A YELLOWSTONE ITINERARY: 4 days of epic adventure (2023)

Post Summary: Best way to see Yellowstone in 4 days, including additional Yellowstone itinerary options for shorter and longer stays.

Trying to put together a Yellowstone itinerary and wondering where to start? There isso many things to considerwhenVisitando YellowstoneIt can quickly become overwhelming when planning your trip.

To save you some frustration and time, we've made a detailed guide about itHow to spend 4 days in Yellowstone. We draw a lot from our own adventures and mishaps after spending a week in the park. We want to help you navigate the pitfalls and give you our time-tested tips on the best way to see Yellowstone in 4 days.

We've also included suggested Yellowstone itineraries for 1 to 5 days in the park for anyone staying in the park for a shorter or longer stay.

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Yellowstone Itinerary 4 Days Table of Contents show

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Yellowstone National Park travel guide

Before we dive into the 4-day Yellowstone itinerary, let's take a moment to talk about all the essentials for planning a Yellowstone vacation. Questions like… when is the best time to go to Yellowstone, where is the best place to stay in Yellowstone, what is the best entrance to the park and how do I get there?

I'm going to briefly answer some of those questions, but I recommend that you read our detailed postplan a trip to Yellowstone. It contains detailed answers to all those questions and more, plus tips for avoiding the nefarious crowds. Yellowstone is colossal, and understanding the park before you go will make a world of difference in how much you can enjoy the park. Preparation is everything!

Best time to go to Yellowstone?

Our Yellowstone itinerary is best suited for the months of May through October when the park is most accessible. We visited at the end of August when the crowds were at their peak, but we never had a problem finding a quiet spot for ourselves. The middle months of June and September are considered wonderful times due to the pleasant weather and reduced crowds.

How many days to spend in Yellowstone?

Can you do Yellowstone in 2 days? Yes, but it wouldn't be our first choice. We've created a 4-day Yellowstone itinerary because that's enough time to visit all the highlights of the park with room to breathe and a bit of spontaneity. If you have more time and are a nature lover, spend as much time as your schedule and budget allow. Yellowstone is full of things to do and places to explore. we travel toYellowstone with a toddler, so we spent seven days in the park to have time to move as slowly as necessary.

Where to stay in Yellowstone

Due to its enormous size, it is best to stay within the park. It's a good idea to stay in two different areas of the park to cut down on driving time and sleep.

One option is to locate yourselfOld Faithful Lodge of accommodatiejHotel Mammoth Springs. Located at opposite ends of the park, you can cover both the upper and lower loops of Yellowstone. If you don't want to stay in two different places, the best option is to stay at Canyon Lodge, the most central and most modern hotel. You will find rates and availability for all hotelsis here in the park.

Camping in the park is also a great way to adventure and save money. We did itcar camping with toddlerand I loved it! You can learn more about itcamps in the park here.we stay insidemadisonjbridge bay campand we had a great time.

PROFESSIONAL ADVICE: Spending the night in the park is VERY popular. Reservations open a year in advance and all the good spots fill up quickly. If you know you're going to travel to Yellowstone,book your hotel now.

If you have waited too long and can't get a room or park, accommodation is too expensive (it's pretty expensive guys), find a rental house throughSAUCE(means vacation rental by the owner) or a hotel near the north or west entrance is the way to go. Check out our guide10 amazing rental properties near Yellowstone for every budget.

How do you get to Yellowstone?

If you are flying into Yellowstone, the nearest airport in Jackson, Wyoming is at Jackson Hole Airport. The airport is expensive, so most people choose to fly into Salt Lake City because of the cheaper flight options and easier flights. The drive from Salt Lake City to the entrance to West Yellowstone takes about five hours.

Okay, now let's dive into the itinerary. If you have more questions about planning a trip to Yellowstone and would like more detailed answers to the questions above, be sure to check out ourYellowstone travel planning post.

Yellowstone National Park Itinerary: 4 Day Adventure

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I've structured the Yellowstone itinerary so that each day focuses on one area of ​​the park. The map above shows that Yellowstone has a main street in the shape of a wavy number 8 calledThe big loop.The map also shows estimated driving times for different sections of the road.

These are general estimates and you may be able to shorten the estimated driving time in the image. However, Yellowstone is unpredictable and road closures and animal traffic jams often lead to traffic jams. We visited the park and experienced road closures due to fire, roadworks and an overturned fuel truck accident. Believe it or not, events like this are NOT uncommon. When it comes to Yellowstone, hope for the best...but try not to get too upset if things don't go your way!

I've also included the best hotels and areas to find yourself outdoors. These are just suggestions and will not suit everyone's unique travel situation. This Yellowstone itinerary can be easily reversed and mixed to suit your needs.

Day 1: Yellowstone Itinerary

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Geysers and hot springs and fumaroles, oh!

Yellowstone National Park is known for being on top of a supervolcano, making it one of the most fascinating geothermal sites in the world. Today... all that science will drive you crazy. If you want to learn what the heck a fumarole is, download the official Yellowstone National Park app for easy-to-understand answers and background information on what you're about to visit.

The best place to stay:
within the park:Old faithful inn,Hotel Lago Yellowstone, oCanyon Lodge
out of the park: VRBO 2 bedroom House:burnt holeo 3 bedroom VRBO home:main house of the family

PRO TIP: The best way to avoid the crowds is to start your day early. I would like to sit in your car and drive at 7:30am. M. I KNOW! That seems so early. These beautiful sights can quickly become not so beautiful if you share space on a small boardwalk with hundreds of people. You won't regret seeing Yellowstone at 7am. M. when it is cold outside and the steam coming from the hot springs is even more pronounced. It's magic.

MORNING:Get up early to beat the crowds and head to theOld faithfulto see the park's most famous geyser. While most geysers are somewhat difficult to predict, Old Faithful reliably starts about every 92 minutes. Then take theUpper geyser basin to curllocated behind the Old Faithful Educational Visitor Center to see a variety of hot springs, additional geysers and fumaroles. This easy 3-mile loop is a great introduction to Yellowstone's geothermal features. Be sure to check geyser forecast times on the Yellowstone app or at the visitor center so you can time your hike and see potential geyser eruptions. (2 to 4 hours)

Optional: Another fun way to see the Old Faithful eruption is to look down from above. An easy 1.5 mile walk toObservation pointGives you a great view of Old Faithful. While not entirely uncommon, this vantage point usually has fewer people than below.

A:Go tolarge prismatic fountainto see the third largest hot spring in the world. Located inHalfway through the Geyser Basin, you can view Grand Prismatic from above or from ground level. I think it's better to view it from above, but it does require some walking uphill, so viewing it from below is a great option for anyone with less mobility. It's worth noting that the Grand Prismatic boardwalks have no railings, so I didn't approach them with my accident-prone toddler. If you have a young one, get onestrolleror stroller for your peace of mind. To watch from the boardwalks, park at the Midway Geyser Basin.

To see from above, drive 1 mile south of Midway Geyser Basin to park in the Fairy Falls Trail parking lot. You will take a moderate 1.2 mile uphill hike to the observation deck. We recommend continuing from the viewpoint and the full hike tofairy chosen, a beautiful 200 foot waterfall. From the trailhead, the hike is 5 miles round trip. (1-3 hours)

Optional: If you want an even longer hike that offers more solitude, add 1.5 miles to your hike with an easy walk toGeyser Imperial.We like using the All Trails app for hiking maps. Download it before you leave and you can use it for directions.

GOOD TO KNOW: Grand Prismatic is popular and will be busy if you come in the summer months. While we recommend getting there early at other popular spots, Grand Prismatic looks best in full afternoon sunlight. If you visit in the early morning hours, you may not be able to see much of the hot springs due to cold Yellowstone mornings producing more steam.

AFTERNOON:For the afternoon, I'll give you three different options to choose from based on location and what you want to explore.

Option 1: Take the one-way road to the southFirehole Drive Canyon.On the way you stop at theFirehole-zwemgebiedto take a dip in the water or just sit and hang out in this luscious swimming hole. This is certainly not a secret place, so if it is summer it will be busy. There is no parking, so you will have to find a spot along the road. With rocks to climb and water to splash around in, it's worth parking! In the summer, the water temperature ranges from 70 to 80 degrees. Be sure to check before you go whether the swimming area is open. It is often closed due to unsafe swimming conditions. There are no lifeguards and like everything in the park you do this at your own risk. (1-3 hours)

Option 2:Go north from Midway Geyser Basin to theNorris Geyser Basinfor more geysers, hissing vents, and hot springs. Norris Geyser Basin consists of the Porcelain Basin and the Back Basin. If you are lucky you can see some geysers explode. (1.5 – 2 hours)

Option 3:Go southWest Thumb Geyser Basin.This beautiful basin is notable for its beautiful location next to Yellowstone Lake. We like to visit this basin and enjoy the beauty of the lake. Although not as big as the other pools, it was interesting to see the geysers bubbling up in the lake. (1 hour)

Day 2: Yellowstone Itinerary

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Canyons and waterfalls and lakes, oh my!

The best place to stay:
Inside the park: Old faithful inn,Hotel Lago Yellowstone, oCanyon Lodge
Outside the park:2 Bedroom VRBO Home:burnt holeo 3 bedroom VRBO home:main house of the family

PROFESSIONAL ADVICE: If you come in the summer, it is almost guaranteed that there will be crowds in the popular places. An easy way to find some peace and quiet is to go for a walk. Most Yellowstone visitors never venture beyond the viewpoints. We visited in August and NEVER had a problem finding a quiet spot for ourselves.

MORNING:Get up early again to see the amazingGrand Canyon of Yellowstone.Start at the South Rim, a round-trip trail that offers some of the best views of the falls. start takingUncle Tom's pathto the base of the Upper Falls. In reality, it is not so much a "trail" as 328 steps on a metal ladder. The reward is great at the bottom, but don't forget you have to get back up! If you are there at the right time, you can often see rainbows above the falls.

Then drive toartist pointfor one of the best views of the Lower Falls. A five minute walk from the car park, it's a great option for anyone not looking for a long walk or short on time. You can walk around, enjoy the view, take great pictures and move on to the next destination. If you enjoy walking, we recommend staying on Artist Point and theSublime points route. It's a 2.7 mile circular walk that takes you to a lookout point. To be honest, the best parts of the hike are at the start when you walk along the rim of the canyon and have some great views. If you are unable to do the whole walk, just do the beginning and turn around when you're done. With steep inclines and no handrails, we do not recommend this walk for young children (from toddlers to kindergarten) unless you use or hold them.

You then drive north to access theNorth Rim Unit. The North Rim Drive is a one-way drive with several canyon views and hikes. The best part of the North Rim is the short but tough descent to theEdge of the lower falls. Although it's only 0.7 miles long, it's a steep descent of switchbacks that takes you straight to the mouth of the falls. Going down isn't the problem; it was the walk that made us feel it in our legs! However, it is worth burning. Being so close to the falls is phenomenal. We highly recommend it!

From there you can drive the rest of the one-way street and stop atMirador,Nice view, and finally,inspiration point. They are all vantage points that offer different views of the canyon and waterfalls. If you're ready to move on at this point, it's fine to move on and get on with your day. If you still can't get enough, stop at each one to continue marveling at nature's works of art. Lookout Point is widely regarded as the best of the three.

North Rim Drive will take you straight to Canyon Village where you can refuel, grab lunch or grab a small bite to eat before heading out for the rest of the day.

A morning at Yellowstone's Grand Canyon should last about 3-4 hours, depending on how much you hike and sightsee. If you don't do any of the walks and only do the lookouts it can probably be done in 1-2 hours. If you can walk, we highly recommend!

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A:After exploring the Canyon, head south to pass through theValle de Hayden. The valley is a popular place for bison to congregate, and you'll often see large herds along the way. Even if you don't, it's a beautiful drive and well worth the effort to take in the spectacular scenery. On the other hand, it can be a lot, meaning you'll encounter bison traffic (from cars stopping to look at the bison or bison standing in the middle of the road).

If you see bison and want to see them, pull over to a safe spot on the side of the road (don't be the person causing the traffic!) and steer clear of the bison. Always abide by Yellowstone's rules of staying 25 yards from all animals and 100 yards from wolves and bears.

Continue south on Grand Loop Road and stop atmud volcanofor a fast ride. Many are hit or miss about this site. However, if you're still into all the science fun in Yellowstone, you'll probably enjoy a stop at Mud Volcano to see several features such assparkling sink,Smoothie Kettle, Black Dragon Kettle, jDragon's Mouth Lente. While some will be unimpressed by the boiling mud, others will be delighted by it.

Mud Volcano is most popular for places like Dragon's Mouth Spring, which hisses steam and belches loudly. It's a quick stop and can be done in 30 minutes.

AFTERNOON:For your second afternoon in Yellowstone, I'll give you a few options to consider.

OPTION 1:Drive to Fishing Bridge for one of the best hikes in Yellowstone,storm punt. This 2.3-mile hike is an easy loop but rewarding. When you come to a fork in the trail, we recommend turning right to go deeper into the Lodgepole Pine Forest. After a while, the trail opens up to the amazing shoreline of Yellowstone Lake. The walk can be done in less than an hour, or you can take your time to sit back and relax as we did. Bring onepicnic blanket like this oneand sit on the powder-white sand or wade in the icy waters. Keep your eyes peeled for marmots, bald eagles, pelicans, ducks and bison. Find obsidian in the sand and enjoy the largest high elevation lake in the US This was one of our favorite things we did in Yellowstone! Great way to get away from the crowds.

OPTION 2: If you are looking to relax and enjoy Yellowstone Lake without hiking, you can go to thefishing bridge area and find a place to park where you can enjoy the glory of Yellowstone Lake or the Yellowstone River. A great beach off the beaten trackSand Point.A 1/4 mile path through pine trees leads you to an obsidian sand beach. Bring a book, camp chairs, a fishing pole, or some snacks and end the day with a hike and enjoy Yellowstone Lake.

OPTION 3:If you didn't goWest Thumb Geyser Basinyesterday and you are curious to see it, you can drive there to check it out.

The end of day 2 is a good day to move to a new accommodation. Our recommendations for overnight stays for the night of day 2 can be found in our recommendations for day 3.

GOOD TO KNOW:Can you swim in Yellowstone Lake or other bodies of water? The short answer is yes; you can swim in the lake. The National Park Service at the Yellowstone site states that "if you choose to swim in Yellowstone lakes or rivers, you do so at your own risk." The park, howeverto adviseswimming in the lake or rivers as they are VERY cold currents and potentially dangerous. For further clarification I asked a park ranger and he told me I could swim anywhere I wanted. Then he pointed to a foam-filled pond and said he could go in there if he wanted to. (ERRR... no thanks). He said that unless it is explicitly stated that entry is not allowed, you are free to wade in the water and frolic. If you're curious, I waded and dove off the shore of Yellowstone Lake. It was very cold!

DAY 3: Yellowstone Itinerary

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Bison and bears and wolves, oh dear!

Today you will explore the other thing Yellowstone is famous for: wildlife. Yellowstone offers the opportunity to view black bears, grizzly bears, bison, wolves, elk, fox, coyotes, moose, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep in their natural habitat. Since you're visiting the animals in their home, you'll have to work a little harder to find them, but that's part of the fun!

The best place to stay:
Inside the park: giant hot springs
Outside the park:VRBO Budget Choice:view arc, VRBO three bedroom home:Logia de Yellowstone

MORNING:Get up early and drive to theLamar Valley,the top destination in the United States for spotting wolves and bears. If you're serious about wildlife viewing, you should be there at sunrise. If you're just serious, I recommend getting there in the morning, but you can aim to get there around 8:00. You can drive through the valley and stop at lookouts to see if you can spot any wildlife. You can also choose to get out of the car to explore and walk.

Here are some good hiking opportunities in the Lamar Valley:

trout lake: A beautiful 2-mile round trip hike that gains 150 feet in elevation, so while it's short, it's a moderate hike that will leave you feeling like you've worked your way up to it.
Slough Creek-pad:This trail is a historic wagon road that takes you to three different pastures. If you want a moderate hike, you can walk to the first meadow for a 3.4-mile circular walk. It is 4.3 miles (one way) to the second paddock and 5 miles (one way) to the third paddock.
Specimen Ridge Day-wandeling: A strenuous 3 mile round trip hike with beautiful views of the Lamar Valley.

When you get out of your car and go for a walk, it is ESSENTIAL to have bear spray with you. This is true if you are hiking in Yellowstone. Make sure you buy bear spray before you arrive and know how to use it. This is thebear spray we use. If you're going to be walking a lot, get the one with the holster. Believe me; it's much better than holding on. You can learn more about itbe safe here.

For a full list of everything you should bring to Yellowstone, including the best binoculars for wildlife viewing, check out our post on the essentials.Yellowstone Packing List.

Depending on whether you are hiking, I would allocate 1-3 hours for the Valley of Lamar.

A: Head west to see the Mammoth areagiant hot springs. Before reaching Mammoth, you can choose to stop atSpectrum Falls, an easy 0.6 mile hike to a 23 foot waterfall. Skip it and move on to Mammoth if you're short on time. The travertine landscape of Mammoth Hot Springs is perhaps Yellowstone's most unique geothermal sight. Dynamic colors and landforms make it seem like you're on another planet. It takes about an hour to explore the upper and lower promenades. The most popular view isminerva-lensbecause of the bright colors and intricate formations. After a walk on the boardwalks you can visit the small town of Mammoth and get some ice cream or try to spot the moose that often hang out at the visitor center.

AFTERNOON:To end the day, I'll give you some options to explore:

OPTION 1:End your day with a warm bath in theI laughed boilingversionThis is the only hot spring in Yellowstone that you are allowed to enter. Located near the park's north entrance, this heavenly retreat is the perfect way to end the evening. Parking is tight so you may have to park on the side of the road. Don't forget to order onepair of bathing shoes!

OPTION 2:If you can't reach itNorris Geyser BasinOn the first day you can choose to drive down and see the geyser basin.

DAY 4: Itinerary Yellowstone

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Hiking, exploring and relaxing, oh my!

BEST PLACE TO STAY:same as day 3

For your last day in Yellowstone, I'll give you a few options to consider. You've already done all the highlights of Yellowstone, so now you have the option to relax on your last day or take an epic hike. This last day is also a great day to revisit everything you missed from days 1-3 due to time constraints. Here are some fantastic options:

Hike to Mount Washburn: This famous hike is a strenuous 6-mile round trip hike. It offers 360 degree views at an elevation of 10,243 feet. It's a great place to see bighorn sheep and grizzly bears. Bring your bear spray.

Hike to Bunsen Peak: This 4.6-mile circular hike is a moderately strenuous hike with scenic views. On this amazing full-day hike, you'll get to see Mammoth Hot Springs, the Yellowstone River, and more. The last stretch is tough, but the reward is worth it.

Boating on Yellowstone Lake:Rent a boatat Bridge Bay Marina and spend a day on the water.

horse riding: Saddle up and experience Yellowstone on horseback.trips on horsebackThey usually last two hours.

Surprise yourself:This is perhaps my favorite option. Now that you've done the highlights and have a general understanding of the park's layout, get in your car and go explore! Have a nice drive and see where you're going. Try a scenic road like Firehole Lake Drive and see if it thrills you. Stop when you see beautiful scenery and enjoy. Set up a few camping chairs with a view of the Madison River and watch for bison or fly fishermen.

there are countlessOff the beaten gems in Yellowstoneto discover. So many times we drove down a random road and got dazed by the scenery around us. On our last day we found a beautiful spot and sat for hours walking by the river and eating tasty snacks. It remains one of my favorite Yellowstone memories.

That's our full 4-day Yellowstone itinerary! Read on for our suggestions on what to do with 1-5 days in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone-routes 1-5 dagen

Yellowstone 1 Day Itinerary

Many people visit the park on a National Park route that includes Glacier National Park and Grand Teton National Park. A day trip to Yellowstone is jam-packed, so it's best to hit a few highlights and revisit the park when you can.

If you only have one day in Yellowstone, here's our suggestion of what to see. The order can and should be adjusted according to your starting point.

Old Faithful + Upper Geyser Basin (2 horas)
Grand Prismatic the Overlook (1.5 hours)
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone - Drive both roads and visit Artists Point and Uncle Tom's Trail or Brink of the Lower Falls (1.5 to 2 hours)
Drive through Hayden Valley (1 hour)

*If your next road trip to Yellowstone is to Glacier NP, consider skipping the Grand Canyon and driving through Hayden Valley and instead head north where you visit Norris Hot Springs and Mammoth Hot Springs to explore via the north entrance of the park.

Yellowstone 2 Day Itinerary

If you have 2 days in Yellowstone I would give it a breather between Old Faithful Geyser/Grand Prismatic and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Old Faithful + upper geyser basin
Grand Prismatic Overlook en Fairy Falls-wandeling
Norris Geyser Basin
giant hot springs
boiling river

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Valle de Hayden
Caminata a storm point
West Thumb Geyser Basin

Yellowstone 3 Day Itinerary + Extra Days

If you have 3 days in Yellowstone I would follow our original 4 day Yellowstone itinerary above and leave on the 4th day. If you have even more time and are in Yellowstone for 5 days or more, I would consider adding some time to Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming. Grand Teton National Park may be a stone's throw from Yellowstone, but it is oneVery different National Park. It's worth a visit. A day or two in Teton NP is more than enough time.

Enjoy the first national park in the United States! We wish you a wonderful 4 days in Yellowstone National Park. If you have any other questions about planning your Yellowstone itinerary, let us know in the comments below.

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