lamar Valley. Consider adding on the scenic drive on Beartooth Highway (we have not done this yet but we were told by multiple people that it was amazing). It will be a LONG drive to get back to West Yellowstone. On day 5, you have free time to “re-do” something (return to Lamar or Hayden Valleys to spot wildlife again), add on another hike, or go fishing or horseback riding. I can understand why you are getting nervous. But you have plenty of time and you should able to thoroughly explore Yellowstone. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Chhaya P
        1. Avatar for Julie Post
          Author
          Julie

          We have an article all about Where to Stay in Yellowstone. Where you stay really depends on how much time you have in the park and what you want to do. This itinerary has location recommendations for lodging. The Where to Stay post lists lodges/hotels/apartments for each location. Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for Carol Morris
    Carol Morris

    We are traveling by train/bus to Yellowstone in mid-May next month. The trip includes the lower loop bus tour. Our second day is unscheduled. Is it possible to visit the upper loop without a car? Or does it make sense to sign up with a local tour group?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      If you don’t have a car, then I recommend joining a tour. There are no shuttles or public transportation in Yellowstone so you will need to hire a driver or a tour to get around. I am not familiar with tour options, other than what is on Get Your Guide, so you could start here or contact the company that is doing your lower loop tour to see if they offer an upper loop tour. Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Mary
    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      You can visit the entire park from Gardiner, but when you visit the southern sights (Old Faithful, West Thumb Geyser Basin, Hayden Valley) you will have a long drive. So I recommend grouping these together on the same day. You could visit Hayden Valley, then West Thumb, then Old Faithful + Upper Geyser Basin, and possible Black Sand Basin or Biscuit Basin while yo are down that way. But it will be easy to visit Norris Geyser Basin, Lamar Valley, and Mammoth Hot Springs from Gardiner. It’s a bit of a drive to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone but Kara and I did this from Gardiner and it worked well. The key is starting early so you can drive there without hitting too much traffic. Cheers, Julie

  9. Avatar for danielle Cataldo
    danielle Cataldo

    Hello Thank you for all your great tips. I am noticing that there doesn’t seem to be AQC anywhere in park lodging. Is that correct? How hot/uncomfortable does it get in the rooms? We are planning a visit in Aug
    Thank you!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      We have not stayed in any of the park lodges in Yellowstone to speak from experience as far as how hot the rooms get. For each lodge, you will have to check if A/C is available. However, it doesn’t get hot in Yellowstone in the summer since the park is at a higher elevation. During our visit in early August, the temps got up to the mid-70’s midday and was much cooler at night. So, with your windows open, it shouldn’t be too hot. When we stayed in Gardiner I don’t recall running the air conditioner in our room. Cheers, Julie

  10. Avatar for Gerry Fish
    Gerry Fish

    Hi Julie, My wife and I have booked out itinerary for late Sept, to include 1 night in Cody, 1 night at the Old Faithful and 2 nights in W. Yellowstone. Considering that we are both 70 and she has just had Hip replacement, we are not hikers. That being said the amount of time you dedicate to hiking what would be a recommendation to add to or supplement our visit, based on your 3 day suggestions. We will be driving a rental car.
    Thank you
    Gerry

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Based on where you are staying, here is how I recommend that you plan your days. You will have to do some walking but it is mostly flat, with no hikes. On day 1, spend the morning at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, visiting both sides of the canyon. You can drive the overlooks on the north rim if you are here early in the day (around 8 am). Have lunch in Canyon Village, then drive through Hayden Valley, visit West Thumb Geyser Basin, and end in Old Faithful. On day 2, visit Old Faithful, walk the boardwalk trails at Upper Geyser Basin, Black Sand Basin, walk to the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook, and walk the Midway Geyser Basin boardwalk trail. End your day in West Yellowstone. On day 3, visit Norris Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs. End the day in Lamar Valley and drive back to West Yellowstone. All of these roads are paved so any type of rental car you have will be sufficient. The end of September is a beautiful time to visit Yellowstone. Bring warm clothes because it can be chilly here this time of year. Cheers, Julie

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