Yellowstone National Park is home to some of the most impressive sightsnatural wonders in the United States. located directly outsideJackson Hole, Wyoming, the national park is known for its powerful geysers, picturesque hot springs, waterfalls, lakes and wildlife. With so many unique things to do in Yellowstone National Park, deciding where to start when planning your visit can be overwhelming.
From hikes to hot springs, this travel guide of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park makes planning your visit easy. With endless opportunities for exploration and adventure, we offer suggested itineraries for both 1-Day Yellowstone and 2-Day Yellowstone.
Yellowstone National Park at a glance
Entrance fees:$35 or included withAmerica the Beautiful National Park-pas
Best time to visit:early June or early September to avoid peak crowds and still have good weather
Best Tour:Tour door JacksonOTour vanuit West Yellowstone
The best place to stay:Old faithful inn
Our personal experience visiting Yellowstone National Park
As US citizens and residents, we have traveled much of the United States, but this part of the country, which includes Wyoming and Montana, is our favorite. Having visited Yellowstone multiple times in different seasons, we have been able to see and experience many of Yellowstone National Park's top attractions in person. We've hiked many of the popular hiking trails in Yellowstone and covered most of the best things to do in America's first national park.
While we don't consider ourselves park experts, we consider ourselves quite knowledgeable about the best things to do in Yellowstone.
Over Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park attracts millions of visitors each year with its breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and fascinating geothermal features. In fact, it is one of the most visited national parks in the United States and one of the most popular US destinations for first-time visitors.
Yellowstone became a national park in 1872 when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act, making it the nation's first national park.
This precedence established the concept of public land conservation and the national park service. Since then, Yellowstone has become a cherished national treasure and more than 400 parks have been created and protected for future generations.
Best known for its unique geothermal features such as geysers, hot springs, and boiling clay pots, Yellowstone is practically a hands-on science lesson. It is undoubtedly one of the best places in the world to learn about the composition of the Earth.
FIND AND BOOK A TOUR AT YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARKHERE.
Tips for visiting Yellowstone National Park
Before we move on to the top things to see in Yellowstone, here are some tips to help you plan a fun and safe trip.
- Plan your route in advance. Yellowstone is badgrandNational Park. Covers over 3,472 square miles! While it's good not to feel too scripted, you should still have a good idea of what you want to see and the route to take. (Don't worry! We've made it super easy to route the stops below.)
- You will be driving a lot. Yellowstone's top attractions are often within an hour's drive of each other.
- Prepare to stay in the park longer than you expected. Traffic often slows down when other motorists stop or slow down to take photos. Bison on the roads also often cause serious delays.
- Wear tennis shoes and don't be afraid to walk. Most of Yellowstone's best views are not visible by car. So while you drive a lot, you should also get out and explore the park on foot.
- Slow down and enjoy the view. You just can't see all of the best things to do in Yellowstone in one day. So, if possible, give yourself a few days. (We've listed a 1- and 2-day itinerary for Yellowstone below for you to follow.)
- Keep young children within reach near geothermal elements and never let them stray from boardwalks or marked trails.
- Bring bear spray whenwalking in the park, especially in the more northern areas where bear activity is highest.
The best things to do in Yellowstone National Park
While there are plenty of great things to do in Yellowstone, it's impossible to do or see them all unless you doa week in Yellowstone. That's why we narrowed down our list to our favorite spots.
old faithful geyser
Old Faithful is perhaps one of Yellowstone's most significant claims to fame. The geyser has been erupting like clockwork since it was first discovered in the late 19th century. The predictable geyser draws crowds every 60-125 minutes eager to witness the eruption.
While it's one of the most notable things to do in Yellowstone, seeing Old Faithful erupt is actually one of the least exciting things to see on this list. Still, seeing Old Faithful spewing water into the air is a must when you're in Yellowstone. It's kind of like seeing theMona LisainParisor seeing theLittle Mermaidin the stateCopenhagen. It's a little disappointing, but you do it to say you did it.
Tips for visiting Old Faithful:Waiting for Old Faithful's predicted eruption time can be very busy. So if you want a front row seat, plan to hang out and sit for about 30 minutes before the geyser erupts. You can check the estimateeruption schedule onlineto help you plan your Yellowstone itinerary. The schedule is also posted at the Old Faithful Visitor Center on the way to the geyser.
Also, be sure to stay on the boardwalk and designated trails around Old Faithful and any of the other geysers or hot springs. The soil is fragile in these areas and the water below boils. Always keep children nearby!
Old faithful inn
Adjacent to Old Faithful you'll find a beautiful hotel and restaurant with a cabin feel. Old Faithful Inn is onenational monumentand it's worth stopping to see the huge stone fireplace and rustic architecture. Built in the early 1900s with materials mostly collected from the park, it is one of the few surviving log cabins in the United States.
Old Faithful Inn is a great place to have lunch before or after seeing the Old Faithful coup.
Tip for a visit to Old Faithful Inn:If you want to stay inOld faithful inn, or at one of the accommodations in Yellowstone National Park, book as soon as possible. Hotels and cottages in the park fill up quickly!
morning glory pool
A walkway around Old Faithful takes you past other smaller and more beautiful hot springs and geysers not to be missed. If you have time to spare, take a walk on the 2km paved trail to Morning Glory, a natural hot spring that tops this area calledUpper geyser basin.
The deep hot spring also tells a sad story about the destructiveness of tourism. Once a vibrant blue, the center of the spring is now a more faded shade of green from tourists throwing things into the pool and clogging the springs.
Tip for a visit to Morning Glory (or one of the hot springs):Do not throw things into the water. Just don't.
large prismatic fountain
The Grand Prismatic Spring is the most colorful place in all of Yellowstone. It is the largest hot spring in the United States and is one of the best things to see in Yellowstone National Park.
Located inHalfway through the Geyser Basin, there are two vantage points from which you can view the Great Prismatic Well. There is a lookout that can be accessed via a short hike from the Fairy Falls Trailhead. This path is calledViewpoint of the Great Prismatic Spring. This way you get a bird's eye view of the colorful spring.
To get a closer look at the source, there is a walkway that takes you directly to the source. HeHalfway through Geyser Basin Walkwaystake you along tooGeyser Excelsior, a beautiful blue dormant geyser.
Tip for a visit to Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone:Grand Prismatic looks best in the midday heat. At lower temperatures, steam from the hot springs obscures the view of the colorful wonder.
Lower Falls en de Grand Canyon van Yellowstone
Lower Falls is the most majestic waterfall in Yellowstone, if not the entire United States. In fact, it is twice the height ofNiagara falls! There are three impressive vantage points from which to view Lower Falls, all of which involve a somewhat challenging hike and can include numerous switchbacks and steps.
The best view of Lower Falls, in our opinion, is thegreat view vantage pointpoint to thered rock point route. This viewpoint gives you a front view of the incredible waterfall. To get to Grand View Lookout, follow the Red Rock Point Trail, one of the best hikes in the park.
located outsideNorth Rim Unit, hikers descend 80 meters into the gorge to reach Grand View. You will follow a series of paved trails, wooden steps and often steep switchbacks for 0.7 miles. For those who want to take a look at this magnificent 100m waterfall without too much effort, there is also a canyon viewpoint a short distance from the car park.
Other Yellowstone Lower Falls Hikes
Uncle Tom's pathit's another shorter hike that offers a good view of the canyon and the Lower Falls. This is a steep walk of 328 steps and offers a side view of the falls.
Finally, if you want to see the power of water a little closer, you can also visit theEdge of the lower fallsallowing you to see directly over the edge of Yellowstone's tallest waterfall.
The canyon around Lower Falls is just as beautiful. Known as the "Grand Canyon of YellowstoneYou will be amazed by the red rock walls of this deep canyon carved by water.
A beautiful waterfall in the northern region of Yellowstone nearbytower crossingand theLamar Valley, Tower Fall lives up to its name. With a drop of 132 feet from the top of the rim, the view of the falls is easily reached via a short hike.
Tower Fall gets its name from the towering rock columns to the north of the falls. The nearby Lamar Valley is a great place to see wildlife, especially around dawn and dusk.
Located in the northwest corner of Yellowstone,gigantic resourcesit's somewhat removed from some of the other best things to see in Yellowstone. But the Mammoth Springs area of the park is definitely worth a visit if you're in Yellowstone for more than a day.
Hetravertine terracesAt Mammoth Springs, there are a series of limestone terraces that have a white appearance due to the unique interaction of water and limestone. The lower terraces are accessed by a looping path approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) long.
Abyss is another beautiful hot spring in Yellowstone. It is located in theWest Thumb Geyser Basinnear Yellowstone Lake.
It is one of the deepest hot springs in Yellowstone and a major feature of West Thumb. The basin is also home to bubbling clay pots, another of the popular things to see in Yellowstone.
Valle de Hayden
One of the best things to do in Yellowstone is just enjoy the natural habitat. Yellowstone is home to 200 different animal species, including bears, moose, and bison. There is always a chance of seeing wildlife in the park, but there are some places where your chances are better.
You will almost certainly see bison in itValle de Hayden, an area of the national park betweencanyon stadjyellow stone lake. In fact, herds often cause traffic jams in the area when crossing or stopping on the highway.
Bears are also quite frequent in the park. Your chances of seeing bears in their natural habitat increase as you move further north, toward the Wyoming/Montana border and around rivers and lakes. Park rangers try to keep them off the road, so it usually takes a whilehiking or other outdoor activities in Jackson Hole and national parks that you might see or meet a bear.
Wildlife viewing tips in Yellowstone: Always exercise caution when observing wildlife. It's best to stay in your car or keep a safe distance, as wildlife can attack if they feel threatened. Bear spray is also recommended when hiking in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone Trails and Map of Things to Do in Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park is big. At nearly 3,500 square miles, it is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island.set. It is of course good to have a route and itinerary mapped out before your visit.
You could spend days exploring the park, hiking, camping, and sightseeing, but really, most people give themselves a day or two in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone One Day Itinerary (includes most of Yellowstone's top attractions)
If you come through the south entrance, that will lead you through firstGran Teton National Park, drive through the lower loop and hit 7 of our 9 favorite spots in Yellowstone.
- Start your day early at the West Thumb Geyser Basin where you will see the Abyss, Yellowstone Lake, and some cool clay pots.
- Head north through Hayden Valley, where you're more likely to see herds of bison grazing in the fields and even along the road.
- Stop at Lower Falls and take one of the three hikes listed above.
- Lunch in Canyon Village.
- After lunch, drive to Grand Prismatic Spring for a ground-level view of the colorful hot springs.
- Then detour at Fairy Falls and take a short hike to Grand Prismatic Overlook.
- Pare to Morning Glory en Upper Geyser Basin.
- End your day watching the Old Faithful erupt and dine (or stay overnight) at the Old Faithful Inn.
2 Day Yellowstone Itinerary (includes ALL Major Yellowstone Attractions)
If you plan to spend more than one day in Yellowstone, this 2-day itinerary will allow you to see all of Yellowstone's top attractions. You will also be able to slow down and enjoy the experience a bit more.
This route is ideal for those who aretraveling with grandparentsor seniors exploring on their own. Really, anyone who likes to take their time and not rush through a national park will enjoy this itinerary.
Again, assuming you're arriving through the south entrance, this two-day Yellowstone itinerary takes you along the Grand Loop Road through the park.
- Start at West Thumb Geyser Basin - see the Abyss, Yellowstone Lake and the Mud Pools.
- Check out the bison herds in Hayden Valley.
- Walk to one of the three viewing points of the Lower Falls.
- Lunch in Canyon Village.
- Drive north to Tower Fall, where you'll take a shorter hike to the lookout and see more wildlife in Lamar Valley.
- Next, head to Mammoth Hot Springs to see the limestone terraces.
- Dinner and overnight at Mammoth Hot Springs Cabins.
- Head south and stop at Norris Geyser Basin to see Steamboat Geyser, the world's tallest active geyser. Your chances of seeing it break out aren't great because it's not predictable like Old Faithful, but it's worth pausing to say you saw it.
- Head down to the Grand Prismatic Spring for a view from the ground.
- Then stop at Fairy Falls and hike to the Grand Prismatic Spring viewpoint.
- Continue to Old Faithful and enjoy a late lunch at the Old Faithful Inn.
- After lunch, watch Old Faithful erupt and hike the long route around the Upper Geyser Basin to see Morning Glory and many other beautiful hot springs in the area.
- Dinner (or overnight) at the Old Faithful Inn.
Where to stay when visiting Yellowstone National Park
If you plan to spend two days or more in Yellowstone, I recommend staying overnight in the national park. There are nine different lodges or cabins in the park where you can stay. A word of warning, these fill up quickly and are not available all year round as many of the trails into the park are duringwinter in de regio Yellowstone en Jackson Hole.
- Yellowstone Lake Hotel and cabins
- Canyon Lodge en hutten
- Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and cabins
- Old Faithful Snow Shelter
- Old faithful inn
- grant city
- Lake Lodge-hutten
- Cabañas Old Faithful Lodge
- Roosevelt Lodge and cabins
Camping in Yellowstone is another popular option. There are plenty of designated campgrounds in the national park that would make for a fun experience under the stars. However, these should also be booked well in advance because they fill up quickly.
PLANNING A CAMP? CHECK OUT OUR LIST OFCAMPING EQUIPMENT.
Every time we have visited Yellowstone we have stayed in one of the hotels and Jackson, Wyoming at least one night. Jackson is about 100 miles away, but he's a nice onetown in the wild westwith much to do,good places to eat, and many more options when it comes to hotels.
Frequently asked questions about the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park
When planning a visit to Yellowstone National Park, it's natural to have some questions. From the dangers lurking in the park to the often harsh weather in this part of the country, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about visiting Yellowstone.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park?
Summer is the most popular time for visitors to Yellowstone National Park. Between June and August, the weather is most pleasant for outdoor activities and camping. Summer temperatures usually range from mid to 70 degrees.
The shoulder season, which we think of as spring and fall, is a quieter time in Yellowstone. You may experience slower crowds and lower prices for accommodation. However, temperatures are cooler and you may even experience snow.
Winter is an interesting time to visit Yellowstone, but not if you plan on following our Yellowstone itinerary. We visited the park in winter and while it's great for snowshoeing and even a winter safari, many of the main roads and park facilities are closed and some of the park's famous animals are hibernating.
Yet Yellowstone is so quiet and empty in winter, all covered in pristine snow, and it really feels unreal to see the typically busy park so quiet.
What's the best way to explore Yellowstone?
While walking and hiking are the best ways to explore Yellowstone, you'll also need a car. A self-drive through the park gives you the freedom to stop where and when you want and customize your Yellowstone itinerary along the way.
You can take a guided tour of Yellowstone if you're more comfortable leaving the driving to someone else.IT ISThe guided day tour from Jackson is highly recommended.
What should I watch out for in Yellowstone?
There are two main hazards to be aware of in Yellowstone National Park. First, the soil near the thermal features is brittle and the hot springs boil. People have died from going off the path and falling through the soft ground. As long as you stay on the trails, this poses no danger, but if you're visiting Yellowstone with kids, you'll want to keep a close eye on them, explain the dangers to older kids, and keep young kids at a distance.
The second danger in Yellowstone National Park is wildlife. Wild animals can become aggressive if they feel threatened or frightened or if people get too close. Never approach wild animals in the park, keep a safe distance and always walk with bear spray.
How do you get to Yellowstone National Park?
Yellowstone National Park is primarily in Wyoming, but parts of the massive national park extend as far as Montana and Idaho. There are a few ways to get to Yellowstone National Park, depending on your starting location and mode of transportation.
The nearest airport to Yellowstone is theJackson Hole Airportin Wyoming followed by theAeropuerto de Bozeman-Yellowstonein Montana There are five entrances to the park. The most popular entrances are the South Entrance at Jackson and the West Entrance near West Yellowstone, Montana.
If you are entering from West Yellowstone, make sure you check theBrown Bear and Wolf Discovery Centeras part of your visit. There you can get an up-close look at some of Yellowstone's wildlife that now live in the sanctuary.
How many days do you need to get to Yellowstone?
Most people give themselves 2-3 days to explore Yellowstone, although you could easily spend a week in the national park. If you're planning a week-long trip to the area, you can visit both Yellowstone andGran Teton National Park.
Have a question about Yellowstone National Park or want to share your favorite things to do in Yellowstone? We would like to hear from you! Leave your thoughts or suggestions in the comments below.
Do you like this Yellowstone itinerary and guide? Pin this list of things to do in Yellowstone to save for later!
This guide to the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park was first written in September 2018 and updated in March 2023 to provide accurate and up-to-date information about the park.
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wow, living on the east coast, it's hard to imagine how big Yellowstone is!
I love the colors in these photos! And I had no idea how big YellowStone was, good to know 🙂
Yes! It's huge, that's why you definitely need to plan ahead or you'll drive aimlessly.
I've wanted to go to Yellowstone for so long! Those feathers are AMAZING! However, it is very sad to hear that careless tourists have tarnished its beauty.
Bah. I know. It also makes me very sad. 🙁
I've always wanted to see Yellowstone, and this is a very helpful guide. I feel like you did half my planning for me, so I have no excuse not to visit you right now. 🙂 PS: I love pictures!
The photos are so impressive! Your post has some great suggestions, but I keep getting distracted by all the pictures, haha!
It's easy to take great photos in Yellowstone. Haha! Thank you!
Thanks for the useful information. Yellowstone is an area I've always wanted to visit and your photos have inspired me to plan some more.
Great guide! Looking forward to visiting next year and this will certainly come in handy. I love the colors of those springs, wow!
Grand Prismatic is definitely the most colorful. But really all hot springs are beautiful.
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