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 Arielle
    Arielle

    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?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      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

  2. Avatar for Jim
    Jim

    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!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      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

  3. Avatar for Lauren
    Lauren

    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!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      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

  4. Avatar for Molly
    Molly

    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!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      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

  5. Avatar for Ginna Ballard
    Ginna Ballard

    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!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
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  6. Avatar for Joe
    Joe

    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.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
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      Julie

      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. Avatar for Joe
        Joe

        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)

        1. Avatar for Julie Post
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          Julie

          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. Avatar for Joe
            Joe

            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)

          2. Avatar for Julie Post
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            Julie

            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. Avatar for Joe
            Joe

            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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  7. Avatar for Uzaik SOHAIL
    Uzaik SOHAIL

    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.

  8. Avatar for Philip
    Philip

    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…

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      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

  9. Avatar for Carlos Mariano Masariche
    Carlos Mariano Masariche

    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!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
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      Julie

      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. Avatar for Mariano
        Mariano

        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?

        1. Avatar for Julie Post
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          Julie

          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. Avatar for Mariano
            Mariano

            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!

          2. Avatar for Julie Post
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            Julie

            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

  10. Avatar for Carole Anne
    Carole Anne

    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?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
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      Julie

      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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