YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
“The wildest geysers in the world, in bright, triumphant bands, are dancing and singing in it…
Amid thousands of boiling springs, beautiful and awful, their basins arrayed in gorgeous colors like gigantic flowers; and hot paint-pots, mud springs, mud volcanoes, mush and broth caldrons whose contents are of every color and consistency, plash and heave and roar in bewildering abundance.”
— JOHN MUIR (FULL ACCOUNT HERE)
Welcome to the Ultimate Yellowstone Trip Planning Guide
Sitting on top of the largest supervolcano on the planet, the features in Yellowstone National Park are almost other-worldly. Steam hisses and roars out of the rocks and water bubbles and spurts from the ground.
Yellowstone made history when it was set aside as the world’s first national park, and now it’s your turn to experience this enchanting place — it’s your turn to be a part of its story.
What It’s Famous For: Geysers and hot pools that bubble and spew.
Highest Elevation You Can Reach by Road: 8,873 feet above sea level (Dunraven Pass)
Established: March 1, 1872 — this is national park #1
Size: 2.2 million acres — the 2nd largest park in the contiguous U.S.
Crowd Levels: High, with around 4.1 million visitors each year — this is the 6th busiest national park.
COMMON YELLOWSTONE TRIP PLANNING QUESTIONS
Where is Yellowstone, and how do I get there?
Yellowstone is in Northwestern Wyoming, about 1.5 hours from Bozeman, 1.5 hours from Jackson, and 4.5 hours from Salt Lake City.
I suggest flying into Bozeman or driving along Highway 212 or Highway 89. In this article, I share details about the best airports and roads in the area.
Is Yellowstone open year-round?
Yellowstone is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to do everything you’re hoping to do.
Learn more about the weather, hours, and common closures that may affect your trip to the park.
How many days should I spend in Yellowstone?
You’ll want at least three full days in Yellowstone, but if you have four, you’ll get to see a lot more!
See my recommendations for the amount of time to spend in the park, as well as how to split your time between multiple parks.
When is the best time to visit Yellowstone?
If you’re just getting started with your Yellowstone trip-planning, but are unsure of the best time to go, I’ve got you covered!
When choosing the best time to visit Yellowstone, you’ll want to consider things like the weather, what’s open, and crowds.
Here are my suggestions if you’re hoping to:
- Beat the crowds: mid-late May or September
- Travel during the summer: June
- See lots of wildlife: mid-late May or September
- Go backpacking: July or August
- Save money: May, September, or October
- Have a unique adventure: January or February
This article provides a month-by-month breakdown of what to expect in Yellowstone — including information on weather, closures, crowds, and which points of interest will be open.
THINGS TO DO IN YELLOWSTONE
12 Things You Can’t Miss on Your First Visit
This popular article outlines each can’t-miss spot in detail. You’ll learn about the important things you need to know about each stop, and driving directions are included.
The Best Things to Do In Yellowstone:
IF YOU LOVE RANGER PROGRAMS
- Wildlife talks
- Evening campfire programs
- Geyser walks
- Snowshoeing or cross-country skiing
- Snowcoach tour
- Wolf viewing
IF YOU DON’T WANT TO HIKE
- Geyser boardwalks
- Horseback riding
- Scenic drives
IN A WHEELCHAIR
- Morning Glory Pool
- North Rim Trail
- Geyser boardwalks
This massive list of things to do in Yellowstone will cover the travel needs of your entire group.
In addition to the items mentioned above, it also includes high adventure activities, things to do with a dog, biking, things to do with kids, best hikes, and more. There’s something for everyone!
The Best Easy Hikes
Looking for good beginner-friendly, kid-friendly, or wheelchair-friendly trail options? This list details the best hikes in Yellowstone.
Learn about all the places you can bring your dog in and around Yellowstone.
Yellowstone has many spectacular waterfalls, but here are six that you can drive to — no hiking required!
Bear Safety 101
Yellowstone is bear country, so be sure to read up on best practices for avoiding bears, reacting to bears, and using bear spray!
Do you LOVE to have a plan while traveling?
You’ve probably been spending a lot of time and money to make your trip possible. But don’t forget about the most important part — the day-to-day details!
When you get to Yellowstone, will you have all the information you need to confidently navigate around the park and avoid the crowds?
This hour-by-hour itinerary will make sure you see the best of the park — no more research needed!
LODGING IN YELLOWSTONE
Where Should I Stay?
This article provides information on the gateway towns and lodging options in the area.
All About Camping
Learn all about the campgrounds in the park and how to snag a site.
GETTING AROUND THE PARK
You can drive to all viewpoint and trailhead parking areas with your own car, but be advised that traffic jams are common! If you’d like some help planning your day so that you can get parking without having to circle parking lots, take a look at this itinerary.
Yellowstone is very popular for tour buses and RVs, so if you are in an oversized vehicle, you will find big enough parking spots at many points of interest. In the middle of the day, it may be nearly impossible to find parking in these parking lots with a big vehicle, so definitely pack your patience!
As you do your Yellowstone trip-planning, take a look at this list of the major parking lots to see how many oversized parking spots are in each lot.
Planning a trip to Yellowstone can be overwhelming.
How do you make a solid plan if you’ve never been to the park before? How do you keep everyone in your group excited and engaged?
You can spend hours on the internet searching for things to do, but you still won’t find the insider tips and first-hand knowledge that I’ve gained from working as a park ranger.
If you’re hoping to see the best sights without getting stuck in traffic, circling parking lots, or being surrounded by people, check out this Yellowstone Itinerary.
You will see all of the can’t-miss spots, plus get lodging and dining guides, driving directions, and insider tips!
Thanks for using the Ultimate Yellowstone Trip Planning Guide
You may also be interested in one of these nearby national parks:
Disclosure: This Yellowstone Trip Planning Guide may contain affiliate links, which means that (at no extra cost to you) I receive a small compensation if you make a purchase. I don’t recommend anything that I don’t personally love and use myself! Thanks for your support. — Ash