Yellowstone National Park Travel Guide - Trip Planning Info

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Plan Your Trip Common Questions

Activities

In the evenings, most visitors either head to bed to get an early start on the next day or congregate in the lobbies and restaurants of the hotels and lodges to enjoy a drink, socialize, or people watch.

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Attractions

Many of Yellowstone’s geologic features can’t be found anywhere else in the world and it has abundant wildlife. But many people who prefer high mountains, hiking and lakes may prefer the experience of Glacier National Park.

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Yes. But only if breathtaking panoramic views, geologic wonders, and once-in-a-lifetime wildlife encounters are your thing. If those don’t sound like your thing, you’re better off staying home.

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Old Faithful Geyser and the Upper Geyser Basin. Grand Prismatic Spring. Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Lamar Valley (for wildlife sightings). Mammoth Hotsprings. Roosevelt Arch.

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Many people combine their trip to Yellowstone with a visit to Grand Teton National Park a few miles outside the south entrance. Beyond that, an array of Western gateway towns with great family activities surround Yellowstone, offering everything from zip line tours to whitewater river rafting to mountain biking and beyond.

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Yellowstone National Park is famous for its unique thermal features and its diverse wildlife.

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While both parks have similar ecosystems, they offer different experiences. Grand Teton is famous for its rugged mountainscape that juts into the horizon. Yellowstone is famous for its thermal geysers and hot springs and a more muted, though still beautiful, landscape.

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Yellowstone is most famous for its geysers like Old Faithful and hot springs like Grand Prismatic Spring. To see these, you’ll want to visit the west side of the park via the West Entrance.

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Itineraries

Plan at least two days to see the main attractions in the park.

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You can expect to spend about $650 per person for a weeklong visit to Yellowstone, but can probably get away with significantly less if you plan on camping.

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Lodging

Yes. You can rent cabins in several popular areas in the park: Canyon Lodge, the Lake Hotel, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, and the Lake Lodge.

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Yes. Spending the night in Yellowstone is a great way to experience the park. Varied lodging options within the park include hotels, cabins, and campgrounds.

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Hotel rooms in Yellowstone start at around $100 and rise steadily from there. Prices are demand-based, so book early for the best pricing. For last-minute hotels, you can expect to pay $300 plus per night in the busiest seasons.

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Cabin rentals start at $109 per night. The least expensive cabin options do not have attached baths.

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If you want an intimate Yellowstone experience and want to cut down on your commute to and from the park each day, then stay at any of the famed lodges, hotels, cabins, or campgrounds.

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You can reserve a campsite in Yellowstone for as little as $32 a night.

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West Yellowstone or Gardiner, Montana are moments from Yellowstone and offer varied accommodations. Jackson and Cody, Wyoming are a little farther, but also a little larger and with distinctive experiences to offer.

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If you’re able to, staying within the park is one of the best ways to see Yellowstone. It cuts your commute time in and out of the park each day and you’ll be able to see more attractions.

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The Headwaters Lodge and Cabins at Flagg Ranch is as close as you can get to being between both parks. It’s near the Snake River on the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway and offers options for both lodging and camping.

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Nature

Old Faithful erupts a whopping 20 times a day — that’s every 74 minutes, on average.

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Yellowstone can be dangerous, but is generally safe if you stay within posted guidelines. Take special care to stay on boardwalks and don’t approach wildlife or thermal features and you should be OK.

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Parks

No. Yellowstone doesn’t allow overnight parking except for visitors who have reserved rooms in the lodges, cabins, or campsites. You cannot spend the night in your car at a trailhead, roadside, or in a parking lot.

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Yes. Drinking alcohol is allowed in most places in the park.

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Yes. The park charges a $35/vehicle entrance fee for private vehicles to enter Yellowstone National Park. The pass is good for 7 days.

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No, but Yellowstone does require a $35 entrance fee that’s valid for 7 days. The pass allows you to view all attractions within the park, including Old Faithful.

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The North Entrance is accessible year-round through Gardiner, Montana. The West Entrance near West Yellowstone, Montana usually opens for the year on the third Friday in April at 8 a.m. The other three entrances open by mid-May.

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The Old Faithful Geyser Loop trail is only a 0.7 mile loop. This trail is mostly on boardwalk and is easily accessible by most visitors and can easily be walked in 15-20 minutes.

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Cell service is limited within the park, as is parking. Places to spend the night fill quickly so make reservations before you come. Download the NPS Yellowstone App for a digital guide. Do not approach the wildlife, they’re dangerous. Stay on the boardwalks; hot springs are dangerous too.

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Yellowstone National Park is mostly in Wyoming, but also extends into Montana and Idaho.

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Towns

West Yellowstone is about 50 minutes (31.5 mi) from Old Faithful.

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The drive from Jackson Hole to the South Entrance of Yellowstone takes 1 hour and 15 minutes (57.3 mi).

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The closest towns to the park are Gardiner, Montana (0.7 miles or 3 min) and West Yellowstone, Montana (0.9 mi or 4 min). These are outside the North and Western Entrances respectively.

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North Entrance is less than a mile outside of Gardiner, Montana. Northeast Entrance is just under 5 miles from Cooke City, Montana. East Entrance is 52 miles from Cody, Wyoming — the closest townSouth Entrance is 7 miles north of Grand Teton National Park and 57 miles north of Jackson, Wyoming. West Entrance is located less than a mile outside of West Yellowstone, Montana.

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Each entrance connects you to the Grand Loop that winds through Yellowstone. The south entrance is only accessible after passing the incredible Tetons and is closest to West Thumb Geyser Basin. The West Entrance offers easiest access to Old Faithful. The North Entrance offers simple access to Mammoth Hot Springs and wildlife hotspots. And the East Entrance gives you quick access to Yellowstone Lake.

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Transportation

Yes. You can drive from Yellowstone''s South Entrance via the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Highway to the northern edge of Grand Teton National Park.

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No. After mid-December Old Faithful is only accessible by snowmobile or snowcoach.

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Yes. You can drive to Old Faithful. Old Faithful is easiest to access from the West Entrance near West Yellowstone, Montana.

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Yellowstone is 7.5 hours (424.8 mi) away from Mt. Rushmore by car.

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Glacier National Park is about 6.5 hours (375 mi) north of Yellowstone.

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The shortest route between Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone takes about 7.5 hours (430 miles) via US-16.

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The Grand Loop takes 4 to 7 hours to drive depending on stops, wildlife traffic jams and other factors.

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Yes, but take caution. Wildlife is active at night and it can be difficult to see animals on the road until it’s too late.

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Old Faithful is closest to the West Entrance of the park.

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Weather

Maybe. The West Entrance, which is closest to Old Faithful, often doesn''t open up for the year until mid-April or even early May while winter snowpack is cleared from the road.

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While you can drive to and see the geyser itself in October, most of the services around Old Faithful, including Old Faithful Inn and Lodge close by mid-October. The Visitor Center closes for the season by November 1.

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Yes.The weather in the mountains can be unpredictable. Many visitors are caught unawares in snowstorms and freezing weather in June, July, and August. Pack warm clothes, even if the weather forecast is sunny.

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Yes, first snow almost always hits by September in Yellowstone. Throughout the month, it''s common for temperatures to drop below freezing at night. Be prepared for cold mornings and warm afternoons.

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Even in the summer, expect cool mornings and warm afternoons. It’s a good idea to dress in layers due to Yellowstone’s mountain location.

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The best time to visit Yellowstone National Park for most is high summer, but that can lead to park crowding. Coming in April, May, September and October offer abundant wildlife viewing with lighter crowds. Winter, though expensive and limited in access, can be the most magical time to visit the park as rising steam from thermal features encrusts trees in sheathes of stunning ice.

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Get started early when it comes to planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park. Start here to book a place to stay, figure out your travel plans, find great ways to spend your days, and stay up to date on weather and webcams.