America’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park, is famous for its bursting geysers, colorful hot springs, and some of the most abundant and diverse wildlife on the continent. With two million acres of pristine land to explore, you could easily spend a week or more in Yellowstone. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or you’ve come back again and again, you’re in for a treat whenever you set foot in the park. Let this guide be your starting point to build and plan your perfect Yellowstone vacation.
How to Get to Yellowstone National Park
Hit the highway on an unforgettable road trip or fly into one of Montana’s airports. Bozeman International Airport is roughly an hour and a half from both the north and west park entrances. The Yellowstone Airport (closed during winter) is just 3-miles from the west entrance of the park.
When to Visit Yellowstone National Park
The most popular months to visit Yellowstone are during peak summer (July and August) when the weather is the warmest. Temperatures are typically in the 60s and 70s during the day and dip down into the 30s and 40s at night. We recommend visiting Yellowstone National Park during the shoulder seasons of spring (late April to May) and fall (September through early October), for fewer crowds and more active wildlife.
Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is as rich in experiences as it is in natural wonders.
Visit Iconic Geysers, Springs, and More
Situated atop a volcanic hotspot, Yellowstone is bursting with steamy and spectacular paintpots, springs, and famous spouts. The Grand Loop Road scenic drive connects the park’s many thermal areas with boardwalks at each point of interest. Some of the most famous and eye-catching geothermal areas in the park include Old Faithful, the Upper Geyser Basin, Grand Prismatic Spring, Mud Volcano, West Thumb Geyser Basin, Norris Geyser Basin, and the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces.
Peep Wildlife in Their Natural Habitat
Yellowstone is home to epic wildlife. The Hayden and Lamar Valleys are prime locations for wildlife spotting. Bison roam freely year-round and they aren’t shy about sharing the road and roaming at their own pace. Seeing these fuzzy giants is a sight to behold! You may also see other park residents including wolves, elk, moose, mountain goats, grizzlies, lynxes, coyotes, deer, foxes, otters, and wolverines. Remember to keep a safe distance and use a zoom lens or binoculars to get a closer look.
Cruise the Rivers and Lakes
Leave dry land for fun on the water. Take a guided boat tour of Yellowstone Lake to learn about its colorful history. At the lake, you can also rent a kayak or canoe and paddle at your own pace. Or, set out on an adrenaline-pumping adventure careening down white water rapids on the Gallatin, Yellowstone, Green, and Snake rivers.
Become a Junior Ranger
Learn about Yellowstone’s natural wonders and how to protect them by completing the self-guided Junior Ranger Program by the National Park Service (NPS). It’s the perfect activity for kids 4 years and older. Participants are awarded an official Yellowstone Junior Ranger badge after completing a booklet, ranger talk, and hike or walk alongside a ranger. The program is free and runs year-round and the schedule is posted at the visitor center.
Swim in The Firehole Swim Area
Take a scenic drive past a stunning waterfall framed by lava flows en route to the Firehole Swim Area. Firehole is one of two swimming areas in Yellowstone, and contrary to its name the water is a refreshingly cool temperature. You’ll discover a rocky beach area where you can set up for a day of relaxation and swim in fresh Montana waters. Check the NPS site for the most updated information on swimming holes in the park and their accessibility.
Hiking in Yellowstone National Park
Lace-up your shoes and explore some of the over 1,000-miles of trails in Yellowstone National Park.
Lone Star Geyser Trail
This 4.8-mile out-and-back paved trail follows an old service road beside the Firehole River to the geyser. Lone Star Geyser erupts up to 45-feet approximately every three hours.
Brink of the Lower Falls Trail
Considered to be a moderately challenging hike, the 0.7-mile steep out-and-back trail near West Yellowstone leads to a popular viewpoint of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
North Rim Trail
Travel along the rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone for majestic views of cascading waterfalls and deep canyons. The 6-mile out-and-back paved trail takes roughly 2.5 hours to complete.
Fairy Falls Trail
This 4.5-mile out-and-back trail boasts one of Yellowstone’s most spectacular waterfalls at 200-feet high. You’ll make your way through the fragrant pine forest before reaching the falls.
Trout Lake Loop
Head out on a short 1.2-mile loop trail around a picturesque snowmelt lake. The trail climbs roughly 150-feet through a fir forest to the lake. There’s a good chance of spotting wildlife along this route.
Where to Eat in and Around Yellowstone National Park
Follow the smell of brisket and elk burgers to enjoy Montana’s famous smoked meats.
Inside the Park
Eat your way through Yellowstone National Park at the 20 restaurants serving grab-and-go options, quick service, and even upscale dining. This includes seven general stores for supplies or snacks you may want once inside the park. Many of the restaurants are located near the lodge areas. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, Old Faithful Inn, and Canyon Lodge are just a few parkgoer favorites for delicious eats and amazing views.
Outside the Park
Bar N Ranch
Experience Western dining for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at an upscale ranch in West Yellowstone just 6-miles from the park. Relax and unwind in the evenings at Embers, just steps from Bar N Ranch. Enjoy craft cocktails and beverages along with locally sourced menu items and seasonally rotating ingredients with unmatched views.
We offer an ever-changing menu that embraces both seasonality and locally sourced ingredients, featuring hot breakfast and bottomless coffee, charcuterie boards, fresh salads, and even kid-friendly nosh. You can always cook up your camp favorites at our community grilling area. After dinner, treat yourself to fireside s’mores beneath the stars.
Where to Stay Near Yellowstone National Park
Under Canvas North Yellowstone – Paradise Valley
Nestled along the Yellowstone River, this waterfront location offers unprecedented access to the north side of Yellowstone National Park near Bozeman. Guests can enjoy bucket-list horseback riding, world-class fly fishing, river rafting, hiking, and live music at the nearby Pine Creek Lodge.
Located just 10 minutes from the national park’s West Entrance, guests have easy access to many must-see hydrothermal and geologic wonders. Snap photos with the rescue horses on site and later imbibe in craft cocktails around the campfire.