National Parks

Yellowstone Itinerary 4 Days: Memorable National Park Adventure

Nov 29, 2022

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Yellowstone National Park is the first park in the USA and popular for a reason. With its geysers, geo-thermal hot springs, colorful wonders, vast landscapes, and wildlife, any visitor would find themselves in awe of Yellowstone’s natural beauty. And a Yellowstone itinerary, 4 days, is the perfect way to see just about everything this national park has to offer.

Based on my experience in the park, I’ve written this Yellowstone 4 day itinerary with everything you need to know for planning a trip to Yellowstone.

Before jumping into the itinerary, let’s start with some quick must-know details!

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Disclaimer: Hey explorer! This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small percentage of each purchase made through my links. I only ever recommend products I believe in and appreciate your support if you decide to use my links—thank you!

Know Before You Go— 4 Days in Yellowstone Itinerary

Here’s a quick breakdown of what you need to know before your trip.

  • When to Go: Summer to early fall are ideal because this is when most of the park is open!
  • Trip Length: 4 days
  • 🚗 Rental Car: Use Expedia to help you find cheap rental cars! You will not need a 4×4 for this trip.
  • ✈️ Fly: Jackson Hoke Airport is located in Jackson, WY (1.5 hours from the park)—Use Expedia to find tickets!
  • 🚐 Rental Campervan: Want a campervan instead? You can rent one using Outdoorsy.
  • 🏨 Stay: We’ll cover where to stay too.
  • 🎟 Park Fees: You will be visiting national parks on this trip. The standard entrance fee is about $35 per park. To save, snag the America The Beautiful Pass ($79.99).

Below are some lodging options for you to consider during your 4 days in Yellowstone National Park!

  • Under Canvas Yellowstone – A Glamping experience in Yellowstone National Park that’ll make you go, “Why do I even own a tent?”
  • 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.
  • 3BR Condo with a View – You want a view of the Tetons? You got it. I seriously don’t think I’d ever leave the patio of this 3BR condo!

*Staying in Jackson Hole, WY will give you the most flexibility for exploring Yellowstone National Park. It’s about a 1.5 hour drive but will allow you to also explore Grand Teton National Park.

Below you’ll find a map you can reference during your itinerary.

Click here to view a live version of the map!

Yellowstone Itinerary 4 Days at a Glance

  • Day 1
    • Arrive North
    • Boiling River
    • Mammoth Hot Spring
  • Day 2
    • Lamar Valley sunrise
    • Trout Lake Trail
    • Tower Fall
    • Dinner with a sunset
  • Day 3
    • Helicopter Tour
    • Grand Prismatic Spring
    • Upper Geyser Basin Trail
    • West Thumb Geyser Basin
  • Day 4
    • Hayden Valley sunrise
    • Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River
    • Canyon Village

Below we’ll get into each day and the activities you’ll be doing.

Tailor this itinerary to fit your needs! 

Day 1

Arrival

You’ll start your adventure at the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

After a long day of travel, I don’t usually feel like doing much, which I’ll assume you’re on the same page. So how about you start the trip with a relaxing soak?

campervans watching sunset over yellowstone national park

Boiling River Hot Springs

The Boiling River is the only hot spring in Yellowstone NP you can actually soak in!

Its waters sit at a toasty 114 degrees and flow into the Gardner River from the Mammoth Hot Springs area.

From the parking lot, there is a half-mile path that will take you right to a wonderful soak area you can enjoy for the day. The only precaution here is that parking is limited, so try to get here early!

Tip: You can make a whole picnic out of this by bringing in some food to enjoy by the spring!

Read Next: The Best Idaho Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs Sunset

No, you can’t take a dip in these hot springs, but Mammoth Hot Springs will be the perfect place to experience your first Yellowstone sunset.

What makes them unique is their cascading terraces. The “terraces” are made up of two parts: lower and upper. 

You can access the Lower Terrace from Grand Loop Road. The Upper Terrace can be accessed through Upper Terrace Drive. The boardwalk around the terraces is about 1.75 miles with approximately 300ft in elevation gain. 

This is a great way to start the trip because it requires minimal effort to explore and is close enough to Boiling River that you won’t have to venture very far.

Read Next: The Camera Gear I Use as a Travel Blogger

Day 2

Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley is the perfect place to catch your first sunrise in Yellowstone National Park. It’s also one of “the” spots for wildlife viewing.

As the sun comes over the mountains, the entire valley starts to look more and more like a painting—this was easily one of the best sunrises I’ve ever seen!

If you’re keen on spotting a wild bison, this is the spot. As you drive up the road, you’re likely to see hundreds of bison weaving in between cars and grazing the grassy hills.

Anddddd, if you’re really lucky, you visit to Lamar Valley will be complete with a wolf sighting!

During our visit to Yellowstone, we were lucky enough to spot an entire pack of wolves playing in the creeks near Lamar Valley—something most visitors don’t get to experience!

Your best bet for catching something like that is to spend an early morning here.

And please remember to leave all wildlife alone and never feed the animals. Approaching them is extremely dangerous and can leave you injured!

Trout Lake Trail

Trout Lake is the perfect little stop after you explore Lamar Valley. The Trout Lake Trail will take you around a forest lake in about 1-2hrs depending on how quickly you can walk the 1.2mi trail.

Pro Tip: This is an excellent photo spot as well because of the valley mountain views you get along the trail.

Tower Fall

To cap things off, while you’re in the area, you can explore Tower Fall. It’s a waterfall that drops 132ft into Yellowstone National Park! The viewpoint can be accessed near Tower Junction. 

Read Next: How to Become an Adventure Photographer

Dinner at Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room

If you’d rather watch the sunrise, hike, then chill for the rest of the day, you could always book dinner at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room.

It’s a bit fancier than most dining options in the park. But, you can get a beautiful view of the lake here! 

Reservations are required for dinner. I recommend booking a table close to sunset. The menu changes, but in the past they’ve had everything from lamb sliders to lentil soup.

Wylie’s Canteen at Lake Lodge is another option. Once you’re there, you’ll have floor-to-ceiling views of Yellowstone Lake. 

Same as the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, I suggest getting a table right before sunset so you can enjoy said sunset during your meal! What a great way to cap off day 2 of our 4 days in Yellowstone itinerary.

Day 3 (My Fave Day in the 4 Days in Yellowstone Itinerary)

Helicopter Tour

From the WYS airport, you can hop on a Yellowstone Helicopter tour that will take you on an adventure from above. 

The Yellowstone Helicopters company has tours ranging from 10min to 60min, but the 45 minute and 60 minute tours provide the best value and offer you the chance to see plenty of Yellowstone’s beauty from above.

A 45 or 60-minute tour will get you views of most of Yellowstone’s scenic valleys and mountain peaks you wouldn’t see otherwise.

Additionally, if you want to spot some wildlife, a helicopter tour could be a great option to do so!

After your helicopter tour, I recommend exploring some of West Yellowstone. 

Grand Prismatic Spring

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. 

If you don’t feel like getting a view of Grand Prismatic Spring from above, opt to explore the Midway Geyser Basin! Midway Geyser Basin includes a short boardwalk loop that will allow you to explore Grand Prismatic and other nearby ground-level pools.

Fun Fact: Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone National Park!

Upper Geyser Basin Trail

Next up, you’ll take the Upper Geyser Basin Trail and get a peep at Old Faithful and Morning Glory Pool – two of the more popular park attractions in Yellowstone.

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.

Morning Glory Pool

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 see during our 4 days in Yellowstone National Park itinerary!

Please Note: People have thrown garbage and rocks into the pool over the years to see if they can make it into the center. PLEASE refrain from doing this. This causes the pool to cool down.

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.

West Thumb Geyser Basin

When you’re done exploring those attractions, you can keep driving towards Yellowstone Lake and explore West Thumb Geyser Basin! 

I would describe West Thumb Geyser Basin as similar to Upper Geyser Basin in the sense that you can walk a small trail and see a variety of geysers and geothermal pools. 

Some of the main attractions here include Fishing Cone and Thumb Geyser. But if you’re “geysered out” for the day, then skip and maybe opt to just hang out by the lake instead.

Day 4

Hayden Valley

Your day will start at Hayden Valley. This is a beautiful sunrise spot, and you might be able to spot some wildlife here too!

Some short trails allow you to explore a bit more of the valley, but while here, I found myself just admiring the view. 

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 to spot wolves or bears in distant regions. 

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! 

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Your next stop will be short and sweet.

Why go to Arizona when you can see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone? Haha! 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. 

You can admire the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Artist Point and Upper Falls Point. I loved both!

In my opinion, the canyon is best viewed early in the morning or at sunset. Adjust your 4 days in Yellowstone itinerary accordingly.

During these times, you’ll see colors in the canyon rocks that you may not be able to see otherwise!

You can also take Uncle Tom’s Trail and do a short hike to the falls if you’re up for a bit more of an adventure.

OR if you want to hike with a group and eat some food, book a Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone rim and loop hike tour — lunch included!

Quick Stop at Canyon Village

Canyon Village is where the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River sits. Canyon Village is also where you’ll find some shops, Hayden Valley, and hiking trails (Uncle Tom’s Trail, Observation Peak). 

So before you leave, you can use this as a quick pit-stop!

Depart

And while departing sounds sad, you can now make your way to Grand Teton National Park or even Glacier National Park

Yellowstone Itinerary 4 Days Add Ons

In this section, you’ll find additional attractions you can add to your 4 days in Yellowstone National Park itinerary!

Feel free to swap out items we already discussed, especially if one of these glean your interest.

Watch Old Faithful Geyser 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!

Have an Old West Dinner Cookout

You can book an Old West Dinner Cookout that’ll take place in the Yellowstone National Park backcountry! This is a great way to explore with a group of people and experience some of the old west history Yellowstone is known for. 

The horse-drawn wagons will take you on a 60 to 90 minute trail ride where your cookout will take place!

Go Horseback Riding

This is a huge hit with families. But, if you want to do something a bit different, book a Yellowstone horseback riding tour

This particular horseback riding tour will take you along the Continental Divide trail, giving you views of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

Drive Grand Loop Road

Grand Loop Road makes up the primary road system in Yellowstone. It opened in 1915 and is completely paved! Grand Loop Road stretches 142mi in more of a figure-8 shape. 

If you want to add a mini road trip itinerary to your 4 day Yellowstone itinerary, drive Grand Loop Road!

Believe it or not, driving the entire road takes about 4 to 7 hours. Therefore, it really warrants a whole day’s worth of exploring. The best part about the road is that it passes through just about every main attraction in Yellowstone National Park!

P.S. Grand Loop Road is closed December through April, so plan accordingly!

Norris Geyser Basin

Another Basin? Yes, lol. Norris Geyser Basin is near North Yellowstone. It includes a variety of geothermal pools and geysers you can explore.

For example, there’s Swiss Cheese Pool, Bear Den Geyser, and a whole bunch of others that have clever names. 

I’m adding this in here as a 4 day Yellowstone itinerary add-on because if you choose to drive Grand Loop Road, you’ll pass by Norris Geyser Basin anyways!

Jump on a Rafting Trip

If you’re a water baby, there are 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. If this sounds fun to you, I suggest booking a Yellowstone rafting tour.

Walk Fountain Paint Pot Trail

Fountain Paint Pot Trail is short and sweet! It’s a great place to see some thermal pools and should only take about 30min max to complete.

I found it to be a great photo spot as well.

This is an excellent location to come mid-day if you need something to do to pass the time.

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 fantastic 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.

Kayak Around

Now, this is MY kind of adventure! If you’re interested in seeing Yellowstone from a different perspective, I suggest making some time during your four days in Yellowstone to book a kayaking trip

You can kayak around Yellowstone Lake, which gives you a closer look at some smaller geysers. 

Fish at Lewis Lake

Lewis Lake is pretty impressive! However, what I love most about Lewis Lake are the massive mountains sitting casually on the 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.

Hike Uncle Tom’s Trail

We’ve discussed Uncle Tom’s a bit, but just to reiterate: 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.

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 Yellowstone.

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.

Explore Other Nearby National Parks

If you want to take your 4 day Yellowstone itinerary to the next level, I suggest making a stop at one of these US National Parks!

Yellowstone in 4 Days FAQ

 Now that we’ve wrapped up our trip to Yellowstone in 4 days let’s get into some frequently asked questions about Yellowstone National Park!

What State is Yellowstone National Park in?

A majority of Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming; however, a small percentage 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 over other National Parks in the US.

What is the Best Time to Go To Yellowstone National Park?

The best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is early spring and late summer to early 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!

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 Yellowstone park fees on the NPS site.

Yellowstone in 4 Days — My Final Thoughts

And there you have it! That’s a wrap on your 4 days in Yellowstone itinerary.

If you want a good mix of relaxation and adventure, I suggest splitting your time between the sightseeing activities and tours. Booking a tour (horseback riding, rafting, etc.) can be a great way to get a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Yellowstone!

The park is so big and while you can see most of it on your own, the tours will get you to locations you wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.

For more help with putting your trip together, I suggest reading my next Yellowstone guide: How to Plan a Trip to Yellowstone National Park!

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I'm a burrito loving explorer who got fired from corporate America and turned that into my dream career as a photographer and blogger. Now I'm here to help you explore life's magic. Thanks for stopping by!