Yellowstone Itinerary Ideas from 1 to 5 Days

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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 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.

Note that these are all summer itineraries only. In winter most of the roads in Yellowstone are closed and you can only visit the Old Faithful and the Mammoth Springs areas.

Below you can find 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. Your Yellowstone itinerary will also be influenced a lot by the location of your accommodation. You may want to check our guide to the best accommodation options in and near Yellowstone National Park.

Old Faithful Inn and Geyser in Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful Inn

 

TIP: Don’t underestimate driving distances in Yellowstone. The park is big and 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.

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 landmarks of Yellowstone, but it’s those unplanned experiences and unexpected encounters that will make your trip more memorable.

How much time do you need in Yellowstone National Park

When I was researching our American road trip itinerary, I quickly realised that one or two days are simply not enough for Yellowstone. Not only is Yellowstone the oldest National Park in the world, it’s also one of biggest and most diverse National Parks we ever visited. After thorough research we decided to dedicate four full days to 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 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!

One Day in Yellowstone National Park

If you only have one day in Yellowstone visit the Old Faithful area, Grand Prismatic Spring, and drive at least part of the scenic loop road. If you are short on time I suggest to drive the lower loop passing the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (stop by Artist Point), Hayden Valley, and the Yellowstone Lake.

Here is a map indicating all the main landmarks that you should be able to see in Yellowstone in one day.

Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone

Old Faithful geyser is a must in Yellowstone!

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 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.

Day 1: Old Faithful Geyser, Old Faithful Inn, and the Morning Glory Pool. Grand Prismatic. Mammoth Hot Springs.
Day 2: Lamar Valley. Dunraven Pass. Yellowstone Grand Canyon. Hayden Valley. Yellowstone Lake.

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, I suggest the following 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). 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.

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 travellers 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 :).

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. Boiling River (swimming). Lamar Valley. Tower Fall. Dunraven Pass.
Day 4: Midway Geyser Basin (Grand Prismatic). 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.

Here is a map indicating each of the suggested places from our Yellowstone itinerary.

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 day 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.

Take a look at the map above (4 day itinerary) – the blue dot next to Dunraven Pass is Mount Washburn.

Dunraven Pass at Mount Washburn in Yellowstone National Park

Dunraven Pass at Mount Washburn

 

So, these are my suggestions for the best way to see the main landmarks of Yellowstone based on our experience. None of these itineraries are very detailed (that would require separate articles), so if you have any specific questions feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try to help.

You may also want to read our tips on what to pack for Yellowstone in summer.

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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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Yellowstone Itinerary Ideas from 1 to 5 Days was last modified: December 15th, 2017 by Jurga

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Comments

  1. Great tips! I grew up not too far from Yellowstone, but sadly never spent nearly enough time there. I definitely hope to visit again next time I go home!

  2. We did the exact same thing as you suggested, spending 4 days in Yellowstone. So agree with not packing too much in a day because you will have moments of unexpected amazing encounters. It is by far my favorite National Park because of the incredible diversity you get to see in the park. Beautiful photos 🙂

    1. Author

      Thank you, Richa. It’s one of my favourite National Parks too – every part of Yellowstone is unique in its own way.

  3. This post is insanely useful. Thanks for providing multiple itineraries. Taking the time to visit the more remote areas in the park is worth it

    1. Author

      Absolutely, Carol! The main landmarks are not to be missed of course, but we really loved going a bit off the beaten path – you are completely on your own then and it’s a totally different way to experience Yellowstone.

  4. Your Guide is top notch and the photography .. just wow !!!

    I’ve never been .. Yosemite I have but not here! Now I really wanna go !

  5. I went to Yellowstone a long time ago with my family but I don’t remember much. Guess it’s time to go again! This was definitely helpful!

  6. Very useful, clear and detailed post. Thanks for this. We are headed to SFO next summer, still figuring what else to do from there for a week to 10 days.

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