The first of its kind in the world, Yellowstone National Park is a designated World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve.
Situated mostly in Wyoming, the massive and world-famous terrain also stretches into Montana and Idaho. Carpeted by lush forest and wide expanses of grassland, the park is larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
Yellowstone National Park is characterized by iconic geological features, from the colossal Yellowstone Lake to Old Faithful—one of more than 300 mesmerizing geysers erupting on schedule.
The park also houses other natural wonders, including stunning waterfalls, an active volcano, and a sea of petrified trees.
Visitors to the park can expect to observe countless species of wildlife thriving in their natural habitat.
There are 67 species of mammals in the park, including two species of bears. Guests also enjoy rare sightings of threatened and endangered animals, from the Canada lynx to the gray wolf, and over 300 species of birds.
The park is steeped in a rich history shaped by human stories, many dating back thousands of years. Prior to the arrival of the first Europeans, the area was home to or frequented by peoples from the Salish, Kiowa, and Lakota Sioux tribes. Ancestors of the Crow may also have traveled into Yellowstone during the 17th century.
Between 1804 and 1806, the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled within 50 miles of the park’s boundaries. A gold strike northwest of Yellowstone attracted more activity in the area in 1862, and it was established as the world’s first national park in 1872 by the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act.
Today, Yellowstone National Park finds its way onto the bucket lists of hikers, nature-lovers, and adventure-seekers from all over the planet.
The majestic landscape now draws in nearly 5 million annual visitors. Park guests bask in the natural allure of the area and enjoy a range of other activities, from cycling and mountain biking to horseback riding.
Those seeking a thrill relish ziplining, white-water rafting, and a range of winter sports in the park. There are also plenty of opportunities to relax and connect with nature in the way of fishing, stargazing, swimming, boating, and simply walking through areas of abundant beauty.
The park has a selection of accommodation choices to suit every style, itinerary, and budget, along with select dining outlets and other park facilities.
Whether you’re staying for days or weeks to explore the wilderness in all its magnificence, or popping in to see the main sights only, Yellowstone National Park is a life-changing experience.
Yellowstone National Park – Everything You Need to Know
Yellowstone National Park Stats
- Size: (2,221,766 acres/898,317 hectares)
- Season: All year round (with restrictions in winter and early spring)
- Highest mountain: Eagle Peak (11,358 feet/3,462 meters)
- Tallest waterfall: Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River (308 feet/94 meters)
- Largest lake: Yellowstone Lake (20 miles long, 14 miles wide, 141 miles of shoreline, maximum depth of 410 feet)
- Number of campsites: 12 (more than 2,000 campsites)
- Number of picnic areas: 52
- Number of trails: More than 900
Guide to The Regions Of Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park can be divided into four main regions which can be broken down into eight areas: Tower-Roosevelt and the Northeast; Canyon Village; Fishing Bridge, Lake Village and Bridge Bay; Madison and West Yellowstone; Norris Geyser Basin; Old Faithful; Mammoth Hot Springs and the North; and West Thumb, Grant, and the South.
The western area of Yellowstone National Park typically holds the most landmarks and attractions. If you only have a few days and don’t have time to visit all of the parks, most travel guides recommend focusing your trip on the western side.
Closest entrance to the western region
- West Entrance (West Yellowstone, MT)
Tips for visiting the western region
- The west is generally considered to be the area between Norris or Madison and Old Faithful.
- You will pass multiple thermal sites when heading south to Old Faithful through the west.
Top Landmarks in the Western Region
Old Faithful is located in the Upper Geyser Basin. The active geyser erupts every 79 minutes on average, and you can either watch the eruption from the boardwalk in front of the geyser or from the observation point, which is a 45-minute hike from the boardwalk.
If you’d like to watch the eruption from the boardwalk, keep in mind that this is one of the busiest destinations in the park, particularly in summer.
Arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds, and secure your place on the boardwalk as soon as you arrive at the geyser, regardless of how long you have to wait for the next eruption.
You can find out when the next eruption is due at the visitor center. You can also view the eruption from the observation deck at the Old Faithful Inn.
Along with Old Faithful, there are around 150 other geothermal sites to visit in the Upper Geyser Basin, including Grand Geyser and Castle Geyser.
Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin is one of Yellowstone’s most famous sights, and worth seeing, even if you only have two days in the park.
Due to the spring’s immense popularity, it can be notoriously difficult to get a car park here, so allow plenty of time. You can view the spring from the boardwalk or a viewing platform, which is a half-hour hike away.
The spring is famous for its kaleidoscope of colors, which stem from the bacteria thriving in the boiling water. Safety is incredibly important at the Grand Prismatic Spring, and it’s vital to stay on the marked boardwalk when walking through the area.
Avoid visiting Grand Prismatic Spring in the morning, as it tends to be covered by a mist that doesn’t clear up until later in the day.
Norris Geyser Basin is the largest thermal site in the park, and also tends to be the most active. Here, you’ll find attractions such as the Porcelain Basin and the Back Basin, both of which can be accessed from the Visitor Center located off the Grand Loop Road.
One of the most impressive sights in the Norris Geyser Basin is the Steamboat Geyser, which is located along the back Trail Loop.
You can’t time the eruptions of the Steamboat Geyser, but there tend to be fewer crowds here than at Old Faithful.
Gibbon Geyser Basin is located a few miles south of Norris Geyser Basin and boasts the iconic Artists Paint Pots.
These springs, geysers, and mud pots are named after the range of colors they display, and can be viewed by following a short and easy half-mile trail through the basin.
The northern area of Yellowstone National Park tends to be a little quieter than the western side but still boasts a few destinations that are definitely worth seeing.
The northern section is where you’ll find sites like Mammoth Hot Springs and the famous Roosevelt Entrance Arch.
Closest entrance to the northern region
Tips for visiting the northern region
- The north is generally considered the area between Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Falls.
- The road that runs between them, US Rt 212, is the only road in Yellowstone National Park that is open for the entire year.
- If you want to spot wolves in the winter, this area is the best place in the park to do so.
Top Landmarks in the Northern Region
Mammoth Hot Springs is the only top sight in Yellowstone National Park that is located north of the Madison to Canyon road. The springs bubble with thermal water that sometimes takes on a rainbow color, depending on the hot water flow.
The hot springs are categorized into the Upper and Lower Terraces, both of which have parking lots. You can view the Lower Terraces from the boardwalk, while you can take your car along Upper Terrace Drive.
Given that the hot springs attract large crowds, it’s a good idea to visit as early as possible, or later in the afternoon, to avoid mobs of people.
The iconic arch at the North Entrance of the park is worth visiting if you’re going to be in the northern region. The arch was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 and presents one of the best photo opportunities in the park.
The arch hosts a picnic area which makes for a great pit stop. There are also restroom facilities here.
The Lamar Valley is technically located in the northeast of the park and is one of the more far-flung attractions. Unless you have a few days to explore the park in detail, or you’re coming from Cooke City, it might be worth leaving the Lamar Valley for another time.
However, if your heart is set on this destination, it does offer spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities! Among other animals, the Lamar Valley is home to bison, wolves, elk, moose, and bears.
The Lamar Valley is reachable via the Northeast Entrance Road, which you can access from the Grand Loop Road. Along the way, there are multiple pullouts where you can stop and view or photograph any wildlife that you see.
Yellowstone National Park’s central area is one of the busiest sections of the park. Aside from housing several iconic landmarks, it is also a popular place to stay within the park as it gives visitors equal access to all other areas.
Some of the highlights of the central area include the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Canyon Village.
Closest entrance to the central region
You could use any entrance to get to the central region, which is located reasonably close to all entrances
Tips for visiting the central region
- The central region is typically considered the area between Madison and Canyon Village.
- Traveling through the central region is the quickest way to traverse the park from east to west or vice versa.
- Canyon Village is a hotspot for accommodation and eateries.
Top Landmarks in the Central Region
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the most famous destination in the central region and one of the most iconic sights in the park.
The gorge extends for 20 miles and plummets more than 1000 feet into the Yellowstone River, making for quite an impressive sight!
You can access the overlooks for the canyon by road on both sides. There are numerous trails you can take to explore the canyon, including Brink of the Lower Falls, Point Sublime Trail, and Seven Mile Hole Trail, which is the only trail that leads to the bottom of the canyon.
The most famous viewing location is Artist’s Point, which is situated on the east side of the canyon. If you want to view the canyon from the opposite side, closer to the falls, the best location is Inspiration Point.
Canyon Village is located near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This is a popular location for lunch and dinner, as it’s home to a restaurant, deli, cafeteria, and general store. There is also a gas station in canyon village, a general store, and a gift shop.
In Canyon Village, you will also find the Canyon Visitor Center Education Center, which features interactive educational exhibits. One of the most popular is the video re-enactment of the huge Yellowstone eruption that took place 640,000 years ago.
The eastern area of Yellowstone National Park, which also includes the southern section, is the quietest region.
If you are pressed for time, it might be worth focusing on other areas of the park and leaving the east for a longer trip. When visiting the east, be sure to see the West Thumb and Grant areas, and the Hayden Valley.
Closest entrance to the eastern region
- East Entrance (Cody, WY, is the closest city)
Tips for visiting the eastern region
- The eastern region is classified as the area between Canyon Village and West Thumb, or Grant.
Landmarks in the Eastern Region
Yellowstone Lake is a top destination in the park for fishing and boating and is home to a huge trout population.
Visitors can rent boats from the nearby Bridge Bay Marina or bring their own, and guided boat tours also run at the lake. Swimming is not permitted at the lake due to the cold water temperature, even in summer.
You could also hike around the lake by following one of the nearby trails, including Storm Point Nature Trail and Elephant Back Trail, which boast brilliant views of the water.
West Thumb Geyser Basin, which is located next to Yellowstone Lake, features smaller geysers that tend to be less impressive than those you might see elsewhere in the park.
However, this is also one of the less busy destinations in the park, so it is a good option if you’d like to see some geothermal activity without all the crowds.
The basin features a simple boardwalk that allows guests to view the sights in around half an hour. Some of the top local sights to look out for include Lakeshore Geyser and the Thumb Paint Pots.
The Hayden Valley is Yellowstone’s premiere destination for viewing wildlife, along with the Lamar Valley. However, the Lamar Valley is considerably more remote and takes longer to reach.
If you only have a limited amount of time and are focusing mainly on the west and central regions, it makes more sense to visit the Hayden Valley.
The best time to view wildlife in the valley is around dawn or dusk. It’s important to never stop on the road to look at wildlife, and always use the designated pullouts. Keep in mind that this area receives heavy traffic and is predisposed to jams, especially when bison linger on the road.
You can get out of the car to view the wildlife, but it’s imperative to keep at least 100 feet away from bears and wolves at all times, and at least 25 feet away from other animals, including bison. It is strictly prohibited to feed or touch any animal in the park.
If you’re lucky, you may see wolves, bears, bison, elk, and more in the valley!
Yellowstone Travel Seasons
The high season in Yellowstone is June through to August, though July is the busiest month of all. July sees 4 million visitors pass through the park in a single month.
Crowds are drawn in to see the natural wonders of Yellowstone while the weather is warm and pleasant, and the kids are out of school. Families pack into the park at this time of the year, and the crowds can make the waiting times at the top attractions a little long.
June, July, and August also tend to be the months with the most festivals and events. While there are few events inside the park, there are a number of music festivals and Wild West events throughout the high season in the surrounding towns.
High season undoubtedly has the best weather, with the area around Mammoth Hot Springs seeing average highs of 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27°C) in July. If you want to try some of the more adventurous activities at Yellowstone, like kayaking or horseback riding, high season is the best time to visit.
The shoulder season sits on either end of the high season; covering late April to May and September to early October.
Outside the warmer summer months, the weather is a little chilly, but not unbearably so. It’s a fantastic time to visit the park, as the crowds over the summer have all but disappeared.
Sightseeing is made easier by the lack of wait times at Yellowstone’s biggest attractions; you can walk to the viewing points over Old Faithful geyser and the Grand Prismatic Spring without issue.
Wildlife is quite active in April and May, so there are many opportunities to see bears, elk, and moose around the park. You are treated to the beautiful fall colors in September and October, making every hike a dazzling blend of warm oranges, yellows, and reds.
The low season in Yellowstone runs from late October to early April. The temperatures are intensely cold at this time of the year, and heavy snowfall occurs regularly throughout the months.
Most of the roads into Yellowstone are closed during low season – the North Entrance near Gardiner is the only one open to the public, and often requires chains and winter tires. But you can still reach the park’s main attractions, like Old Faithful, by snow coach or on a guided snowmobile tour.
One of the benefits of visiting Yellowstone at this time of year is that it is practically deserted; seeing the iconic park covered in white snow, as boiling geysers burst into the icy air is an incredible sight and one that very few witness in person.
It’s also a surprisingly good time to see wildlife, as many animals – including bison and elk – are pushed to lower plains to escape the cold.
The biggest draw to the Yellowstone area in low season is the opportunities it affords for winter sports and skiing. Big Sky, just north of the park, is famous for the sport, and a ski festival is held in West Yellowstone every year.
Weather By Month In Yellowstone National Park
Be prepared for snowy days and icy temperatures in January, as Yellowstone becomes a winter wonderland every year from November to March.
The park is often covered with a white blanket of untouched snow in January, so you should bring the appropriate winter gear.
Mammoth Hot Springs has an average high of 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1.1°C), and a low of 11 (11.6°C). Old Faithful is even colder, with highs of 28 (-2°C) and frost-biting lows of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17°C).
Little changes in February, as the dark of winter, still has its firm grip over Yellowstone. Temperatures stay hovering around 34 degrees Fahrenheit (1°C) in the Mammoth Hot Springs area, with lows of 13 (-10°C); a small improvement from January.
Old Faithful is again even colder, with the top average temperature being 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2°C) and the lows 0 (-17°C). There are 13 days of snow and 14 days of rain on average this month. You’ll still need your winter boots for this one.
As winter turns to spring, Yellowstone remains bitterly cold. The average temperature rises marginally from February, with highs of 36.1 degrees Fahrenheit (2.3°C) and lows of 9.1 (-12.7°C).
There’s an average of 12.6 days of snow in the park in March. As for all the months with heavy snowfall, most of the roads are closed to regular vehicles.
The exception is the road from Gardiner to Mammoth Hot Springs at the North Entrance, which is open all year round.
You will need to prepare your vehicle for winter, as snow tires and sometimes chains are required to enter the park. You can still access other parts of Yellowstone via snow coaches.
April is a chilly month of spring in Yellowstone. The temperatures climb to 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6 °C) on average this month, with lows of 18 (-7.8°C). The average snow and rainfall drop to 9.5 and 11.6 days, respectively.
As the snow begins to melt, some of Yellowstone’s roads begin to reopen, making it easier to visit the main attractions.
April is a good month to visit if you would like to avoid crowds, but the weather tends to fluctuate throughout the month. For April, you should bring plenty of thermals and waterproofs but prepare for a smattering of warmer days by wearing layers.
As the roads all reopen and the snow begins to melt, Yellowstone starts to feel truly spring-like in May.
The temperatures are still cool, with highs of 52 degrees Fahrenheit (11.1°C) and lows of 28 (-2.2°C), but the days are far warmer than in April – and at an average of 14.8 hours of daylight, much longer.
The weather is at its most temperamental in May, with 11.5 days of frequently heavy rain and 4.4 days of snowfall.
May is one of the most unpredictable months for weather in Yellowstone, so you should prepare for all conditions. Plenty of layers for the fluctuating temperatures and a high-quality waterproof is recommended.
It’s the start of the summer season in Yellowstone! The average high temperature is 61.5 degrees Fahrenheit (16.4°C) in June, with the average low temperature 35.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1.9°C).
You’re treated to the longest days of the year this month, with an astonishing average of 15.5 hours of daylight per day. While snow is unlikely, you will still have to contend with the rain – the average for June is 14.4 days of rainfall.
The weather becomes reasonably pleasant in June, and unfortunately, the crowds soon follow.
The warmest month of the year, July has average highs of 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit (22°C) and lows of 41.5 (5.3°C). In Mammoth Hot Springs, this rises to an average high of 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27°C).
July is filled with warm sunny days and is understandably one of the most popular months to visit. It’s ideal weather to take to the trails around the park and start an epic outdoor adventure.
Seeing out the last of summer is August – little changes this month from July. The average temperatures drop very slightly, with average highs of 71.4 degrees Fahrenheit (21.9°C) and lows of 39.9 (4.4°C).
The days are still long and sunny; perfect for hiking or watersports. August has even less average rainfall than July, but you should still bring an umbrella just in case!
As summer ends, the temperature in Yellowstone drops significantly. You’ll find typically that the days are warm while the nights become colder.
September is 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler on average than the previous month, with highs of 61.5 (16.4°C) and lows of 31.8 (-0.1°C). It’s a usually pleasant month for weather, with comfortable temperatures and minimal rainfall.
Snow is just starting to creep back into Yellowstone, with an average of 1.1 days of snowfall in September. Like in May, you need to dress for every weather in September.
As fall sets in, the weather cools, but the crowds disperse. You get to see a relatively deserted Yellowstone in September, resplendent with fall colors.
The drop in temperature is even larger between September and October, as average highs fall to a chilly 47.8 degrees Fahrenheit (8.8°C), and lows to a frosty 23.7 (-4.6°C). Despite all other metrics getting objectively worse, the amount of rainfall improves in October; it’s the month with the least rainfall all year, at 8.8 days.
But what it lacks in rain, October makes up for with snow. The average is up from 1.1 days in September to 5.8 days this month. Daylight hours are also down to 10.9 hours.
Like in September, you can enjoy relative solitude among the fall colors in Yellowstone for October.
If the weather was starting to feel a little wintry in October, it turns in earnest now. The average high temperature is 33.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8°C) and the low temperature is 13.8 (-10.1°C).
With 12 days of snowfall and 13 days of rain on average, the weather becomes much more volatile. You need plenty of thermals, waterproofs, and general winter gear in Yellowstone for November.
Most of the roads close this month, so entrance to the park is limited. You can use the North Entrance to enter with a regular vehicle, but snow coaches are required to reach most of the park.
Right in the middle of winter, December is the coldest month in Yellowstone. When the average high temperature is sub-zero – 24.3 degrees Fahrenheit (-4.3°C) – you know it’s going to be a tough month!
The average low temperature of the month is 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15°C). As well as being the coldest, the days of December are also the shortest; daylight hours last 8.9 hours on average this month.
December sees 15.6 days of rainfall and 14.9 days of snowfall, often accumulating around 30.5 inches of snow. Though cold and snowy, December is the most wonderful time of the year to see wildlife, as animals are pushed to lower elevations due to the colder temperatures.
Yellowstone Events and Festivals
Yellowstone in July
- Targhee Music Fest – The Targhee Music Fest occurs around mid-July every year in Alta, WY. The festival attracts a number of artists, with a particular focus on great American folk, country, and soul music.
- Wild Bill Days Rodeo & Concert – This annual rodeo & concert is held in West Yellowstone in early July. There’s everything from pig wrestling to firework shows at this bombastic event!
- Cody Stampede Rodeo – Held at the start of July, the Cody Stampede Rodeo attracts cowboys from all over North America to compete for grand prizes on the finest rodeo stock in the country. On top of the rodeo, the celebration involves daily parades, food stalls, and a craft fair.
- Yellowstone Beer Fest – The popular Yellowstone Beer Fest is held every year in Cody, from mid to late July. You can enjoy live music and unlimited samples from over 220 beers and 50 breweries from across the world. All the proceeds from the event are donated to local charities.
Yellowstone in August
- Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival – A few hours south of Yellowstone in Alta, WY, the Targhee Bluegrass Festival mixes great Bluegrass music with the stunning scenery of the Northern Rockies! With dozens of fantastic musicians performing, it’s one of the biggest events of the year around Yellowstone.
- Shootout in the Big Sky – Cowboy Mounted Shooting Competition – Bringing the Old West back to West Yellowstone is the cowboy-mounted shooting competition, which draws in a hundred contestants from all over the country every year. The event is usually held in early August.
- Shoshone-Bannock Indian Festival – This Native American powwow is located a few hours south-east of Yellowstone, but easy to visit if you are traveling through Idaho to reach the park. The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes celebrate their culture through dance, crafts, feasts, arts, and many more activities. The festival is held on the second weekend of August every year.
Yellowstone in November
- Yellowstone Ski Festival – West Yellowstone hosts the Yellowstone Ski Festival every year during Thanksgiving week. The event attracts thousands of skiers and enthusiasts from across the U.S and Canada. The festival marks the start of the Nordic ski season and includes competitive races, Biathlons, and ski clinics.
Recreation Activities in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors.
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie seeking a thrilling white-river rafting experience or are craving a steady hike where you can stop at your leisure and take Instagram-worthy photos, Yellowstone has something for everyone.
Yellowstone is simply too big for most people to stay for less than a few days. Camping is not only one of the most popular accommodation choices, it’s also a recreational activity in itself that allows park guests to truly get in touch with the natural environment.
There are a total of 12 campgrounds in the park, many of them boasting convenient amenities such as RV sites, dump stations, shower facilities, and toilets.
Quiet hours are put in place so that all campers will have the rare chance to hear the distinct sounds of the wilderness at night, from roaming wildlife to rushing streams.
Some campgrounds also offer group camping, which allows larger families, educational groups, youth groups, and other groups the chance to bond in a unique setting.
With more than 100 lakes and 1000 miles of streams in the park, Yellowstone is a gem for those looking for their next catch.
There are seven types of gamefish in Yellowstone, including trout in the cutthroat, rainbow, brown, brook, and lake varieties. There are also grayling and mountain whitefish.
The best time for lake fishing in the park is August, and most rivers also yield plenty of catches throughout the month, with the exception of the Firehole and Madison.
The Yellowstone Angler highlights some of the best fishing destinations including portions of the Yellowstone River, the Lamar River, Soda Butte, and Slough Creek.
Fishing permits are required for anyone over the age of 12 in the park. Size and possession limits are in place to protect the flow of the natural ecosystem.
For more information about fishing regulations in Yellowstone, please visit the National Park Service’s official website.
Hiking and walking are natural pastimes in Yellowstone. There are trails for all skill and fitness levels, from easy, family-friendly routes to moderate trails to difficult paths that only seasoned hikers should attempt.
Many visitors spend their days hiking to the park’s most beautiful destinations and sights.
Park guests are welcome to hike on their own, but there are also ranger-led hikes available.
Typically running in summer, these take participants to remote areas that other visitors might not venture to and explore exciting wildlife habitats. Ranger-led hikes come in a range of difficulties, from easy to hard.
For more information about hikes and other Ranger Programs on offer in the park, please visit the National Park Service’s official website.
In winter, Yellowstone becomes a white wonderland bordered by snow-capped mountains. The park receives 150 inches annually, and up to 300 inches in the high country, which paves the way for winter activities like skiing, snowshoeing, and traversing the landscape in a snowmobile.
There are both groomed and ungroomed ski trails available, while the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel both offer ice skating rinks.
Snowshoers are welcome along the marked ski trails and unplowed roads, while snowmobiling tours also run for those who aren’t able to get a permit to plan private snowmobiling trips.
Snowcoach tours run in the winter, and safely take participants across the snowy landscape in heated vans and buses.
With so many tempting mountain ranges waiting to be explored, Yellowstone is a natural destination for mountain biking enthusiasts.
Cycling along the path’s flatter roads is a wonderful way to take in the scenery and cover more ground in less time than walking.
Park guests can bring their own bikes or can rent bikes from the Yellowstone National Park Lodge at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Other equipment and safety gear is also available for hire, including helmets, racks, and trailers.
Bikers are not permitted on the hiking trails, but there are several other roads, as well as multi-use paths. Yellowstone Park recommends the West Yellowstone to Madison Junction path, which is a 28-mile round trip.
For a shorter ride, the end of Fountain Flat Drive to the Midway Geyser Basin is also recommended, which is a 3.2-mile round trip.
For more information about rules and tips for bikers in the park, please visit the National Park Service’s official website.
Horseback riding in Yellowstone honors an age-old tradition. The trails in the park have been crossed by riders for decades, and even today, this is still sometimes the best way to see major sights and absorb the surrounding beauty.
Guests may bring their own horses to Yellowstone, provided they follow all stock packing regulations.
Alternatively, several licensed outfitters operate in the park, running guided tours on horseback. Single-day and multi-day trips are offered.
For more information about horseback riding in Yellowstone, please visit the National Park Service’s official website.
Home to North America’s largest freshwater lake above an elevation of 7,000 feet, Yellowstone offers plenty of opportunities to have fun in the water.
While Yellowstone Lake is arguably the most popular, there are countless other bodies of water just perfect for aquatic sports and activities.
In summer, boating and other water activities are always in high demand at the park. Visitors can explore miles of shoreline via kayak or canoe, through a boat tour or private boat, or even rafting.
There are also a few hot springs where park guests can soak, relax, and swim in the geothermal waters.
For more information about boating in Yellowstone, please visit the National Park Service’s official website.
Trail Routes In Yellowstone National Park
The Mt. Washburn Trail takes hikers up an old road to a lookout with sweeping views of the park. Along the way, they will pass grassy meadows and fascinating rock formations.
Mt. Washburn extends for approximately seven miles and the trail starts at Dunraven Pass. As this is a high-elevation trail, it is considered difficult and is not recommended for those with heart or respiratory problems.
The best times to hike this trail are June through October when hikers will get the clearest 360-degree views of the stunning surroundings.
North Rim Trail
Bordering the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the North Rim Trail offers some of the most mesmerizing vistas with unbeatable views of the gushing Yellowstone River below and the multicolored rock of the canyon.
The trail is 6.8 miles long and is one of the most popular in the park due to the views it provides of the canyon.
Traveling parallel to the road in some areas, the trail also crosses lush pine forests, where visitors may catch a glimpse of roaming wildlife.
The North Rim Trail is generally considered to be quite challenging and takes, on average, three hours to complete.
It is best visited from May through October, and although it can get quite busy with hikers, walkers, and runners, it can still provide tranquility early or late in the day.
As the name suggests, Fairy Falls is a family-friendly hike that park guests of all ages can enjoy.
It features some exceptional views of Grand Prismatic Spring, the Firehole River, and of course, the trickling Fairy Falls. On the hike, participants will also cross pine forests and open meadows.
The trailhead is found on the Grand Loops Road between Midway Geyser Basin and Old Faithful. Stretching for 6.5 miles, the trail is located in a bear management area and remains closed until Memorial Day weekend.
The loop also boasts picnic tables along the way and can generally be completed in two hours. The trail is generally flat and easy-going, making it an ideal relaxing trek.
Storm Point Nature Trail
For those wanting on spot wildlife, Storm Point Nature Trail is a wonderful route that offers both exquisite scenery and the opportunity to observe animals in their natural habitat.
The loop begins by Indian Pond and its nearby large meadows, where bison are frequently seen.
The path travels through rugged pine forest and onto Storm Point, where hikers will likely spot yellow-bellied marmots.
Sometimes closed in late spring and early summer due to bear activity, Storm Point is a family-friendly trail that is only 2.4 miles in length.
An easy and pleasant hike with varied scenery, Storm Point finishes at the shore of Yellowstone Lake, where many hikers enjoy picnic lunches.
Beaver Ponds Loop
Beginning in Mammoth Hot Springs, Beaver Ponds Loop cuts through dense forest and open meadows.
The nearby ponds are stunning and often brimming with wildlife. Hikers on this trail have been known to spot elk, mule deer, pronghorn, moose, beaver, and waterfowl.
Extending for 5.9 miles, the trail can be challenging in places but is still widely considered to be family-friendly. After an initial incline, the walk is mostly flat and leisurely.
The trail is particularly beautiful in fall, with shades of red and orange coloring the scenery.
Best Tours In Yellowstone National Park
A guided tour in Yellowstone National Park can take the pressure off. Leave the planning to your guide and simply relax as they make sure you get the very best experience.
This two-day tour travels along both the Upper and Lower loops of Yellowstone National Park. Participants have the option of staying overnight in Gardiner or at the iconic Chico Hot Springs Resort.
The tour covers several points of interest in the park including the Old Faithful area, Gibbon Falls, Firehole River Canyon, The Golden Gate, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, The Boiling River, Hayden Valley, Sulphur Cauldron, and Lake Yellowstone.
In between sightseeing, the tour allows for several short hikes through geyser country.
Lunch and snacks are provided on both days, however, breakfast, dinner, park entrance fees, and overnight lodging are not included in the tour price.
The Lamar Valley is a hotspot for wildlife viewing, and this six-hour tour gives participants the best chance of spotting bison, bears, wolves, and more.
Experienced guides run the tour, which takes participants to the best viewing locations in the valley.
A trekking pole, binoculars, and a group spotting scope are provided, along with bear spray, morning snacks and drinks, and a picnic lunch.
The tour isn’t suitable for children under eight years old, people over 80, wheelchair users, or people with heart problems. The hike will take place no matter the weather and includes up and downhill terrain along six miles.
A private guided experience for up to eight people, this tour leaves from Gardiner and takes participants into the park with the aim of seeing rare wildlife.
The live tour guide is a wildlife expert and helps participants spot bears, wolves, moose, bison, and more.
The tour starts early in the morning, the best time for observing wildlife. Pickup and drop-off are included, and participants are also supplied with binoculars and spotting scopes.
Breakfast pastries, hot drinks, snacks, cold drinks, and a full picnic lunch spread are also provided.
During the tour, the guide also facilitates discussions about the local wildlife, making it as much a learning experience as it is an adventure.
Old Faithful is the world’s most famous geyser, a must-see highlight in Yellowstone.
This tour, departing from Gardiner, takes participants to the geyser and other hot springs to watch nature do its thing through boiling waters and shooting eruptions.
The tour also visits the Yellowstone volcano and features hikes that travel off the beaten track. Wildlife is commonly spotted on the tour, with the experienced guide pointing out signs of bison and elk.
Participants travel in a touring vehicle with large viewing windows, and breakfast pastries, hot drinks, snacks, and a full picnic lunch are provided.
The tour departs from Gardiner and entrance fees into Yellowstone are not included.
A morning kayak tour is one of the best ways to explore the famous Yellowstone Lake. Running for four hours, the tour gives participants the chance to observe wildlife on the lake before the afternoon crowds scare them off.
The tour is run by a local naturalist guide and allows participants to view the lake from a unique vantage point, away from the crowded boardwalk. Participants will also paddle beside unique hot waterfalls and gas bubbles.
A picnic lunch is provided, along with a single kayak and safety life vest.
Participants will paddle for approximately five miles and the tour is not suitable for those who don’t know how to swim, children under 15, people over 80, or those with mobility impairments.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the highlights of the park. This tour takes participants on a loop hike that shows them the best views of one of the most wondrous sights in the country.
Participants will walk approximately six miles of trail, stopping along the way for photo opportunities of the famous canyon.
Lunch and snacks are included in the price, but participants are encouraged to bring their own water and rain gear. And wear comfortable shoes!
Snowmobiling is one of the most exciting ways to cross the snow-covered winter landscape in Yellowstone. This private tour takes participants to Old Faithful and offers plenty of opportunities to stop and view wildlife.
Drivers must be at least 16 years old with a valid driver’s license. Child passengers must be at least eight and younger than 12, and all participants are advised to wear warm clothing.
A unique way to explore Yellowstone, the tour also provided breakfast and lunch and snowmobile gear.
Yellowstone National Park Lodges runs several tours for those who’d like to see Yellowstone on horseback.
There are Canyon one and two-hour tours, which travel adjacent to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and Roosevelt one and two-hour tours, which travel along Garnet Hill.
Riders will be immersed in magnificent scenery as they take in the park the traditional way.
All riders must be older than 8 years, a least 48 inches tall, less than 240 lbs, and understand English.
Running for 12 hours, this tour features an open-air vehicle that allows participants to feel the wind in their hair as they see the best sights of Yellowstone.
Departing from Cody, Wyoming, the tour visits Mammoth Springs, the Lower Falls, and the Old Faithful Geyser. The knowledgeable tour guide will give participants tips and insights into the local history along the way.
The tour leaves at 7 a.m. and includes lunch, bottled water, a spotting scope, and binoculars.
This tour takes participants off the beaten track to explore the wild backcountry of Yellowstone.
Moderately challenging, the tour traverses varied trails and allows riders to take in breathtaking sights such as Golden Gate Canyon and the wildlife around Swan Lake Flats.
Running for 3-4 hours, the tour is ideal for travelers with strong physical fitness. The ultimate adventure, the tour offers one of the most thrilling ways to discover the rugged beauty of the park.
Places to Stay In Yellowstone National Park
The full list of lodges at Yellowstone:
- Canyon Lodge and Cabins
- Grant Village Lodge
- Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cabins
- Lake Lodge Cabins
- Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins
- Old Faithful Inn
- Old Faithful Lodge Cabins
- Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins
- Roosevelt Lodge and Cabins
The full list of campgrounds at Yellowstone:
- Bridge Bay Campground
- Canyon Campground
- Fishing Bridge RV Park
- Grant Village Campground
- Indian Creek Campground
- Lewis Lake Campground
- Madison Campground
- Mammoth Campground
- Norris Campground
- Pebble Creek Campground
- Slough Creek Campground
- Tower Fall Campground
There are additional accommodation options for those staying in one of the cities just outside the main entrances into the park.
Yellowstone National Park – FAQs
Is there an entrance fee?
Yes. Fees provide visitors with seven-day entrance permits into Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
The entrance fees are:
- Public, non-commercial vehicles: $35
- Motorcycle or snowmobile: $30
- Visitors entering by foot, bike, ski, etc. (under 16 years of age): $20
- Additionally, visitors can access annual passes for non-commercial vehicles for $70.
Where do I get a parking pass?
The most common place to purchase your park pass is at the entrance gate upon arrival. But it is possible to purchase your pass beforehand.
How many entrances are there?
There are five entrances to Yellowstone National Park. They are:
- North Entrance – Gardiner, MT – This park entrance remains open all year to wheeled vehicles and brings visitors to Mammoth Hot Springs. The closest airline service is in Bozeman, MT.
- West Entrance – West Yellowstone, MT – This entrance takes visitors straight to geyser country. It is open to wheeled vehicles in the warmer months only, from April 20 through November 4. It is also open to tracked snow vehicles from December 17 through March 12. The closest airline services are West Yellowstone, MT, Bozeman, MT, Idaho Falls, ID, and Salt Lake City, UT.
- Northeast Entrance – Silver Gate and Cooke City, MT – This entrance offers one of the best locations to see wildlife in the Lamar Valley. It is open year-round for vehicles accessing Cooke City through the North Entrance. However, opening dates for roads east of Cooke City are weather dependent. The closest airline service is Billings, MT.
- South Entrance – Jackson, WY – This entrance is open to wheeled vehicles from May 11 through November 4, and to tracked snow vehicles from December 17 through March 12. The closest airline service is Jackson WY. Visitors using this entrance can easily access Grand Teton National Park.
- East Entrance – The East Entrance brings visitors directly to Yellowstone Lake. It is open to wheeled vehicles from May 11 through November 4, and to tracked snow vehicles from December 17 through March 12. The closest airline service is Cody, WY, which is 53 miles from the entrance.
Is the park open year-round?
Yes. Every season in the park offers something unique.
- Summer: Sunny weather and lots of crowds.
- Fall: Stunning colors paint the landscape and fewer crowds.
- Winter: Some areas are restricted, but this time of year offers peace and quiet in the park.
- Spring: Thriving wildlife and unpredictable weather.
Should I book accommodation in the park very far in advance?
If you are staying in Yellowstone during the most popular months, June through September, it is advisable to book your accommodation nine months to one year in advance.
For stays in the park during spring and fall, it’s best to book three to eight months in advance.
All the accommodation inside the park is full! Where should I stay?
There are several accommodation options in the communities near the entrances to the park. All of the nearby towns have their advantages and disadvantages, and the best place to stay will be the one that suits you the best.
Generally, West Yellowstone, MT, has the most hotel rooms and cabins while Cooke City/Silver Gate has the least. Cody and Jackson, both in Wyoming, are each about an hour away from Yellowstone, so staying there may significantly slow down your itinerary.
What should I pack for a trip to Yellowstone?
Regardless of the itinerary, you plan to follow while in the park, there are a few common items that you should bring with you to ensure you’ll have a good time and stay safe:
- First-aid kit
- Park maps
- Multiple water bottles
- Bear spray
- Bug spray
- Clothing layers for warm and cold temperatures
- Sun protection
- Rain protection
- Hiking boots
- A tablecloth
- Plastic bags
Is there cell and Wi-Fi service?
There is cell and Wi-Fi service at all gateway communities surrounding the entrances to the park, but service within the park itself is limited (it is available in some areas, such as the Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth).
If you are relying on a service to use maps or the Yellowstone National Park app, it’s advisable to take screenshots or notes of vital information beforehand.
Are pets allowed in Yellowstone National Park?
Technically, yes. But there are a lot of restrictions in place, and in most cases, it’s advisable to leave all pets at home.
While in Yellowstone, pets must stay in your private car, at a front country campground, or within 100 feet of roads and parking lots. Leashes are mandatory.
Pets can never be left unattended outside and are not permitted in any hotels within the national park.
Is there a chance that the supervolcano in the park will erupt?
Research shows that since the supervolcano’s formation millions of years ago, it has erupted every 600,000 years. Therefore, there is no reason to believe it will erupt anytime soon!
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