Driving in Yellowstone: 10 Things You Need to Know - We're in the Rocky Mountains (2023)

10 Things NOT to Do When Driving in Yellowstone

It's one of the most common questions I get: How long does it take to get through Yellowstone?

Because Yellowstone is so large, planning a trip can be tricky. It's hard to know how to plan your days if you don't know how long it will take you to get anywhere.

You must have a car to see Yellowstone; there are no ferries. Yellowstone's Grand Loop Road can be thought of as a figure 8, or as an upper loop and a lower loop. Each loop takes approximately 2.5 hours to drive.shameStop. It's doable to spend a day on each loop and see the highlights of the park. There are many gas stations in the park, so it's very rare that you run out of gas.

But I've been getting a lot of questions from my viewers and readers on this topic, so keep reading as I'm going to cover the most important things you need to know!

There are 5 entrances to the park.

There are five entrances to Yellowstone. While over 90% of the park is in Wyoming, three of the entrances are in Montana.

All these entrances lead to theGreat bypass, where almost all of the park's main attractions are located.

  • Easily visit all major attractions with ourYellowstone Travel Guide. Bonus: It comes with a 3-hour audio guide to tell you the best stories and information about the park!

It takes some time to get to Grand Loop Road from the entrance. Here are the tickets and times (see links for details on each ticket):

Forbiddenenter cityTime from Gateway City to entranceTime for the Grand Loop
west Oeste de Yellowstone, MT0 minutes20 minutes
NorthGardiner, MT0 minutes10 mins
CertainlyJackson, WY1 hour +30-40 minutes
It isCody, WA1 hour30 minutes
northeastSilvergate, Montana5 minutes45 minutes
Driving in Yellowstone: 10 Things You Need to Know - We're in the Rocky Mountains (1)

It can take up to 7 hours to drive around Grand Loop Road

Yellowstone is the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. The Grand Loop winds 140 miles around Yellowstone. However, because Yellowstone is laid out in the shape of a figure 8, it's easy to break up your journey.

Two days for a quick trip to Yellowstone is doable; one day for the upper loop and one day for the lower loop. But if you want to take your time and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you and plan the detours you may encounter, we recommend allocating four days.

Driving in Yellowstone: 10 Things You Need to Know - We're in the Rocky Mountains (2)

HeUpper Loop takes about 2 hours to drive, not counting traffic jams or wildlife. The attractions in the Upper Loop aregiant hot springs, Tower Falls, elGrand Canyon of Yellowstone, jNorris Geyser Basin.

HeLower Loop is slightly larger and can be completed in 2 hours and 45 minutesexclusive time to see the attractions. There are quite a few attractions on the lower loop, including Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Lake, Hayden Valley, and theGrand Canyon of Yellowstone.

There are 4 main stops or intersections in the upper loop and 6 main stops in the lower loop. It's about 15-20 miles between each stop. In general, allow 30 minutes of driving time between major stops.

The size of the park is one of the most challenging aspects of visiting Yellowstone for beginners. that's exactly whywe make an itinerary for you, so you know how much you can see in a day.

The speed limit is 45 mph.

Driving in Yellowstone: 10 Things You Need to Know - We're in the Rocky Mountains (3)

The top speed in Yellowstone is 45 mph, with many areas moving to a lower speed limit. Although a lower speed limit adds more time to your journey, it is important to follow posted speed limits.

Yellowstone has areas of winding roads and wildlife crossings can be a hazard on the road, especially for a speeding car. Watch out for bears, buffaloes and traffic jams.

The wildlife in Yellowstone is certainly one of the things that makes the park attractive to its visitors. People go to Yellowstone expecting, almost expecting, to see a bear. Bison are a given.

But these beautiful creatures can also be a source of frustration during your Yellowstone vacation. Don't be too surprised if you get stuck in a traffic jam caused by a buffalo pulling up on the road in front of you, or by people who have seen a bear and want to stop to take pictures.

Driving in Yellowstone: 10 Things You Need to Know - We're in the Rocky Mountains (4)

"Bear Jams" and "Buffalo Jams" are very common and can probably be considered part of the quintessential Yellowstone experience, especially if you're visiting during the summer months.

These traffic jams can add 30 minutes to several hours to your drive through the park.

If you're stuck in a bear jam, as in the photo above, it's fine to get out of your car to have a look, but don't get too close to the wildlife. The general rule of thumb is to keep 80 feet away from bison and elk and 350 feet away from bears and wolves. Often a ranger will be present to control the crowd and traffic.

there are many gas stations

It may save you some money to fill up your gas tank before entering the park at gas stations in "gateway towns" such asOeste de Yellowstone, MT;Gardiner, MT;Cooke, ciudad MT,Jackson, WY, jCody, WA.

But there are also several gas stations in the park!

Here's a list of services you should be aware of:

  • There are two gas stations in itOld faithfulwith fuel, car repair and towing services available.
  • grant cityhas a gas station on the southwest shore of Yellowstone Lake (20 miles from Old Faithful); Fuel, RV/car repair, and towing are available at this location.
  • fishing bridgealso has fuel and RV/car repair.
  • Hecanyon stadThe gas station, located near Yellowstone's Grand Canyon and Dunraven Pass, has a change of fuel and propane bottles.
  • Torre/ Cruce Rooseveltalso has a gas and propane bottle exchange and is located near the Lamar Valley.
  • giant hot springshas a gas station in Yellowstone Park headquarters where fuel and propane bottles can be exchanged.
  • There is also a Phillips 66 inchMoran, WYbetween Jackson and Yellowstone.
Driving in Yellowstone: 10 Things You Need to Know - We're in the Rocky Mountains (5)
gas/propane exchangeRepair
Old Faithful (2 seasons)AndCar repair and towing
grant cityAndCamper/car repair/trailer
fishing bridgeAndMotorhome/car repair
MammothAndThe outer city of Gardiner will have services

What to do in case of a traffic accident

If you have any problems with your vehicle, there are several service stations in the park that offer towing and auto repair services.

Cell phone coverage is spotty at best, so you may need to walk to the nearest cell phone service area to call or flag down another vehicle that can assist you. Here are some phone numbers you can call for help during an emergency:

  • Gas Stations: 406-848-7548
  • Non-life-threatening emergency: 307-344-5600
  • Life-threatening emergency: 911

Rangers often drive Grand Loop Road in officially marked National Park Service vehicles, sometimes with police lights on them. Point them out if necessary.

You are never far from help.

Do not schedule mobile coverage

Driving in Yellowstone: 10 Things You Need to Know - We're in the Rocky Mountains (6)

Cell phone coverage is available, but scarce in Yellowstone. Don't trust that!

About 50% of Yellowstone has cell phone coverage. You can find cell phone reception at the West Entrance, Old Faithful, Grant Village, Fishing Bridge at Yellowstone Lake, Lake Village, Canyon, Tower Roosevelt, Mammoth, and Gardiner.

However, mobile phone coverage is not good. Cellreception.com has reviewed the major cell phone providers and their coverage in Yellowstone. Verizon got a 1.8 out of 5, AT&T and Sprint scored 1.5 out of 5, and T-Mobile scored a paltry 0.8 out of 5, giving the overall coverage score a 1.7 out of 5. .

This coverage also tends to decrease as the number of visitors to the park increases.

The lack of coverage is one of the reasons whyyou need a map. You get one when you enter the park, but you can also download our travel guide, which includes a map for each dayguide you through the park.

The park is always open... but the roads are not.

Although the park is open all year round, four of the five Yellowstone entrances close from November to April. Because?Because Yellowstone gets anywhere from 5 to 13 feet of snow every winter!

The only year-round entrance is the North Entrance, which takes you from Gardiner, Montana to Cooke City, Montana.

Why is the park open in winter when all roads are closed? Because visits and tours are still possible with snowmobiles and snowcoaches. If you plan to visit between November and April, be sure to book a snowmobile rental or snow carriage tour.

Sometimes road closures are unpredictable due to roadworks, landslides, fires, etc.

ALWAYS CHECK THE CONDITION OF THE ROADS BEFORE VISITING YELLOWSTONE.You can find the current status of road closures athttps://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm

  • Read more about when the roads will open in our postWhen Is the Best Time to Visit Yellowstone?

When Is the Best Time to Visit Yellowstone?

Recreational vehicles are not allowed on all roads

Roads in Yellowstone range from 60 to 25 feet wide with some pull-outs 20 feet wide.

If you're visiting Yellowstone in an RV, it's important to know which trails are RV-friendly and which are not. Campers can drive to most places in Yellowstone National Park, with a few exceptions, including the area through Dunraven Pass, which runs from Tower Junction to Canyon. This area is very steep, narrow and winding.

It's probably also important to know that your RV and trailer equipment should be less than 40 feet in length. The Fishing Bridge RV Park andMammothcampgrounds are the only places that can accommodate a 40-foot RV and even then space is limited.

  • learn more aboutcamping en camper in Yellowstone

Roads closed to larger campers

  • Virginia Falls
  • firing cannon
  • Blacktail Plateau unit
  • Passo Dunraven
  • Calle Chittenden

There are charging points for electric vehicles.

Driving in Yellowstone: 10 Things You Need to Know - We're in the Rocky Mountains (7)

Good news! At least Yellowstone has installedsix electric charging stationsin and around the park.

Please note that it takes 4 hours to charge your vehicle at one of these stations, so try to plan this so that you have things to do while your vehicle is charging.

Old Faithful is a great stop to load up your vehicle as there is so much to do including watching geysers erupt, eating and touring the Old Faithful Inn.

Incanyon stad, perhaps you could leave your vehicle in the charger and ride the park's only shuttle to the visitor center and restaurant area, which will take us to the next point...

There is only ONE shuttle in the park

Many national parks have a transportation system, but Yellowstone is so large that having a transportation system has always been impractical. Many tour buses can accommodate large groups of visitors and serve as a quasi-shuttle system.

However, in 2020, Yellowstone announced that it will conduct a pilotdriverless transport systemin Canyontown.canyon stadIt has the largest and newest accommodation facilities in the park, with several restaurants nearby, so this is a natural place to try out the transportation system.

Maybe this is a hint of the future, butfor now, if you want to see Yellowstone, you have to do it in a vehicle.

Related Questions

Can I drive through Yellowstone without paying for a park pass?

No. If you are driving through Yellowstone to get to another location, you will still need to have or pay a park pass to enter the park.

The exception would be if you are driving when the ranger cabs are unmanned. Technically, you are still breaking park rules (law?) and could be fined if a park ranger backs off. But if you just drive through the park after hours, it is possible to get through without having to show a pass at the toll booth.

Is it scary to drive in Yellowstone?

Driving in Yellowstone is NOT scary at all. There are no steep cliffs to drive over. The park is mainly a flat path through pine trees.

Getting stuck in a buffalo or traffic jam can be annoying. But it's not scary.

However, driving on the Beartooth Highway on the way to the park isone more story.

Is it difficult to drive in Yellowstone?

It really isn't hard to drive in Yellowstone; there are only a few trail options and you really can't get lost.

The biggest challenge is knowing which attractions to stop atand how to plan your day. On your way through the park you will come across many signs with different attractions. You can't stop them all!

Knowing which attractions to stop at and how to plan your day is the hardest part of driving in Yellowstone. That's why we have oneno-fail plan for you to see the best of Yellowstone.

How long does it take to drive from west to east?

drive from theeastern entrancedirectionWestern entranceit takes about 2.5 hours.

drive from thenortheast entrancedirectionNorth entranceit takes about 1.25 hours.

drive from thenortheast entrancedirectionWestern entranceit takes about 2.5 hours.

How long does it take to drive from north to south?

Many people fly to Bozeman and drive to via YellowstoneGran Teton National Park. Of theNorth entrancedirectionsouth entranceit takes about 2.5 hours excluding buffalo attacks or tourist visits.

Does Yellowstone require timed entry tickets or reservations?

No, Yellowstone does not require a park reservation or a timed ticket to enter the park. All that is required is a park pass.


  • our yellowstoneGuideIt is the most affordable and instructive guide there is!
  • our yellowstonetravel plannercovers all the basics you need to know!
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  • Do you also visit Grand Teton? see ourGrand Teton trip planner.
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