Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are both quintessential American roadtrip destinations that can easily be covered in one trip. While driving between various attractions and landmarks, visitors will make several stops to view the local wildlife, especially the 4,829 bison in Yellowstone (as of August 2019). Grizzly bears and black bears can also be found throughout both parks. The itinerary below covers Yellowstone in three days, but it can be done in two if you wish to move at a faster pace. We made several additional stops in between the attractions listed below, but these were the ones worth calling out. If you are looking for some great day hikes, visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton's NPS pages on hiking.

You may also be as surprised as I was to learn that huckleberry isn’t just the name of a character in Mark Twain’s novels - it’s a real fruit native to this part of the country. Be sure to treat yourself to some huckleberry ice cream after a long day of exploring or head to the Old Faithful Inn for huckleberry margaritas!

4 DAY ITINERARY 

DAY 1

  • Norris Geyser Basin - hottest, oldest, and most dynamic of Yellowstone's thermal areas
  • Grand Prismatic + Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail - largest hot spring in the United States
  • Morning Glory Pool - hot spring in the Yellowstone Upper Geyser Basin
  • Upper Geyser Basin - the most densely concentrated geyser region in the world, featuring Old Faithful & 150+ other geysers
  • Old Faithful + Old Faithful Inn - the park's most famous geyser was named for its frequent and somewhat predictable eruptions

DAY 2

  • Mammoth Hot Springs - steaming hydrothermal features on a hill of travertine
  • Boiling River - a hydrothermal feature popular for seasonal bathing where a hot spring flows into cold river water
  • Lamar Valley - scenic valley with best chances of spotting wildlife including bison, bears, wolves, and antelope
  • Tower Fall - beautiful waterfall on Tower Creek in the northeastern region of the park
  • Dunraven Pass - mountain pass with nice views and the location of many hiking trails


DAY 3

  • Grand Canyon of Yellowstone - this canyon is ~24 mi long, ranges between 800 and 1,200 ft deep and .25 to .75 mi wide
  • Artist Point - an overlook point on the edge of a cliff on the south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
  • Uncle Tom's Trail - a steep 328 step trail from the south rim of the canyon to a viewpoint near the base of the Lower Falls
  • Lower Falls - the largest volume waterfall in the Rocky Mountains of the United States
  • Hayden Valley - large valley containing the Yellowstone River between Yellowstone Falls and Yellowstone Lake
  • Lake Yellowstone Hotel - enjoy dinner at this Colonial revival-style lodge overlooking Yellowstone Lake that dates back to 1891

DAY 4

  • Oxbow Bend - island feature in Grand Teton with spectacular mountain views against the river
  • Jenny Lake - glacial mountain lake with several hiking trails
  • Hidden Falls Trail - waterfall with a dramatic cascade that can be reached by a shuttle boat plus a short hike
  • Inspiration Point Hike - continue along the Hidden Falls Trail for .75 mi for sweeping views of Jenny Lake
  • Jackson Lake Lodge - enjoy a panoramic view of sunset over a round of drinks at the lodge

LOGISTICS

GETTING THERE

If you are planning on flying in, you can fly into West Yellowstone, Jackson, Idaho Falls, Bozeman, or Salt Lake City and rent a car to drive to Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks. Driving distances are listed below. This region requires a car to get around as there is no public transportation option.

  • Jackson (JAC) - 1 hour to Grand Teton
  • Idaho Falls (IDA) - 2 hours to West Yellowstone
  • Bozeman (BZN) - 1 hour 45 minutes to both West Yellowstone and Mammoth (North Entrance)
  • Salt Lake City (SLC) - 5 hour drive to West Yellowstone

PARK ENTRANCE FEES

Check the National Park Services websites for each park (linked below) for the most up-to-date information about park entrance fees. You may even consider purchasing the America the Beautiful pass for $80 that will give you access to nearly all national parks for an entire year from the date of purchase.

WHERE TO STAY

I personally think that the best places to stay are within each park. Keep in mind that if you are traveling during peak season, reservations may need to be made 9-12 months in advance as the demand is very high. Some good lodging options at Yellowstone include Grant Village, Lake Lodge, Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Canyon Lodge & Cabins, and Moran Lodge. Yellowstone also has 12 campgrounds located throughout the park with over 2,000 campsites. Check Yellowstone's National Park Services website for details including how to make reservations for the site that require them. The park also has options for backcountry camping. If you are unable to book accommodations within Yellowstone, look for a hotel or Airbnb in West Yellowstone.

The Grand Teton Lodge Company runs several lodges throughout Grand Teton National Park including Jackson Lake Lodge, Jenny Lake Lodge, Colter Bay Village (cabins, RV park, campground), and Headwaters Lodge & Cabins. Another option is the Signal Mountain Lodge. Visit the park's NPS website for details on camping in the park. There are 7 campground with over 1,000 campsites located in Grand Teton. If you choose not to stay in the park, look for lodging options in Teton Village or Jackson.

HIGHLIGHTS

GRAND CANYON OF YELLOWSTONE

The Yellowstone River has carved down more than 1,000 feet to create the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This part of the park was my favorite. Drive along the north rim to access the Brink of the Lower Falls, Lookout Point, and Inspiration Point and then head over to the South Rim to check out the Upper Falls, Artist Point, and Uncle Tom's Trail which you can hike down to reach the base of the Lower Falls.

GRAND PRISMATIC HOT SPRING

Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in the US and the third largest in the world. The vivid colors are the result of thermophiles around the edges of the water. I recommend hiking the Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail to enjoy these colors as they may not be as striking from ground level, depending on the amount of steam. The view from the overlook was one of my favorite parts of this trip - it definitely beats the view from the boardwalk. This trail is not too bad. It gradually climbs 105 feet over 0.6 miles from the Fairy Falls Trailhead to a view looking down on Grand Prismatic Spring and the Midway Geyser Basin.

OLD FAITHFUL GEYSER

Yellowstone's most famous attraction, Old Faithful,  is one of nearly five hundred geysers in Yellowstone and one of six that park rangers currently predict. Old Faithful, erupts ~20 times a day. These eruptions are predicted with a 90% confidence rate within a 10 minute variation. Check the prediction times posted in the Old Faithful Visitor Center. You can also check these on the park's NPS site or on Twitter. Visitors can watch the eruption from different angles - there are boardwalks that weave around the area as well as through Upper Geyser Basin.

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