Discover how to plan for Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park (YNP) is one of the most popular national parks in United States with over four million visitors every year. It is spread across three states and is home to largest no. of Geysers in the world. Planning a visit to Yellowstone National Park is not easy as there are five different entrances to the park, there are no airports close by and there is a lot of driving to do even after you are inside the park. The following compile should help you with how to plan for Yellowstone National Park. Read on:

  • Plan early – The accommodations in and around the park gets booked quite early. People usually start planning as early as a year back esp. for the accommodations. If you are willing to stay outside of the park, there a lot of cabin rentals to choose from.
  • Best time to visitJuly and August are the best times to visit here. The weather can be chilly in the morning but afternoons are warm and pleasant. You might not see as many grizzly and other wild-life during warm weathers as they move to higher grounds but Geysers, hot springs, canyons can be covered easily. Mid-June is also a good time to visit though the temperature is less than ideal but you can expect less crowd and a lot more wild-life sightings around the time. September is a season of fall and the leaves changing color is a beautiful sight too.
  • Airports
    • Salt Lake City, UT – This is usually the cheapest option to fly into. Most of the airlines have services for Salt Lake city and is usually cheaper by ~$100 than Bozeman flights. It leaves you with the need to drive 5.5 hours or so to get to the park. I suppose it comes down to whether your interested in saving money or time.
    • Jackson Hole, WY – Jackson Hole is 2 hours south of Yellowstone. Its a nice drive and takes you through Grand Teton National park. When you get to the park, you’ll be at Grant Junction at the south end of the park. Jackson Hole was $80 more expensive than Salt Lake when I checked.
    • Bozeman, MT – Bozeman is north of the park. Its about an hour, 45 minutes to Mammoth Junction. The cost was slightly more than Jackson Hole. If your goal is Old Faithful or the southern end of the park, you should consider that in the driving distances too.
    • Billings, MT. I didn’t check prices for Billings. Its a 3 hour drive to Mammoth at the northwest corner of the park.
  • Where should I stay – Staying within the park will cut down your driving time drastically. There are various options for cabins, lodges and camping sites within the park but they get booked quite early. So book early if you are planning to stay within park. Some of the options are Canyon lodge, Roosevelt lodge, Old Faithful Inn (may fav), Mammoth hot springs, Lake hotel and lodge. You can look up and book the accommodations here or look up  If you plan on staying outside the park, there are a lot of cabins for large groups, with swimming pools, internet, restaurants etc. These are few options you can choose from: West Yellowstone, Gardiner, Cooke city, Jackson etc.
  • What are things I must see – YNP is huge and covering the whole park within few days is nearly impossible. Here are few of the popular things to do in YNP:
    • Old Faithful – This is the biggest and most regular geyser in YNP. It erupts every 90 mins and is a must watch. The Old Faithful Inn nearby is over 100 years old but has an amazing architecture.
    • Upper Geyser Basin – Its a small trail loop around number of hot springs pool and geysers.
    • Grand Prismatic Spring – Its a rainbow colored hot water spring you can walk up to. It is easily one of the most photographed geyser in YNP.
    • Upper Falls – This is one of the amazing spots where the Yellowstone River flows through Yellowstone Park.
    • Lower Falls (Artists point) – The view of the falls and the surrounding gorge walls is nothing short of spectacular.
    • Grand Canyon of YNP – Lots of beautiful hikes and trails with an amazing view of the canyons.
    • Lamar Valley – This is where you can spot lots of wild-life like byson, deers etc.
    • Apart from these there are West thumb geyser basin, hayden valley, tower fall, yellowstone lake, mid river geyser basin and much more.
    • Yellowstone Lake  – the park’s largest body of water and the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America.
    • Emerald Pond – Emerald Pool is one of the prettiest geysers too. It’s an easy walk, ski, or bike ride from the Old Faithful area to Black Sand Basin.
    • Steamboat geyser – When steamboat geyser erupts fully (most recently in 2014), it’s the world’s largest geyser, climbing 400 feet above the basin. More often, Steamboat growls and spits, sending clouds of steam high above the basin.
    • Hayden valley – Its known was wildlife watching like Bison, bears, coyotes, wolves, and birds of prey.
  • Few useful tips:
    • Before finalizing your itinerary, make sure all parts of the park are open. You can look up the information here.
    • During long weekends, be prepared for delays due to traffic jams on the inner roads of the park and it may take longer for you to reach a place than you think.
    • If you have small children or people with breathing problems the geysers\springs give off gases that might cause problems (H2S, sulfur fumes etc).
    • Watch for wild horses and pronghorn antelope herds in the open reaches of Idaho and Montana. And if you are lucky, you may see big horn sheep or mountain goats in the rocky parts of the mountain passes.
    • If you have time, plan a visit to Grand Teton national park which is to the south of Yellow stone.
    • For more information, visit yellowstone’s official website which is quite resourceful.
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