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!

Use this Yellowstone visitors guide to get all the information you need to have an amazing trip to the national park. 

Yellowstone Travel Guide

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Yellowstone Travel Guide

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


Yellowstone Accommodations Guide
Yellowstone Dining Guide
Yellowstone Wildlife Checklist

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.

Get a 1-day, 2-day, 3-day, or 4-day itinerary for Yellowstone National Park here 

How to Visit Yellowstone in Winter

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. 


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 To Do

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. 


Best Yellowstone Waterfalls

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. 


The Best Yellowstone Scenic Drives

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.


A herd of bison with trees in background in The Yellowstone Lamar Valley Drive

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


Best Tours of Yellowstone National Park

Where to Stay In/ Near Yellowstone National Park 

Places To Stay Near Yellowstone

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

Best airbnbs near yellowstone national park

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.


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

Yellowstone Camping

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


How to Get to Yellowstone National Park

River surrounded by trees and green fields and behind mountains with the texts that say 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.


The Best Airports for Yellowstone National Park

Best Airport for Yellowstone photo of colored canyon

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. 


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. 

best time to visit yellowstone

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


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.

How Long to Spend in Yellowstone National Park

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. 


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.

Best Yellowstone Hikes

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. 


Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook Trail

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. 


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: 

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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. 

Best Books About Yellowstone National Park

Round out your Yellowstone planning guide with a reading list.

Best Books About Yellowstone

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.  


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Yellowstone Travel Guide

About the author

James Ian Yosemite

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.

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