Yellowstone Travel 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!
Use this Yellowstone visitors guide to get all the information you need to have an amazing trip to the national park.
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Yellowstone National Park at a Glance
- State: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
- Main attractions: Geysers, colored pools/ hot springs, other geothermal features, lake, wildlife, canyon, waterfalls
- Fun Facts:
- Yellowstone is the first national park in the USA – and the entire world. It became a national park on March 1, 1872.
- The national park is a supervolcano. It has had three “supereruptions” in the last 2 million years – one 2 million years ago, another 1.2 million years ago, and a third around 630,000 years ago.
- Yellowstone is home to half the world’s hydrothermal features. Look for geysers, mudpots, fumeroles (steam vents), and hot springs.
- Yellowstone National Park is often nicknamed “America’s Serengeti”. It has the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states (67 species).
Itineraries for Yellowstone National Park
Get a one-day, two-day, three-day or four-day detailed itinerary for Yellowstone National Park.
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Yellowstone National Park Guide
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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.
The best option to take away the overwhelm is to pick up a detailed itinerary. I have done all the heavy lifting for you. Choose from one, two, three, or four days.
Each itinerary is filled with detailed driving directions and maps, hiking descriptions and trail maps, and hour-by-hour suggestions of what to do and where to go to avoid spending your precious vacation time driving around parking lots or competing with crowds on the trails.
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
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.
Yellowstone Park Entrances
There are five entrances to Yellowstone National Park:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Where to Stay In/ Near Yellowstone National Park
Places To Stay Near Yellowstone
There are gateway towns at or near each of the entrances.
- West Yellowstone (West Entrance): Find accommodations in West Yellowstone here
- Gardiner (North Entrance): Find accommodations in Gardiner here
- Cooke City/ Silver Gate (Northeast Entrance): Find accommodations in Cooke City here
- Cody (Southeast Entrance): Find accommodations in Cody here
- Jackson (South Entrance): Find accommodations in Jackson here
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
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.
The Best Time 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 detailed information on every season, so you can make the most informed decision for your own trip.
Read More: BEST TIME TO VISIT YELLOWSTONE
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
Best 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
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 World Nomads. It includes coverage for regular hiking trails. You can book it here or get a quote right here:
Travel Tips for Yellowstone National Park
My top three tip for visiting Yellowstone are:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Best 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
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James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents. He has visited all of the main national parks in the United States, as well as many national monuments and state parks.
He has rafted through the Grand Canyon; rappelled down slot canyons near Zion and Arches; hiked among the hoodoos in Bryce and the enormous trees in Sequoia; admired the waterfalls in Yosemite and the colored hot springs in Yellowstone; seen moose in Grand Tetons and seals in the Channel Islands, and much more.