Yellowstone is America’s oldest and most diverse National Park. But what to expect when visiting Yellowstone National Park and how to plan your Yellowstone trip? This guide should answer all your questions!
Located in the state of Wyoming, at the border of Idaho and Montana and far from any major cities, Yellowstone National Park is truly off the beaten path. It’s a place you have to make an effort to visit.
Planning a trip to Yellowstone might look overwhelming at first, also because the park is so big and there is so much to see. But don’t despair – with some advance preparation, it’s really easy to visit Yellowstone and its major landmarks.
In this guide, you can find some practical tips and information for planning your Yellowstone trip. We also link to lots of detailed guides that contain more information about a variety of places and itineraries for visiting Yellowstone. Find out!
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Why Visit Yellowstone & What to See
Yellowstone National Park is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, hot springs, colorful geothermal features, and the world’s largest collection of geysers including the famous Old Faithful. Come here for beautiful nature and unique scenery that you won’t find anywhere else.
Here you can find an overview of the best places to see and best things to do in Yellowstone National Park:
Here you can find more in-depth guides for the main Yellowstone landmarks and our favorite swimming spot:
- Old Faithful Geyser
- Grand Prismatic Spring
- Upper Geyser Basin
- Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
- Mammoth Hot Springs
- Boiling River
If you are planning a longer trip and want to go hiking in Yellowstone, you may want to get this guidebook with the best day hikes in Yellowstone.
How to Plan a Trip to Yellowstone
There are several important things to consider when planning your Yellowstone trip: when to visit, for how long, how to get there and how to get around, where to stay, and what you want to see and do.
Further below, you can find more details about each of these points. For Yellowstone itinerary suggestions, please check our detailed guides below:
- Yellowstone Itinerary (Suggestions for 1 to 5 Days)
- One Day in Yellowstone (1 day Lower Loop itinerary and map)
- Two Days in Yellowstone (Detailed 2 days itinerary and map)
What to Know Before You Book a Trip
If you really want to make the most of your trip to Yellowstone, it’s essential to do some advance planning and preparation.
To help you have a better experience, we compiled some of our top tips in one place. Check it out!
Also, in these uncertain times, you may want to get good (domestic) travel insurance for your trip. Here you can find more information about one of the best travel insurance on the market.
When to Visit Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park has very distinctive seasons with extremely cold winters and warm summers. Most people visit Yellowstone in summer, but each time of the year is unique and there are also some advantages and disadvantages of each season.
For more information and what to expect in different seasons, please check our detailed guides below:
Cell service is very limited to nonexistent in Yellowstone. So make sure to download/ print any information you may need during your trip for offline use.
TIP: If you stay in the hotels outside of the park, you can at least use Wi-Fi in the mornings and in the evenings. So consider this when choosing your accommodation. More info below!
Where to Stay
Yellowstone accommodation is scarce, expensive, and usually fully booked months in advance. If you are traveling in summer, you have to book your Yellowstone hotel over a year upfront.
That being said, there are also some alternatives, small towns just outside of Yellowstone, where you’ll find a better price/ quality ratio. If Yellowstone accommodation is fully booked or is above your budget (or if you need to be able to use Wi-Fi during your trip), check accommodations in West Yellowstone or Gardiner.
For more information, please check our Yellowstone accommodation guide:
Where to Eat
This is one of the questions we had before our trip and one we often get from our readers. Are there restaurants in Yellowstone and whether they all require advance reservations?
Yes, there are lots of restaurants and food stores at all the main lodges of Yellowstone. There are restaurants at Canyon Village, Grand Village, Lake Village, Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, and Roosevelt Lodge. There are food stores in all these areas as well.
Most cafes and restaurants in Yellowstone don’t require reservations. If you want to have dinner at the more upscale restaurants at the Old Faithful Inn or at the Lake hotel, it’s best to reserve in advance.
Here you can find a complete overview of all the dining facilities in Yellowstone.
How to Get to Yellowstone
The best way to visit Yellowstone on your own is by car. Depending on where you’re traveling from, you can either drive or fly to Yellowstone.
There are no major airports in the close vicinity of Yellowstone. The closest big airports are in Salt Lake City, UT (SCL), about 6 hours drive, and Billings, MT (BIL), about 3 hours drive from Yellowstone.
The best airports to fly into for visiting Yellowstone are smaller regional airports about 1-2 hours drive from Yellowstone NP: Bozeman, MT (BZN), Jackson, WY (JAC), and Cody, WY (COD).
If you are flying, you’ll want to rent a car for exploring Yellowstone. Here you can find the best deals for car rental.
Yellowstone Entrance Fee
You’ll need a pass in order to enter Yellowstone National Park. You can get this pass at any entrance gate of the park. It costs 35 USD per private vehicle or 20 USD per person if you are visiting on foot or by bike. This pass is valid for 7 consecutive days and you can enter and leave the park as many times as you want during that time.
Yellowstone also has an annual pass that costs 70 USD.
However, if you are visiting several National Parks in one trip or even separately, it’s better to get an annual National Parks Pass. It’s called America the Beautiful Pass and costs just 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.
Here is an overview of the best-rated Yellowstone tours:
- 1 day tour
- 2 days tour
- 4 days tour
- Winter tours
- Yellowstone & Grand Tetons 4 days tour from Salt Lake City
For more information, please check our guide to the best tours below:
TIP: We recommend booking Yellowstone tours via the GetYourGuide website because it has the best customer service and the most flexible cancellation policy on the market.
The popular booking site Viator has a bigger selection of Yellowstone tours, including day tour from West Yellowstone, private tours, and rafting adventures. Most tours also have a very flexible cancelation policy.
Yellowstone’s high altitude means that it is much cooler here than you’d expect. Also in summer, you can experience freezing cold temperatures at the higher altitudes during the day and throughout the park at night. But you can also have amazing summer days with temperatures in the high 70s or even 80s (25-30°C).
Make sure to check the weather forecast before you leave and pack accordingly. It’s important to stay flexible, so pack layers. Further below, you can find more information about what to pack.
What to Pack
Yellowstone is an outdoor destination, so make sure that you pack comfortable clothing suitable for the time of the year when you travel. Dress code in Yellowstone accommodations and restaurants is pretty relaxed and casual as well. More information:
We recommend World Nomads travel insurance for any trip and all types of travelers. Also for domestic travel within the USA. They are available worldwide, their rates are very competitive, the coverage is great, and customer service – impeccable. You can easily get a quote online with just a few clicks – check it out!
Here you can read more about the need for travel insurance and World Nomads reviews.
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