It pays to plan ahead when you’re making a trip to Yellowstone. But with so much to do in the nation’s first national park, the details of your Yellowstone itinerary can be hard to choose. Here are the ideal adventure itineraries for when you have one, three, or seven days to spend in the park.
If you only have one day in Yellowstone, make the most of it with an early start. Beginning your morning before sunrise gives you the best chance of seeing wildlife that’s most active around dawn and dusk, like bears, wolves, foxes and coyotes.
Drive the Grand Loop Road to experience the top attractions, like Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Springs, and Mammoth Hot Springs. Expect to spend 4-7 hours on the drive, though time varies considerably if you hit any bison traffic jams or make a million photo stops.
If you have three days to spend in the park, you can take your time a little more, but you still need to prioritize your top spots to visit in Yellowstone.
On day one, focus your time on the Old Faithful area. See the famous geyser’s eruption, maybe hike up to Observation Point for a different perspective, and then explore Grand Prismatic and the Midway Geyser Basin. This is a great day to take a guided tour, hop onto a ranger-led program, or to use the free official NPS app for self-guided audio tours to help you deepen your understanding of all you’re seeing.
On day two, head north to Yellowstone Lake and explore the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Use this day to take a short hike for a few hours, and see how it feels to step away from the roads and experience nature more deeply.
For day three, head to the north end of the park, with a drive through the Lamar Valley to Cooke City, the prime wildlife viewing area of the park. It’s hard to set a timeframe around the whims of wildlife, so you could spend hours here, whether you take a hike or spot from the car. When you do wrap up, end the day with a quick stop at Mammoth Hot Springs and a soak at Yellowstone Hot Springs just outside Gardiner.
If you have a whole week to play in Yellowstone, it’s time to up the adventure factor. Still spend your first day or two hitting the bucket list sites. You might want to take a day hike or sign up for a guided trip. When you’re chatting with your guide, you’ll get even more ideas for the rest of your stay.
Then you have the time to go farther off the beaten path. Consider a backpacking trip, whether solo or guided, or a guided kayak overnight for day two to five of your trip. It pays to plan ahead here, since tours fill up fast, and backcountry permits for specific spots can be hard to come by.
On days six and seven, it’s your time to relax. Book a frontcountry campsite, or splurge on a hotel room if you’ve been roughing it in the backcountry and are ready for a real bed. Spend your days on the lakeshore or river bank, take a scenic float down the Yellowstone River, or unwind at the hot springs before it’s time to head home.
Ready to map out your own Yellowstone itinerary? See all there is to explore in 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