How to Spend 2 Days in Yellowstone National Park

Post summary: How to spend 2 days in Yellowstone National Park

So you’re wondering how to spend 2 Days in Yellowstone National Park? Perfect – you’ve come to the right place!

In this post, I’m sharing an adventurous 2 day Yellowstone National Park itinerary that’s designed to pack a ton of outdoor adventure into a short time frame. You’ll see it all, from colorful hot springs and hissing fumeroles to wildlife roaming through the “Serengeti of the United States”.

This 2-day itinerary is perfect for a short getaway or for tacking a few days of precious PTO onto a holiday weekend.

Have more time? Scroll all the way to the bottom to find extended 3, 4, 5-day trip recommendations that cover the entire National Park – and then some.

And don’t forget to grab my free Yellowstone National Park road trip itinerary download before you go!

Alright, let’s get started!

Guides to help you plan your trip to Yellowstone

Nearest Airports to Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park Entrances: Which is Best?

How to Use Google Maps to Plan Your Next Road Trip (Step-By-Step Tutorial With Examples)

2 Days in Yellowstone Park

Yellowstone National Park’s road system is basically a giant figure 8, with two large loops connected by Grand Loop Road.

The Upper Loop, in the northern part of the figure 8, includes Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Fall, and Lamar Valley, which is known for excellent wildlife viewing.

The Lower Loop, in the southern part of the figure 8, features the most popular attractions such as Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

The loops intersect at two key locations: Norris Geyser Basin, situated in the west, and Canyon Village, in the east. These intersections allow you to access both loops and navigate between the park’s major attractions easily.

Map of Yellowstone 2 Day Itinerary and Route Overview

On day 1, your two days in Yellowstone Park begins at the west gate of Yellowstone and follows the lower loop counterclockwise.

On day 2, head back to the west side of the park and follow the upper loop clockwise.

This itinerary ends at Lamar Valley in the east of Yellowstone. From there, you have a 3.5 – 4 hour drive back to West Yellowstone.

You can also do this itinerary from the south gate, which would require a tiny bit of backtracking on the first day.

See the map below for the 2 day road trip overview:

Day 1 of 2 Days in Yellowstone Park

Stop 1 – Lower Geyser Basin

Stop 2 – Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin

Stop 3 – Old Faithful Geyser, Upper Geyser Basin

Stop 4 – West Thumb Geyser Basin

Stop 5 – Hayden Valley

Day 1 Total Distance: 78.7 miles (126.6 km)

Day 1 Total Drive Time: Approximately 1 hour and 55 minutes

Day 2 of 2 Days in Yellowstone Park

Stop 1 – Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Stop 2 – Norris Geyser Basin

Stop 3 – Mammoth Hot Springs

Stop 4 – Lamar Valley

Day 2 Total Distance: 101.1 miles (162.7 km)

Day 2 Total Drive Time: Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes

Important: This is a summer itinerary and is best completed from Mid May – early October when the roads in Yellowstone are open. Check the National Park Service website for up to date information on road closures, road work, and current road conditions before you go.

Important things to know before visiting Yellowstone National Park

Admission – $35 per vehicle to enter the park

When to go – May – October

Where to stay – There are 9 lodges and 12 campgrounds in the park. For this itinerary, it’s most convenient to stay near the east side of the park for the first night and in Gardiner, MT on the second night. Keep reading for specific recommendations.

Best entrance for this itineraryWest Entrance (near West Yellowstone, MT) or South Entrance (near Jackson, WY)

Pack a lunch – This is a PACKED itinerary and packing food will save you a lot of time and give you much more flexibility.

No cell service – Download offline Google Maps before you go because cell phone service is essentially non-existent in Yellowstone. The only place we were able to get 1 little bar of LTE in the parking lot near the Grant Village laundromat.

Stay far from wildlife – There are tons of elk, moose and bison that roam the park, particularly during less busy times of the day and in the low season. By law, stay 100 yards from bears and wolves, and 25 yards from bison, elk and other wildlife.

Yellowstone climate – Yellowstone is 8,000 ft above sea level. Expect mild temperatures and fluctuating temperatures, so it’s important to pack layers! Summer day time temperatures range from 70-90 degrees F and fall to 30-40 F at night. Daytime fall and winter temperatures range from 26 – 60 F and drop to below freezing at night.

How to get around

You need your own transportation for this 2 day Yellowstone itinerary. Personally, I always use Kayak to find rental car deals at whatever airport I’m flying into.

However, for this particular trip, we chose to rent a camper van. This gave us the freedom and flexibility to explore Yellowstone at our own pace without having to worry about fighting for hotel reservations inside the park. This also allowed us to pack a lot of sights into a short amount of time.

We rented our van through RVshare and picked it up near Jackson, WY. RVshare has a ton of vans to choose from, even in peak season, which is a huge plus. And you can find a van nearest to the airport you fly into, or have it delivered for optimal convenience.

Read next: 5 Compelling Reasons to Take a Campervan Road Trip (+ Essential Tips to Know Before You Go)

Campervan in Lamar Valley at sunset on a 2 Day Yellowstone Road Trip

Getting around without a car

If you don’t have a car, getting around for 2 days in Yellowstone Park can be challenging. The park doesn’t have a shuttle service, and there aren’t any local buses that serve the area, except for those around Jackson Hole.

To explore Yellowstone without a car, you’ll need to join a guided tour. It’s best to stay in nearby towns like Jackson or West Yellowstone, as most tours to Yellowstone depart from these locations. By joining a guided tour, you can still enjoy the park without needing to drive yourself.

Is 2 days enough in Yellowstone?

Although two days in Yellowstone National Park might not be enough to explore every corner of this vast park, you can still make the most of your short visit by focusing on the main highlights.

Start your days early (around 7AM) and stay out for sunset to make the most of your time and see as much as you can in 2 days.

Keep in mind that the number of days you need in Yellowstone depends on your travel style. If you prefer a slower pace, want to camp, or plan on hiking longer trails, consider extending your stay to 3 or 4 days.

If you are simply passing through on a road trip, it’s possible to see some of the major attractions in just 1 day by focusing on the Lower Loop.

Ultimately, while you won’t be able to see absolutely everything in two days, following this 2 day Yellowstone Park itinerary will allow you to experience the best of what Yellowstone has to offer – and then some!

2 Days in Yellowstone Park

Arrive in Yellowstone National Park

Start this itinerary from the West Entrance (near West Yellowstone, MT) or South Entrance (near Jackson, WY) of Yellowstone.

Check out this guide to the entrances to Yellowstone for more details. I also have a guide on nearest airports to Yellowstone!

Day 1 of 2 days in Yellowstone Park: Geysers

Yellowstone National Park is famous for its incredible geothermal features and geysers. The geothermal activity is a result of the park’s location above a volcanic hotspot, which is an area of intense heat rising from deep within the Earth’s mantle.

The Yellowstone Caldera (Yellowstone Supervolcano) is a key reason for Yellowstone’s unparalleled concentration of geothermal attractions. It is a massive volcanic caldera that sits right over the hotspot. The caldera measures 34 by 45 miles wide and formed during a series of massive volcanic eruptions over the past 2.1 million years.

There are over 10,000 hydrothermal features in Yellowstone and around 500 geysers, which is the highest concentration of geysers in the world.

These surreal landscapes are filled with vivid colors, steaming vents, and bubbling mud pots that create an absolutely fascinating, alien-like environment.

Day 1 of your 2 Days in Yellowstone will be spent exploring a handful of the colorful hydrothermal pools throughout 4 of Yellowstone’s famous Geyser Basins. So grab your camera and let’s go!

Hot Spring in Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, the first stop on a road trip with two days in Yellowstone Park

Stop 1:  Lower Geyser Basin

Lower Geyser Basin is the first Geyser Basin you’ll reach when you drive from the West Entrance of Yellowstone during your 2 days in Yellowstone Park.

One of the most iconic sights in this area is the Great Fountain Geyser, which erupts in a spectacular display of water and steam, sometimes reaching heights of up to 200 feet. White Dome Geyser is also nearby. It’s easily recognized by its large, white sinter mound.

Before you leave Lower Geyser Basin, walk the 0.6 mile loop through the Fountain Paint Pot area. Here, you’ll discover a variety of geothermal features, including colorful mud pots, steaming fumaroles, and geysers, including the famous Fountain geyser and Clepsydra Geyser.

Another notable attraction in the Lower Geyser Basin is the Firehole Lake Drive, a scenic one-way road that takes you past several hot springs, geysers, and other geothermal features. The Firehole River flows through the basin and provides a habitat for various wildlife species.

As you wander through the Lower Geyser Basin, remember to stay on the designated trails and boardwalks, as the ground can be fragile and dangerous.

Time needed: 30 minutes

Distance from West Yellowstone: 16.5 miles

Stop 2: Grand Prismatic

As you venture into the heart of Yellowstone National Park, prepare to be dazzled by the Grand Prismatic Spring in Midway Geyser Basin.

This is likely one of the hot springs you came to see (I know it was for me!). This breathtaking hot spring is not only the largest hot spring in Yellowstone but also the third largest in the world, spanning over 370 feet in diameter.

Being one of the most popular attractions in Yellowstone, Grand Prismatic gets pretty crowded. But the brilliant colors of Grand Prismatic Spring are honestly a sight to behold. The vivid blues, oranges, yellows, and greens are created by heat-loving bacteria called thermophiles, which thrive in hot water.

Pro tip: The colors are most vibrant around noon!

Drone shot of Grand Prismatic Spring

There are two ways to enjoy Grand Prismatic: 

  1. Walk the boardwalk trail that circles around the spring. This allows you take in the vibrant colors and ethereal beauty up close.
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  2. Hike to Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook for a birds-eye view of the entire spring. This vantage point is accessible via a short hike on the Fairy Falls Trail. To get there, park in the Fairy Falls Trail parking lot and hike 0.6 miles (one way) to the Grand Prismatic Spring lookout. The walk takes about 20 minutes each way.

Keep in mind, drones are NOT allowed in Yellowstone without a permit, so hiking to the overlook is the only way to get an elevated view.

Time needed: 1 hour for just the boardwalk. 2 hours for boardwalk and overlook

Distance from Lower Geyser Basin: 2.3 miles (5 minute drive)

Grand Prismatic Spring from the boardwalk

Stop 3: Old Faithful

Your third stop on the this 2 day Yellowstone itinerary is Old Faithful, located in the Upper Geyser Basin.

While not the largest geyser in the park (the largest is Steamboat Geyser), Old Faithful is the best Geyser to visit because it reliably erupts every 90 minutes. Its predictability makes it ultra-convenient to fit into your trip because you know when to get there.

If you’ve never seen a geyser erupt, this is going to be an exciting stop for you. Each burst of water and steam can reach heights of 100 to 180 feet!

There are two ways to watch Old Faithful: 

  1. From the boardwalk at ground level, where most people gather to watch the eruption.
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  2. Atop the Old Faithful Overlook. Follow the Observation Point – Geyser Hill Trail for a unique perspective of Old Faithful. It’s a 2.3 mile loop and well worth the hike! Check the eruption time at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center before you go.

Other geysers in the area are:

  • Morning Glory Pool
  • Bottomless Pit
  • Castle Geyser

Time needed: 30 minutes to see the eruption from viewing area. 1 hour if you hike to the lookout

Distance from Grand Prismatic: 7 miles (18 minute drive)

Old Faithful erupting in Upper Geyser BasinOld Faithful in Upper Geyser Basin

Stop 4: West Thumb Geyser Basin

When planning your Yellowstone adventure, be sure to include a stop at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. A lot of people skip this one, but the geothermal area is incredibly unique because it’s on the shore of Yellowstone Lake.

Our favorite spring in West Thumb was the Abyss Pool, a deep and vibrantly colored hot spring. Another fascinating feature is the Fishing Cone, a famous geyser where early visitors were said to have cooked fish right after catching them.

In addition to the captivating geothermal activity, West Thumb Geyser Basin provides gorgeous views of Yellowstone Lake and the surrounding mountains.

Time needed: 30 minutes

Distance from Old Faithful: 19.6 miles (40 minute drive)

Abyss Pool on the shore of Yellowstone Lake in West Thumb Geyser Basin during 2 days in Yellowstone National Park itineraryAbyss Pool on the shore of Yellowstone Lake in West Thumb Geyser Basin

Stop 5: Sunset in Hayden Valley

Hayden Valley is one of the best places to see wildlife in Yellowstone Park. But timing is everything when it comes to spotting them.

The hours just before sunset are the ideal time to spot wildlife in Hayden Valley because a lot of animals are most active in the late afternoon. This is the ideal time to spot bison, elk, bears and deer as they forage for food or come out to drink from the Yellowstone River.

Wildlife isn’t the only reason to head to Hayden Valley for sunset, though. The open, expansive landscape of Hayden Valley is illuminated in the soft, golden light of the setting sun. A perfect way to end a busy first day of your 2 days in Yellowstone National Park – and one that you definitely won’t forget.

Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park. Captured with a 200-500mm zoom lens

When exploring Hayden Valley, always stay on designated paths and maintain a safe distance from wildlife.

By law, stay 100 yards (the length of a football field) away from bears, wolves, and nesting birds. 25 years from all other wildlife. We saw tons of people getting WAY too close to bison and elk in Hayden Valley. While they may look friendly, they can run really fast and be pretty aggressive!

Luckily we didn’t see anyone get hurt, but we did see an ambulance racing to a rescue further up the road. We assumed it was the result of someone encroaching on the herds of bison. We never found out for sure, but either way, dozens of people are injured every year in Yellowstone because they get too close to wildlife. Don’t let it be you!

What to bring: Binoculars, a spotting scope, or camera with a zoom lens for a closer look at wildlife without disturbing them.

Time needed: 2 hours

Distance from West Thumb Geyser Basin: 27.5 miles (47 minute drive)

A herd of elk in Hayden Valley at sunset as seen during 2 days in Yellowstone ParkA herd of elk in Hayden Valley at sunset. Taken with a 200-500mm lens

Where to stay on night 1 in Yellowstone

Day 1 of your 2 days in Yellowstone National Park ends at Hayden Valley at the east end of the park.

The closest places to stay are near Yellowstone Lake, such as Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Lake Lodge.

Staying inside the park is obviously the most expensive option, but might be worth paying for. That way, you don’t have to backtrack over an hour each way to leave the park and come back in the morning.

The closest campgrounds are:

  • Bridge Bay Campground (inside the park): Located near Yellowstone Lake. Reservations are made through Yellowstone Lodge
  • Fishing Bridge RV Park (inside the park): Great for RVs and camper vans. Near Yellowstone Lake and the Fishing Bridge. Reservations required
  • Canyon Campground (inside the park): Near Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Allows tents and RVs. Reservations required

If you do opt to leave the park, you can save a bit of money by booking one of the lodges in West Yellowstone, which is 1 hour away from Hayden Valley.

Day 2 of 2 days in Yellowstone Park

Day 2 of your 2 days in Yellowstone National Park focuses on the Upper Loop, which includes Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Lamar Valley.

Stops on this day are laid out clockwise, starting from Hayden Valley. If you stayed on the east side of the park, you’re right where you need to be. If you stay in West Yellowstone, you will have to backtrack about 1 hour to get to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Stop 1:  Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a large canyon that was carved out by the Yellowstone River over thousands of years. It’s particularly famous for its colorful canyon walls and two impressive waterfalls (Upper Yellowstone Falls and Lower Yellowstone Falls).

This is one of the park’s most iconic and visited attractions, so it gets CROWDED. Get here before 9AM to beat the crowds and tour buses.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Artist Point viewpoint

There are two main scenic drives that provide access to various viewpoints and trailheads in the area: the North Rim Drive and the South Rim Drive.

The North Rim has spectacular views of the Lower Falls. The best way to explore the North Rim is to drive to the different overlooks via North Rim Drive. It’s not really worth it to hike here.

The South Rim is where you will find Artist Point, the best view of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and one of the most photographed spots in Yellowstone National Park.

Both rims have several overlooks and short hiking trails.

You could easily spend half a day exploring both the North Rim and the South Rim of the canyon. But for the sake of time, here are the things that are most worth seeing: 
  • Artist Point (South Rim) – the iconic shot of the canyon. 5 minute walk
  • Sunset Point (South Rim) – up close view of Upper Falls. 0.6 miles RT. Total time 15 – 30 minutes
  • Lookout Point (North Rim) – easiest view of the Lower Falls
  • Red Rock Point (North Rim) – great view of the Lower Falls! 0.6 miles out and back. Total time 30-45 minutes

Time needed: 3 hours gives you enough time to see the viewpoints along the South Rim, walk to Sunset Point, see the viewpoints on the North Rim and hike to Red Rock Point.

Distance from Hayden Valley: 15 miles (30 minute drive)

Stop 2: Norris Geyser Basin

Next, drive west toward Norris Geyser Basin.

Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest, oldest and most dynamic geothermal area in the Yellowstone. There are features here that are over 115,000 years old and 459 degrees F!

I consider Norris Geyser Basin highly underrated. It’s not nearly as famous as some of Yellowstone’s other geothermal features, like Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic. Truthfully, I’m not sure why. Because its fascinating geothermal features and stark contrast between its two basins make it just as exceptional and captivating as the main tourist spots.

Norris Geyser Basin at sunset

Norris Geyser Basin is divided into two distinct areas:

  1. Porcelain Basin – a more barren, open landscape with colorful hot springs, noisy fumaroles, and milky-colored mineral deposits.
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  2. Back Basin – home to Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest active geyser. Unfortunately, no one knows when Steamboat geyser will erupt. Sometimes it erupts a few times a month, other times it takes years.

With limited time, I recommend taking the Porcelain Basin boardwalk loop, which is around 2/3-mile long. This boardwalk takes you past several notable features, including Ledge Geyser, Whirligig Geyser, and the vibrant, steaming turquoise waters of the Blue Geyser Pool.

Tip: Norris Geyser Basin is one of the best places for sunset in Yellowstone. It’s also one of the quietest -we ended up being the only people on the entire trail for sunset in peak summer. If you don’t mind skipping Lamar Valley, you can save Norris Geyser Basin for last on this day, which will also put you back near the West Entrance.

Time needed: 2 hours for both basins. 1 hour for Porcelain Basin

Distance from Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: 20 miles (45 minute drive)

Note: If you’re getting hungry, you can stop in the Canyon Village area as there are some amenities here.

Norris Geyser Basin Porcelain Basin at sunset on a road trip with 2 days in Yellowstone National Park

Stop 3: Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs is an absolute MUST in Yellowstone!
It’s basically a large complex of hot springs located in the northwestern region of Yellowstone Park. Here you’ll find a series of travertine terraces, fascinating formations, vibrant colors, and upright dead trees shrouded in steam from nearby sulphur vents.

Start by strolling along Lower Terrace boardwalk to Minerva Terrace – one of the most famous and photogenic spots at Mammoth Hot Springs. Then head to the connecting Upper Terrace boardwalk to see Canary Spring, a vibrantly colored and very active spring that is taking over all the trees around it.

For stunning panoramic views, head to the Upper Terrace Drive, a one-way loop that allows you to see a variety of terraces from different vantage points. No RVs, trailers or buses are allowed.

Tip: Parking at the Lower Terrace is extremely limited and the parking lot is jam packed at peak times of the day. It’s typically faster to just park in a designated pull out and then walk instead of waiting for a spot to open up. There is typically more parking up at the Upper Terrace.

Time needed: 1 hour

Distance from Norris Geyser Basin: 21 miles (45 minute drive)

If you have extra time, stop at Undine Falls. It’s visible from Grand Loop Road about 4 miles southeast of Mammoth Hot Springs.

Mammoth Hot Springs, YellowstoneMammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone

Stop 4: Sunset in Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley is the best place to see wildlife in Yellowstone. This vast, sweeping landscape is often referred to as the “Serengeti of North America” due to its incredible wildlife-viewing opportunities, particularly around sunset.

Get here 1-2 hours before sunset and take your time driving through the valley, using the pull-offs to scout for wildlife.

As the sun sets, you’ll witness a vibrant display of colors painting the sky, casting a golden glow over the valley. This is prime time to spot bison, elk, pronghorn, and even wolves or bears as they become more active as the weather cools. I can almost guarantee you’ll see bison and antelope. You’ll have to be very observant, and quite lucky, to spot the resident wolf packs.

Bring your binoculars and your camera with a zoom lens, and always remember to give wildlife plenty of space and observe from a safe distance.

For a very short hike in the area, check out Trout Lake. The loop is only 0.6 miles and has gorgeous views! Be aware of bears.

Time needed: 2-3 hours

Distance from Mammoth Hot Springs: 29 miles (1 hour drive)

Where to stay on night 2 in Yellowstone

Day 2 of your 2 days in Yellowstone National Park ends at Lamar Valley on the east side of the park. The closest place to stay inside the park is at Roosevelt Lodge, approximately 22 miles from the start of Lamar Valley.

The closest towns are Cooke City  (29 miles) and Gardiner, MT (48 miles).

Click here for lodging options in Cooke City, MT.

Click here for lodging options in Gardiner, MT.

If you prefer to camp, there are private and Forest Service campgrounds around the area, as well as dispersed camping options in the National Forest.  Dispersed camping is allowed on most of the Custer Gallatin National Forest land around Gardiner.

Here are two of the closest campgrounds: 

  • Pebble Creek Campground (inside the park): Approximately 12 miles from Lamar Valley.  Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Soda Butte Campground (outside the park): 19 miles from Lamar Valley. 27 campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you have more than 2 days in Yellowstone

Yellowstone is an enormous park, so the more time you have to spend, the better. Below are some examples of how you can spend 3, 4 and 5 days in Yellowstone.

You can mix and match to create your ideal itinerary.

3 Days in Yellowstone

If you have 3 days in Yellowstone, I would slow this entire itinerary down, add more time to each spot, and explore off the beaten path.

Take your time to fully explore places like Mammoth Hot Springs, Back Basin in Norris Geyser Basin, and Midway Geyser Basin. And add in some roadside stops like:

  • Firehole Canyon Drive near West Yellowstone
  • Mud Volcano near Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
  • Gibbon Falls near Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
  • Obsidian Cliff near Mammoth Hot Springs
  • Roosevelt Arch near Mammoth Hot Springs
  • Tower Falls at Tower Junction near Mammoth

Alternatively, you could add in one of these hikes that gets you off the beaten path with outstanding views:

Fairy Falls Hike near Grand Prismatic – Easy hike | 4.8 miles out and back | Time needed: 1.5 – 2 hours

Bunsen Peak near Mammoth Hot Springs – Moderate hike | 4.4 miles round trip | Time needed: 2.5 – 3 hours

Mount Washburn from Dunraven Pass  – Difficult hike | 6.8 miles round trip| Time needed: 3.5 – 4 hours

Trout Lake in Lamar Valley – Easy hike | 1.2 mile loop | Time needed: 30 – 45 minutes

Avalanche Peak near West Yellowstone – Difficult hike | 4.5 miles out and back | Time needed: 3.5 – 4 hours

Colorful pool in Lower Geyser BasinColorful pool in Lower Geyser Basin

4 Days in Yellowstone

With 4 days in Yellowstone, you’ll have enough time to see the attractions and complete the hikes you want to do.

You’ll also have enough time to experience the park’s lakes and rivers. Rent a kayak or canoe to explore Yellowstone Lake or go fly fishing in the park’s pristine rivers like the Madison, Gibbon, or Firehole rivers (be sure to check regulations and obtain necessary permits).

Alternatively, you could book a sunrise or sunset wildlife safari or learn more about the park’s history and culture. Visit the Museum of the National Park Ranger, the Norris Geyser Basin Museum, or the West Thumb Information Station to dive deeper into the park’s natural and cultural history.

5 Days in Yellowstone

5 days in Yellowstone is enough time to see what Yellowstone has to offer, as well as explore nearby attractions.

If you’re willing to venture outside the park, consider visiting Grand Teton National Park (near the South Entrance), Paradise Valley (near the North Entrance), or the Beartooth Scenic Highway (near the Northeast Entrance).

Yellowstone National Park entrance fees

Yellowstone National Park Entrance fees

It costs $35 per vehicle to enter the park.

Alternatively, you can purchase the America the Beautiful Pass for $80 that grants free access to all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more for a year. This is the best deal if you plan on visiting more than three national parks within the next 12 months.

The America the Beautiful Pass can be purchased online or at any National Park entrance or visitors center.

On certain days during the year, entrance to all US National Parks is free to everyone.

Entrance-free dates are: 

  • January 16: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • April 22: First day of National Park Week
  • August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • September 23: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day

These dates are subject to change. Double check the National Park Service website for updates before you go.

Best time to visit Yellowstone National Park

The best time to visit Yellowstone depends on your preferences and interests.

Generally, the most popular time to go is between late May to September when the weather is warmer, and most of the park’s facilities and roads are open. This itinerary is best completed during that time to ensure you have access to all of the attractions, geothermal features, and hiking trails.

However, when I tell you to prepare for the crowds – I truly mean it! We visited in mid-July and could hardly find parking around the more popular attractions during the day.

Late spring (May and June) and early fall (September) are the shoulder seasons. This time of year is best if you want a more relaxed experience without the huge crowds. Another plus of shoulder season is that you can still get some good weather and the temperatures are a lot more comfortable.  May and June are also the best times to see baby wildlife.

If you’re interested in winter activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or snowmobiling, visiting the park from December to February is an option.

However, keep in mind that many park roads and facilities are closed during the winter, and access is limited. The North Entrance is the only entrance that’s open to vehicles in the winter months. You can only enter the other entrances with a permit or as part of a winter tour group.

Regardless of when you visit, make sure to check the park’s official website for the latest information on road closures, weather conditions, and facility schedules so your trip goes as smooth as possible!

Colorful hot spring in Yellowstone National Park

What to pack for 2 days in Yellowstone Park

Binoculars – You’re going to see a lot of wildlife in Yellowstone. Packing binoculars will help you get a closer look at wildlife without getting too close.

Bear Bells – If you are hiking in the backcountry, attach bear bells to your gear to alert nearby bears of your presence and prevent any surprise encounters.

Bear Spray – Any time you hike in bear country, you should carry bear spray and know how to use it. However, bear spray should only be used if you are charged by an aggressive animal and only after other options – such as making noise and trying to scare it away – have been exhausted.

Layered Clothing – Yellowstone is at high elevation so it can get pretty chilly, even in the summer! Pack clothes you can layer and easily take on and off.

Comfortable shoes – Wear comfortable shoes for walking over boardwalks and hiking on Yellowstone’s diverse terrain.

Day Pack – To carry essentials like snacks, water, and extra layers while exploring the park. Check out this guide to find the best day pack for you.

Sunscreen – UV exposure is greater at high elevations, so you’ll definitely want to protect your skin from sunburn (I learned this the extra hard way in Ecuador!)

Camera with a zoom lens – Whether it’s a full camera set up or your iPhone, make sure you have some sort of camera to capture the otherworldly scenes in Yellowstone! A zoom lens will help you get photos of wildlife without getting too close.

Hiking essentials – Pack items like a map, compass, and first aid kit to be prepared for any incidents on the trail. This is especially true because cell phone service is essentially non-existent in the park.

Reusable Water Bottle – Stay hydrated and reduce plastic waste by using a reusable bottle.

Read next: What to Pack for a Day Hike: Essential Gear and Complete Packing List

How to get to Yellowstone

There are 8 airports near Yellowstone National Park, including both regional and international hubs. I personally recommend Yellowstone Airport (nearest airport to Yellowstone), Jackson Hole Airport (to visit Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone), and Salt Lake City International Airport (best for cheap, direct flights).

How you get to Yellowstone depends on your personal budget, time constraints, and travel preferences.

The regional airports near Yellowstone are: 

  • Yellowstone Airport (YWS) in West Yellowstone, MT
  • Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) in Jackson Hole, WY
  • Yellowstone Regional Airport (YRA) in Cody, WY
  • Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) in Belgrade, MT
  • Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA) in Idaho Falls, ID
  • Billings Logan International Airport (BIL) in Billings, MT
  • Magic Valley Regional Airport (TWF) in Twin Falls, ID

There are two closest major airports for Yellowstone: 

  • Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) in Salt Lake City, UT
  • Denver International Airport (DEN) in Denver, CO

Camping in Yellowstone

There are 12 developed campgrounds within the Yellowstone National Park.

Some campgrounds require reservations, while others operate on a first-come, first-served basis.

It’s essential to plan your camping trip well in advance if you want to snag a site at a campground in the park. Especially during peak seasons.

Here’s a list of campgrounds inside Yellowstone National Park:

  1. Bridge Bay Campground (reservations) – near Yellowstone Lake
  2. Canyon Campground (reservations) – near Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
  3. Fishing Bridge RV Park (reservations, RVs only) – near Fishing Bridge and Yellowstone Lake
  4. Grant Village Campground (reservations) – near West Thumb Geyser Basin
  5. Indian Creek Campground (first-come, first-served) – near Mammoth Hot Springs
  6. Lewis Lake Campground (first-come, first-served) – near Lewis Lake and Yellowstone Lake
  7. Madison Campground (reservations) – near Madison River and the West Entrance
  8. Mammoth Campground (first-come, first-served) – near Mammoth Hot Springs
  9. Norris Campground (first-come, first-served) – near Norris Geyser Basin
  10. Pebble Creek Campground (first-come, first-served) – near Lamar Valley
  11. Slough Creek Campground (first-come, first-served) – near Lamar Valley
  12. Tower Fall Campground (first-come, first-served) – near Tower Fall and Roosevelt Lodge

Campgrounds are open seasonally so make sure to check which ones are open before you go.

Backcountry camping is also allowed in Yellowstone. But you need a backcountry permit and to adhere to the rules and regulations for camping in the park’s wilderness.

Camping during your 2 days in Yellowstone Park? Download The Dyrt. It’s the largest campsite finder app to find camping near you. Use the The Dyrt PRO to get access to offline maps to find RV sites and campsites on the go. It’s $36/year, but comes in handy because you’ll have spotty service on this road trip

 

More guides for your trip to Yellowstone

Getting there: Nearest Airports to Yellowstone National Park

Good to know: Yellowstone National Park Entrances: Which is Best?

Prepare for your trip

Road trip apps: 15 Useful Apps to Download Before Your Next Road Trip (for Free!)

Backpack recommendations: Best Hiking Backpacks for Women in 2023

Day hike essentials: What to Pack for a Day Hike: Essential Gear and Complete Packing List

More USA Road Trip Guides

Las Vegas to Sedona: Las Vegas to Sedona Road Trip (3 Jam-Packed Itineraries to See it All in Less Time)

 

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