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BEST Yellowstone Itinerary for 1 to 5 Days (+Map & Planning Tips)

BEST Yellowstone Itinerary for 1 to 5 Days (+Map & Planning Tips)

Planning a trip to Yellowstone and wondering how much time you need to visit the park, how to plan your visit, or what’s the best itinerary to follow? In this post, we share our experience-based suggestions for visiting Yellowstone National Park, essential tips for planning your trip, and a suggested Yellowstone itinerary for one to five days. Find out!

These planning tips, Yellowstone itinerary for 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 days, and handy maps 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.

TIP: If you want to see 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.

Yellowstone itinerary and trip planning tips
Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone
 

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 Yellowstone itinerary. That way you have a better idea of where all those places are and how to best plan your time. 

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 the 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. Take a look!

 
Old Faithful Inn and Geyser in Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful Inn

Important Info for Planning a Trip to Yellowstone

ACCOMMODATION: Your Yellowstone itinerary will depend so much on the location of your accommodation. Price-quality-location-wise, West Yellowstone is one of the best places to stay near Yellowstone. You can also 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 links below.

READ MORE:
Where to Stay In Yellowstone National Park
Best Hotels & Cabins Near Yellowstone

TIP: Using the map below, you can find the best deals for your stay. Simply insert your travel dates and group size, and you’ll see all the best deals for accommodation near Yellowstone.

   

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.

Colorful geothermal lake of West Thumb Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park
Colorful geothermal features of West Thumb Geyser Basin – one of the less visited places in Yellowstone
 

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 or four days is enough. You can also see a lot with just a day or two, especially if you plan your time well and focus on the ‘musts’ – our itinerary suggestions below will help you do just that!

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.

TIP: If you only visit for a day, you can also opt for this day tour that includes all the fees. Also this popular 4-day tour includes entrance fee, so you don’t have to worry about any of that.

And now that you know all the practicalities, below, you can find our Yellowstone itinerary suggestions. Take a look!

Best Yellowstone itinerary for any trip from 1 to 5 days
 

Yellowstone trip itinerary suggestions:

One Day in Yellowstone National Park

If you only have one day in Yellowstone visit the Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin, Grand Prismatic Spring, and drive at least part of the scenic loop road.

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’.

Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone
Old Faithful geyser is a must in any Yellowstone itinerary!
Colorful Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park
Grand Prismatic Spring is not to be missed
 

How to see the best of Yellowstone in two days

This is our 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.

You can find our detailed 2-day Yellowstone itinerary and tips for your trip 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. The places indicated in red are described in the 1-day itinerary above, purple – day 2.

Bison in Yellowstone
Bison in Lamar Valley
Lower Falls of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon
Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of 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 2: Mammoth Hot Springs. Boiling River (swimming). Undine Falls. Wraith Falls. Petrified Tree (not a must). Lamar Valley. Tower Fall. Dunraven Pass.

Day 3: The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone River (Artist Point, Uncle Tom’s Trail, Lower Falls). Hayden Valley. Yellowstone Lake.

TIP: If you’d like to do some hiking in Yellowstone, on day 3, you could go hiking along the rims of the Yellowstone Canyon. There’s also a very highly-rated hiking tour with a local guide that you can join in this area.

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. Places indicated in red are the ones described on day 1 of this itinerary, purple on day 2, and yellow – on day 3.

Minerva Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Mammoth Hot Springs
Morning Glory Pool - Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park
Morning Glory Pool
Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone
Norris Geyser Basin
 

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.

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. Places indicated in red are the ones described on day 1 of this itinerary, purple – day 2, yellow – day 3, and green – day 4. The blue dots are the places that we mention in the 5-days Yellowstone itinerary further below.

 
Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park
Scenic road – Lamar Valley to Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone
Colorful thermal features of the West Thumb Geyser Basin in Yellowstone
West Thumb Geyser Basin
American bison in Yellowstone National Park
Bison in Lamar Valley
Ice Lake in Yellowstone National Park
Tiny Ice Lake is worth a short walk
 

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.

Another nice option on foot or by bike is Lone Star Geyser. It’s located about 3 miles south of the Old Faithful area and can be reached via a hiking/biking trail from there. It erupts every 3 hours.

Otherwise, you can find plenty of other nice hikes, go for a boat ride on Yellowstone Lake, go for a scenic float or rafting nearby, join a hiking tour, etc.

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.

Dunraven Pass at Mount Washburn in Yellowstone National Park
Dunraven Pass at Mount Washburn
 

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, also because so much depends on the location of your accommodation. 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!

   

More information for planning your trip to Yellowstone:

If you found these Yellowstone itineraries useful, bookmark this post for future reference and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image!

See the best of Yellowstone with the best itinerary suggestions from one to five days #Yellowstone
 
Yellowstone itinerary ideas for one, two, three, four, and five days #Yellowstone

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Linda

Wednesday 1st of September 2021

We are staying at Headwaters campground which is located centrally between Teton NP & Yellowstone (south entrance). We can stay there the whole 9 days; OR spend 4 days at Headwaters for Teton, and then move on to West Yellowstone for 5 days. But by doing this, we lose a day of site seeing while we travel with our RV from one campground to the other. I don’t know which is the wisest way to go. I do understand by staying at the south entrance to Yellowstone, it really makes seeing Mammoth Springs & Lamar Valley almost impossible. But since there is so much to see & hike, I figure we can’t to it all anyway. Please advise. PS: We are coming from Illinois, so to stay at Headwaters also saves us travel miles on our return home. Don’t know if I should consider this or not.

Jurga

Wednesday 1st of September 2021

Hi Linda, it's really difficult for me to give you advice as you already listed all the pros/cons yourself. :) My initial thought is to split it between the two places, and also make the best of your 'moving' day so that it's not lost. Why not visit some places along the way, or go to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, or so... But I think you should first decide what it is that you absolutely want to see and do and then see how to best make it happen. Yes, of course, you can fill a week or even two in one area and you'll find plenty to do. But if this is your first trip and you'll not be able to see some of the highlights, maybe you'll regret it afterwards... Or maybe you can still see everything by staying in the same place, if you just plan things a bit differently or wake up earlier on a few days (starting early in the morning is always a good idea in Yellowstone/ Grand Teton, anyway). As for your return home, it's such a far and long trip anyway that I don't think that half an hour drive more or less will make that much difference in the end... Good luck!

Tony Padron

Monday 30th of August 2021

Hi, I really find your blog helpful!! I am planning to stay 3 nights on the last week of September in the Canyon Lodge and I'm having a hard time understanding how the road closure between Canyon and Tower will affect my planning. I definitely want to hike the Canyon Trails and go to Lamar Valley. I am also staying 2 nights in the OFI. Any information and suggestion will be appreciated. Thank you, Tony

Jurga

Tuesday 31st of August 2021

Hi Tony, the road closure makes it a bit more difficult to visit Lamar Valley from the Canyon area since you have to drive all the way around (via Mammoth), but it shouldn't have much influence for you exploring the rest of the park. For Lamar, if you absolutely want to do it, you could either start very early and drive there first thing in the morning before visiting the rest of the northern side of the park, or do all the other attractions along the way first, before going to Lamar Valley in the late afternoon before sunset - that's when animals are most active. But if you then stay too long, you'll probably have to drive back to your lodge in the dark, so be careful as there might be wildlife on the roads! Have a great trip!

RL

Tuesday 17th of August 2021

Do you have any recommendations for some longer hikes like you alluded to under your 'Four Days in Yellowstone' section? I wanted to get some more nature time in and less car time. Thank you so much for this- it's been so helpful!

Jurga

Tuesday 24th of August 2021

Hi, sorry for the late reply - we were traveling and I'm just catching up on all the comments. So I'm not sure if this question is still relevant or you already left Yellowstone. There are many hiking possibilities, but so much depends on how much time you have and what you want to see. The way the itinerary is suggested, you'll not have much time for longer hikes if you want to see everything. And many geyser basins already involve quite some walking to see all the highlights (Norris Geyser Basin, Upper Geyser Basin in particular). On the other hand, there are some shorter hikes that are perfectly doable and will make your trip more special. Here are a few suggestions: At the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, you have lots of hiking trails and could spend a few hours or even a few days hiking there. So that's a good place to look, depending on the interests/time you have. A popular trail is Point Sublime, a bit less than 3 miles if starting at Artist Point. Another somewhat longer hike is Lone Star Geyser in the OF area. It's about 5.5 miles in total and quite easy (many people even do part of the trail by bike), but ideally, you check the predicted eruption time and time your visit so that you can (hopefully) see the geyser in action. Normally, Mount Washburn is a nice longer day hike, but this year, the road there is closed and so it's not possible to get to it. Hope this helps.

Teresa Smith

Monday 16th of August 2021

I am planning a June trip next year to Yellowstone. We had planned to fly into Jackson Hole, but the airport is going to be closed. It looks like my other options for flying on Delta are coming into West Yellowstone. Can you give me tips on how to manage this? We had planned on staying in Jackson Hole coming and going, and now I am a little confused how to make this work. Thanks!

Jurga

Tuesday 24th of August 2021

Hi Teresa, flying into West Yellowstone will make it very easy to visit Yellowstone NP - it's much closer than going from Jackson. As for how to make it work, it all depends on how much time you have and what you want to see/do. If you take a look at the map and our suggestions above, it will become clearer how to plan your time. You can still drive to Jackson and/or Grand Teton if that interests you. But if you are mostly interested in Yellowstone, you could just stay in West Yellowstone (or in the hotels inside the park if available - see our guide to Yellowstone lodging) and visit everything from one place. There are so many ways to do this. Good luck!

Zem

Sunday 1st of August 2021

How many miles of hiking total if we didthe full itinerary you outlined for 5 days?

Jurga

Monday 2nd of August 2021

Hi Zem, it's really your choice how much (if any) you hike in Yellowstone. While there are lots of hiking possibilities, all the major landmarks don't require much walking at all. Our itinerary suggestions show you the options of what can be done and which areas to visit, but the rest is really up to you. If you read the article in detail, you'll notice that we recommend a few hikes here or there, but you can do just a few of them. We also include a choice of several different hikes or activities for day 5, so also there, it all depends on what you decide to do. PS If you want to do some hiking, but are not sure where to start, Yellowstone Canyon area is a nice place for that. You can hike along one or both rims, potentially go down the staircase of Uncle Tom's Trail, and you can make your hiking adventure as long or as short as you feel like. There is also a highly-rated hiking tour in that area if you prefer to go with a local guide. Good luck with the planning and have a great trip!

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