Yellowstone National Park is located in the South Central Rockies of Wyoming and expands into parts of Idaho and Montana. The park covers 3,468.4 miles (8,983 km) of lakes, canyons, rivers, meadows, and mountain ranges. Yellowstone is famous for its unique hydrothermal systems that are caused by the immense heat of the Yellowstone Volcano, the largest supervolcano on the continent. This activity has created a concentration of geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and steam vents throughout the park. Visitors are drawn to Old Faithful, a geyser named for its frequent and predictable eruptions. Watch as boiling hot water bursts from the geyser reaching heights of 100-180 ft (30-55 m) into the air. In many places, microorganisms living in these extreme habitats paint the park in a brilliant mosaic of white, yellow, red, and blue colors.
Yellowstone is home to magnificent wildlife that can often be seen from the roadsides. Visitors flock to the park with binoculars to watch bison and elk roam the valleys, wolf pups emerge from their dens, and bears come out from hibernation in the spring.
Best Time to Visit Yellowstone
March to May weather is often unpredictable and snow is common at this time. Daytime temperatures range from 30 to 60°F (0 to 20°C). There are fewer visitors in the park at this time making it a more peaceful time to visit. You can watch the park transition as new life begins to emerge.
June to August is the park’s peak visitor season. Nights are warmer for campers and hikers and all park facilities will be open. Surrounding towns host all kinds of festivals and events. The daytime temperatures average around 70°F (25°C) and up to 80°F (30°C) at lower elevations and afternoon thunderstorms are common.
September to November is one of the best times to visit. The summer crowds are gone and the foliage begins to turn orange and yellow. Temperatures are often mild, although weather is unpredictable and snow is common. Daytime temperatures range from 30 to 60°F (0 to 20°C) and many facilities begin to close in mid-October.
From December to February the park experiences heavy snowfall and daytime temperatures are often below freezing, averaging around 0 to 20°F (-20 to -5°C) throughout the day. Many roads, trails, accommodations, and other facilities will be closed throughout the winter.
Getting To / Around Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone has five possible entrances; North Entrance from Gardiner MT which is the only entrance that is open all year, West Entrance from West Yellowstone MT, South Entrance from Teton National Park in WY, East Entrance near Cody WY, and Northeast Entrance from Silvergate MT.
Yellowstone Regional Airport (COD) in Cody WY. Drive 172 miles (277 km) for 2 hours and 45 minutes via the I-90 W and US-89 S to Gardiner MT (North Entrance).
Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) in Jackson WY. Drive 49 miles (79 km) for 1 hour via this US-191 N/US-89 N to the South Entrance.
Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) in Bozeman MT. Drive 88 miles (142 km) for 1 hour and 30 minutes via the I-90 E and US-89 S to Gardiner MT (North Entrance).
Billings Logan International Airport (BIL) in Billings MT. Drive for 172 miles (277 km) for 2 hours and 43 minutes via the I-90 W and US-89 S to arrive at Gardiner MT (North Entrance).
Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA) in Idaho Falls ID. Drive 109 miles (175 km) for 1 hour and 5 minutes via the US-20 E to arrive in West Yellowstone (West Entrance).
A vehicle is generally needed to travel around Yellowstone. There is no shuttle service but private companies provide shuttles and tours.
Visitor Centers in Yellowstone National Park
It’s always a good idea to start off any National Parks trip with a stop at a visitor center where you can speak to rangers, watch the park film, enjoy exhibits on the parks hydrothermal features, learn about the parks history, join a ranger-led program, pick up your backcountry permits, or shop for books and maps.
Old Faithful Visitor Education Center – View Avenue, WY. Winter closures.
Albright Visitor Center – Grand Loop Road, Yellowstone National Park, WY. Open year-round.
Canyon Visitor Education Center – Canyon Village, Mammoth, WY. Winter closures.
Fishing Bridge Visitor Center – E Entrance Road, Cody, WY. Winter closures.
Grant Visitor Center – Grant Village Road, WY. Winter closures.
Madison Information Station – Ground Loop Road, WY. Winter closures.
Museum of the National Park Ranger – Yellowstone National Park, WY. Winter closures.
Norris Geyser Basin Museum – Yellowstone National Park, WY. Winter closures
West Thumb Information Station – Grand Loop Road, WY. Winter closures.
West Yellowstone Visitor Info Center – 30 Yellowstone Ave, West Yellowstone MT. Open year-round.
Things to Do and Main Attractions
Visit Yellowstone’s famous hydrothermal features. The park has thousands of thermal features such as hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles, and geysers. The most popular being Old Faithful Geyser, Morning Glory Pool, and the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring.
Watch the wildlife roaming the park. The spring is the best time to watch the wildlife in the park. Animals are more active, wolf pups are emerging from their dens, and bears end their winter hibernation. Animals are more visible early in the morning and later in the evening. Yellowstone is most famously known for its wolf packs but the park is also home to other large mammals such as elk, bison, black and grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and moose.
Explore the 1000 miles (1600 km) of park trails. The park has many day hikes that can take you to these hydrothermal features as well as through petrified forests, mountains, canyons, and meadows. There are over 300 backcountry camping sites for overnight trips.
Even More Things To Do in Yellowstone National Park
Biking is permitted in the park on all established public roads. For those looking to get off the roads, there are many mountain biking trails in the park that will take you on riverside trails, along an abandoned railway bed trail, and to geysers and hotsprings.
Plan a trip boating in the Northern Rockies. Boaters in canoes, kayaks, and motorized boats can enjoy a different perspective of the park as they travel through frigid lakes and rivers and camp in the backcountry.
Fish in the park and help support the preservations of native species. Recreational anglers can help selectively remove nonnative fish species from the area.
Make the best of the snowy winter. Track is set on some trails but all unplowed roads and trails are open in the winter for cross-country skiers and snowshoers. As roads close for the season the only way to visit Old Faithful and other popular destinations is by “oversnow” travel on snowmobiles or snowcoaches.
Take a guided tour. Commercial businesses operate within the park offering tours for all of the previously mentioned activities. Alternatively, ranger-led programs are often free of charge and held in the summer, fall, and winter.
Where to Stay in Yellowstone National Park
Cabins and Hotels
The park has nine hotel and cabin-style lodges. All require early reservations.
- Canyon Lodge and Cabins are hotel-style lodges and rustic cabins.
- Grant Village Lodge offers guest rooms in hotel-style lodges.
- Lake Hotel and Cabins is a large lodge that has hotel room-style and cabins.
- Lake Lodge is the oldest operating hotel in the park and has newly renovated cabins.
- Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins is a large lodge that has both hotel rooms and cabins and is open in the winter months.
- The Old Faithful Inn is a rustic lodge with hotel rooms.
- Old Faithful Lodge offers cabin accommodations.
- Old Faithful Snow Lodge is a large lodge that has hotel rooms and cabins and is open in the winter months.
- Last is the Roosevelt Lodge which has cabin accommodations.
Yellowstone runs twelve campgrounds throughout the park.
- Bridge Bay Campground has stunning views of Yellowstone Lake with the Absaroka Range rising up behind it.
- Canyon Campground is located near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and the midst of a pine forest.
- Grant Campground is one of the largest campgrounds and is located in Grant Village, making stores, restaurants, and gas easily accessible.
- Fishing Bridge RV Park is the only campground in Yellowstone to offer water, sewer, and electrical hookups for RV’s.
- Madison Campground is a popular site nearby to wildflower meadows where bison graze in the spring.
- Indian Creek Campground has quiet sites nearby to Mammoth Hot Springs.
- Lewis Lake Campground has forested sites and is a short walk to Lewis Lake.
- Mammoth Campground is located on a high sagebrush steppe, is the only campground open year-round, and is a great place to view wildlife.
- Norris Campground is centrally located and is near the Norris Geyser Basin.
- Pebble Creek Campground is a more isolated campground with nearby hiking trails and fishing opportunities.
- Slough Creek Campground is near some of the best wildlife viewing locations and you may fall asleep to the sound of howling wolves.
- Tower Fall Campground is located near a general store and 130ft (40m) Tower Fall.
Things to Remember While Visiting the Park
- Familiarize yourself with Yellowstone’s regulations to help protect the park
- Be Patient, summer traffic and road construction often make drive times longer than expected.
- Cellphone service is limited.
- Free Wi-Fi is available at the Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth Hot Springs.
- Stay on boardwalks and trails in thermal areas. Temperatures of pools and surrounding ground are lethally hot.
- Avoid the largest crowds and traffic by visiting the park before 9 am and after 3 pm.
- Pets are not allowed on any park trails for their safety and the safety of park wildlife.
- Human food has serious impacts on wildlife. Don’t feed wildlife, keep camps free of food traces, store food in an animal-proof food locker, and place all garbage in an animal-proof trash can.
- The following businesses are authorized to provide RV repair in Yellowstone:
- Mobile RV Tech: (406) 682-4100
- Motorcoach Maintenance & Truck Repair, Inc: (406) 388-7448
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