Julie Itinerary, United States 107 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

This Yellowstone itinerary works best during 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.

A Quick Geography Lesson

Yellowstone is the 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 Road Closure Map

I modified this nps.gov map to highlight Grand Loop Road, the park entrances, and the main sights in Yellowstone. This map also shows the road closure between Canyon Village and Tower/Roosevelt in 2021.

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, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, 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.

For a detailed list of things to do in Yellowstone, with many more photos, take a look at our article 18 Amazing 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, 2.25 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.

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 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).

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 Boardwalk Trail

Boardwalk trail on the Upper Geyser Basin

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

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

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

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.

For more information, here is the link to our One Day Yellowstone Itinerary.

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 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, 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: 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, 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 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. End the day spotting wildlife in Lamar Valley.

Where to Stay: Mammoth or Gardiner

Blacktail Plateau Yellowstone Itinerary

Blacktail Plateau

 

Lamar Valley Yellowstone Itinerary

Lamar Valley

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

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 2022 reservations open May 1, 2021) 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

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.

ROAD TRIP IDEA:  Grand Teton, Yellowstone & Glacier National Parks: 10 Day Road Trip Itinerary
DEVILS TOWER:  Complete Guide to Devils Tower: How to Plan Your Visit 

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 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

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 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.

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Yellowstone Itinerary and Travel Guide

Yellowstone National Park Itinerary

 

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Comments 107

  1. Hello, it’s me, again! I ask you if this road is possible! the itinerary that I think is the following:
    01 LAX, day in Palm Springs (modern architecture). Stay at PS.
    02 To St George, visiting Valley of Fire (sunset). Stay at SG.
    03 To West Yellowstone. Stay at WY.
    04 Yellowstone Geysers. Stay at WY.
    05 Yellowstone Canyon, Hyden, etc. Stay at WY.
    06 North Yellowstone, sunset at Lamar Valley. Stay at Cooke City.
    07. Sunrise in Lamar Valley, Chief Joshep, Black Hills, Devil Tower and maybe Rushmore. Stay at Rapid City.
    08. Custer State Park, Stay at Cheyenne.
    09. Estes Park, Trail Ridge Road, Grand Lake, Stay at Grand Junction.
    10. Arches, sunset Delicate Arches. Stay at Moab.
    11. Moab to LA. Stay at LA
    12. LA. modern architecture, beach, Downtown, Los Angeles National Forest, Santa Monica, etc…etc…etc
    13. LA.
    14. LA.
    15. LA.
    16. End!

    Thank You very much!!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Carlos. It’s nice to hear from you again. That’s quite the road trip!
       
      Yes, this is definitely doable. You will be spending a lot of time on the road, but you will get to see and do a lot. Day 7 will be a long day, but ending it with a sunset or night time views of Mount Rushmore would be cool. Make sure that you get your reservation to enter Rocky Mountain National Park on day 9, if you will be visiting in the summer or early fall (when reservations are necessary). If you don’t get a reservation, you will not be able to drive Trail Ridge Road and you will have to take a different route through Colorado.
       
      One more suggestion. What if you took one day from LA and visited Bryce Canyon on the drive from Moab to LA? So, on day 11, drive to Bryce Canyon, visit Bryce Canyon, stay in Bryce or St. George. Then, on day 12, drive to LA. Another option would be to visit Death Valley instead of Bryce Canyon on the drive to LA, but if you are doing this in the summer, Death Valley will be brutally hot (Bryce Canyon will be cooler because it is at a high elevation).
       
      Have fun finalizing your plans and let me know if you have more questions. Cheers, Julie

      1. Thank you. In September 2019 we already visited LA, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Death Valley, Yosemite, SF and Big Sur (14 days). We have yet to visit Wyoming, Colorado, Arches in Utah. I have added South Dakota to this plan, sadly not enough time for Badlands NP … or should I try?

        Thank you

        1. Post
          Author

          Wow…that’s awesome! Yes, I think it is worth taking a day from LA to see Badlands NP. You can do it as a day trip from Rapid City if you get an early start. You could skip sunrise in the park, but then stick around for sunset. I really liked this park and I think it is underrated. Plus, with one day you can see all the best places. Cheers, Julie

          1. Yes, I love Bad Lands but I prefer (I think) for my peace of mind to know that I have the last 4 days of free travel! But … maybe I can replace Custer with Wind Cave NP? Is it a good idea? I am especially interested in that region watching wildlife. Thanks!!

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            Author

            I understand. You could combine Custer and Wind Cave because they sit right next to each other. If you like wildlife, drive the Wildlife Loop in Custer in the morning, then pick out a hike to do, do the scenic drives in Custer, and end the day at Wind Cave. At Wind Cave, you might see bison right from the road, but we were lucky and saw a lot on the Lookout Point hike that we did. Cheers, Julie

  2. This our first time, we only want to travel approximately six hours a day. Wondering if you can recommend a private tour guide. Not much walking. We are there for six days and would like to have someone to drive.

    1. Post
      Author
  3. Really recommend this article to those who are just starting to plan their trip to Yellowstone National Park, and I really hope you do go there as soon as possible as we all know this place is gonna blow up in a matter of time.. Anyways, the author gives a brief yet detailed explanation of what actually is Yellowstone and why you should visit it. Also, I really liked the variety of plans according to your trip length, like what should you do if you travel for 3 days or only for 1. Hope everyone will be able to see this gorgeous nature exhibition.

  4. I love Yellowstone. I ended up hiking Mt Washburn but the snow was mega bad higher up so I never summited. Would love to return and do some more hikes there. Thanks for the tips!

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      Author
  5. Thanks for the information. My husband and I only have a few days to sneak away, and only two full days to visit. We would be flying into Bozeman/Yellowstone Airport. Any suggestions (plans to visit, places to stay and eat) would be welcome. We hope to make the most of our time there.

    1. Post
      Author

      Depending on when you plan to visit, it will most likely be easier to get lodging outside of the park. I recommend looking into West Yellowstone or Gardiner for hotels. Here is the link to our Where to Stay in Yellowstone post for recommendations. There are lots of restaurants in Gardiner and West Yellowstone. I have no specific restaurant recommendations except for one: in West Yellowstone, Kara and I liked Cafe Madriz, which is a tapas restaurant. As for what to do, the 2 day itinerary in this post allows you to see all of the top spots in the park. On day 2, follow the recommendations for “if you stayed in West Yellowstone.” The only thing you are missing is Lamar Valley. You could add it on one afternoon if you are doing well on time, but it will be a lot of driving. Cheers, Julie

  6. Hi, Thank you for this detailed information of how to go around Yellowstone. Planning to visit Yellowstone sometime next year and will be renting a RV from MT. How easy/hard will it be to maneuver around the park with just an RV? Thank you

    1. Post
      Author

      Driving the roads in Yellowstone will not be a problem in an RV. All roads are paved (except for Blacktail Plateau Drive). However, parking can be an issue during peak hours, which is typically from 10 am to 4 pm. It can be hard for regular cars to get a parking space at the those hours at some of the busier places in Yellowstone so I imagine that it would be harder for an RV. There is one parking lot that I know of where you can’t park an RV: the lot for the Fairy Falls Trail and Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. There is a small RV parking farther down the road. It would be worth researching if there are more parking lots like this before you go, just to avoid any unfortunate surprises. Cheers, Julie

  7. This is an excellent itinerary post! I have visited the park frequently and was just doing a little catch up to give some advice while taking current conditions into account. The park is so large with such an extraordinary collection of places to visit, it is very hard for the first time visitor to plan their days. You’ve done a great job narrowing down the highlights!

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      Author
  8. Hi Julie

    Your tour guide is very helpful but I found your itinerary after I booked my trip which is during last week of September this year please suggest and help me figure out based on my trip of 4 days staying in canyon lodge
    Flying into Jackson airport on day 1 around noon with wife and 4 year old
    Please suggest plan for rest of day 1 and others 3 days as I will fly back from Jackson airport on day 5th noon

    Do I need to take bus tour or I can drive with rental car to all spot and is there any advantage of having bus tour

    Thanks
    Deepak

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      Hello Deepak. On day 1, I suggest driving from the airport, seeing the sights in Grand Teton NP on the drive. Exactly what you see and do depends on
      your arrival time at the airport and your energy level. Then follow days 1 to 3 of this itinerary for the remainder of your stay in Yellowstone. On the 5th day drive back to Grand Teton. You do not need to take a bus tour. Yellowstone is very easy to visit on your own, as long as you have a rental car. Cheers, Julie

  9. Hey Julie,

    This guide is AWESOME! And also very insightful, thanks for sharing. We are heading to the Yellowstone area in less than a week and staying in Big Sky, MT. One of the most important places we want to see is Lamar Valley! I will be traveling with my 70-year-old father, which itinerary would you recommend using if we are coming from the Big Sky area?

    Thanks in advance and for all the info 🙂

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      From Big Sky, it takes about 3 hours to drive to Lamar Valley and the quickest way is to enter through West Yellowstone. I recommend getting an early start (to avoid long lines at the park entrance), visit Norris Geyser Basin, then Mammoth Hot Springs, and drive out to Lamar Valley in the afternoon. After Lamar Valley, return to Big Sky. If you have more than one day, you can drive the south loop of Grand Loop Road and visit Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Old Faithful, and Grand Prismatic Spring. Then you would have covered Yellowstone’s top sights. Have a great time in Yellowstone! Cheers, Julie

      1. Hi Julie,

        I love all your posts and very informative. We are going to Yellowstone NP on Monday from Bozeman in the afternoon as we fly in from Texas and stay at west yellowstone for 5 nights and going back to Bozeman on Saturday. What’s your advices for sightseeing and what clothing to pack?
        Thank you so much in advance!
        Tina

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          On our visit in the summer, we wore a combination of long pants and shorts, with short-sleeve shirts. A lightweight jacket and a rain jacket are good to have. In general, the days are mild and the nights are cool. As far as a plan, you can follow the first 4 days of this itinerary for your stay. West Yellowstone is a great location to be in. You’re longest drive will be going to/from Lamar Valley but it will be worth it! The national parks, and Yellowstone in particular, have been busier than normal, so get an early start to avoid waiting in line at the park entrance. I would say 7 am is a good time to get going, but you will get a good feel for the crowds and went to hit the road after your first day here. Cheers, Julie

  10. Hey there, I love all this information thank you! I am looking at driving in August from Maryland and would like to hit Mt Rushmore and head through Yellowstone and ending in SLC, UT seeing as much as we can along the way. It is a long drive to get there, what would you suggest for places to stay and how best to see the most without exhausting my kids possibly? I will be heading back to MD after SLC but wont have as much time if you have any suggestions there as well?

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      That is a long drive…you are almost crossing the entire country. 😊 For places to stop along the way, visit our United States Travel Guide and click on the states you will be driving through for our posts. There are lots more stops along the way than what we have written about, but for the moment, this is the extent of the info that we have on our website. On the drive from Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone, I recommend visiting Devils Tower on the drive. On the drive from Yellowstone to SLC you can visit Grand Teton National Park. As far as where to stop along the way and what to do, that really depends on how much time you have for the entire road trip and what your interests are (if you want to see cities or spend more time in parks). If you have any more questions as you plan your road trip don’t hesitate to write in again. Cheers, Julie

  11. We just booked 14 days at Madison. We were there in 2019 for 10 and loved it so much. We pull a 20’ trailer from PA so it’s a long drive. Does anyone think this is too long of a stay. We just could not get enough of the park and Grand Tetons. Thanks for reading!

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      If you love Yellowstone, then I think it sounds great. You have plenty of time to day trip to other nearby spots. One place that sounds great are the St. Anthony Sand Dunes in Idaho. Cheers, Julie

  12. Hi,

    We are looking at coming to Yellowstone mid-October and would have 3 full days there. Is this a reasonable time to travel for our visit there? And any lodging recommendations for a family with children?

    Thank you!

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      Yes, mid-October is still a good time to visit Yellowstone. Crowds should be quieting down. It will be getting cold and there is a slight chance it could actually snow. Last year, we spent one day in Yellowstone towards the end of September…it was chilly but crowds were lighter than the summer months. If you can get lodging at Grand Canyon Village or Old Faithful, these are the most conveniently located villages within the park. West Yellowstone is a great option outside of the park, followed by Gardiner. For recommendations on where to stay in these places, check out our Where to Stay in Yellowstone guide. In Gardiner, we really liked the Yellowstone Gateway Inn. Cheers, Julie

  13. Hi!

    Looking at the two day Yellowstone Itinerary.. we will be coming in from Bozeman super early that morning. Was planning on coming in through the North Entrance – full day in the park. Staying in West Yellowstone that night, entering through the West entrance for the second full day. We would leave through the South Entrance and are staying in Moran before heading to Grand Teton the following morning.

    Any suggestions for those two days in Yellowstone.. trying to figure out the best way to get the most in those two days!

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      Here is how I recommend you plan your time.

      On day 1, visit the Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin (parking could be challenging midday, but you will have this issue at any place in Yellowstone midday, unfortunately), then Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. If you did great on time, end with Hayden Valley. If it is getting late in the day, go right to West Yellowstone after the Grand Canyon.

      On day 2, visit Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin, back track to Grand Prismatic Spring and Midway Geyser Basin (it’s busy but the lighting is best midday), then visit West Thumb Geyser Basin (optional). If you didn’t do Hayden Valley on day 1, you have the option to do it now, before driving to Moran.

      On day 1, try to get to Yellowstone as early as possible, to avoid lines at the north entrance. I hope you have a great time in Yellowstone and Grand Teton!

      Cheers, Julie

  14. Hi Julie.
    We have already booked reservations in Jackson Hole, so can’t stay in another location. We can, though, use two days to see things (maybe even 3). Do you suggest still using your one day from Grand Teton itinerary but stopping midway and picking up on a second day?
    Thank you. I’ve been struggling to k is how to see everything!

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  15. Great article !
    Couple of Quick questions:
    1) If I land in Jackson Hole mid-day and want to stay at West Yellowstone – On my drive to West Y’stone, do i do part of the Day 1 itinerary that you’ve posted above? Or do i just check in to the hotel that day and do something local and then start off fresh next day AM with the Day 1 itinerary?
    2) I am thinking of doing 3 days total at Y’stone (so do you recommend 2 nights stay at West Y’stone and 1 night at Gardiner?) and 2 days total at Grand Teton (on way back from Y’stone) – and then fly out of Jackson hole for a total trip of 5-6 days or so.

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      If you have 5 to 6 days for this area, including Grand Teton, here is what I would recommend. On day 1, since you are arriving midday, either spend time exploring Jackson OR go hiking in GTNP the afternoon, once crowds die down. I recommend Taggart and Bradley Lakes, Phelps Lake, or even the Jenny Lake + Hidden Falls + Inspiration Point combo. On day 2, follow our one day GTNP itinerary. Then, on day 3, follow the first 2 to 3 days of this itinerary. Then return to Jackson and fly home on the last day. 2 days in Yellowstone makes this 5 days and 3 days in Yellowstone makes your itinerary 6 days. You only need to stay in West Yellowstone if you do the 2 day itinerary. If you do the 3 day, you could stay in Gardiner the last night but West Yellowstone is fine, too, and you will have a shorter drive back to Jackson. Cheers, Julie

      1. Thanks so much, Julie !
        So if i understand this correctly, you are saying:
        Day 1 – Land in Jackson hole, check into a local hotel there or in GTNP area and do a hike in GTNP.
        Day 2 – Do the 1 day itinerary of GTNP, stay that night in GTNP area
        Day 3 – Check out of GTNP area hotel, do the Day 1 part of 3 day itinerary, stay at Gardiner?
        Day 4 – Do the Day 2 part of 3 day, stay at Gardiner?
        Day 5 – Do the Day 3 part of 3 day, stay at Gardiner?
        Day 6 – Check out and drive back to Jackson Hole and fly out on a afternoon flight?

        Does this look right? (There’s not that much accommodation available in West Yellowstone, so i might have to avoid that area)

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          Yes, that is great! Gardiner works, you will have some extra driving, but it will still work fine. I hope you have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

          1. Thanks Julie !
            BTW how far into Cascade canyon did you go after you reached inspiration point. I am thinking – I will be at the boat around 4pm, so will be at inspiration point at maybe 5pm ish? (and the last boat is at 7pm)

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            I have hiked the entire distance of Cascade Canyon (doing it as a loop with Paintbrush Canyon). If you hike fast, you can get a very nice view of Cascade Canyon, and if you’re lucky, spot some moose, if you hike 1 to 1.5 miles past Inspiration Point. If you can fit this in, it will be wonderful. Cheers, Julie

          3. Just came back from my trip – your suggestions were spot on and i followed it to the T 🙂 Great trip overall and the suggestion to try some spots after 4-4.30pm was epic !

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  16. It is nice to read this kind of blogs. It inspires me to travel more when the pandemic ends. Those travel Bloggers/Vloggers also give some tips on travelling. Someday I might use the tips. Great choices.

  17. We are planning to fly into one of the regional airports (WYS or Cody or JAC) to get as close to the park as possible. However, looking at the car rental, it’s almost impossible or shows about 6K per week! OMG!
    Is there any suggestions on renting a car within or around the YNP area (or is it better to fly to SLC – just for the car rental). I would like to save 10 hours of round-trip driving time.
    I am so confused…

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      The rental car situation is nuts this summer…not just in Wyoming but in many other places in the US. Your best bet is to look into renting from a larger facility, such as Salt Lake City airport. It’s a longer drive to get to Yellowstone and Grand Teton, but it is a pretty drive. We typically fly into SLC when we visit Yellowstone, simply because we can cheap, direct flights and have lots of rental car options. Another place to check is Bozeman but people have been saying that rental cars are scarce here too, currently. Hopefully you will have better luck with SLC. Cheers, Julie

  18. All the information is very valuable, thank you very much! I have a plan to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton. I’m especially interested in wildlife. My plan (for the moment, since I’m permanently modifying it!) Is to enter Yellowstone through Cooke City (my previous destination is Moab) to visit Lamar Valley at the best times for wildlife, and the rest of the northern region. Then I would follow the itinerary similar to the one you suggest for 3 days, with one day for the geysers and another day for Canyon, Fishing Bridge and, of course, Hayden Valley, with an eye on wildlife. Then a day or a day and a half in Grand Teton. The big question is: for some reason is it better to start this 4-day circuit in the south, that is, first GT and finally Lammar Valley? Or … as I have planned, starting with Lamar and ending in GT? I can’t see which one is better, Thank you very much!

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      If you are coming from Moab, the quickest way to drive to Yellowstone is from the south, through Salt Lake City, then up through Idaho. To save yourself a lot of time, this is the route that I recommend. And in this case, visit Grand Teton first and then Yellowstone. Take a look at our Grand Teton Yellowstone Glacier itinerary. You could follow the first 6 days of this itinerary. It gives you a day and a half in Grand Teton and then three and a half days in Yellowstone. You can modify the Yellowstone part of the itinerary to maximize your time in Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley for wildlife viewing.

      If you still prefer the idea of coming in through Cooke City, just know that it is a longer drive from Moab (about 3 hours longer and you will still drive through SLC and Idaho).

      Cheers, Julie

      1. Thank you. Actually, my plan was (so far): LA, Sedona, Moab, Cooke City (by WY, not by Idaho or SLC, I find it interesting for example the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway), Yellowstone, GT, Bryce Canyon, LA. It’s a loop trip, I need to start in LA and go back to LA. Will Idaho be more interesting (or beautiful?) Than WY, from Cody to the north?

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          Ok, now that I know about your loop, your order makes a lot more sense. 😊 I have not driven either route…through Wyoming or through Idaho. However, my mother spent a week in Cody and loved it, and I have heard great things about Cody. I have also heard rave reviews about Beartooth Highway, which is near Cooke City. So, keep your original plan…it will be a longer drive but most likely more scenic. So, answering your original question, your plan sounds great to start with Lamar Valley and north Yellowstone and then to travel through to Grand Teton.

          What an epic road trip you have planned! Feel free to write in with more questions as you plan your trip. We also have lots of info on Sedona and Arches and Canyonlands in Moab. Cheers, Julie

          1. Thank you very much, when I finish planning the trip in detail I will send you to know your opinion! One last detail …. we will travel from Argentina (if the pandemic allows it !!). In 2019 we already took a trip to the west: LA, GC, Monument Valley, Bryce, Zion, Death Valley, Yosemite, SF, Big Sur, LA. In 16 days! and it was fantastic !! By the way, sorry for the problems you had in Mendoza to cross to Chile, but I’m glad that you liked the Andes mountains so much!

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            Yes, that was quite the experience, with the long border crossing and Kara getting sick. We only spent a few days in Argentina but they were wonderful and we definitely plan to return someday. Maybe I will write to you for advice. 😊 I look forward to seeing your finalized itinerary. Cheers, Julie

  19. Thank you so much for this great information! What time would you recommend arriving in the morning? Is there a max # of visitors that the park will allow each day, then will “close” and not allow any more visitors in that day?

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      If you don’t mind the early start, we try to get through the park entrance gate by 7 am. I know that’s very early but it allows us to visit the first one or two sights relatively crowd free (and parking is super easy). To avoid sitting in line at an entrance gate, I recommend getting in no later than 8 am. There is no limit on the number of daily visitors. Some national parks have instituted timed entry permits or ticketing systems but Yellowstone does not have this. So, no worries about being turned away midday…just expect jam packed parking lots and lots of people between 10 am and 4 pm. Cheers, Julie

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