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National Parks

ULTIMATE 4 Days in Yellowstone: Your Bucket List Itinerary

Jan 20, 2024

National Parks

ULTIMATE 4 Days in Yellowstone: Your Bucket List Itinerary

Jan 20, 2024

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I'm a travel creator and influencer coach based out of Arizona. This blog is where I share the best itineraries for US & beyond, 63 US National Parks, and influencer tips.

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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 US 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!

📌 Save this to Pinterest!

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!

FREE CLASS: Get PAID to Travel!

Sign up for my free class and learn how I land paid brand deals that pay me to travel as a content creator and influencer!

Planning Your 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).

Need places to stay? I got you covered, boo.

  • Under Canvas Yellowstone – A Glamping experience in Yellowstone National Park that’ll make you go, “Why do I even own a tent?”
  • 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.

Remember to grab your America the Beautiful Pass!

Yellowstone Itinerary 4 Days at a Glance + Map

  • 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 so you have a full understanding of your trip. Make sure you tailor this itinerary to fit your needs! And while we’re here, enjoy this little map I made you!

Click here to view a live version of the map!

Ultimate 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park Itinerary

Arrival

I suggest getting to Yellowstone the evening before or very early your first day. But getting here the evening before will definitely give you more time to settle in.

You’ll start your adventure at the northern section of Yellowstone National Park. But the great part about the park is that just about everything is connected by what’s called Grand Loop Road, so you’ll be able to easily navigate around!

Insider Tip: If you want a better understanding of the different part districts and entrances, make sure you read my guide on planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Day 1 (North)

Drive Along Upper Grand Loop Road (Morning)

Opened in 1915, Grand Loop Road is a scenic, paved drive that makes up the primary road system in Yellowstone! The road stretches 142 miles in a figure-8 shape, so driving the entire road takes about 4 to 7 hours. 

But for Day 1 of your 4 day Yellowstone itinerary, you’ll drive the upper portion of the road. Your mini road trip will only take about 3 hours, depending on how many stops you make!

Below are some to consider during your route.

  • Boiling River: A soakable hot spring in Yellowstone.
  • Mammoth Hot Springs: Popular photo destination and natural hot spring you can admire.
  • Little Gibbon Falls: Small waterfall surrounded by greenery— short walk to get to.
  • Calcite Springs Overlook: Short 0.2 mile loop trail to a scenic overlook of a river flowing through a canyon.

Visitors can access Grand Loop and its stops May through October.

Insider Tip: Remember, you still have three full days to see the park, so there’s no need to see everything today— just try to enjoy the views!

Hike Mount Washburn (Afternoon)

When afternoon hits, consider a hike! The Mount Washburn hike is a 6.8-mile, moderately challenging route that will take you to one of the prettiest views of Yellowstone National Park.

The hike starts at Dunraven Pass where you’ll climb up and up the mountain! This is a great day hike, which most people do during their trips to Yellowstone— expect it to take about 3 to 4 hours.

You can skip this hike, but it’s a great option if you’re up for the adventure!

Insider Tip: Make sure you wear good hiking boots with traction and bring your camera gear for some pics.

Soak in Boiling River Hot Springs (Afternoon)

Alternatively, if you’d rather relax, 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! And if you like this kind of thing, then you’ll really love reading about the Best Idaho Hot Springs.

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

Mammoth Hot Springs Sunset (Evening)

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, while 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 end the day because it requires minimal effort to explore and is close enough to Boiling River that you won’t have to venture very far.

Insider Tip: Take a camera like a Sony a6400 and a 24-70mm f/2.8 for some photos!

Day 2 (North)

Sunrise Over Lamar Valley (Morning)

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!

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.

Insider Tip: 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 (Mid-Morning)

Trout Lake is the perfect little stop after you explore Lamar Valley — it’s right down the road via a 5-minute drive! The Trout Lake Trail will take you around a forest lake in about 1-2 hours depending on how quickly you can walk the 1.2 mile trail.

The hike will start with a bit of a climb through the forest until you reach the top of a ridge. After a bit of walking, the trail will level then dip back down to the shore where you can finally enjoy Trout Lake.

You’ll immediately notice the beautiful mountain in the distance— it’s a great photo spot!

Insider Tip: This is another wildlife spotting area— watch for bears!

Tower Fall (Afternoon)

Next is a waterfall! Drive 30 minutes down the road to explore Tower Fall next. The viewpoint (also known as Tower Fall Overlook) can be accessed near Tower Junction and is s short walk from the parking area.

This is a great little stop to enjoy for a few minutes before moving on to the next activity.

Fun Fact: Tower Fall is a waterfall that drops 132ft into Yellowstone National Park!

Hike Specimen Ridge (Afternoon)

As an alternative to Trout Lake and Tower Fall, after Lamar Valley you can head over to the Specimen Lake trailhead for a different kind of adventure.

This is considered one of the best hikes in Yellowstone National Park and would be a great addition to your itinerary! Throughout your hike, you’ll have AMAZING views, up Amethyst Mountain, and through Lamar Valley.

You’ll even see petrified trees! This is a long day hike sitting at a total of 16.9 miles and over 3,800 feet of elevation gain. Expect it to take up your day!

Insider Tip: If you go during June and July, you might see wildflowers!

Dinner at Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room (Evening)

Tonight, book dinner at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room — make sure you get something around sunset! 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. The menu changes, but in the past they’ve had everything from lamb sliders to lentil soup! What a great way to cap off day 2 of our 4 days in Yellowstone itinerary.

Insider Tip: Grab a seat near the bar for some of the better views! 

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

Helicopter Tour (Morning)

Day 3 will be the start of your journey to the lower half of Yellowstone. And it’ll start with a bang!

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 10-minute to 6minute, 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.

Some tours will take you over popular sites like Grand Prismatic Spring! After your helicopter tour, I recommend exploring some of West Yellowstone. 

Insider Tip: If you want to spot some wildlife, a helicopter tour could be a great option to do so!

Fountain Paint Pot Trail (Afternoon)

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

I found it to be a great photo spot as well, so pack something like a Sony a6400 and 24-70mm f/2.8.

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

Grand Prismatic Spring (Afternoon)

Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone National Park! 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 0.6 miles, but it’s worth the climb! This was a short and sweet hike that Scott and I really enjoyed on our trip.

We loved how colorful the pool was and it was nice to get to see if from a different perspective. If you don’t feel like getting a view of Grand Prismatic Spring from above, opt to explore the Midway Geyser Basin!

Insider Tip: Midway Geyser Basin includes a short boardwalk loop that will allow you to explore Grand Prismatic and other nearby ground-level pools.

Old Faithful (Afternoon)

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.

Insider Tip: 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!

Upper Geyser Basin Trail (Evening)

Next up, you’ll take the Upper Geyser Basin Trail, which will lead you around Old Faithful, Morning Glory Pool, and lots of others.

The Upper Geyser Basin Trail area has almost 200 named and unnamed geysers and pools. Not to mention, the entire trail is a boardwalk, which I think makes it super photogenic, and easy to navigate.

My preferred way to enjoy this trail is to start it from Old Faithful and make your way to Morning Glory Pool. Expect the hike to be about 2 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain.

Insider Tip: During our visit, it was bright and hot outside, so I suggest doing this walk around sunset when it’s cooler!

Morning Glory Pool (Evening)

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! Unfortunately, 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.

Do Better: 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 (Evening)

When you’re done exploring those attractions, you can keep driving towards Yellowstone Lake (the largest (132 sq. mi.) and highest altitude lake (7,732′) in North America!) 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.

Insider Tip: If you’re “geysered out” for the day, then skip and maybe opt to just relax by Yellowstone Lake instead.

Day 4 (Southeast)

Hayden Valley (Morning)

Your day in Yellowstone 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 from the pull-off areas. What I loved most about Hayden Valley is was the Yellowstone 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. 

Insider Tip: When visiting for a sunrise mission, keep an eye out for pull-out parking areas where you can enjoy the view—please keep a safe distance from the animals! 

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River (Mid-Morning)

Your next stop will be short, sweet, and scenic! 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 Upper Falls if you’re up for a bit more of an adventure. Uncle Tom’s is 0.7 miles and will take you to a side view of the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Insider Tip: 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!

Artist Point (Mid-Morning)

Yellowstone River Falls has been described as one of the most beautiful sights in the park! 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 0.2 miles.

Fun Fact: Many people come here to photograph or paint the falls. 

Canyon Village (Afternoon)

Canyon Village is where the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River sits and is worth the trip before you depart.

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

Insider Tip: Use this as an opportunity to grab souvenirs before you leave!

Depart

That concludes your trip! In the next sections we’ll cover some add-ons in case you want more time for your trip.

And while departing sounds sad, you can now make your way to Grand Teton National Park or even Glacier National Park with a Yellowstone to Glacier National Park road trip!

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.

Fish at Lewis Lake

Lewis Lake is pretty impressive! This lake is an excellent option for kayakers, hiking, and fishing. If you want to relax during one of your 4 days in Yellowstone, I suggest heading here!

And if you like camping, well, lucky you! You can stay at the Lewis Lake Campground.

Norris Geyser Basin

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. 

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.

Backpack Electric Peak

Want to go on a longer hike? Then Electric Peak is for you! This is a 20.3 mile 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.

Excursions to Consider

If there is one thing Yellowstone has an abundance of, it’s excursions. We discussed a helicopter tour, but I recommend booking one of these if you can!

Old West Dinner Cookout — You can book an Old West Dinner Cookout that’ll take place in the Yellowstone National Park backcountry!

Rafting Trip — 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.

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

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

Extending Your Yellowstone Trip

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!

What to Pack for Yellowstone in 4 Days

Have no idea what to pack for your trip? Based on my experience, you’ll need the following:

FAQ About Spending 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park

 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.

Final Thoughts on Seeing Yellowstone in 4 Days

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!

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 US 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!

📌 Save this to Pinterest!

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!

FREE CLASS: Get PAID to Travel!

Sign up for my free class and learn how I land paid brand deals that pay me to travel as a content creator and influencer!

Planning Your 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).

Need places to stay? I got you covered, boo.

  • Under Canvas Yellowstone – A Glamping experience in Yellowstone National Park that’ll make you go, “Why do I even own a tent?”
  • 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.

Remember to grab your America the Beautiful Pass!

Yellowstone Itinerary 4 Days at a Glance + Map

  • 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 so you have a full understanding of your trip. Make sure you tailor this itinerary to fit your needs! And while we’re here, enjoy this little map I made you!

Click here to view a live version of the map!

Ultimate 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park Itinerary

Arrival

I suggest getting to Yellowstone the evening before or very early your first day. But getting here the evening before will definitely give you more time to settle in.

You’ll start your adventure at the northern section of Yellowstone National Park. But the great part about the park is that just about everything is connected by what’s called Grand Loop Road, so you’ll be able to easily navigate around!

Insider Tip: If you want a better understanding of the different part districts and entrances, make sure you read my guide on planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Day 1 (North)

Drive Along Upper Grand Loop Road (Morning)

Opened in 1915, Grand Loop Road is a scenic, paved drive that makes up the primary road system in Yellowstone! The road stretches 142 miles in a figure-8 shape, so driving the entire road takes about 4 to 7 hours. 

But for Day 1 of your 4 day Yellowstone itinerary, you’ll drive the upper portion of the road. Your mini road trip will only take about 3 hours, depending on how many stops you make!

Below are some to consider during your route.

  • Boiling River: A soakable hot spring in Yellowstone.
  • Mammoth Hot Springs: Popular photo destination and natural hot spring you can admire.
  • Little Gibbon Falls: Small waterfall surrounded by greenery— short walk to get to.
  • Calcite Springs Overlook: Short 0.2 mile loop trail to a scenic overlook of a river flowing through a canyon.

Visitors can access Grand Loop and its stops May through October.

Insider Tip: Remember, you still have three full days to see the park, so there’s no need to see everything today— just try to enjoy the views!

Hike Mount Washburn (Afternoon)

When afternoon hits, consider a hike! The Mount Washburn hike is a 6.8-mile, moderately challenging route that will take you to one of the prettiest views of Yellowstone National Park.

The hike starts at Dunraven Pass where you’ll climb up and up the mountain! This is a great day hike, which most people do during their trips to Yellowstone— expect it to take about 3 to 4 hours.

You can skip this hike, but it’s a great option if you’re up for the adventure!

Insider Tip: Make sure you wear good hiking boots with traction and bring your camera gear for some pics.

Soak in Boiling River Hot Springs (Afternoon)

Alternatively, if you’d rather relax, 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! And if you like this kind of thing, then you’ll really love reading about the Best Idaho Hot Springs.

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

Mammoth Hot Springs Sunset (Evening)

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, while 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 end the day because it requires minimal effort to explore and is close enough to Boiling River that you won’t have to venture very far.

Insider Tip: Take a camera like a Sony a6400 and a 24-70mm f/2.8 for some photos!

Day 2 (North)

Sunrise Over Lamar Valley (Morning)

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!

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.

Insider Tip: 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 (Mid-Morning)

Trout Lake is the perfect little stop after you explore Lamar Valley — it’s right down the road via a 5-minute drive! The Trout Lake Trail will take you around a forest lake in about 1-2 hours depending on how quickly you can walk the 1.2 mile trail.

The hike will start with a bit of a climb through the forest until you reach the top of a ridge. After a bit of walking, the trail will level then dip back down to the shore where you can finally enjoy Trout Lake.

You’ll immediately notice the beautiful mountain in the distance— it’s a great photo spot!

Insider Tip: This is another wildlife spotting area— watch for bears!

Tower Fall (Afternoon)

Next is a waterfall! Drive 30 minutes down the road to explore Tower Fall next. The viewpoint (also known as Tower Fall Overlook) can be accessed near Tower Junction and is s short walk from the parking area.

This is a great little stop to enjoy for a few minutes before moving on to the next activity.

Fun Fact: Tower Fall is a waterfall that drops 132ft into Yellowstone National Park!

Hike Specimen Ridge (Afternoon)

As an alternative to Trout Lake and Tower Fall, after Lamar Valley you can head over to the Specimen Lake trailhead for a different kind of adventure.

This is considered one of the best hikes in Yellowstone National Park and would be a great addition to your itinerary! Throughout your hike, you’ll have AMAZING views, up Amethyst Mountain, and through Lamar Valley.

You’ll even see petrified trees! This is a long day hike sitting at a total of 16.9 miles and over 3,800 feet of elevation gain. Expect it to take up your day!

Insider Tip: If you go during June and July, you might see wildflowers!

Dinner at Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room (Evening)

Tonight, book dinner at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room — make sure you get something around sunset! 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. The menu changes, but in the past they’ve had everything from lamb sliders to lentil soup! What a great way to cap off day 2 of our 4 days in Yellowstone itinerary.

Insider Tip: Grab a seat near the bar for some of the better views! 

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

Helicopter Tour (Morning)

Day 3 will be the start of your journey to the lower half of Yellowstone. And it’ll start with a bang!

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 10-minute to 6minute, 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.

Some tours will take you over popular sites like Grand Prismatic Spring! After your helicopter tour, I recommend exploring some of West Yellowstone. 

Insider Tip: If you want to spot some wildlife, a helicopter tour could be a great option to do so!

Fountain Paint Pot Trail (Afternoon)

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

I found it to be a great photo spot as well, so pack something like a Sony a6400 and 24-70mm f/2.8.

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

Grand Prismatic Spring (Afternoon)

Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone National Park! 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 0.6 miles, but it’s worth the climb! This was a short and sweet hike that Scott and I really enjoyed on our trip.

We loved how colorful the pool was and it was nice to get to see if from a different perspective. If you don’t feel like getting a view of Grand Prismatic Spring from above, opt to explore the Midway Geyser Basin!

Insider Tip: Midway Geyser Basin includes a short boardwalk loop that will allow you to explore Grand Prismatic and other nearby ground-level pools.

Old Faithful (Afternoon)

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.

Insider Tip: 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!

Upper Geyser Basin Trail (Evening)

Next up, you’ll take the Upper Geyser Basin Trail, which will lead you around Old Faithful, Morning Glory Pool, and lots of others.

The Upper Geyser Basin Trail area has almost 200 named and unnamed geysers and pools. Not to mention, the entire trail is a boardwalk, which I think makes it super photogenic, and easy to navigate.

My preferred way to enjoy this trail is to start it from Old Faithful and make your way to Morning Glory Pool. Expect the hike to be about 2 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain.

Insider Tip: During our visit, it was bright and hot outside, so I suggest doing this walk around sunset when it’s cooler!

Morning Glory Pool (Evening)

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! Unfortunately, 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.

Do Better: 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 (Evening)

When you’re done exploring those attractions, you can keep driving towards Yellowstone Lake (the largest (132 sq. mi.) and highest altitude lake (7,732′) in North America!) 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.

Insider Tip: If you’re “geysered out” for the day, then skip and maybe opt to just relax by Yellowstone Lake instead.

Day 4 (Southeast)

Hayden Valley (Morning)

Your day in Yellowstone 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 from the pull-off areas. What I loved most about Hayden Valley is was the Yellowstone 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. 

Insider Tip: When visiting for a sunrise mission, keep an eye out for pull-out parking areas where you can enjoy the view—please keep a safe distance from the animals! 

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River (Mid-Morning)

Your next stop will be short, sweet, and scenic! 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 Upper Falls if you’re up for a bit more of an adventure. Uncle Tom’s is 0.7 miles and will take you to a side view of the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Insider Tip: 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!

Artist Point (Mid-Morning)

Yellowstone River Falls has been described as one of the most beautiful sights in the park! 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 0.2 miles.

Fun Fact: Many people come here to photograph or paint the falls. 

Canyon Village (Afternoon)

Canyon Village is where the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River sits and is worth the trip before you depart.

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

Insider Tip: Use this as an opportunity to grab souvenirs before you leave!

Depart

That concludes your trip! In the next sections we’ll cover some add-ons in case you want more time for your trip.

And while departing sounds sad, you can now make your way to Grand Teton National Park or even Glacier National Park with a Yellowstone to Glacier National Park road trip!

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.

Fish at Lewis Lake

Lewis Lake is pretty impressive! This lake is an excellent option for kayakers, hiking, and fishing. If you want to relax during one of your 4 days in Yellowstone, I suggest heading here!

And if you like camping, well, lucky you! You can stay at the Lewis Lake Campground.

Norris Geyser Basin

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. 

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.

Backpack Electric Peak

Want to go on a longer hike? Then Electric Peak is for you! This is a 20.3 mile 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.

Excursions to Consider

If there is one thing Yellowstone has an abundance of, it’s excursions. We discussed a helicopter tour, but I recommend booking one of these if you can!

Old West Dinner Cookout — You can book an Old West Dinner Cookout that’ll take place in the Yellowstone National Park backcountry!

Rafting Trip — 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.

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

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

Extending Your Yellowstone Trip

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!

What to Pack for Yellowstone in 4 Days

Have no idea what to pack for your trip? Based on my experience, you’ll need the following:

FAQ About Spending 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park

 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.

Final Thoughts on Seeing Yellowstone in 4 Days

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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