Yellowstone National Park Travel Guide

July 09, 2021

Sapphire Pool at Yellowstone National Park | My Bucket Journals

Yellowstone draws people from around the world to witness its abounding and unique hydrothermal and geologic wonders. You’ll also find trendy towns, backcountry trails, and an amazing blend of land, water, forest, and wildlife. It’s a sojourn everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.   

|| This post is a companion to the National Parks Bucket Journal ||

Get to Know Yellowstone National Park

Region: Rocky Mountain

States: Wyoming / Montana / Idaho  

URL for Park Websitehttps://www.nps.gov/yell 

Webcams: https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm 

Established: March 1, 1872

President: Ulysses S. Grant

By the numbers:

  • 4 million+ visitors per year (2019)
  • 2.2 million+ acres
  • Lat. 44.3936, Long -110.55633
  • 5 park entrances
  • 10 visitor centers
  • Highest elevation 11,358 ft.
  • Lowest elevation 5,282 ft.

Closest Airports

If you are not close enough to drive to Yellowstone try flying into one of several airports and then driving to the park.
  • Bozeman, Montana Airport: about two hours from the North Entrance
  • Billings, Montana Airport: approximately two hours forty-five minutes from the North Entrance
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming Airport: about a one-hour drive from the South Entrance.
  • Salt Lake City, Utah Airport: about a six-hour drive from the South Entrance.

Entrances

There are five entrances to the park. Each one starts you on a different experience.

  • North entrance (near Gardiner, Montana)
  • Northeast entrance (near Cooke City, Montana)
  • South entrance (near West Yellowstone, Montana)
  • East entrance (near Cody, Wyoming).
  • West entrance (near West Yellowstone, Montana)

Visitor Centers

There are 10 visitor centers inside Yellowstone. Each will give you a wealth of information about the area around it and the programs that are happening in the park today. Be sure to visit at least one center and talk to a ranger.  

  • Albright Visitor Center
  • Canyon Visitor Education Center
  • Fishing Bridge Visitor Center 
  • Grant Visitor Center
  • Historic West Thumb Ranger Station
  • Madison Information Station
  • Museum of the National Park Ranger
  • Norris Geyser Basin Museum
  • Old Faithful Visitor and Education Center
  • West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center

 Phone (307) 242-2650 (Grant Visitor Center)

Entrance Fees 

Passes are good for entry for 7 days from the date of purchase.

  • $35 non-commercial vehicle
  • $30 motorcycle or snowmobile
  • $20 on foot, bicycle
  • $70 Annual pass good for one year for a total of four people

Park Hours and Access

Yellowstone is open daily, 24 hours a day, year-round, although activities and services are limited at night and at certain times of the year. Check the NPS website for details about the season you will be visiting. 

Open all year? Yes, with some road closures for each entrance, dependent on weather.

Journal about Your Unique Experiences in Yellowstone National Park with a National Parks Bucket Journal

Memories are best made with adventure! All 63 US National Parks are full of unique experiences, dramatic views and natural wonders you simply have to see to believe.

With a National Parks Bucket Journal, you will never forget the trips you take, the adventures you have, and the people you share it with. A bucket journal makes recording your trip's highlights, and planning your next adventure that much easier! 

Things To Do

There are so many outdoor activities inside the park, be sure to take time and appreciate the animal life around you. There are opportunities for birding, wildlife viewing, and of course photographing the beauty around you.

Kids will like the junior ranger program, which gets them involved in hands-on activities. plus there are many areas where swimming is available. especially around campsites. Be sure to stop for a picnic in one of the scenic areas.

Enjoy getting around the park with one of the guided tours or venture out on your own by hiking, biking, horseback riding, backcountry exploration, fishing, or boating. 

Yellowstone has adventure year-round. Enjoy the park in winter by going cross country skiing, snowmobile riding, or snowshoeing.

How Much Time Do You Need to Explore Yellowstone?

Most people recommend at least three days to get acquainted with all Yellowstone has to offer. If you have one day in the summer, be sure to take in Old Faithful, the Upper Geiser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs.  

If you have 3 days get ideas from this itinerary from Yellowstone National Park Lodges 

If you have 5 days to spend in Yellowstone, check out some of the comments on the Lonely Planet Forum from people who have been there.  

My Bucket Journals Top Yellowstone NP Picks:

  1. Watch Old Faithful blow
  2. Take the Abyss Pool trail
  3. View Castle Geyser
  4. Eat at Old Faithful Inn
  5. Hike Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook Trail
  6. Take Mud Volcano Trail
  7. Explore Ft Yellowstone Historic District at Mammoth Hot Spring

Hike the Trails

When planning a hike, remember that many of Yellowstone’s trails are more than 7,000 feet above sea level. Most areas retain snow until late May or early June. Check their backcountry situation report for the most up-to-date information on park trails.

You can find a hike for every level of experience, from boardwalks to back country adventures. These are the most common areas to explore: 

  • Canyon Day Hikes
  • Lake & Fishing Bridge Day Hikes
  • Madison Day Hikes 
  • Mammoth Hot Springs Day Hikes
  • Old Faithful Day Hikes
  • Tower & Northeast Day Hikes
  • West Thumb & Grant Day Hikes

Scenic Drive  

Drive the Grand Loop, a 142 mile long circle around the heart of Yellowstone. Allow a full day to drive, stop at attractions along the way, and be patient with traffic. To get to the loop, drive one of the five surrounding entrance roads, which can take some time.

This loop connects visitors to every popular spot, from Mammoth Hot Springs, near the North Entrance to Fountain Pots and Old Faithful near the West and South Entrances.    

Take a Tour

There are many ways to enrich your visit to Yellowstone by participating in a ranger program, becoming a junior ranger, exploring as a young scientist, or going on a guided tour.   

The National Park Service requires specific authorizations for commercial businesses to operate in national parks. Approved companies provide a variety of services and tours inside Yellowstone, including: 

  • Backpacking
  • Bicycling 
  • Boating 
  • Day Hiking 
  • Fishing 
  • Painting & Photography Tours 
  • Skiing & Snowshoeing 
  • Snowmobile & Snowcoach Tours
  • Stock Outfitters (Guided Horse, Mule, and Llama Outfitters) 
  • Road-Based Tours.

Learn more about tours at the National Park Website.  

Lodging in the Park

  • Canyon Lodge & Cabins - this rustic lodge is 2 miles from Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
  • Grant Village Lodge - located near the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, it features 6 two-story buildings, each containing 50 rooms.
  • Lake Lodge - offers a spectacular rocking chair view of Yellowstone Lake from the main lodge. Located behind the lodge are 186 cabins.
  • Lake Yellowstone Hotel - Built in the 1920s but completely remodeled, this property has cabins, standard lodge rooms, and a presidential suite.
  • Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel - The hotel, cottages, and companion dining room are the epicenter of commercial visitor services at Mammoth, and are adjacent to Fort Yellowstone, the park's headquarters.
  • Old Faithful Inn - Named for the geyser near which its construction began in 1903, the Old Faithful Inn exemplifies the use of rustic architecture at a large scale to complement a natural landscape.
  • Old Faithful Lodge - This historic cabin facility is located near Old Faithful Inn and includes a one-story main lodge built in the 1920′s featuring massive logs and stone pillars. Tremendous views of the Old Faithful Geyser can be seen from the lobby area.
  • Old Faithful Snow Lodge - the Snow Lodge is the newest of the park’s full-service hotels, it has several cabins and premium lodge rooms available.
  • Roosevelt Lodge - The Roosevelt Lodge Historic District, which includes 130 buildings, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The accommodations are still rustic, with unpaved roads into and around the lodge and cabins. 

Campgrounds

There are 12 campgrounds inside of Yellowstone, each offering an exploration of different areas of the park. Use the map below to find locations and links to their individual websites. 

  1. Bridge Bay Campground - elevation 7,800 feet (2377 m)—is located near Yellowstone Lake, one of the largest, high-elevation, fresh-water lakes in North America. 
  2. Canyon Campground - elevation 7,900 feet (2408 m)—lies in a lodgepole pine forest at Canyon Village, south of the Washburn range. Nearby hikes include Cascade Lake, Mount Washburn, and the Canyon Rim trails. Nearby hikes include Cascade Lake, Mount Washburn, and the Canyon Rim trails.
  3. Fishing Bridge RV Park - elevation 7,800 feet (2377 m)—is located near the Yellowstone River where it exits Yellowstone Lake on its way toward the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The only campground in the park to offer water, sewer, and electrical hookups.
  4. Grant Village Campground - elevation 7,800 feet (2377 m) - is just a few miles from the enchanting West Thumb Geyser Basin. Situated in a lodgepole pine forest on the shore of the lake, with an easily navigated boardwalk and trail system.
  5. Indian Creek Campground - elevation 7,300 feet (2225 m)—sits near the base of the Gallatin Mountains and offers breathtaking views of Electric Peak.
  6. Lewis Lake Campground - elevation 7,800 ft (2377 m)—is about eight miles from the South Entrance and a short walk from the southeast shore of Lewis Lake. 
  7. Madison Campground - elevation 6,800 feet (2073 m)—sits about 14 miles east of the town of West Yellowstone and 16 miles north of Old Faithful. Enjoy plenty of river access where the Gibbon and Firehole rivers join to form the Madison River.
  8. Mammoth Campground - elevation 6,200 feet (1890 m)—is located five miles south of the park's North Entrance. It is the only campground open year-round. Great wildlife viewing opportunities and close to fishing, hiking, and the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. 
  9. Norris Campground - elevation 7,500 feet (2,286 m)–is located near a large open meadow, which provides an opportunity for wildlife viewing. Bison frequently walk through the campground. Most sites are shaded by lodgepole pine.
  10. Pebble Creek Campground - elevation 6,900 feet (2103 m)—lies against the dramatic backdrop of the Absaroka Mountains near the park's Northeast Entrance and offers a more isolated camping experience.
  11. Slough Creek Campground - elevation 6,250 feet (1905 m)—is located at the end of a two-mile dirt road and is best suited for tents and small RVs. 
  12. Tower Fall Campground - elevation 6,600 feet (2012 m)—is located on the north side of the steep, winding, road to Dunraven Pass. 

Get Connected

The National Park Service App (NPS App) features downloadable information for all the national park sites in the country, including Yellowstone. This includes an interactive map, self-guided audio tours, and information to make your trip smoother and more interesting. It does not yet include live updates to lodging, campground, road status, or geyser predictions.

Dig Deeper 

The NPS Yellowstone App features live updates to the status of lodges, campgrounds, roads, and geyser predictions when in cell service. It also features downloadable interpretive stories and self-guided audio tours to use in Yellowstone even when offline. These stories and tours provide you with in-depth trip planning information and guide you through many of Yellowstone's most fascinating resources.  

Download either (or both) National Park Service apps for free through the App Store and Google Play.

Visitor TIP  

Cellular service within the park is extremely limited. In order to make use of the app while in Yellowstone, follow these simple steps before you arrive: 

  • Download the app.
  • In the app, select the "Settings" option.
  • Tap the choice "Download Offline Content."  

This gives you access to most of the app content (except alerts, calendar updates, and real-time updates, although accessing those items before leaving service will keep that information available in the app) Even without cellular service, the app will be able to share your location on the map and bring up all site content.

 

 

Use our interactive map to plan your trip and view details about visitor centers, campgrounds, lodging, walking tours, and attractions.  

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers. You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.

If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Pin it for later!






Also in News

varying shades of mountain and sky at sunset in the smoky mountains with a text overlay that says Great Smoky Mountains National Park Travel Guide
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Travel Guide

September 17, 2021

Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a diverse region with an abundance of wildlife, wildflowers, and hiking trails. This park has something for everyone! We’ve collected all the info you need to plan your trip - how to get there, where to stay, and what to see.

View full article →

hiking boots in the forest with text overlay saying take a nature adventure in Virginia State Parks
Self-Guided Nature Exploration in Virginia State Parks

September 06, 2021

View full article →

7 Michigan State Parks That Are Genuine Hidden Gems
7 Michigan State Parks That Are Genuine Hidden Gems

August 31, 2021

Although you may have heard of or even visited some of the more popular Michigan State Parks—Saugatuck Dunes, Porcupine Mountain, Mackinac Island, and several others—the Great Lakes State is home to several state parks that are truly ‘hidden gems’ sure to take your breath away!

View full article →