10 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone National Park

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After our trip, I put together my top 10 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone National Park. I hope you’ll find some useful information to help you plan your trip and have the best time possible. Be sure and leave me a comment below if you have any questions. I’d be glad to try and help!

10 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone National Park | Get Inspired Everyday!
Fountain Paint Pots Loop

Yellowstone National Park is thought to be the very first National Park in the world, and it’s also the home of the biggest super volcano on this continent! The whole area is a true wonderland from 10,000′ peaks to erupting geysers, and everything in between!

There’s a little something for everyone in Yellowstone, and it’s the most diverse in terms of scenery that I’ve ever seen. We did a fair bit of research before our trip, but we still ran into some knowledge gaps once we were there, so I thought I’d write to tell you about our experience in the hopes that you’ll have the best visit possible when you come!

Geysers along the boardwalk at Old Faithful!
Old Faithful Geyser Loop

10 Tips for the best visit to Yellowstone:

1. Start your day early. Whatever your top priority is that day, be sure to get an early start to see it! Some of the main attractions like the Grand Prismatic Geyser (photo below) have very small parking lots. So it can be difficult to get a spot by mid-morning. This will definitely depend on when you’re there. But if you happen to go during the prime summer season on a weekend, it’s going to be busy!

Grand Prismatic Geyser is a popular stop in Yellowstone National Park!
Grand Prismatic

2. One of the best tips we found in our pre-research stage was this: start at Old Faithful and work your way clockwise up through the park. This turned out to be pure gold because Old Faithful was all but deserted first thing in the morning. And by mid-afternoon it was wall to wall packed with people.

You may just find yourself a bit annoyed as people shove in front of your video camera just to get their selfie in. Never mind the fact they just ruined the footage you spent so much time setting up for!

This actually happened to us while we were filming the geyser’s eruption. And the unapologetic couple fills up the whole frame for a full minute of our video feed! All in all if you enjoy a bit of space and don’t like to be pushed and shoved around – go early!!!

Geyser on the Old Faithful Loop in Yellowstone!
Old Faithful Geyser Loop

3. Reserve your campsites/lodging ahead of time! We worked out our itinerary and booked our campsites according to which areas of the park we were going to be in before we ever left home!

The park is rather large, and you don’t want to have to drive a few hours to get back to your campsite! It isn’t always possible with every National Park to book ahead. But Yellowstone has a great online booking system, and we found it invaluable especially on a busy weekend.

We saw many people get turned away because the campsites were booked, only to have to drive for hours to try and get lodging outside of the park. The campsite in the Mammoth Springs area would be my last choice for camping. It’s located in a hot, dry part of the park with a strong smell of sulfur.

The campground (Canyon Campground) near the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone offers a complimentary shower with the price of your campsite. This may change with time, but it’s an especially nice perk when you’ve spent all day hiking the humid trails through the geysers. We also spent 1 night at the Madison Campground which is situated nicely for touring the main geyser attractions.

Morning Glory Geyser near Old Faithful in Yellowstone!
Morning Glory Geyser on Old Faithful Geyser Loop

4. Plan to visit the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. This one is often overlooked in favor of geyser sight seeing. But it’s truly spectacular as well as adding a little variety to your trip. If you stay at the Canyon Campground you’ll be well positioned for a morning visit to the canyon.

There’s wonderful phenomena that happens in the morning here. When the sun is at just the right angle to create a rainbow in the mist. This happens between 9:00 – 10:00 am, and Artist’s Point is probably the best place to see it.

Although Uncle Tom’s trail gives you an up close view that’s pretty spectacular as well. For a preview of the rainbow as seen from Uncle Tom’s trail you can see it below.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park is a must see!
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park

5. Be sure to fuel up your vehicle before entering the park, and this really goes for any National Park. As it might be expected, gas and especially diesel costs a small fortune within any park we’ve ever been to!

6. Pack food and or snacks for your journey, (especially if you have allergies). Even if it’s just a few meals this will really save on time. Sometimes it’s more convenient to have your own food than have to drive the distance for it!

There are restaurants and you should easily be able to get by. But we find it best to pack some of our own food for a couple of reasons. For one, it saves on time not to have to wait to get into a restaurant. And time is usually limited when you’re traveling.

We also find it nice to relax at our campsite and cook dinner there for a full camping experience. And finally it saves you a good deal of money to pack your own food. (Also we like to save for city traveling where interesting restaurants abound)!

10 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone National Park!
Porcelain Geyser Basin

7. Try to carve out a bit of time to do at least 1 hike that’s not a geyser trail. As amazing as the geysers are, there are some beautiful hikes in Yellowstone as well. Mount Washburn takes you up over 10,000′ in elevation for amazing views across the park.

(As a side note elevation can affect some people starting at 8,000′. And you’ll want to have warm layers or a coat with you). The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is also quite stunning. It also offers a smaller amount of elevation gain in the hiking department.

8. Bring some kind of sun protection. Some days can be really hot in Yellowstone. And you will get crispy fried while touring the geyser trails if you don’t take some precautions!

Not that I speak from experience or anything, but we totally spaced bringing anything because the weather had been so cold up until our visit. While we were there the temperature was in the 90ºs F. I burned the back of my calves bad enough that I still have a weird tan line 9 months later. We ended up having to stop and buy some stuff from the General Store in Mammoth. But it was already too late to avoid the initial burn.

Mammoth Hot Springs is a great place to visit in Yellowstone!
Mammoth Hot Springs

9. Try not to over-schedule your days – this is definitely difficult because there’s so much to see! I would recommend a week if you have it. But 3 days is enough to see a few of the main attractions.

10. Bring your patience with you!!! Yellowstone is a very busy National Park, especially in the peak summer season. So you can expect traffic jams and long lines. Also sometimes the parking lots to the sites you want to see will be full.

We came fully expecting all of these things and brought our ‘just go with it’ state of mind along with. And you know what, it was invaluable! We noticed so many people coming absolutely undone when things didn’t go as they had expected. So try to come relaxed and ready to enjoy as much as you can!

Excelsior Geyser near Grand Prismatic is a must see as well!
Excelsior Geyser

I’m going to leave you with a list of all the places we visited while in Yellowstone.

1) Old Faithful

2) Old Faithful Geyser trails in the Upper Basin and Biscuit Basin

3) Fountain Paint Pots Trail

4) Grand Prismatic and Excelsior Geysers located in the Midway Geyser Basin

5) Porcelain Geyser Basin

6) Norris Geyser Basin

7) Mammoth Hot Springs

8) Mount Washburn

9) Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

34 thoughts on “10 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone National Park”

  1. Thanks so much for this blog site! Would love your tips for our trip in late May. We have a friend’s house in Victor, ID and are planning on seeing Yellowstone, Tetons, and possibly Jackson Hole. If you were planning a trip from a Monday-Sunday, how would you plan it? Seems like we should find lodging for a night or 2 in Yellowstone. None of us have been, so we really don’t know where to start or what is best to do. Would you go earlier in the week to YS and do others later in week? Thanks in advance for any help!!

    • I personally would try and do Yellowstone earlier in the week, and maybe try for the Tetons by the weekend to avoid traffic. There’s definitely a lot to see in Yellowstone, so I would start by figuring out about how much you can do in a day, then figure out which regions the things you want to do the most are in, and start from there. It’s easiest if you stay in one general area of Yellowstone so you don’t have to fight the traffic so much. Although hopefully it will be quieter in May. We camped on the west side while we visited the geysers, and then we camped on the east side by the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone when we visited the Canyon and hiked Mount Washburn. We missed seeing Yellowstone Lake on that side however due to a traffic accident, but managed to swing down to Old Faithful after that.

  2. I really appreciated your tip to reserve lodgings ahead of time for a Yellowstone visit. With the crowds of people that come to visit all the time, it would definitely be tricky to try and find something last-minute. This is probably true for popular attractions like snowmobiling as well.

    • I would guess so, since reservations seem to book up rather quickly! I’ve always wanted to go snowmobiling in Yellowstone, but I haven’t made it there in the winter yet! 🙂

  3. Thank you very much Kari! We are going to Yellowstone next August… Just one question, you would avoid going there on the weekend? We are planning our trip, and I don’t know if it is worth make a reservation between monday to friday… Even if we are going to be in Yellowstone on August.

    • Weekends are always busier, but I wouldn’t avoid it if those are some of your vacation days, just plan for more crowds and slower traffic. Depending on where you think you’ll be staying, having reservations is always a good idea because that way you’ll never find yourself looking for a campsite, or trying to find a hotel that’s not booked up! I hope this helps, and be sure to let me know if you have anymore questions!

  4. I am so happy I found this site while browsing Pinterest. You have been a fountain of information as to what to see and when. I have a question about gear though. I have a DSLR and would love to know what are the best lens to use to try to capture the beauty of Yellowstone in all of its glory. We are headed there in mid/late May and want to have amazing photos to go with the experience!

    • My go-to lens is my 24-70 mm lens because you can capture most scenes with it, but I love having my wide angle 16-35 mm especially for scenes like the Grand Prismatic Geyser because you’re literally standing on part of it the way they built the boardwalk, so a wide angle lens gives you the ability to fit more into your picture. I don’t photograph wildlife much, but the go-to lens for that is usually the 100-400mm because you don’t want to get anywhere near the wildlife for your own safety, and because it helps keep them wild. If you had to choose just one though, I’d go with the 24-70 because of it’s incredible versatility. I hope you have a wonderful trip, and be sure to let me know if you have anymore questions!

  5. Kari, we are not tent people anymore, so could you give us some information on lodges / hotels in the area you’ recommend. Plus we live in Florida and need to know what is necessary for us to bring as clothing. What is the idea time to visit late April to May or Sept. to Oct. ? You seem to have a lot of knowledge so I thought I’d ask.

    Cathie M.

    • I don’t know much about the lodging in Yellowstone since we were camping when we visited, but I know for sure there is a lodge right by Old Faithful which is also central to see some of the other popular geysers like the Grand Prismatic. It’s also not too far from that lodge to go and see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and Yellowstone Lake is on the way to the canyon as well which is a good area to rest, swim in the summer, or have a picnic. If you choose to stay outside of the park, you might consider lodging for a few nights at the west entrance and a night or two at the north entrance so you don’t have to drive so far to see the sights. The west entrance is perfect for seeing the geysers, and the north entrance is perfect for visiting the Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar Valley which is where people like to go to see wildlife. The Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Lake are a long way from both entrances, but can be combined with something else on the same day to save driving time. If you do come in the off season, I’d recommend coming in September because there’s the least chance of snow. However September can be all over the map as far as temperatures go, so you’ll need to prepare for temperatures usually anywhere between 40ºF – 85ºF. Another thing to consider is sunshine, so bring sunscreen in case it’s on the warm side, but be prepared with warm layers for cold nights and possibly cool days. Also parts of Yellowstone are 7,000-8,000 ft so some people can experience difficulties with the altitude. I hope this helps and that you have a wonderful trip!:)


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