Post Summary: This blog will walk you through the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park and everyyyyyyything you need to know before you go!
Oh haaaaaay there, friend. If you follow me on Instagram, then you KNOW how much I love visiting US National Parks. Each of them is unique in their own way. This became quite apparent when we got to Yellowstone National Park.
The first thing I noticed about Yellowstone was all of its colors! I mean, I’m talking bright blues, oranges, and yellows around every corner.
So if the first national park in the US isn’t on your bucket list already, it needs to be!
That’s why I’m going to list out all of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park and everything you need to know before you go.
Let’s get into it!
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Table of Contents
Yellowstone National Park – Know Before You Go
When to Go to Yellowstone National Park
We visited Yellowstone in September, which is a great time to go! It’s not as hot as summer, but you don’t have to deal with the snow that comes with winter. That means you can still go on a ton of hikes and wildlife spotting! PLUS PLUS PLUS, you’ll beat all of the crazy summer crowds and have time to enjoy the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park.
Winter can also be a lot of fun in Yellowstone, but you need to come prepared. Activities like snowmobiling can be an exciting way to see the park if you do decide to go then.
Summer is going to be busy, so keep that in mind and plan to have some early mornings to try to beat the crowds.
Spring, on the other hand, is an abundant time in Yellowstone. If you visit in spring, you’ll see the most wildlife, gushing waterfalls and blooming wildflowers.
How Long to Stay in Yellowstone National Park
My recommendation for the length of your trip to Yellowstone would be at least 48 hours! 48 hours will give you a lot of time to explore the park and see it’s most famous sites. However, if you’re into backpacking or want to do some major wildlife spotting, stay for four days if you can!
Where to Stay in Yellowstone National Park
For your visit to Yellowstone National Park, you have a couple of ways you can go about staying in the park. I’ll get into the camping sitch first then the hotels that are close to the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park!
- Camping: Yellowstone has 12 official campgrounds and over a hundred backcountry campsites. They also have RV parks for those traveling to the park that way. Some campgrounds require a reservation while others are first-come, first-serve.
- Lodging: There are nine lodges with a mix of luxury rooms and cabins that you can stay at during your stay. Below is a list of them!
Hotels To Consider
- Under Canvas Yellowstone – A Glamping experience in Yellowstone National Park that’ll make you go “why do I even own a tent?”
- Antler Inn – Great little motel in Jackson, WY that’s perfect for budget travelers
- Elkhorn Cabins and Inn – Another motel that’s great for budget travelers. It’s also 5 minutes from the west entrance of the park!
- The Aspen Condos – If hotels aren’t your thing, you can rent some beautiful and cozy condos in West Yellowstone
- Jenny Lake Lodge – Located closer to Grand Teton National Park, this boujee lodge will make you feel like Wyoming royalty
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Getting to Yellowstone National Park & Yellowstone National Park Entrances
Getting to Yellowstone National Park isn’t difficult, and it will be easier if you rent a car! Let’s start with what airports to fly use.
The Airports you can fly into:
- Jackson and Cody (Wyoming)
- Idaho Falls (Idaho)
- Bozeman and Billings (Montana)
There are five entrances to Yellowstone National Park. I went ahead and listed them below.
- North Entrance – Considered the “gateway” to the park and close to Mammoth Hot Springs
- West Entrance – Closest to Old Faithful and has the most dining and hotel options
- South Entrance – The entrance used to get to and from Grand Teton National Park
- East Entrance – Probably the most undeveloped part of the park, and about 15 miles from the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
FYI: If you visit in winter, you’re going to have to plan because several of those entrances will be closed to commercial vehicles!
How to Get Around Yellowstone National Park
It’s essential to have a car when visiting so that you can have access to all the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park. It’s a pretty massive park, so without a vehicle, you’re going to have a hard time getting around!
There is no public transportation within the park, but you will be able to book tours if you don’t have a car of your own.
Yellowstone National Park Entrance Fee
Like all US National Parks, you will have to pay an entrance fee to get into Yellowstone National Park.
$35 – Private, non-commercial vehicle; $30 – Motorcycle or snowmobile (winter) $20 – Visitors 16 and older entering by foot, bike, ski, etc.
If you can, I recommend getting an America The Beautiful pass so you can get into all the national parks in the future!
Now onto the fun stuff! What should you do and see while you are in Yellowstone National Park?
Things to do in Yellowstone National Park
#1 Watch Old Faithful in All Its Greatness
Since Yellowstone National Park sits right on top of a volcanic hotbed of activity, there are plenty of chances for you to watch the geysers erupt. Old Faithful is the most famous geyser in the park, which got its name in 1870.
It erupts anywhere from 106 to 185 feet every 35 to 120 minutes! If you want to watch it go, make sure you grab your seat at the Old Faithful visitor center early – it gets packed since it’s one of the most popular things to do in Yellowstone National Park!
#2 Admire the Colors at Morning Glory Pool
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Now, when you see Morning Glory Pool, I KNOW you’re going to be blown away. This thermal pool sports a bright yellow and teal color that’s quite the sight for the eyes. It ended up being one of my favorite things to do in Yellowstone National Park!
However, over the years, people have thrown garbage and rocks into the pool to see if they can make it into the center. PLEASE refrain from doing this. Over time, the pool has lost so much of its vibrant color because it’s continuing to cool down. Let’s not contribute to this color loss anymore and leave places better than we found them!
#3 Do a Day Hike on the Upper Geyser Basin Trail
The Upper Geyser Basin Trail is the same trail you’ll take to get to Morning Glory Pool, BUT what you might not know about it is that there are sooooo many other thermal pools and small geysers to see along the trail!
Not to mention, the entire trail is a boardwalk, which I think makes it super photogenic! I suggest starting your hike by watching Old Faithful, then jumping on the path to get to Morning Glory and back.
#4 Go Back in Time at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Why go to Arizona when you can see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone? Haha! Say hello to another one of the most popular things to do in Yellowstone National Park – for a good reason too! The canyon stretches 20 miles and goes down 1,000 feet in depth. Scientists think it can be anywhere from 140,000 to 160,000 years old!
In my opinion, the canyon is best viewed early in the morning or at sunset. During these times, you’ll see colors in the canyon rocks that you may not be able to see otherwise!
#5 Get a Good Look at Grand Prismatic from Above
From the Fairy Falls Trailhead, you can hike to the Grand Prismatic Overlook giving you a view of this thermal pool from above. The trail will climb just about 100ft in .6 miles, but it’s worth the climb!
And FYI, Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone National Park! However, that doesn’t mean you can swim in it. If you tried, you’d quite literally melt away.
#6 Jump on a Rafting Trip
If you’re a water baby, there’s plenty of activities for you in Yellowstone as well! You can go paddling on Yellowstone Lake (the largest (132 sq. mi.) and highest altitude lake (7,732′) in North America!). You can also choose to go rafting on one of the various rivers by the entrances to the park.
#7 Check Out Lamar Valley for Sunrise
Okay, sooooooo, Lamar Valley was the first place to blow me away in Yellowstone National Park. I couldn’t believe how beautifully the sun settled between the mountains. Ummm, okay, but also, THERE ARE A TON OF BISON HERE. If you’re hoping to spot some Bison in Yellowstone National Park, go here!
Scott and I had a good laugh watching these giant animals walk around. We got some great pictures of them too!
Do you want to know what else we saw in Lamar Valley? WOLVES. I couldn’t believe it honestly. If you only have a couple of days, add this to the top of your list of things to do in Yellowstone National Park!
All this wildlife talk reminds me: please stay away from the animals! Do not approach or feed them. Not only can you get hurt, but if wild animals get accustomed to coming to humans for food, they’re more likely to attack later when they’re refused food. Wild animals also have sensitive guts that can rapidly change with our food, so they won’t be able to digest their own food later.
#8 Feel the Heat at Mammoth Hot Springs
Again, no, you can’t take a dip in these hot springs, BUT their textures are impressive! Many people love to go here to capture the springs in all their colorful glory. What makes them unique is their cascading terraces.
#9 Get Up Close and Personal with Yellowstone Lower Falls
Yellowstone’s Lower Falls has been described as one of the most beautiful sights in the park! Many people come here to photograph or paint the falls.
A great way to get close to the waterfall is by doing a hike to Artist Point. Artist Point will take you to a cliff where you can witness some of the most amazing pastel colors you have ever seen in your life.
The hike takes place on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and is only .2 miles.
#10 Kayak and Adventure Around Lewis Lake
Lewis Lake is pretty impressive! What I love most about it are the massive mountains sitting casually on its shoreline. This lake is an excellent option for kayakers, hiking, and fishing. If you like camping, well, lucky you! You can stay at the Lewis Lake Campground.
#11 Hike Uncle Tom’s Trail
Similar to Artist Point, Uncle Tom’s will take you to a view of the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. What makes this view different, though, is that it’s from the side of the waterfall. The trail is .7 miles long.
#12 Backpack Electric Peak
Want to go on a longer hike? Then Electric Peak is for you! This is a 20.3mi out and back hike that features some of the best views in Yellowstone National Park. This trail is pretty steep and challenging, but when you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with an overlook of the park. You can read more about the hike here.
#13 Take a Dip in Yellowstone’s Boiling River
OKAY. Here is some water you can actually take a dip in! The Boiling River is a great way to break up your park visit and relax for a bit! This natural spring can get pretty popular, and gets to almost 114 degrees!
To get to the river, you will have to hike 1.25 miles round trip near the Mammoth Hot Springs area. Usually in the spring, the river closes because of rising water temperatures, so plan your trip accordingly! Oh, and make sure to pack a towel.
#14 Trek to Union Falls
So you’ve seen Upper Falls, but what other waterfalls does Yellowstone National Park have? Well, lemme tell you about Union Falls. Union Falls is a giant 250-foot waterfall that cascades deep in the lush forests of Yellowstone.
Getting there is no joke! You’ll be required to hike a 15.4-mile trail if you want to visit this beautiful wonder! The benefit of hiking this trail, though, is that you’ll have fewer crowds than you would have at Upper Falls.
#15 Spot Sunrise & Bison in Hayden Valley
For a .6 mile trail, it was packed! However, I enjoyed the different shapes and colors of the pools surrounding us.
If you’re looking for another great place to spend the morning and spot some bison, give Hayden Valley a try! What I loved most about Hayden Valley was the river flowing through it. There are also hills in the area you can climb up to get a better perspective of the valley. Some folks choose to do this so they can try to spot wolves or bears in distant areas.
When visiting for a sunrise mission, keep an eye out for pull out parking areas where you can enjoy the view! Again, if you choose to come to Hayden Valley for sunrise, please keep a safe distance from the animals!
#16 Walk Fountain Paint Pot Trail
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Yellowstone National Park Fun Facts
- Yellowstone was the first National Park in the world!
- At the heart of Yellowstone sits a massive volcano which is what gives the park it’s natural thermal pools and craters.
Frequently Asked Questions About Yellowstone National Park
Let’s get into some frequently asked questions about Yellowstone National Park!
What is the Best Time to Go To Yellowstone National Park?
The best time of year to visit Yellowstone National Park is early spring and late summer/ fall. More specifically, April to May and September to October. I visited in September and can highly recommend it!
Most folks will visit in the summer, but I find the weather to be a little too hot. Try a different time of year, so you’re not crisping away in the sun!
What State is Yellowstone National Park in?
A majority of Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming; however, a small percentage of it is in Montana. AND a tiny part of it touches Idaho. The park stretches 63 miles north to south and 54 miles east to west.
What’s so Special About Yellowstone National Park?
Aside from it being the first national park in the US, Yellowstone is nearly 3,500 sq-miles of National Forest sitting right on top of a volcanic hotspot. This gives it a unique edge to other National Parks in the US.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Yellowstone National Park?
$35 – Private, non-commercial vehicle; $30 – Motorcycle or snowmobile (winter) $20 – Visitors 16 and older entering by foot, bike, ski, etc. You can view the other park fees here.
Yellowstone is incredible, and I’m so sad that we had to move on. I can’t wait to come back and see even more that this National Park has to offer! Here are some other parks you can visit if you have time. Keep an eye out for more blogs coming and read the other National Park Guides that I’ve put together for you.
Other Nearby Parks
- Grand Teton National Park
- Glacier National Park
- Mt. Rushmore
- Badlands National Park
Things to do in Yellowstone National Park: My Final Thoughts
Always pack out what you bring in and never feed wild animals. Check-in with park rangers and make sure that you know the park conditions before embarking on your trip. Remember to leave the park better than you found it so we all can have the chance to enjoy Yellowstone’s natural beauty. There are so many beautiful things to do in Yellowstone National Park and I hope you found this blog helpful! If you use any of the recommendations in this guide, let me know in the comments.