Yellowstone Itinerary: How to Spend 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 Days in Yellowstone

Multi-colored rainbow hot springs - Grand Prismatic in Yellowstone

If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, you may be feeling overwhelmed. As America’s first national park (and one of the biggest!), there’s a never-ending list of things to do in Yellowstone National Park.

Well, this post on the best Yellowstone itinerary is here to help!

Whether you have one day in Yellowstone or plan to spend a week there, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in this guide.

I’m sharing the best 1-day, 2-day, 3-day, 4-day, and 5-day itineraries for Yellowstone National Park, plus:

  • The ideal number of days to spend in Yellowstone
  • Best time to visit Yellowstone
  • How to get to Yellowstone
  • Where to stay inside and near the park
  • Exclusive travel and packing tips for your trip to Yellowstone

Are you ready to plan an epic Yellowstone National Park vacation, no matter how much time you have to spend? Let’s get started!

Are you looking for more ideas to plan your trip to Yellowstone National Park? Don’t miss this guide!

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Yellowstone National Park At-A-Glance

Before diving in, here are a few highlights to help you plan your trip:

  • Best Time to Visit: Summer is a great time to visit thanks to warm weather and all park amenities being open, but it is also the most crowded time of year. Avoid crowds by visiting in September or early October.
  • Where to Stay: Yellowstone has eight lodges inside the park, plus several campgrounds. The Old Faithful Inn and Canyon Lodge are my favorites, both close to all the most popular places to see in the park. Outside the park, look for hotels in West Yellowstone, Montana.
  • How to Get There: The closest airport is in West Yellowstone (WYS), serviced by both United and Delta Airlines. Other major airports in the region include Jackson Hole (JAC), Bozeman (BZN), and Salt Lake (SLC). Use Skyscanner to browse flights and find the best price.
  • How to Get Around: The easiest way to get around Yellowstone is by car. Use Rentalcars.com to browse deals on rental cars or rent an RV or campervan with Outdoorsy.
  • Best Self-Guided Tour: My favorite way to learn more about the park is with GyPSy Guides, a narrated self-guided tour perfect for road trips and scenic drives. The Yellowstone Guide and the Yellowstone/Grand Teton Bundle both provide incredible commentary and detail about the history and geology of Yellowstone.
  • Don’t Forget: Be sure to get an America the Beautiful National Park Pass ahead of time. This $80 pass is valid for 12 months and get you into all 400+ national park sites (including both Yellowstone and Grand Teton!).

Overview of the Regions in This Yellowstone Trip Itinerary

Yellowstone National Park is located in the northwestern corner of Wyoming, with small portions of the park crossing over into neighboring Idaho and Montana. 

Covering over 2 million acres, Yellowstone is one of the largest national parks in the United States. There’s no shortage of incredible things to do in Yellowstone, from geothermal features to waterfalls galore.

The park’s massive lands are connected through the Grand Loop Road. This famous scenic highway forms a “Figure 8”, as you can see in the map below. Grand Loop Road is the primary route for most activities in Yellowstone. 

Road turns around a rock face overlooking a forest in Yellowstone
Grand Loop Road

The Grand Loop Road also connects the park’s five entrances. The best way to enter the park will depend on where you’re traveling from and what you plan to do within the park.

  • West Entrance in West Yellowstone, Montana – best all around as it’s only minutes outside West Yellowstone, Montana.
  • North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana – best for visiting Mammoth Hot Springs and flying in from Bozeman (also the only entrance open year-round)
  • Northeast Entrance in Cooke City, Montana – best for visiting Lamar Valley and driving the Beartooth Highway and flying into Billings
  • East Entrance near Wapiti, Wyoming – best for visiting Yellowstone Lake and flying into Cody
  • South Entrance near Moran, Wyoming – best for those also visiting Grand Teton National Park or flying into Jackson Hole

The most famous region is the section of Grand Loop Road between Madison and West Thumb. This region is home to the famous Old Faithful Geyser, the Upper Geyser Basin, and Grand Prismatic Spring.

Another must-visit area of Yellowstone is Canyon Village. This region is home to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Hayden Valley.

If you’re short on time, I recommend prioritizing the southern loop of Grand Loop Road.

If you have more than two days in Yellowstone, the northern loop of Grand Loop Road is also worth a visit, including Mammoth Hot Springs and Lamar Valley

Read More: 22 Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

Hot springs scattered across West Thumb Geyser Basin in Yellowstone

How Many Days Do You Need in Yellowstone National Park?

You should plan to spend at least 2 to 3 days in Yellowstone National Park. Two days gives you enough time to see the most popular destinations. Adding a third day gives you time to explore some less visited and off-the-beaten-path attractions.

That said, this guide covers itineraries ranging from 1 to 5 days to give you the most flexibility. With five full days, you’ll be able to explore Yellowstone in its entirety. 

Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is a top-rated summer destination (and for a good reason!). Summer is by far the best time to visit Yellowstone. The weather is comfortable, and all park amenities, roads, and trails are open. 

Winters in Yellowstone are long and harsh. Snowfall is expected to start in late October and continue through late April or early May. As a result, most park roads and visitor centers close by November.

Since the tourism season is relatively short, you’ll likely encounter heavy crowds when visiting in summer. Therefore, I recommend visiting in May or from September to mid-October to avoid crowds.

Read More: The Best Time to Visit Yellowstone

Yellowstone River flows through a valley in the fall
Fall in Yellowstone National Park

Here’s a quick overview of what to expect during each season in Yellowstone National Park:

  • Spring: Temperatures remain cold for much of the Spring, with daytime highs in the 40s and overnight temperatures in the teens. In the Spring, crowds are low, with less than 1,500 people visiting per day. Spring is an excellent time to visit to see grizzly and black bears, but many park amenities and roads are still closed.
  • Summer: By early summer, temperatures become more comfortable, staying in the 70s during the day, but dropping to the 30s overnight. Yellowstone’s busiest time of year is summer, with more than 30,000 visitors. Avoid summer crowds by visiting top attractions on weekdays or around sunrise or sunset.
  • Fall: Both temperatures and crowds begin to decline after Labor Day in September. Daytime temperatures remain in the 50s and 60s through October. Visiting in the fall is excellent for spotting bears and elks. Many park facilities and roads will begin to close for the winter.
  • Winter: The winter months in Yellowstone are incredibly harsh, with temperatures rarely reaching above freezing and heavy snow blanketing the park. Much of the park is closed in winter, except a few areas like Old Faithful (accessible by snowmobile only) and Mammoth Hot Springs. If you can brave the harsh conditions, you’re rewarded with solitude and excellent opportunities for spotting wolves.

Read more about current conditions and seasonal closures in Yellowstone.

How Far Is It to Yellowstone National Park?

Yellowstone National Park is a reasonably remote destination, located several hours from major cities. Due to its location, many visitors combine the trip with other national parks like Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Glacier National Park in Montana.

 The best way to get to Yellowstone is by flying unless you live within driving distance.

The closest airports to Yellowstone National Park are:

  • Yellowstone Airport (WYS) – 5 minutes to West Entrance
  • Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) – 1 hour to South Entrance
  • Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) – 1.5 hours to North Entrance
  • Cody / Yellowstone Regional Airport (COD) – 1.5 hours to East Entrance
  • Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) – 5 hours to West Entrance

I like to use Skyscanner to compare flight prices to multiple airports and find the best price. Once you find the perfect flight itinerary for you, Skyscanner redirects you to book with the airline directly, so you don’t miss out on any frequent flyer points! Search flights on Skyscanner now.

You’ll also need a rental car to get to and around the park if you’re flying. I like to use to Rentalcars.com find the best deals on rental cars. It allows you to search across multiple rental companies to find the lowest price. You’ll find all the major retailers like Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise, plus budget companies like Budget, Sixt, Dollar, Thrifty, and more. Search rental car prices with Rentalcars.com now.

If you choose to drive to Yellowstone National Park, these are some rough distances from major cities or nearby towns:

  • Jackson, WY – 1 hour to the South Entrance
  • Bozeman, MT – 1.5 hours to North Entrance
  • Cody, WY – 1.5 hours to East Entrance
  • Idaho Falls, ID – 2 hours to West Entrance
  • Billings, MT – 3 hours to North or Northeast Entrance
  • Missoula, MT – 4 hours to North Entrance
  • Twin Falls, ID – 4 hours to West Entrance
  • Salt Lake City, UT – 5 hours to West Entrance
  • Casper, WY – 5 hours to East or South Entrances
  • Boise, ID – 6 hours to West Entrance
  • Denver, CO – 8.5 hours to East or South Entrance

Read More: 8-Day Salt Lake City to Yellowstone Itinerary

If you’re taking a national park road trip, these are the other nearby destinations:

  • Grand Teton National Park – 30 minutes to South Entrance
  • Glacier National Park – 6 hours to North Entrance
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park – 7 hours to Northeast or East Entrance
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial – 8 hours to East Entrance
  • Badlands National Park – 8 hours to East Entrance
  • Rocky Mountain National Park – 8.5 hours to South Entrance

Read More: 7-Day Grand Teton & Yellowstone Road Trip

Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn from a distance
Old Faithful Inn

Where to Stay Near Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park offers eight lodges inside the park, in addition to a dozen campgrounds. I recommend staying inside the park for this Yellowstone itinerary if possible as it will save several hours a day in driving time.

To stay inside the park, you should aim to book lodging at least 9 to 12 months out and book reservable campgrounds six months out.

In the detailed Yellowstone itinerary below, I lay out the best places to stay each night of your trip. In general, these lodges are the most centrally located to the best activities in Yellowstone:

  1. Old Faithful Inn, a luxury inn walking distance to Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin
  2. Old Faithful Lodge & Cabins, a more budget-friendly lodge walking distance to Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin and open year-round
  3. Canyon Lodge & Cabins, a community of hotels and small cabins a short drive from Hayden Valley and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
  4. Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cottages, a higher-end hotel overlooking Yellowstone Lake located 30 minutes from Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and 1 hour from Old Faithful
  5. Lake Lodge Cabins, more budget-friendly cabins along Yellowstone Lake located 30 minutes from Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and 1 hour from Old Faithful
  6. Grant Village Lodge, a waterfront hotel near West Thumb Geyser Basin found 30 minutes from Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin

If you’re interested in camping, these are the most centrally located campgrounds for your Yellowstone itinerary:

For more on the pros and cons of each campground, check out this post on camping in Yellowstone National Park.

If you’re planning on staying outside the park, I highly recommend finding a hotel in West Yellowstone. Compared to other nearby towns, staying here will give you the closest access to the top things to do in Yellowstone

Some of the top hotels in West Yellowstone include:

  • 1872 Inn, an updated adults-only hotel with 18 guest rooms only minutes to the park entrance
  • The Evergreen, a mountain-inspired lodge with 17 guest rooms in the heart of West Yellowstone
  • Elkhorn Cabins and Inns, rustic cabins with 15 guest rooms just outside the Yellowstone park entrance

Remember that Yellowstone is a top-rated destination. In the summer months, even hotels outside the park will fill up several months in advance. Therefore, I highly recommend booking your accommodations when you get your trip on the calendar.

Looking for more tips on where to stay for your trip to Yellowstone? Check out these guides on the Best Places to Stay Inside Yellowstone and 25 Amazing Airbnbs Near Yellowstone National Park

Tips for Planning a Trip to Yellowstone National Park

  • Book lodges inside the park one year in advance. Lodging is competitive inside the park, so you need to plan. Reservations are released roughly 12 months in advance. Campgrounds in Yellowstone should be reserved six months out. Aim to book hotels outside the park at least six months out.
  • Get a national park pass in advance. If you’re planning on visiting multiple national parks in the next year, you’ll save money by getting a national park pass. Purchasing it in advance saves you time at the busy Yellowstone entrance stations. Get your America the Beautiful Pass now for only $80.
  • Start your day early to avoid crowds. By 10 AM, parking lots are full, and trails are crowded. Avoid crowds by getting an early start around sunrise. I think the early morning light on the geysers and steaming pools is stunning. After 4 PM, crowds tend to clear out too, so early evening until sunset is also a great time to explore!
  • Pack plenty of layers. Temperatures in Yellowstone change dramatically from day to night. Even in the summer, overnight temperatures are often near freezing. Therefore, dressing in layers is critical. I recommend packing fleeces and down layers, plus a warm hat and gloves even when visiting in the summer!
  • Pack binoculars. One of the best things to do in Yellowstone is wildlife watching. A quality pair of binoculars helps you keep your distance from wildlife but still see the animals in their natural habitat. If you’re looking for an entry-level pair, I recommend this pair from Occer on Amazon. If you’re looking to level up your binoculars, I’ve invested in the high-quality (but still somewhat affordable) Vortex Diamondback 10×32.
  • Keep your distance from wildlife. While incredible to see, be sure to keep a safe distance and give all wild animals plenty of room. Stay 25 yards away from bison, female elk, deer, and moose. You should stay 100 yards away from more aggressive animals like bears, wolves, and bull elk during rutting season.
  • Always carry bear spray when hiking. Yellowstone National Park is located in grizzly bear country. If you are doing any hikes or long strolls in the geyser basins, you should carry bear spray (like pepper spray for bears!). If you’re driving to Yellowstone, I recommend buying bear spray ahead of time. If you are flying to Yellowstone, you can buy it locally from any sporting goods store or rent it (you can’t fly with bear spray, even in a checked bag!).
  • Check road conditions before your trip. The conditions in Yellowstone National Park are constantly changing. The best way to stay up to date on road closures for weather or construction, as well as trail status for wildlife activity, is on the Yellowstone National Park conditions website.
  • Allow extra time to get places. Due to the plentiful wildlife, it’s common to have traffic jams from bison crossing or animals along the road. Allow plenty of time to get anywhere and remain calm when stuck in traffic. If you do choose to stop to look at wildlife, respect other drivers and be sure to pull off the road and not block traffic.
  • Take the first day to acclimate to the elevation. The Yellowstone Caldera is located above 9,000 feet. If you’re coming from a lower elevation place, it will take a few days to acclimate to the elevation in Yellowstone. I recommend saving your more strenuous activities for later on in your trip and spending the first few days doing scenic drives or easy hikes through the geyser basins.
  • Cell phone service in Yellowstone is limited. Be sure to download all reservations, confirmations, and maps offline before entering the park. I like to save all information in an offline Dropbox or Google Drive folder and take a screenshot.

Looking for more tips on what to pack for your trip? Check out my guides on the best hiking gear, what to pack for a road trip, and essential camping gear for all my favorite gear picks and tips to make packing for your trip a breeze!

One Day in Yellowstone National Park

If you only have one day in Yellowstone National Park, you’ll want to stick to seeing only the most popular destinations. Yellowstone is most renowned for its impressive geysers, pools, and hot springs. For that reason, I recommend spending most of your time in the Old Faithful area.

If you have one day, the must-see destinations include Old Faithful, Upper Geyser Basin, Grand Prismatic Spring, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and Hayden Valley.

Are you planning a national park trip but don’t know where to start? Get my free 28-page national park ebook where I break down everything you need to know to visit all 63 USA national parks.

Download your free ebook here.

One Day Yellowstone Itinerary

Below is the sample one day in Yellowstone itinerary.

Morning: Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin. Start your day early at Old Faithful, which erupts every 1.5 hours. Check the geyser prediction schedule the night before to determine when to arrive. After catching the Old Faithful eruption from the viewing area, explore the rest of the Upper Geyser Basin. Don’t miss Grand Riverside Geyser, Chromatic Pool, and Morning Glory Pool! Finally, end your time here at the Old Faithful Inn and Visitor Center.

Early morning sunrise as Old Faithful erupts in Yellowstone
Old Faithful

Early Afternoon: Grand Prismatic Spring. Only a short drive from Old Faithful, you’ll find the second most famous landmark. However, the best way to see the geyser is from above via the Fairy Falls Trail. This 1.6-mile hike is relatively easy and provides fantastic views. If you aren’t up for the hike, you can also see Grand Prismatic, a short walk from the Midway Geyser Basin parking lot.

Multi-colored rainbow hot springs - Grand Prismatic in Yellowstone
Grand Prismatic Spring

Late Afternoon: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. After you’ve had your fill of geysers and springs, head across Grand Loop Road to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Drive the South Rim road to Artist Point for excellent views of the canyon and Lower Falls. Drive the North Rim, too, stopping at Lookout Point if you have time.

River winds through Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Evening: Hayden Valley. End your one day in Yellowstone with Hayden Valley, an excellent destination to spot wildlife. Drive through the valley and find a spot to sit and watch for animals. Expect to see plenty of bison. If you’re lucky, you may also spot elk, moose, grizzly bears, and bald eagles!

Where to Stay: Canyon Village. If you’re ending your day in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone or Hayden Valley, the most convenient place to stay is in Canyon Village. If you’re staying outside the park, the closest place to stay is in West Yellowstone, about 1 hour away.

Read More: Best Places to Stay in Yellowstone

2 Day Yellowstone Itinerary

With two days in Yellowstone, you’ll explore the same destinations as in the one-day itinerary but at a more leisurely pace. I highly recommend spending two days in Yellowstone instead of one day to avoid feeling overwhelmed. 

Below is the sample itinerary for spending two days in Yellowstone National Park.

Day 1: Old Faithful, Upper Geyser Basin, & Grand Prismatic Spring

Morning: Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin. Start your day early at Old Faithful, which erupts every 1.5 hours. Check the geyser prediction schedule the night before to determine when to arrive. After catching the Old Faithful eruption from the viewing area, explore the rest of the Upper Geyser Basin for at least 2 hours. Don’t miss Grand Riverside Geyser, Chromatic Pool, and Morning Glory Pool! End your time here at the Old Faithful Inn (you can watch Old Faithful erupt from the lodge’s deck!) and explore the displays at the visitor center.

Yellow and green hot spring, Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone
Morning Glory Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin

Early Afternoon: Biscuit Basin. Located between Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic, this small geyser basin deserves a quick visit. The most notable feature here is the brightly colored Sapphire Pool. Don’t miss the multi-colored Mustard Spring or Jewel Geyser either.

Mid Afternoon: Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook via Fairy Falls Trail. Continue past Biscuit Basin to the Fairy Falls Trailhead. This 1.6-mile hike allows you to see Grand Prismatic Spring from above. If you aren’t interested in exploring the Midway Geyser Basin more, consider adding the entire hike to Fairy Falls instead.

Read More: 15 Best Hikes in Yellowstone National Park

View of Grand Prismatic Hot Springs from the side
Grand Prismatic Spring

Late Afternoon: Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin. After seeing Grand Prismatic from above, you can get an up-close look by walking the Midway Geyser Basin. This route is more accessible and better for those unable to hike to the overlook. 

Where to Stay: Old Faithful or Canyon Village. You can either choose to stay close by in Old Faithful or make the drive over to Canyon Village, where you’ll spend your time on day 2. If you’re staying outside the park, the closest place to stay is in West Yellowstone, about 45 minutes away.

Read More: Best Places to Stay in Yellowstone National Park

Day 2: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone & Hayden Valley

Early Morning: Hayden Valley. Start your second and final day in Yellowstone with a scenic drive through Hayden Valley. Keep your eyes peeled for any wildlife (most likely bison). Morning is one of my favorite times to drive through Hayden Valley as a stark contrast in temperature from the air and hydrothermal features create mystical steam.

Bison grazes in a field in Yellowstone's Hayden Valley
Hayden Valley

Mid Morning: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone South Rim. Head to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone first. After sunrise, it takes a few hours for the light to permeate the canyon and Yellowstone River, so I don’t recommend arriving until 9 or 10 AM. Don’t miss Artist Point and Upper Falls Viewpoint. If you’re up for a strenuous hike in Yellowstone, take the Uncle Tom’s Trail (be prepared for hundreds of steps!).

Sunset over a distant waterfall in Yellowstone
Artist Point in Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Early Afternoon: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone North Rim. The light is better on the canyon’s North Rim by early afternoon. It’s a one-way loop through the North Rim, so I recommend stopping at the viewpoints in order. Don’t miss Lookout Point, Grand View, and Inspiration Point. Also, try the steep Brink of the Lower Falls or Red Rock Point trails if you want to hike.

Yellow, green, and blue hot spring overlooking Yellowstone Lake
West Thumb Geyser Basin

Late Afternoon: West Thumb Geyser Basin. After seeing the Grand Canyon, head back through Hayden Valley to the West Thumb Geyser Basin, stopping to see Yellowstone Lake along the way. Also, don’t miss the Abyss Pool, Fishing Cone, and Black Pool. If you’re staying in Old Faithful the night before, another option is to visit West Thumb Geyser Basin first before heading through Hayden Valley in the morning. 

Where to Stay: Grant Village, Canyon Village, or Old Faithful. If you don’t mind a bit of extra driving, stay at the same place you choose for night one! The closest place to stay is in Grant Village. If you’re heading to Grand Teton next, consider heading down and spending the night there. West Yellowstone is also an option, about 1 hour 15 minutes from West Thumb.

Read More: Best Places to Stay in and Near Yellowstone

3 Day Yellowstone Itinerary

For three days in Yellowstone National Park, you’ll follow the same 2-day Yellowstone itinerary above. Then, one day 3, you’ll venture up to the northern part of the park to see Lamar Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs.

For all the details on Day 1 and Day 2, refer to the previous section. In addition, you’ll find a quick recap on the first two days below.

Day 1: Old Faithful, Upper Geyser Basin, & Grand Prismatic Spring

  • Morning: Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin
  • Early Afternoon: Biscuit Basin
  • Mid Afternoon: Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook via Fairy Falls Trail
  • Late Afternoon: Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin
  • Where to Stay: Old Faithful, Canyon Village, or West Yellowstone

Day 2: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone & Hayden Valley

  • Early Morning: Hayden Valley (optional stop at West Thumb Geyser Basin if staying in Old Faithful the night before)
  • Mid Morning: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone South Rim
  • Early Afternoon: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone North Rim
  • Late Afternoon: West Thumb Geyser Basin
  • Where to Stay: Canyon Village or Old Faithful

Day 3: Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, & Lamar Valley

Morning: Norris Geyser Basin. Start your last day in Yellowstone with a trip to the Norris Geyser Basin. It is made up of two smaller geyser basins: Porcelain Basin and Back Basin. Unless Steamboat Geyser is predicted to erupt (which is rare), I recommend skipping the Back Basin and just exploring the Porcelain Basin.

Blue creek flows through ground in Norris Geyser Basin
Norris Geyser Basin

Afternoon: Mammoth Hot Springs. Head north along Grand Loop Road from Norris to read Mammoth, a small village near the North Entrance of Yellowstone. Mammoth Hot Springs is made up of a Lower and Upper Terrace. I recommend walking through the Lower Terrace and skipping the drive-through Upper Terrace if you’re short on time. After seeing Mammoth Hot Springs, walk through the village, checking out the Albright Visitor Center. 

Travertine terraces in Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs

Evening: Lamar Valley. End your trip to Yellowstone with wildlife watching in Lamar Valley, one of the premier wildlife destinations in the park. Keep your eyes peeled for bison, bears, coyotes, and even wolves! If you stick around after sunset, you may hear wolves howling in the distance. Don’t forget your binoculars as the wildlife might be far away.

Bison crossing the road in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone
Lamar Valley

Where to Stay: Mammoth, Canyon Village, or Gardiner. While there is a lodge in the Tower-Roosevelt area, I recommend heading back to other park areas with more options. Canyon Village and Mammoth are each about 1 hour away. If you’re staying outside the park, consider staying in Gardiner or Cooke City-Silver Gate, depending on where you’re heading next.

Read More: Best Places to Stay in Yellowstone National Park

4 Day Yellowstone Itinerary

In my opinion, four days in Yellowstone National Park is the perfect amount of time to see all the top attractions and the best things to do. In 4 days, you can cover everything, from Old Faithful to a stunning panoramic hike – all at a leisurely pace without feeling too overwhelmed.

Here is the best 4 days in Yellowstone itinerary.

Day 1: Old Faithful, Upper Geyser Basin, & Grand Prismatic Spring

  • Morning: Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin
  • Early Afternoon: Biscuit Basin
  • Mid Afternoon: Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook via Fairy Falls Trail
  • Late Afternoon: Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin
  • Where to Stay: Old Faithful, Canyon Village, or West Yellowstone

Day 2: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone & Hayden Valley

  • Early Morning: Hayden Valley (optional stop at West Thumb Geyser Basin if staying in Old Faithful the night before)
  • Mid Morning: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone South Rim
  • Early Afternoon: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone North Rim
  • Late Afternoon: West Thumb Geyser Basin
  • Where to Stay: Canyon Village or Old Faithful

Day 3: Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, & Lamar Valley

  • Morning: Norris Geyser Basin
  • Afternoon: Mammoth Hot Springs
  • Evening: Lamar Valley
  • Where to Stay: Canyon Village or Tower-Roosevelt

Day 4: Mount Washburn & Hayden Valley

Morning: Hike Mount Washburn. This incredible panoramic trail is routinely rated as one of the top hikes in Yellowstone National Park. The 6.8-mile hike starts at Dunraven Pass and takes you to the summit of Mount Washburn, standing at 10,200 feet. If you’re looking for an easier route, the trail is only 5.6 miles if you start from Chittenden Road instead (but it’s somewhat less scenic!).

Read More: 15 Best Hikes in Yellowstone National Park

Sign reading 'Mount Washburn' in Yellowstone

Early Afternoon: Tower Fall. After hiking Mount Washburn, stop at the nearby viewpoint for Tower Fall. This impressive and picturesque waterfall only requires a quick visit, but it is well worth your time. The viewpoint from Tower Fall Overlook looks down upon the 132-foot cascade and is an accessible side trip.

Waterfall framed by trees and rock spires at Tower Fall
Tower Fall Overlook

Evening: Hayden Valley. End your last night in Yellowstone with another sunset in Hayden Valley. Find a spot to sit, relax, and watch for wildlife. The best way to spot wildlife is to stake out and wait. Don’t forget to bring binoculars or a spotting scope!

Sunset over a field and river in Hayden Valley in Yellowstone
Hayden Valley

Where to Stay: Canyon Village or West Yellowstone.  Canyon Village is closest to Hayden Valley. If you’re heading to Grand Teton next, consider staying in Lake Village or Grant Village instead for a shorter drive the next day. West Yellowstone is also an option, about 1 hour 20 minutes from Hayden Valley.

5 Day Yellowstone Itinerary

If you’re looking for the ultimate experience, consider spending five days in Yellowstone National Park! In addition to the four-day suggested Yellowstone itinerary listed above, you can choose your adventure for the final day. 

This Yellowstone 5 day itinerary is the ultimate way to see the park

On your last day in Yellowstone, consider one of these options:

  • Rent a boat on Yellowstone Lake. There are plenty of options for exploring this massive lake. Options include a scenic cruise, private boat rentals, and guided sightseeing and fishing tours. Read more about boat rentals and tours in Yellowstone.
  • Drive Beartooth Highway. This scenic drive just outside the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone is rated as one of the best in the United States. If you’re heading out of the park on your last day, this is a great option (although it’s only open in the summer!).
  • Hike Beaver Ponds Loop Trail. This easy 5-mile trail provides excellent opportunities for spotting wildlife in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. 
  • Go for a swim at Boiling River Hot Springs or Firehole Canyon. If you’re looking for an excellent option for activity kids, check out Boiling River Hot Springs near Mammoth or Firehole Canyon swimming hole near Madison. Both offer excellent swimming opportunities for a more relaxed day after several days of touring Yellowstone.
Expansive view of Yellowstone Lake with a tree in the foreground
Yellowstone Lake

If You Have More Time in Yellowstone National Park

If you have more than five days to spend in Yellowstone, I highly recommend checking out more of the best things to do! Here are some ideas:

  • Hike the Fairy Falls Trail
  • Take a scenic tour of Firehole Canyon Drive
  • Visit the Lower Geyser Basin, checking out both Fountain Paint Pot and Great Fountain Geyser
  • Visit Mud Volcano
  • Drive the scenic Blacktail Plateau Drive near Mammoth
  • Check out Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance

Are you looking for more activities in Yellowstone? Check out these posts on the 22 best things to do in Yellowstone and the 15 best hikes in Yellowstone.

Stone archway over the Yellowstone National Park entrance
Roosevelt Arch

Don’t miss these nearby national park destinations if you’re looking to extend your national park road trip!

  • Grand Teton National Park – 30 minutes to South Entrance
  • Glacier National Park – 6 hours to North Entrance
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park – 7 hours to Northeast or East Entrance
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial – 8 hours to East Entrance
  • Badlands National Park – 8 hours to East Entrance
  • Rocky Mountain National Park – 8.5 hours to South Entrance

Read More: 7 Days in Grand Teton & Yellowstone Itinerary

Frequently Asked Questions About Yellowstone Itineraries

How many days do you need in Yellowstone National Park?

At a minimum, you need 2 to 3 days in Yellowstone National Park. This gives you enough time to see all the highlights without feeling too rushed. However, if you only have one day, you can see the top attractions.

How many days do you need in Yellowstone and Grand Teton?

To see the highlights of both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, you’ll need at least 5 to 7 days. This gives you about three days in Yellowstone and two days in Grand Teton. To explore both parks further, I recommend ten days.

How long does it take to drive the entire Yellowstone Loop?

Driving the Grand Loop Road around Yellowstone takes about 4 to 8 hours, depending on how frequently you stop. I recommend spending a full day on the scenic drive, stopping to see wildlife and popular attractions.

Is 3 days in Yellowstone enough?

Three days in Yellowstone is enough time to see all the highlights in the park without feeling rushed. You’ll be able to see top attractions like Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Is 5 days in Yellowstone enough?

Five days in Yellowstone provides enough time to see nearly everything Yellowstone offers. In 5 days, you can see top attractions, hike popular trails, and see plenty of wildlife and scenic drives.

How many days does it take to drive through Yellowstone?

To see all of Yellowstone, you’ll need at least 2 to 3 days to drive throughout the park. However, the Grand Loop Road connects all the park’s top attractions and allows you to navigate the park easily over several days. 

Can you drive through Yellowstone in a day?

You can visit Yellowstone National Park in one day if you are only interested in seeing the top attractions. For example, in one day, you can see both Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring, the most popular spots in Yellowstone.

Can you just drive through Yellowstone National Park?

Grand Loop Road connects all the entrances to Yellowstone. While you can drive directly through Yellowstone National Park, you will be required to pay the entry fee at the park entrance station. 

Final Thoughts on This Itinerary for Yellowstone

I highly recommend spending at least two days in Yellowstone National Park. This gives you just enough time to explore the park’s top attractions without feeling too rushed.

Personally, my ideal Yellowstone itinerary is three days, as shown below:

  • Day 1: Old Faithful, Upper Geyser Basin, & Grand Prismatic Spring
  • Day 2: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone & Hayden Valley
  • Day 3: Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, & Lamar Valley

I also highly recommend adding Grand Teton National Park to your trip. Located only 30 minutes south of Yellowstone National Park, it provides incredible scenery and hiking, plus plenty of wildlife.

If you want to learn more about Yellowstone National Park, check out these posts!

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