Traveling to Yellowstone and wondering what are the main highlights of Yellowstone, how much time you need to visit the park, and what’s the best itinerary to follow? In this post, I am sharing our experience-based suggestions for visiting Yellowstone and Yellowstone itinerary ideas for one to five days.
These tips will help you get the most of your trip to Yellowstone, no matter how much time you have.
Good to know: Note that these are all summer itineraries only (approx. mid-May to mid-October). That’s the period when all the roads are open and you can explore Yellowstone to the fullest. In winter, most of the roads in Yellowstone are closed and you can only visit the Old Faithful and the Mammoth Springs areas.
UPDATE: There are some major road works in Yellowstone in 2021. So to help you plan your Yellowstone trip for this summer, we included some tips on how to adjust your Yellowstone trip itinerary if needed.
TIP: If you want to visit Yellowstone, but are overwhelmed with all the planning, you can also easily visit the park with an organized tour. There are day trips or multi-day tours available. Here you can find our selection of the best Yellowstone tours.
Below you can find the detailed day to day itineraries for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 days in Yellowstone. I also included a map for each of the itineraries. That way you have a better idea of where all those places are.
Of course, you don’t have to follow these itineraries precisely, but it gives you a good idea of the main landmarks and the time you need to see them.
TIP: You can jump straight to our Yellowstone trip itinerary suggestions. However, before going into details of your Yellowstone itinerary and starting to plan your trip, there are some important things you should know! So I suggest that you read that information first. Read on!
Important Info for Planning a Trip to Yellowstone
ACCOMMODATION: Your Yellowstone itinerary will also be influenced a lot by the location of your accommodation. Price-quality-location wise, West Yellowstone is one of the best places to stay. You can see what’s available in this area for your travel dates via the map below.
Alternatively, check our detailed guide to the best places to stay in and near Yellowstone via the link below.
DRIVING DISTANCES & TRAFFIC: Don’t underestimate driving distances in Yellowstone. The park is big and the traffic is busy in summer. On top of that, you may experience delays due to road works and wildlife traffic jams. Furthermore, parking spots at the most popular landmarks are scarce, so you may need some extra time and patience.
Important!!! Please always check the official website for up-to-date information on any road closures or planned works when planning your trip!
HOW TO ESCAPE THE CROWDS: All that being said, we visited Yellowstone end of July, the busiest season of the year. It was only busy around the most popular attractions. Actually, it’s quite easy to escape the crowds in Yellowstone if you want to – just go for a walk.
I read somewhere that around 80% of Yellowstone visitors never walk further than 10-15 minutes from their car. We could definitely confirm that from our experience. Don’t be one of those tourists! If you have some time to spare and are physically capable, make sure to make at least several short walks in Yellowstone.
Of course, you have to see the main landmarks and attractions of Yellowstone, but it’s those unplanned experiences, hidden gems, and unexpected encounters that will make your trip more memorable.
WHEN TO VISIT: If you are not sure when to go to Yellowstone, please check our guide for the best time to travel to Yellowstone. If you are planning to visit in the peak season, please check out our experience-based tips for visiting Yellowstone in July and in August.
How much time do you need in Yellowstone National Park
When I was researching our American road trip itinerary, I quickly realized that one or two days are simply not enough for visiting Yellowstone. Not only is Yellowstone the oldest National Park in the world, it’s also one of the biggest and most diverse National Parks we ever visited.
After thorough research, we decided to spend four full days in Yellowstone. It gave us just enough time to see all the main highlights without having to rush. We did quite some hiking, went for a swim, spent time driving the scenic loop road and looking for wildlife…
Yellowstone is so big and so diverse that you could easily spend a week or two here and never get bored. However, if you just want to see the main landmarks of Yellowstone, three days is enough.
TIP: Don’t pack your days too much and leave some space for unexpected wildlife encounters, bison traffic jams, a beautiful hike, a soak in the warm river, etc. Yellowstone is so much more than just the most famous landmarks!
LEARN MORE: Tips for Your First Trip to Yellowstone
Yellowstone Entrance Fee
You’ll need an entrance pass for Yellowstone. It costs 35 USD per private vehicle and is valid for 7 days. You can buy it at any entrance gate of the park.
However, if you are visiting several National Parks in the same year, it’s better to get an annual National Parks Pass. It’s called America the Beautiful Pass and costs 80 USD for the whole family traveling in the same vehicle. It is valid in all National Parks and 2,000 federal recreation sites across the United States for one year from the month of purchase.
And now that you know all the practicalities, below, you can find our Yellowstone itinerary suggestions. Take a look!
Suggested Yellowstone itinerary for any trip from 1 to 5 days:
One Day in Yellowstone National Park
If you are short on time when visiting Yellowstone, I suggest driving the lower loop passing the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (stop by Artist Point), Hayden Valley, and Yellowstone Lake.
Below is a map indicating all the main landmarks that you should be able to see in Yellowstone in one day.
One Day Yellowstone Itinerary:
- Old Faithful & Upper Geyser Basin
- Grand Prismatic Spring
- Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail (optional)
- Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
- Hayden Valley
- Yellowstone Lake
- West Thumb Geyser Basin
For more details and information for this Yellowstone itinerary, please see our 1-day itinerary via the link below.
READ MORE: One Day in Yellowstone
TIP: If you only have one day in Yellowstone, it might be wise to join an organized day trip rather than go on your own. Experienced local guides will make sure that you get the most out of your very short stay in Yellowstone. Here’s the best Yellowstone day tour (departing from Jackson Hole or Teton Village) that I was able to find. And here is a one-day tour from West Yellowstone.
Here is a map indicating all the best places that you should be able to see in Yellowstone in one day.
How to Use This Map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the left top corner for the index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu button, and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’.
How to see the best of Yellowstone in two days
This is my suggested two day itinerary for the best of Yellowstone. Please note that to see all of this in just two days you will need to start really early and you won’t have much extra time to explore deeper.
This itinerary will make sure you get to see the very best of Yellowstone in 2 days. Take a look!
Two Days Yellowstone Itinerary:
Day 1: Old Faithful Geyser, Old Faithful Inn, and the Morning Glory Pool (Upper Geyser Basin). Grand Prismatic Spring. Norris Geyser Basin. Mammoth Hot Springs. Boiling River.
Day 2: Undine Falls and/or Wraith Falls. Lamar Valley. Tower Fall. Dunraven Pass. Yellowstone Grand Canyon. Hayden Valley. Mud Volcano. Yellowstone Lake. West Thumb Geyser Basin.
Please note that due to the 2021 road works between Canyon and Tower, you might have to adjust this itinerary on day 2. If you absolutely want to go to Lamar Valley, you’ll have a serious detour on your way back to Yellowstone Canyon, which will add a few hours to your day.
You can find our detailed 2-day itinerary and tips on how to adapt it for this summer via the link below.
LEARN MORE: Two Days in Yellowstone
TIP: If you have 2 days in Yellowstone and want to see the very best of the park without having to do much planning, consider joining this highly-rated and very complete Yellowstone 2-day/1 night tour (departs from Jackson, WY).
Below is the map illustrating the 2-day itinerary suggestions for Yellowstone.
What to do in Yellowstone in three days
If you have three days in Yellowstone, you can explore all the main areas at a more relaxed pace. In addition, you’ll have some time for some lesser-known places that will make your Yellowstone trip even more special. Below is our suggested itinerary.
Three Days Yellowstone Itinerary:
Day 1: Old Faithful and the Geyser Loop Trail (don’t miss the Morning Glory Pool). Grand Prismatic. Norris Geyser Basin.
Day 3: The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone River (Artist Point, Uncle Tom’s Trail, Lower Falls). Hayden Valley. Yellowstone Lake.
Please note that due to the current road works between Canyon and Tower (Dunraven Pass), you might have to adjust this itinerary! You can still do it, just on day 2, you cannot drive via Dunraven Pass which is closed in 2021. It’s probably best to stay in Gardiner after day 1 and stay in West Yellowstone on day 2 (and potentially on day 3). In that case, you should be able to do it as it is suggested here. If you rather just stay in one place, then West Yellowstone is the best option.
This Yellowstone itinerary for three days includes pretty much all the main landmarks that you really have to see in the park.
Below is the map showing suggestions for things to see when visiting Yellowstone in 3 days.
Four days in Yellowstone
We stayed four full days in Yellowstone with kids, but our trip itinerary can be used by all types of Yellowstone visitors. More adventurous travelers might want to do a bit more hiking, but if you want to see all the main highlights of Yellowstone without having to rush – this is it.
Here is my suggested four-day itinerary for Yellowstone based on our experience. We visited the Grand Prismatic and the Old Faithful area at the end of our trip and I think it was a good decision. It’s often better to leave the most impressive places for last; that way you appreciate the rest more.
We also spread the visit of three thermal areas (West Thumb Basin, Norris Geyser Basin, and the Grand Prismatic/ Old Faithful areas) over separate days. That way you have more diversity every day. Otherwise, it’s easy to get ‘geysered out’ in Yellowstone :).
Four Days Yellowstone Itinerary:
Day 1: Lewis Falls. West Thumb Basin. Yellowstone Lake. Storm Point hike. Mud Volcano area. Hayden Valley.
Day 2: Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (Artist Point, Uncle Tom’s Trail, Lower Falls). Norris Geyser Basin. Firehole River (swimming).
Day 3: Mammoth Hot Springs. Go swimming in the Boiling River. Undine Falls. Wraith Falls. Petrified Tree (optional). Lamar Valley. Tower Fall. Dunraven Pass.
Day 4: Midway Geyser Basin (Grand Prismatic). You can also hike to the Grand Prismatic Overlook. Lower Geyser Basin. Upper Geyser Basin (the Old Faithful Geyser, Old Faithful Inn, and the Geyser Loop Trail), also Biscuit Basin and/or Black Sand Basin.
Please note that due to the current road works between Canyon and Tower, you cannot drive via Dunraven Pass (day 3). So, depending on where your accommodation is, you may have to adjust this itinerary a little bit.
TIP: If you are looking for the best guided-tour option check this beautiful 4-day/ 3 night Yellowstone and Grand Teton highlights trip with a focus on wildlife (departs from Jackson, WY).
Below is a map indicating each of the suggested places from our 4-day Yellowstone itinerary.
Five days in Yellowstone
If you have five days in Yellowstone, make sure you see all the main landmarks and highlights described in the four days Yellowstone itinerary. In addition, you could hike to Mount Washburn. It’s a long hike (6-7 miles (10-12km) depending on the route you choose) and requires a good part of the day.
Update: Since the road between Canyon and Tower/ Rooseevelt area is closed in 2021, Mount Washburn trailhead is not accessible.
Another nice option on foot or by bike is Lone Star Geyser. It’s located about 3 miles south from the Old Faithful area and can be reached via a hiking/biking trail from there. It erupts every 3 hours.
Take a look at the map above (4 days in Yellowstone) – the blue dot next to Dunraven Pass is Mount Washburn. And the blue dot south of the Old Faithful is Lone Star Geyser.
So, these are my suggestions for the best way to plan your Yellowstone trip and see the main landmarks of Yellowstone. None of these itineraries are very detailed as that would require separate articles, such as the ones for 1 and 2 days that we linked to above. So if you have any specific questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try to help.
Please note that I cannot help you to create individual itineraries, however. We have lots of information and detailed guides for visiting Yellowstone, so please check those articles for more suggestions on how to plan your Yellowstone trip.
Update: Since so many of our readers asked for suggestions on how to best combine Yellowstone NP with Grand Teton NP, Glacier NP, and also with visiting Mount Rushmore, we have now published dedicated articles for those places. Take a look below!
- Here you can find info on the best places to see and things to do in Jackson Hole.
- Here you can read more about the best things to do in Grand Teton National Park in one day.
- Here you can find a suggested itinerary for both, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
- Here you can find Glacier National Park itinerary suggestions.
- Here you can read more about visiting Mount Rushmore and things to do near Mt Rushmore.
More information for your trip to Yellowstone:
- Overview: Yellowstone Trip
- What to see: Best Things to Do in Yellowstone
- When to go: Best Time to Visit Yellowstone
- What to pack: Yellowstone Packing List
- Accommodation: Where to Stay in and Near Yellowstone
- For families: Yellowstone with Kids
- Must-see: Grand Prismatic Spring & Old Faithful Geyser
- Fun to do: Boiling River
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