As a swathe of public land and scenic wild spaces (over 2 million acres), Yellowstone National Park has multiple entrance options. Each of the five entrances to Yellowstone offers a unique way to drive into the park, and each has its own beauties and benefits. See which fits you, your personality or plans best, and find your way to adventure on your trip to Yellowstone.
The North Entrance, also known as the Gardiner Entrance, is the only gate that offers year-round vehicle access. From the North Entrance, your Yellowstone experience starts before you even get to the park boundary. From I-90, your route takes you through the Paradise Valley, with the highway winding alongside the Yellowstone River between imposing mountain peaks. This is the entrance for the off-season wanderers, and anyone hoping to stretch their experience beyond the park boundaries.
In the summer (usually between Memorial Day and mid September), the Beartooth Highway connects the town of Red Lodge to Cooke City at Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance. This is the entrance for adventurers, since this meandering mountain road isn’t for the faint of heart. Of course when winter’s hush falls, the entrance technically stays open year round. But the only way to get to Cooke City is from Mammoth, so it’s only the ultimate thrill-seekers—whether Lamar Valley wildlife watchers, backcountry skiers or snowmobilers—who make it here.
This is the most popular entrance, and as the closest access to the park’s famed geyser, Old Faithful, it makes sense why it would see so much traffic. If you’re heading to the West Entrance, you’re a national park traveler with a plan. If you want the quickest drive to Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, and the other postcard-worthy geothermal features of Norris, Upper, Mid, and Lower Geyser Basins, this is the entrance to use. It’s also most convenient to the town of West Yellowstone, and a stay in nearby Big Sky makes it easy to add in some luxury to your Yellowstone trip.
One of the best parts about a trip to Yellowstone is that there’s so much to see and do just outside the park, too. Grand Teton National Park shares Yellowstone’s southern boundary, so the South Entrance means a drive through Grand Teton is in order. This is the entrance for America the Beautiful or Golden Eagle pass holders, epic road-trippers, and explorers who are ready to take their time and enjoy seemingly endless natural beauty.
With Cody, Wyoming, as the closest town outside Yellowstone’s East Entrance, this secluded gate is ideal for the true westerners and cowboys. This is one of the most remote entrances to the park, but the scenic drive keeps you away from the crowds of the Grand Loop Road and gives you a straight shot to the clear waters of Yellowstone Lake. So load up the kayaks or paddle boards, grab your park pass, and head in through the East Entrance.
So which entrance is best? Ultimately, that’s up to you and your travel plans. No matter which entrance you use to get into Yellowstone, you have the whole park in front of you to explore. For all the info and inspo you need, check out the rest of Yellowstone Country.
At Yellowstone National Park Lodges, you’re invited to discover or rediscover the magic of the world’s first national park, Yellowstone. As proud stewards of the park and this truly extraordinary American wonder