Yellowstone National Park Guide

Yellowstone National Park is not only the first national park in the United States, it is also one of the best national parks in the United States.

The park has incredible variety. It’s a geothermal hot spot, and you can see erupting geysers like Old Faithful, bubbling mud pots, boiling cauldrons, and fantastical brightly colored hot springs. There is also a large lake for watersports, thundering waterfalls and a deep canyon, and some of the best wildlife viewing in the country. This is THE place to see bison in the wild!


Yellowstone National Park Travel Guide

Navigate this Yellowstone visitors guide by clicking on the articles below to read in-depth information about each aspect of Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park at a Glance

State: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Main attractions: Geysers, colored pools/ hot springs, other geothermal features, lake, wildlife, canyon, waterfalls
Shuttle: None


Itineraries for Yellowstone National Park

*** Available for purchase ***

These are not your average blogger itineraries, which tend to be short summaries of things that they did on their one visit there. These itineraries are all about YOU and helping you have the best time.

They will take away the overwhelm that often accompanies planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park. They’re a combination detailed hour-by-hour itinerary (with options for different activity levels), guidebook, hiking guide, driving directions, travel tips, and more. You’ll need nothing else to plan your trip – it’s all done for you (but you still have choices).

One-day, two-day, three-day or four-day detailed itineraries for Yellowstone National Park available for purchase. 

EXCLUSIVE BONUS CONTENT WITH YELLOWSTONE ITINERARIES

Yellowstone Accommodations Guide
Yellowstone Dining Guide
Yellowstone Wildlife Checklist

Yellowstone National Park Guide

Please note this post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at zero cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full Disclosure for more information. If you have any questions, please contact me.

How to Plan a Trip to Yellowstone National Park  

Planning a Trip to Yellowstone National Park can be overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be.  Use this Yellowstone National Park travel guide to help plan your trip.   Click on the links below to go to detailed guides and find answers to your questions.  

If you’re visiting Yellowstone in winter, be sure to read this guide.  It has everything you need to know for your winter trip, including road closures, activities to do, oversnow travel options, where to stay, and exactly what to expect. 

Read More: HOW TO VISIT YELLOWSTONE IN WINTER

This guide is different. Here are 7 big mistakes to avoid when planning your Yellowstone National Park trip.

Read More: 7 MISTAKES TO AVOID IN YELLOWSTONE


Entrance Fee for Yellowstone National Park 

There is an entrance fee to get into Yellowstone.  Find the latest fees on the NPS website.    

To avoid long lines and save money, if you are planning to visit more than just Yellowstone this year, it can be great value to purchase an America The Beautiful pass.   

The one-year pass includes standard entrance at all sites managed by the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers. It covers the entrance fee for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle or up to 4 adults at sites that charge per person.

Get an America The Beautiful pass here


Yellowstone Park Entrances 

There are five entrances to Yellowstone National Park:   

  1. North Entrance. This is just outside Gardiner and is convenient if you fly into Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN). The entrance is open to regular vehicular all year and can be used for oversnow travel in winter. 
  2. Northeast Entrance. This is next to Cooke City/ Silver Gate and is accessed from the east over the scenic Beartooth highway.  The entrance is open all year, but the only access from the road the east, the Beartooth Highway, is closed in winter. 
  3. West Entrance. The main gateway town here is West Yellowstone, where there is a seasonal regional airport and easy access from the west. The entrance is open for oversnow travel only in winter.
  4. Southeast Entrance.  The nearest town is Cody.  Easy access for points to the east and southeast.  The entrance is open for oversnow travel only in winter.
  5. South Entrance. This is the main entrance used for travel between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, which is just eight miles south of Yellowstone.  The entrance is open for oversnow travel only in winter.

Yellowstone Visitor Centers  

There are several visitor centers throughout the park.  For details, addresses, and opening hours, visit the NPS website.   


Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park 

Yellowstone is large, with incredible diversity, so there is plenty to do.  For a comprehensive list of activities in the warmer months, check out my guide featuring 21 amazing things to do in Yellowstone National Park. 

Read More: BEST THINGS TO DO IN YELLOWSTONE

There are around 300 waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park, from the incredible Lower Yellowstone Falls – nearly twice as high as Niagara Falls – to smaller cascades like Lewis Falls. This guide has details on the top ten waterfalls in the park. 

Read More: BEST WATERFALLS IN YELLOWSTONE 

There are several distinct sections to Yellowstone National Park, each with their own attractions.  They are connected by roads that form a Figure ‘8’ – the Grand Loop Drive.

Read More: GUIDE TO YELLOWSTONE SCENIC DRIVES

Lamar Valley, often called “America’s Serengeti”, is home to wolf packs, bison herds, bears, and much more.

Read More: GUIDE TO LAMAR VALLEY SCENIC DRIVE


Hikes in Yellowstone National Park

Hikes in Yellowstone range from short, easy walks on flat boardwalks to much longer hikes out into the backcountry.

Discover all the best hikes you can do – including hikes to see waterfalls, for wildlife, and in and around the canyon. This guide includes trail details so you can choose hikes to suit your interest and comfort level. 

Read More: BEST HIKES IN YELLOWSTONE

Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the US. Its bright colors are best seen from an overlook reached along a short trail.  Get full trail details and descriptions in this detailed guide. 

Read More: GRAND PRISMATIC SPRING OVERLOOK TRAIL


Best Tours of Yellowstone National Park


Where to Stay Near Yellowstone National Park 

There are gateway towns at or near each of the entrances. 

If you’d prefer to stay in a house, cabin or apartment, my guide to the best vacation rentals in West Yellowstone and Gardiner has some top pick suggestions.

Read More: BEST RENTALS NEAR YELLOWSTONE


Places To Stay Inside Yellowstone National Park 

There are several lodges and several campgrounds inside the park.   

Find details of all the lodges inside Yellowstone National Park here

This guide gives full details on all of the campgrounds inside Yellowstone National Park. 

Read More: CAMPING IN YELLOWSTONE 


How to Get to Yellowstone National Park

Whether you want to fly, drive, take a tour, catch a bus or even take the train, you will need to know how to get to the national park.

Read More: HOW TO GET TO YELLOWSTONE


The Best Airports for Yellowstone National Park

With five entrances, there are plenty of options to enter and exit the park, and therefore plenty of airports you can use. This guide goes over all of the options and gives you tips on which ones are best for your trip. 

Read More: BEST AIRPORTS FOR YELLOWSTONE

If you’re looking for flights, use Skyscanner to scan the Internet for the cheapest deals.  


How to Get Around Yellowstone National Park 

Once you’re there, the easiest way to get around Yellowstone National Park is by car.  You’ll need your own vehicle or to rent a car at the airport.  You can find a rental car here

The other option is to get a taxi from the airport in West Yellowstone and then take a tour from there to the park.    


When to Visit Yellowstone National Park

In general, the best time to go to Yellowstone National Park is early September.  Most things are still open, the crowds have thinned out, and the fall color is starting to pop (though it can randomly snow even then!).  However, this isn’t the only good time to go. 

Read the quick summary of the best times to visit Yellowstone National Park so you can make the right decision.

Read More: BEST TIME TO VISIT YELLOWSTONE

Read detailed information on every season, so you can make the most informed decision for your own trip. 

Read More: VISITING YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK THROUGHOUT THE YEAR


How Long to Spend in Yellowstone National Park 

How many days you should spend in Yellowstone depends on a number factors including how much time you have available, your budget, and your interests.  I recommend at least four days to see the park’s highlights.

If you have less or more time, and want to see what you can realistically expect to see and do in that time, this guide has a breakdown for you. 

Read More: HOW LONG TO SPEND IN YELLOWSTONE


Travel Insurance for Yellowstone National Park 

A Yellowstone National Park visitor guide wouldn’t be complete without travel insurance.  Protect yourself against trip cancellation, loss or theft of your property or any medical emergencies. 

A great insurance option is Travelex.  It has coverage for all you’ll need. You can choose the best travel insurance plan for your trip here or get a quote right now: 

728x90 Get Quote

Travel Tips for Yellowstone National Park

My top three tip for visiting Yellowstone are: 

  1. Stay away from the animals and stay on the boardwalks!  People die in Yellowstone because they ignore warnings. Boardwalks are built over scalding hot water that will burn your flesh away. Bison gore tourists who get to close almost every year. The NPS guidelines are to stay at least 100 yards (91m) from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards (23m) from elk, bison, moose, and other animals. 
  2. Have a plan.  Avoid spending your vacation driving around parking lots looking for a space to park.  Get one of my detailed itineraries – they tell you when and where to go to have the least chance of getting caught in traffic, and the best chance of being in the right place at the right time to enjoy the geysers, waterfalls, canyon, hot springs, etc., take the best photos, and see wildlife. Get the 1-, 2-, and 3-day itineraries here
  3. Get an early start and stay late. This is the best way to beat the crowds, see wildlife, and have the best light for photos.  Tour buses leave by late afternoon, and this is also when light is great for photos. 

Packing for Yellowstone

Make sure you pack everything you need, get what you don’t and download a free packing checklist.

Read More: YELLOWSTONE PACKING CHECKLIST


Books About Yellowstone National Park

Round out your Yellowstone planning guide with a reading list.

Learn about Yellowstone before you go; immerse yourself with reading material while you’re there; and/ or keep your memories alive after your trip.  This reading list includes interesting tales, information, novels, and picture books.  

Read More: BEST BOOKS ABOUT YELLOWSTONE



To save this Yellowstone guide for later, Pin It to your National Parks board:

Yellowstone Travel Guide

About the author

James Ian Yosemite

James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.

He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and most of the national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks. 

Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.

As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including USA Today, Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.

Read more…