Nowhere else in the world has as many geysers as Yellowstone National Park. There have been huge volcanic eruptions here as far back as 2 million years ago, 1.3 milling years and ago and 640,000 years ago. By visiting the park, you’ll be entering a 30 x 45 mile wide caldera (also known as a basin). How cool is that?! In this post we discuss our favorite travel tips for visiting Yellowstone National Park.
Follow in our steps:
We entered the park via the East Entrance. We spent the night before we entered the park about 20 minutes southwest of Cody (message us if you want the specific camping spot that included electricity). Prior to that we had visited Devils Tower and Badlands National Park as we traveled west from Delaware.
From the East Entrance we went north (clockwise along the park road.) The park roads make an “8” so you can either go north first or south first. We wanted to save the “best” for last so we went north first. We tried to get a camping spot at Slough Creek but it was full when we arrived. Ended up spending the night in Livingston. There are some cute cottages there but we stayed in the van.
Best Things To Do in Yellowstone National Park
See Old Faithful erupt! There’s a crescent shaped set of benches that face Old Faithful. Check the boards in front of the visitor center to see what time she’s supposed to erupt and grab yourself a bench for the show!
Snap a photo of some bison! We saw most of them in the Hayden Valley alongside the Yellowstone River.
Check out the petrified tree not too far from Roosevelt Lodge. Maybe I’m a nerd (okay I’m a nerd) but this thing is awesome!
Mammoth Hot Springs are super cool. Check out the Upper Terraces Area as well as the Lower Terraces Area. We photographed both at sunrise and only saw two other people there (in stark contrast to the hordes we experienced the day before).
Visit Norris Geyser Basin and be amazed at the colorful pools and geysers. It’s a photographers dream.
Be sure to check out Midway Geyser Basin which is where THE Grand Prismatic Spring is located. The Grand Prismatic Spring has graced the cover of many magazines and even Fodor’s Complete Guide to National Parks of the West. It is incredible.
Also check out the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River as well as Yellowstone Lake.
Get into the backcountry! Did you know there are about 1,000 miles of trails within the park? Most people only see a fraction of what the park has to offer but there are a ton of other places to explore (without the crowds).
Things To Know About Yellowstone National Park
Park website: www.nps.gov/yell
307-344-2117 road updates
Yellowstone National Park Visitor Centers, Education Centers and Museums
Horace M. Albright Visitor Center (Mammoth Hot Springs)
Open daily, year round
Canyon Visitor Education Center
Open late May to Early November
Fishing Bridge Museum and Visitor Center
Open late May to early September
Grant Visitor Center
Open late May to early October
Museum of the National Park Ranger
Open late May to mid-September
Norris Geyser Basin Museum and Information Station
Open mid-May to early October
Old Faithful Visitor Education Center
Open mid-April to early November
West Thumb Information Station
Open late May to early October
West Yellowstone Visitor Center
Open mid-April to early November
Yellowstone National Park Rules
Might sound hard to believe, but people used to throw coins into some of the thermal pools. It’ll damage them so please don’t do that!
Bathing and swimming in the pools isn’t allowed either.
You’re not supposed to stop in roadways to take pictures but we’ve seen all kinds of things. Best practices are to us a roadside parking area or parking lot. That said, if wildlife is in the road, brake and hang out. Delays can be long, so expect them and have snacks and water and games or books in the car to keep everyone busy.
Winter time means road closures. Be sure to check before you go. The only road that is open all year is the one between Gardiner and Cooke City.
Yellowstone National Park Safety Tips
This is bear country. There are both black bears and grizzlies within the park. Be smart with your food, dispose of waste in bear safe trashcans. To learn more about bears and bear safety, head HERE.
It is illegal to get within 100 yards of bears and wolves. It’s illegal to get within 25 yards of other wildlife including bison. Don’t be the person who tries to take a selfie with a wild animal and ends up getting hurt!
Leash all pets! They’re prohibited from all trails, on the thermal basin boardwalks and in the backcountry.
Stay on trails and boardwalks at all times.
Cellphone reception is spotty. We use Verizon and could get a little bit of access in Mammoth Hot Springs, Canyon Village and Tower Fall but it wasn’t great. Be prepared to be a little off the grid and without cell phone service in Yellowstone.
Where To Stay in Yellowstone
The lodges near Old Faithful aptly named Old Faithful Lodge, Old Faithful Inn are in an awesome central location. You are literally just steps away from Old Faithful! Caroline was in love with the buildings the moment she saw them because they were so wide open with balconies on four floors and there were round logs everywhere. If you’re in to historical lodges, you might want to shell out some money just to stay there.
They’re clean but basic. Some would say they’re rustic (no AC, TV, radio or bathroom). The bathroom is just a short walk away. That said the location can’t be beat! I stayed there in late June a couple years ago and had a great experience. The temperature was comfortable for sleeping. You’re in the middle of the park! Heat is by wood burning stove and most of the cabins have one or two double beds. FYI coffee nor coffee makers are included so if you crave it like we do, come prepared or by it in the nearby lodge.
Camping in Yellowstone
Mammoth is the only campground that is open all year. It has 85 sites.
It’s recommended that you reserve your site ahead of time so that you are guaranteed a spot but you should do it as far in advance as possible. You can reserve a spot at Canyon, Bridge Bay, Madison, Grant Village and Fishing Bridge RV Park (only hard sided campers are allowed there, no tents or trailers).
First-come, first serve campsites include Mammoth, Norris, Indian Creek, Lewis Lake, Pebble Creek, Slough Creek and Tower Fall.
Most campsites are open 7am to 10pm during the peak season and 8am to 9pm during the shoulder. Checkout time is 11am.
Backcountry camping is allowed in designated sites but it requires a permit.
Tips for Visiting Yellowstone National Park
Bring water and drink it! We visited in mid-August and it was HOT! There’s very little shade within the park and you’re at elevation so you’re going to need to stay hydrated in order to enjoy the adventure.
Fishing is allowed but it requires a permit which you can get at a ranger station.
Temperatures in the summer in Yellowstone can get up into the 90’s. Nighttime temps can also get down into the 40’s! It’s a huge range but it means you can get tan in the day and sleep GREAT at night.
On that note, bring sunscreen!
Fuel up before you enter the park. There are a couple of gas stations within the park but you’ll pay a higher price to fuel up in there.
The park is also undergoing a bunch of road construction. We tried to go south one morning to Norris from Mammoth Hot Springs but the road didn’t open up until 7am. Known before you go.
To get road status alerts you can call 307-344-2117 or text “82190” to 888777
Gas stations within Yellowstone are located at:
Mammoth Hot Springs
Try to fill up outside of the park or be prepared to pay a premium for convenience.
Yellowstone National Park Recap
This is a very busy park so get up early and not only catch the best light but see all the sights without tons of crowds. It’s an incredible place to see, so if it’s not on your list of top places to visit in the United States, be sure to add it!
Have you been to Yellowstone? If so, we’d love to know what you thought.
Also in the area:
Grand Teton National Park