The Ultimate Guide: Best Things To Do In Yellowstone National Park. Google Map Included
Updated: Jul 1
It was time to visit the first National Park in the world, Yellowstone National Park. If you are reading this you are most likely considering a visit and looking for tips and recommendations. Being the second largest park in the US outside of Alaska, you can imagine how many beautiful sites there are to visit... Tons! The park itself sits in 3 states: Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. With so much ground to cover and things to see, planning can be overwhelming, trust me I get it. Lucky for your I've put together this family friendly travel blog, that narrows it down to the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park, where we stayed and a google map with all of the following destinations marked for your convenience. This Yellowstone National Park travel guide will be specially helpful if you're a first time visitor or if you're long overdue for another visit. Tips and things to know before you visit also shared down below. Happy reading!
Best Things To Do In Yellowstone National Park
Lamar Valley has been known for being the best spot to view wildlife and I have to agree! We drove out to Lamar Valley on two evenings and both times we saw tons of bison, Im talking herds of bison. We also saw pronghorns and we even spotted some black and grizzley's on the side of the road on our way back from Lamar Valley. Lamar Valley is about 1 hour and a half from the West entrance as it's on the Northern side. Traffic is very common but not due to cars. Animal crossings are very common so patience is definitely needed. The road to Lamar can also be a bit winding so proceed with caution. Was the drive worth it? ABSOLUTELY! If you want to see wildlife a visit to Lamar Valley is an absolute must.
Biscuit Basin Loop Trail
Let's explore some fascinating hydrothermal features! Biscuit Basin Loop Walkway in Yellowstone National Park is an easy 1/2 mile family friendly hike where many other trails can be accessed from. We parked and walked to everything else we did for the day to avoid traffic jams and parking delays. Trails you can access are Mystic Falls Trail and geyser basin trail. More on those trails down below.
Visit here first to enjoy the quiet and wonders before you join the crowds! We found this to be a great option. Paths are closer to the pools making them extra fun to see for the kiddos, plus easy and short. My favorite here was the Sapphire pool which is said to be one of the most beautiful blue pools in the park. There's also many other great hydrothermal features to enjoy and admire and are all along the trail.
As always, keep in mind the hydrothermal features all around the park are extremely hot and can cause serious injuries or even be fatal. Always watch the kiddos closely and stay on the trails at all times.
Upper Geyser Basin Trail
The Upper Geyser Basin is home to the largest numbers of fragile feature found inside the park. Within one square mile there are at least 150 of these hydrothermal wonders. It is home to many geysers and hot springs. Trail starts as a dirt trail and then moves into a boardwalk. Walking the whole trail is about at 3.5 mile easy loop with something interesting to see at every corner. Pictures below are some of the many hydrothermal wonders we got to see.
It a vibrant colored pool that is a must see. One of the prettiest ones at the Upper Geyser Basin Trail. It's a quick stop along the trail that leads to other must see spots listed down below.
Old Faithful is the first thing you think of when you think of Yellowstone and with good reason. Eruption times can be predicted and usually erupt every 1 hour and 30 min. Follow the following link to get the Old Faithful next eruption time, dial 307-344-2751 press option 2, or they are also posted at the Old Faithful Visitor Center. Make sure to check times prior to entering the park as reception is non existent once inside. Eruptions last 1 1/2 to 5 min.
Where to see eruption:
Arrive at least 30 min before eruption scheduled time. You can see it from the boardwalk or escape the crowd and watch from the observation point for bird's eye view. We decided to watch from the boardwalk since the observation point did require a 1.1 uphill mile hike. Definitely a sight to see.
Mystic Falls Trail was the perfect trail to do after the Biscuit Basin Loop Trail. It's a moderate 4.8 mile round trip hike. The path can be narrow at some points and there is some incline at the beginning. Tip: Start the hike counter-clockwise to avoid a steep decline on a narrow path. Safer to go uphill. The falls view and walk next to the river made this trail 100% worth the hike.
Grand Prismatic Hot Spring
This is without a doubt a must see at Yellowstone National Park. You will find this Spring along the Midway Geyser Basin which is a 0.8 mile boardwalk trail that takes your right next to the Spring. Along the way you'll also get to admire other smaller hot springs which are also beautiful but non like the Grand Prismatic. It is the most photographed thermal feature in Yellowstone and the largest hot spring in the park. Reasons why it's so popular? It's crazy-bright colors, enormous size and 121 feet depth make it for a very impressive and beautiful hot spring to see. Looks magical!
There are 2 views you can choose from when looking at this Spring. We did both but if you're limited on time here are my thoughts:
Aerial-type view: Take the Fairy Falls trail for .5 miles to a lookout observations deck. PRO: It's an amazing view from above that allows you to appreciate all the colors without having any steam obstructing the view. It's also easier to get pictures with the Spring in the back. Not as crowded as the boardwalk.
CON: Trail is short but the end to the top is very steep.
Boardwalk: PRO: Flat quick easy walk right next to the Spring. CONS: Very crowded. Hard to take pictures with Spring in the back. Steam may obstruct colors. Steam very up close and personal.
Parking: Parking for the observation deck is different from that of the boardwalk. Both crowded so expect some delays in parking. After all, this is one of the prettiest sights in the park.
Wapiti, Clear Lake, Ribbon Lake and South Rim Trail
This is a moderate 4.7 mile loop trail from the Wapiti trail parking lot. What is so wonderful about this trail is that you get to walk through different terrain all in one trail. You get to cross meadows, the forest, thermal areas, walk besides a clear lake, lilypad pond and the gorgeous upper and lower falls. The trail starts at the meadows and is very muddy so be prepared to get dirty. The views are absolutely worth it. There are restroom at the beginning of the trail.
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
The walk along the South rim trail allowed us to admire the very popular Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The dramatic colors and shapes are vey impressive not to mention the size of the canyon and the force of the upper and lower falls. It's amazing to see how for thousands of years the Yellowstone River has been carving out this canyon.
Artist Point Trailhead
Along the trail you'll also reach the artist point trailhead which has such an amazing view of the falls. You can also reach this point without doing the above hike and simply parking in the large parking lot which is a short walk to this incredible view. Whichever way you decide to see this view from, see it. It's a must!
Palette Springs via Mammoth Terraces
This is a nice little trail to admire the mineral formations that forms the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. Its white color on the rock definitely stands out with small springs found around the area. The trail is on a boardwalk and does have a significant amount of steep steps so come prepared for steps and an incline. Beautiful views of the hills and mountains once at the top. Crowded area but worth the crowds. It is about an hour or so away from West Yellowstone.
While you are out in Lamar Valley in search of wildlife, make sure you stop and admire the beautiful sunset. There are several pullouts along the way so stop and catch a sunset to remember.
Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center
This isn't inside the park but an absolute must. This visit was a wonderful and wild adventure for all of us. Although we saw tons of wildlife inside the park, visiting Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center gave us the opportunity to not only observe LIVE Grizzly bears and wolves but understand and ultimately appreciate them even more. It truly is an amazing wildlife park and educational facility.
We listened to some very informative and entertaining talks and learned all about the individual animals and their stories. All the animals at the center are unable to survive in the wild and serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts.
This Center is located next to the West entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
•Open every day 9am-7pm
•Ticket is good for 2 consecutive days
•Parking is free
•Adults (13 & up): $16.50, 5-12 years: $11.50, 4 and under: FREE
For the most part, we ate at home since we stayed at an Airbnb just outside the park (more on that down below). However, we did try 2 places right in town we loved and highly recommend.
Hanks: Great burgers and great new locations. Full bar and plenty of seating. We would definitely come back again.
Wild West Pizzeria: Some of the best pizza I've had outside of New York! It isn't called the #1 pizza in Montana for nothing! The crust was so tasty and just right. Long waits but definitely worth it. While you wait you can sit and enjoy a drink at their 21 and older bar if you are not visiting with kiddos.
Address: 14 Madison Ave Montana
We were a large group of 9 so we decided to get an Airbnb just about 15-20 min from West Yellowstone National Park main entrance. The house was spacious, clean, came with everything and more we could possibly need. Things like shampoo, body wash, an outdoor grill and beautiful views from their massive windows throughout the house. The beds were super comfy and the process from beginning to end was easy and flawless. Highly recommend you book this house if visiting with a large group. West Yellowstone Airbnb
The park is huge so getting a car rental is a must. We flew into West Yellowstone and got our rental ahead of time right at the airport. Highly recommend you do the same. Also, HIGHLY suggest getting full coverage because with so many animals inside the park, anything can happen.
Things To Know Before Your Visit & What To Bring
• The Hot Springs are HOT and the crust around the hot springs are delicate and can easily break. Stay on the paths to avoid any injuries or fatalities. Many springs have no rails around them so be aware.
• There is no service once inside the park.
• Download the ALLTrails App with pro. This allows you to download the trails ahead of time to track yourself on the trail even without service. Do this before entering the park.
• Dress in layers. Temperature changes by the minute
• Be patient finding parking or with animal traffic jams.
• You can buy bear spray outside the park or rent it once inside. Highly recommended you carry some.
• Bring a portable charger
• No radio service available so come prepared with a playlist you can listen to offline.
•Bring lots of water and snacks
• Bring bug spray
• Bring Binoculars- we love these Binoculars from Amazon
• Bring a good comfortable bag you can carry all you things in. Jackets, binoculars, snacks, extra waters. We used this one and loved it. Specially perfect for families or overnight camping https://tobiqtravel.com
Always check for road closure before you visit on the Yellowstone National Park Website
We had such an amazing visit and feel like we did and saw so much. Yellowstone National Park is like no other park. It's unique and so beautiful. Mother nature is definitely showing off with this one. I hope you find all this information helpful and hope you have an amazing visit. If you found this helpful please give it a like, leave me a comment, share this post with a friend or pin it to Pinterest for a future visit!
Talk to you later!