The Ultimate Travel Guide to Yellowstone National Park

Guide to Yellowstone National Park

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Welcome to Yellowstone National Park. It’s a top-notch spot for many travelers. Last year, Google said it was the most sought-after national park. This place covers 2.2 million acres. It’s known for its amazing mud pots, colorful hot springs, and geysers that often shoot out strange things. You might also see beautiful elk, bighorn sheep, and bears, including the famous gray wolves.

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At Yellowstone National Park, you’ll find lots to do. There are cool geothermal sites, great fishing and paddling spots, and over 900 miles of hiking trails. If you love nature, adventure, or watching wildlife, Yellowstone will blow your mind with its beauty and diversity.

The best time to visit is in summer, from mid-April to the end of October. This is when exploring, camping, and hiking are perfect. For fewer people, go in May or June. Winter at Yellowstone is special too, with limited access but unique experiences for those who enjoy snowy landscapes.

At Yellowstone, make sure to check out the five entrances. Each has its own cool things to see, like amazing animals, geysers, and peaceful lake views. Be sure to walk the Fountain Paint Pot and Grand Prismatic Overlook trails. You’ll see some of the park’s most awesome natural features from there.

Riding a vintage White Motor Co. bus or joining a horseback or llama trek are awesome ways to explore. The Lower Yellowstone Falls is a must-see. It’s one of the top sights in the park.

Yellowstone has various places to stay. You can choose to be close to Old Faithful, in West Yellowstone, or Cooke City. There, you’ll find gems like the Old Faithful Inn and the Lake Hotel. These places mix comfort with a real taste of the park. Xanterra manages nine hotels with over 2,000 rooms and cabins at Yellowstone.

With breathtaking geysers, vast trails, and great wildlife moments, Yellowstone is perfect for all travelers. It’s a must-visit for those who love the outdoors. So go ahead, plan your trip, and get ready for a special journey into this beautiful natural paradise.

What You Need to Know Before Visiting Yellowstone

Want to go to Yellowstone National Park? Millions of people visit each year, so it’s smart to get ready. Here’s how to have an amazing time in Yellowstone.

1. Bring a Spotting Scope for Wildlife Viewing

Yellowstone’s wildlife is a must-see, from bears to bison. A spotting scope or binoculars will let you see them up close. Remember, it’s safer to view animals from a distance.

2. Beat the Crowds by Planning Ahead

Yellowstone gets really busy, especially in summer. To see popular places like Old Faithful with fewer people, go early. This helps you enjoy the sights in peace.

3. Explore the Park’s Unique Thermal Features

Yellowstone’s thermal areas are famous for a reason. Make sure to see the geysers and hot springs up close by taking walks around them. Stick to the paths to keep safe and protect the natural wonders.

4. Be Mindful of Wildlife Safety

Yellowstone is full of wildlife, but you must stay safe. Keep at least 25 yards from animals, and 100 yards from bears and wolves. Bison are known to be unpredictable, so stay far away from them.

5. Secure Campgrounds and Lodging in Advance

Book your stay early. Yellowstone’s camps and lodges fill up fast. You can reserve campsites through up to six months ahead. Also, Yellowstone National Park Lodges can be booked up to 13 months before your visit.

6. Be Prepared for Limited Connectivity

Don’t expect to always use your phone in Yellowstone due to poor reception. But, some visitor centers and villages offer Wi-Fi. Mammoth’s Albright Visitor Center has free internet to help you stay in touch.

Now, you’re ready for Yellowstone’s wonders. Enjoy the wildlife, the geothermal features, and the stunning views for a trip you’ll always remember.

How to Get to Yellowstone National Park

Planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park needs thoughtful consideration. You should know the best ways to get there and move around once you do. It’s a big place with many entrances, so knowing your way around can make your visit smoother.

Yellowstone Entrances

There are five entrances into Yellowstone National Park, each offering a special welcome. You can enter through the North, Northeast, East, South, or West. Think about where you’re coming from and what you’d like to see when choosing an entrance.

  • North Entrance (Gardiner, Montana)
  • Northeast Entrance (Cooke City, Montana)
  • East Entrance (Cody, Wyoming)
  • South Entrance (Jackson Hole, Wyoming)
  • West Entrance (West Yellowstone, Montana)

Getting to Yellowstone

The nearest major airports to Yellowstone are in Bozeman, Montana, and Jackson, Wyoming. From these airports, you can rent a car to drive to the park. It’s recommended to drive because the park doesn’t have public transportation.

If you want to fly closer, consider the West Yellowstone airport. It’s open from early May to mid-October and connects to Salt Lake City, UT.

Yellowstone National Park Transportation

Bringing your own car to Yellowstone allows you to tour the park at your leisure. You don’t need a special high-clearance vehicle because the park’s roads are well-maintained and paved.

Keep in mind that many roads are only open to cars from mid-April through early November. Make sure you check these dates before you go to avoid any surprises.

Always drive at or under the speed limit, normally 45 mph. This keeps everyone safe, including animals like bison and elk.

We have some average drive times to share, which could help you plan your trip:

Route Drive Time
West Entrance to Madison Junction 30 minutes
Madison Junction to Old Faithful 35-45 minutes
Old Faithful to Grant Village 40 minutes
South Entrance to Grant Village 50 minutes
Grant Village to Lake Village 45 minutes
East Entrance to Lake Village 60 minutes
Lake Village to Canyon Village 35 minutes
Canyon Village to Norris Junction 30 minutes
Canyon Village to Tower Junction 50-60 minutes
Northeast Entrance to Tower Junction 60 minutes
Tower Junction to Mammoth Hot Springs 40 minutes
North Entrance to Mammoth Hot Springs 15 minutes
Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris Junction 45 minutes
Norris Junction to Madison Junction 30 minutes

These times can change based on traffic or weather, so be ready for some variation.

In the end, your journey to Yellowstone is part of the fun. There are several ways in and if you fly, there’s a good airport nearby. Renting a car is smart for exploring the park. It lets you see geysers, animals, and amazing landscapes. So, pack and plan for an excellent trip to Yellowstone National Park!

The Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is packed with adventure all year long. Each season brings its own special moments. It’s key to know the difference in seasons to plan your trip perfectly.

Summer: Mid-April to End of October

The summer is the busiest time at Yellowstone. Everything is open from mid-April until late October. You can get around easily by car. It’s the warmest time, perfect for seeing the park’s amazing geysers like Old Faithful.

June and September are great if you like peace and nature. In June, see flowers everywhere and baby animals. September is cooler and lets you see more active wildlife.

Winter: Late December to March

Winter at Yellowstone is something else. From late December to March, the park is a snowy paradise. You can ski, snowshoe, and snowmobile. But, winter storms mean you can’t drive in the park. The north entrance is the only one open and guides are your best bet to see the sights.

Winter is quiet and beautiful. Snow covers everything, turning the park into a silent, magical place.

Shoulder Seasons: April, May, September, and October

April and May are great as winter fades away. The park is less crowded, and you see more animals. May brings out grizzly bears and bison calves.

September and October are lovely for a fall visit. They’re less crowded and perfect for seeing the elk rut. The park turns into a colorful autumn wonderland.

Whether you love the bustle of summer or the calm of winter, Yellowstone is always ready to awe. Every season promises a special adventure in this iconic park.

Season Temperature Highlights
Summer (Mid-April to End of October) 63°F (17°C) to 90°F (32°C) Sightseeing, camping, hiking, wildlife viewing
Winter (Late December to March) Varies (-2°C and below) Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling
Shoulder Seasons (April, May, September, and October) Varies, cooler temperatures Wildlife sightings, autumn colors

Must-See Attractions in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park has many amazing sights you must see. It has incredible geothermal features, beautiful waterfalls, and lots of wildlife. This park is sure to amaze you during your visit.

Geothermal Wonders

Yellowstone is known for its unique geothermal attractions. The Upper Geyser Basin stars the famous Old Faithful geyser, which shoots boiling water up to 180 feet high. Don’t miss the Grand Prismatic Spring and the Great Fountain Geyser too.

Spectacular Waterfalls

This national park also boasts stunning waterfalls. Among them, the Lower Falls is a standout, dropping 308 feet. You can view it from points along the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, a deep and wide canyon.

Wildlife Viewing Opportunities

Wildlife lovers will find Yellowstone amazing. The park has over 200 types of animals, like grizzly bears and elk. Visit places like Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley for great wildlife viewing, including wolves and bears.

Exploring Yellowstone’s features is both fun and educational. Enjoy the geothermal spots, like the geysers. Admire the waterfalls, especially the Lower Falls. And don’t forget to look out for the park’s stunning wildlife on your visit.

Exploring Yellowstone’s Hiking Trails

Yellowstone National Park is over 2.2 million acres. It’s perfect for anyone who loves to hike. With over 900 miles of trails, you can find the right path for you. You might enjoy a casual stroll or something more challenging. These trails are full of stunning views and amazing adventures.

The Fairy Falls Trail is a top pick at Yellowstone. It’s a 1.6-mile walk through meadows and tall trees to Fairy Falls. This waterfall is a must-see. The path is easy, so it’s great for families or a peaceful walk.

Looking for a shorter hike with beautiful lake scenery? Try the Storm Point Nature Trail. It’s a 2-mile loop by Yellowstone Lake. Along the way, you might see yellow-bellied marmots and more. The views are amazing.

For a more tough but rewarding hike, check out the Lamar River Trail to Cache Creek. It’s 7 miles long, showcasing the Lamar River Valley. You’ll walk through fields of colorful flowers. Keep an eye out for bison, elk, and maybe a grizzly bear.

Hiking in Yellowstone comes with challenges, like the high elevation. Some trails are above 7,000 feet. Also, snow can last until late July in some areas. You might have to cross rivers up to 25 feet wide.

To stay safe, tell someone about your hike. Bring a map, compass, and enough water. Watch out for storms, especially if you are in open areas. Summer lightning can be common.

Yellowstone offers a range of trails, from easy walks to hard hikes. Putting on your hiking boots opens the way to stunning natural beauty. So, get ready to explore one of America’s most amazing places.

Wildlife Watching in Yellowstone National Park

For wildlife lovers, Yellowstone National Park is heaven. Covering more than 3,000 square miles, it’s a big home for many animals. You can see everything from bears and wolves to bison and elk here.

Spring is a great time to visit. Bears come out of hibernation in March and April. You might see them in meadows. Remember to use binoculars or a zoom camera to watch them safely.

Yellowstone Bears

Yellowstone has both black and grizzly bears. They are often seen, including at the famous Fishing Bridge. But, always remember, they are wild and deserve our respect.

Keep at least 100 yards away from bears, as park rules say. Trying to get close for a photo is a bad idea. It could get you or the bear hurt. Use your camera’s zoom instead.

Yellowstone Wolves

Wolves are another key part of Yellowstone’s wildlife. They were brought back in 1995 and are doing well. Your best bet to see them is in the north, like the Lamar Valley.

Just like with bears, stay 100 yards away from wolves. This is for everyone’s safety. Be polite and give them space as you watch from afar.

Yellowstone Bison

Lamar Valley is full of bison. These huge animals walk around freely. Seeing them is an amazing experience.

Remember to keep 25 yards away from bison and other wildlife. It’s for your safety and theirs. Let’s keep both humans and animals safe.

Yellowstone wildlife

Yellowstone is great for wildlife lovers. Follow park rules and respect the animals. Watch from a distance. This way, you’ll have great experiences and help protect these creatures.

Where to Stay in Yellowstone National Park

When you visit Yellowstone, you can pick from many places to stay. There are options inside the park or in nearby towns. You’ll find the right fit for your trip.

Lodging Inside Yellowstone National Park

The park has nine places to stay, with over 2,000 rooms. These places are ready for both summer and winter visits. You can stay in everything from the famous Old Faithful Inn to cozy Roosevelt Lodge cabins.

Staying near Canyon Village is a great idea. It’s close to big attractions like Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring. Make sure to book your room early, about a year in advance, because they fill up fast.

Lodging Outside Yellowstone National Park

If you can’t find a place in the park, there are towns nearby with good options. West Yellowstone, just outside the West Entrance, is a smart place. It has lots of hotels and restaurants and is close to key park sights.

Gardiner by the North Entrance and Cooke City-Silver Gate by the Northeast Entrance also have places to stay. In Gardiner, The Roosevelt Hotel is a good pick by the river. In Cooke City-Silver Gate, Elk Horn Lodge is comfortable with free Wi-Fi.

For places by the East Entrance, consider Cody. The Hampton Inn & Suites Cody is nice with an indoor pool and fitness center.

Campgrounds and RV Parks in Yellowstone

If you love nature, Yellowstone has 12 campgrounds and RV parks. They are in beautiful spots like Canyon Village, Yellowstone Lake, and Old Faithful.

Fishing Bridge RV Park is great for RVs. It has 310 sites and gives you quick access to stunning views.

Book your campsite or RV spot early. Reservations open on May 1 the year before, and spots go quickly.

Explore Lodging Options Outside Yellowstone

Outside Yellowstone, you’ll find many places to stay that suit your style. Whether you like glamping or a cozy cottage, there’s something for everyone. Think about where you want to be close to when you book.

With lots of choices, you can make your trip to Yellowstone comfortable and unforgettable.

Gateway Communities near Yellowstone National Park

If you can’t find a place to stay in Yellowstone or want to be close but not inside the park, consider staying in one of the nearby communities. They offer easy access to the park and provide plenty of places to stay, eat, and explore. You won’t miss out on the fun!

West Yellowstone

Just a short distance from Yellowstone’s West Entrance, West Yellowstone is the main town at the park’s edge. It’s a great spot to start your adventure. You’ll find a variety of places to stay, eat, and shop. Whether it’s summer or winter, there’s always something fun to do outdoors.


Gardiner sits by Yellowstone’s North Entrance, offering beautiful mountain views. It’s a popular place because of its closeness to the park. Enjoy its cozy places to stay and eat. And be sure to see the Roosevelt Arch, a historic gate welcoming you to the park.

Cooke City

Cooke City awaits by Yellowstone’s Northeast Gate, offering rich history and stunning scenery. It was once a mining hub and still has that frontier feel. With access to scenic routes like the Beartooth Highway, it’s great for those who love beautiful drives. Nature lovers will find plenty to explore here.

West Yellowstone, Gardiner, and Cooke City all offer important services for park visitors. They make it easy and comfortable to enjoy Yellowstone. Wherever you stay, the park’s natural beauty will be all around you.

Gateway Community Distance to Yellowstone National Park Closest Major Airport
West Yellowstone Located near the West Entrance Yellowstone Airport (operated by Sky West through Delta Connection)
Gardiner Located at the North Entrance Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (located in Belgrade, Montana)
Cooke City Situated near the Northeast Entrance Logan International Airport (located in Billings, Montana)

Best Travel Tips for Yellowstone National Park

Got a trip planned to Yellowstone National Park? A little preparation can make a big difference. Here are key tips for a safe and unforgettable journey:

Prioritize Safety and Respect

Keep yourself safe while enjoying Yellowstone. It’s crucial to protect the natural wonders here. Follow these tips closely:

  • Enjoy watching wildlife from a distance. Never go near or try to feed them; they’re wild creatures.
  • Always stay on the marked trails and boardwalks. Going off-path can harm the environment and is risky for you.
  • Respect closures and signs for restricted areas. They’re there for your safety and to safeguard the park.

Photography Tips

The scenery and creatures in Yellowstone are perfect for photos. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Be careful not to disturb animals. And remember, give them their space.
  • Use the light of early morning or evening for the best shots. The light at these times makes everything look better.
  • A big lens lets you take photos of animals up close, without getting in their way.
  • Use a polarizing filter to make your photos of colorful geysers even more striking.

Be Prepared for Changing Weather

The weather in Yellowstone can change fast. Dressing right and carrying the right stuff is important:

  • Wear layers to cope with temperature swings. Mornings and evenings are cool, afternoons warm up.
  • Bring a raincoat and waterproof pants for the park’s common rain showers.
  • Good hiking shoes are a must. The trails can be rough and slippery.

Plan Your Visit

To really enjoy Yellowstone, some good planning is also needed:

  • Figure out what you really want to see and do. Making a good plan helps you fit everything in.
  • Go see popular spots like Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring early or late to miss the crowds.
  • Guide-led wildlife tours are a great choice. They can help you see more animals and learn a lot.
  • Book your stay in the park early, or look for places in the nearby towns. Places fill up fast.

Keep these tips close and you’re all set for a great Yellowstone trip. Follow the park’s rules, stay safe, and make some unforgettable memories.

Yellowstone travel tips

Unique Experiences in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is more than just a place to see. It’s a chance for amazing, unique adventures. Dive into its diverse lands for adventures you’ll never forget.

Snow Coach Tours and Snowmobile Tours

In winter, Yellowstone turns into a snowy wonderland. There, take a snow coach or snowmobile to see the park in its glittery beauty.

You’ll see stunning scenes like frozen waterfalls and geysers.

Historic Bus Tours

Imagine going back in time on a tour in old-fashioned buses. These vintage rides give you a special look at the park’s history and nature.

Enjoy the view from a classic bus seat while guides share interesting stories.

Horseback Riding and Llama Trekking

Looking for more adventure? Try horseback riding or llama trekking. Feel the thrill as you ride through amazing sceneries.

Or, walk with llamas, letting them carry your supplies, and take in the beautiful views at a slow pace.

Enhance Your Yellowstone Experience

While in Yellowstone, let expert guides make your trip even better. They offer tours filled with facts about the geology, animals, and history of the park.

Their love for Yellowstone ensures you’ll have an unforgettable time.

Don’t miss out on other cool activities in the park. Join Indigenous events to learn about Native American culture. Introduce your kids to the park’s wonders with Junior Ranger fun.

For even more insight, ranger-led programs offer interactive learning about Yellowstone’s natural marvels.

Yellowstone is known for its amazing beauty and adventures. Whether you watch its geysers, meet animals, hike, or try its unique activities, each day is full of marvel and fun.

Unique Experiences Description
Snow Coach Tours and Snowmobile Tours Experience the beauty of Yellowstone in winter by taking a snow coach or snowmobile tour to explore the park’s interior.
Historic Bus Tours Ride in vintage buses and discover Yellowstone’s history while enjoying the stunning landscapes.
Horseback Riding and Llama Trekking Go on a horseback riding adventure or join a llama trekking expedition to explore Yellowstone’s trails and wilderness.


Yellowstone National Park is an amazing place with so much to see and do. It covers over 2.2 million acres, making it perfect for exploration. You can see incredible geothermal features, meet different animals, and take on exciting hikes. There’s something for everyone here.

The park’s Yellowstone Lake has a beautiful 140 miles of shoreline for peace and quiet time. Its famous geysers, like Old Faithful, are a big highlight. They are the largest group of active geysers globally.

The Lamar Valley is known as “America’s Serengeti” because it’s rich in wildlife. Keep your eyes open for wolves, bears, coyotes, and bighorn sheep.

When visiting Yellowstone, remember to follow safety rules and respect nature. The unique scenery and animals here are delicate. Drive carefully, look out for wildlife, and stay on marked trails to protect the environment.

Get ready for an amazing time at Yellowstone National Park. Stay at special places like the Lake Yellowstone Hotel and the Old Faithful Inn. These lodges let you dive into the park’s history and beauty. So, pack up, head out, and enjoy the wonders of Yellowstone.

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