Planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park and wondering how much time you need to visit the park, how to plan your trip, or what’s the best Yellowstone itinerary for your vacation?
In this post, we share our experience-based advice 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 out 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 visit Yellowstone, but are overwhelmed with all the planning, you can also easily see 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 a detailed day-to-day itinerary for Yellowstone. I also included a map for each recommended Yellowstone trip itinerary. That way you have a better idea of where all those places are and how to best plan your time when visiting Yellowstone.
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!
Yellowstone Itinerary & Trip Planning Tips – OVERVIEW
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.
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 in the park when planning your trip! For example, at the moment of the latest update in 2023, Norris Geyser Basin is closed until further notice. But this can change again soon, and some other areas can get closed for repairs or yearly maintenance…
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 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.
And now that you know all the practicalities, below, you can find our Yellowstone itinerary suggestions. Take a look!
Here are our Yellowstone itinerary suggestions for any trip duration:
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 top left corner for the index. Click the star next to the map’s title to add it to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’. If you want to print the map or see it in a bigger window, click on ‘View larger map’ in the top right corner.
2 Days in Yellowstone
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.
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.
Yellowstone Itinerary for 3 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. 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.
4 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. 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 out this beautiful 4-day/ 3 night Yellowstone and Grand Teton 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.
5 Days in Yellowstone
If you have five days in Yellowstone, make sure you see all the main landmarks and highlights described in the four-day 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.
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 the 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 they 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 every trip and itinerary will be somewhat different 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!
- 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 planning your trip to Yellowstone:
- Overview: Yellowstone Travel Guide
- 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 & Best Hotels Near Yellowstone
- For families: Yellowstone with Kids
- Must-see: Grand Prismatic Spring & Old Faithful Geyser
- Fun to do: Boiling River
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