Yellowstone 101: The Journey to the Park

Turn your Yellowstone vacation into an adventure!

 

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hiking

 

What to Expect

Get your bearings set before your journey to park! Learn the basics, see what others have done, and get yourself a map.



rainbow valley lodge ennis

 

Where to Stay

Find the best accommodations both inside and outside of the park before you set off on your Yellowstone vacation.

fly fishing in yellowstone

 

Where to Play

There’s plenty to see and do around Yellowstone National Park. Find the best attractions and activities for your trip!

bald eagle

 

FAQ

There’s plenty to see and do around Yellowstone National Park. Find the best attractions and activities for your trip!

 


 

What to Expect

 

yellowstone national park west entrance welcome sign near virginia city, mt

The expansive Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872, covers parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho in the western United States. Yellowstone is famous for its abundant wildlife, unique geography and – of course – the roaring geyser, Old Faithful. Yellowstone National Park’s nearly 3,500 square miles is made up of mountains, canyons, lakes, rivers, geothermal features and North America’s largest super volcano. If you’re looking for fun and adventure, there is no shortage of things to do in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park is one of the few largely-unimpeded ecosystems in North America. For this reason, the park has its fair share of natural hazards and inclement weather. To fully prepare yourself for the trip, read “Things to Know” from the National Park Service. You’ll learn about minimizing your environmental impact, the park’s seasonal closures, pet information, weather conditions and much more.

Itineraries

Yellowstone National Park covers more than 2.2 million acres. If you think you can see it all in one trip, then good luck! Smart Yellowstone Park travelers pick their route in advance so they can experience as much of the park and its surroundings as possible.

 


 

Where to Stay

Accommodations

Your accommodations at Yellowstone National Park largely depend on your sense of adventure. You can cozy up to a roaring fireplace at the Old Faithful Inn or build your own at one of the many scenic campgrounds. Visit the Yellowstone National Park Lodges website for complete information on your seasonal accommodation options. If you’re ready for a real adventure and traveling to Yellowstone via the Backroad, we recommend finding a warm bed at any one of these locations:

backpacking in yellowstone national park

Eat & Drink

Whether you’re in need for a quick snack or a fine dining experience, Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas have every dining option you could ever need. If you’re dining in the park, check out this full list of restaurants. Some of our favorite – and the most authentic – Yellowstone-area restaurants and bars are:

continental divide restaurant near yellowstone

 


 

Where to Play

Attractions

Old Faithful

Watch this famous geyser erupt every 91 minutes just steps away from the Old Faithful Inn. Since it was first discovered in 1870, the geyser has earned its name with its reliably awe-inspiring eruptions. Make sure you don’t miss this show on your visit to Yellowstone!

Old Faithful eruptshttps://www.nps.gov/features/yell/webcam/oldFaithfulStreaming.html

Mammoth Hot Springs

The Mammoth Hot Springs are another popular feature of Yellowstone National Park. The expanse of terraces formed from geothermal activity bubbling to the surface create an almost alien landscape. This is an experience that you’ve never seen before! Take the online tour to see for yourself.

mammoth hot spring yellowstone national park

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone features a 308 ft. waterfall viewable from multiple trails that follow the Yellowstone River. With a depth of up to 1,200ft. and expanding as wide as 4,000ft., the canyon is one of the most incredible geological features of the park. Get a great view of the lower falls from Lookout Point and don’t forget your camera!

grand canyon of yellowstone national park

Want More?

Top 10 Attractions in Yellowstone

Activities

Hiking

Yellowstone National Park has over 1,100 miles of hikable trails over mountains, through valleys and across waterways. Because YNP is largely comprised of undisturbed wilderness, there are natural dangers associated with hiking there. To ensure that you’re prepared for a safe hike in the park, read Yellowstone’s backcountry guidelines. Remember: A great day at Yellowstone is a safe day. Check out these maps of Yellowstone National Park to plan your hike. Here’s a great interactive guide with individual trail information.

hiking map for yellowstone national park

Wildlife Viewing

Yellowstone is home to an abundance of wildlife. Among the hundreds of different species you might encounter, the park is most famous for its bison, grizzly bears, elk and wolves. It’s truly a spectacle to encounter the wildlife of Yellowstone National Park in their natural habitats. When you have the opportunity to see the park’s amazing creatures, make sure you follow the safety guidelines provided by the National Park Services.

bison in yellowstone national park

Boating & Fishing

Yellowstone’s waterways allow access to both motorized and non-motorized boats. Yellowstone Lake and Lewis Lake are the two most popular destinations in the park for boating and fishing. The serene beauty and giant fish make Yellowstone the premier place for all boaters and fishermen. Cast your line for 16 species of fish in the lakes and rivers of Yellowstone. But beware of park policy. Native species are only fishable on a strict catch-and-release policy. Know your fish so you can keep the park’s aquatic wildlife in tact for generations to come. Permits are required for all visitors who want to spend time on the water. Information regarding boating and fishing permits can be found here:

  • Boating: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/boating.htm
  • Fishing: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/fishingpermits.htm

Boat rentals are available at Xanterra Parks & Resorts at Bridge Bay Marina on Yellowstone Lake. They are offered on first-come, first-serve basis, so make sure you get there early! See the full list of authorized boating businesses.

yellowstone lake

Snowmobiling, Snowcoaches & XC Skiing

Don’t let winter weather deter you from visiting Yellowstone. Some of the most adventuresome, peaceful and scenic landscapes only come around during winter, and melt away with the spring. There are miles groomed and wilderness trails for you to enjoy. Strap on some skis or climb aboard a snowcoach to experience the park as a winter wonderland. For downloadable maps and permit information, visit the National Park Service website on cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

snowmobiling in yellowstone national park

Need More Things to Do?

Get the complete list of Yellowstone activities.


 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

When is the best time to visit Yellowstone?

Anytime is a great time for a Yellowstone vacation! But, the most popular time to visit is from June through September. June draws a lot of vacationers looking for the spring bloom and emergence of wildlife, while September visitors come for the fall colors. If you don’t like the crowds, then come visit during May or October. Of course winter draws the least amount of visitors, and can provide some amazing memories. Although, it may be a little chilly. Many of the parks roads are closed during the winter seasons, but its still accessible by snowmobile and snowcoach. Make sure to check the openings and closings of all park facilities before visiting YNP.

I’m driving. How do I get to Yellowstone National Park?

There are many great road trip options when traveling to the park. But if you’re someone who has a sense of adventure and a tendency to avoid crowds, then we recommend taking US Hwy 287 down to West Yellowstone. For those traveling from Butte, Bozeman, Glacier National Park or as far as Utah, this “Backroad to Yellowstone” takes your through cowboy country where the blue sky meets clear, blue water. Breathtaking landscapes, cowboy towns, authentic western food and drinks and all the fun you could ever imagine. Explore this scenic drive to Yellowstone and have a true adventure.

I’m flying. How do I get to Yellowstone National Park?

There are plenty of airports from which to start your Yellowstone journey. The closest airports to Yellowstone are around an hour from the nearest park entrance. To find the best option for you, check out this flying guide to Yellowstone National Park.

What should I wear?

Pack warm clothing for all seasons. Even in the summer when the temperature is in the upper 70s during the day, it’s known to drop down to the 40s and 50s at night. You can be swimming during the day and may be shivering a bit at night. Always pack rain gear and a comfortable pair of shoes.

What are the fees?

All fee and permit information can be found on the National Park Service website.

  • http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/feesandreservations.htm
What are the operating hours of the park?

Here you go!

  • http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Things to eat, places to stay, and ways to play