If you want to plan your Yellowstone tour right, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. It’s best to start planning as early as possible.
Lodging in Yellowstone can book up a year ahead of time, so be sure to book your reservations as soon as you know when you’ll be visiting.
- Plan Ahead
With millions of visitors each year, Yellowstone National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the US. While there are many things to do and see, it’s important to plan your trip well in advance.
The best way to do this is by booking your hotel reservations as early as possible. This will help ensure that you have the accommodations of your choice during your trip and that they are not filled up with other visitors.
You should also stay inside the park as opposed to staying outside of it, which will save you time on driving and allow you to see more during your visit. This is especially true if you are on a tight budget and want to find affordable options.
- Stay Inside the Park
If you’re planning a Yellowstone tour, ideally you want to stay inside the park. This will minimize your driving time and make it easier to see all the park has to offer.
There are a few towns just outside of the park entrances that make great home bases for exploring Yellowstone. These towns will usually have a wide variety of accommodations, dining options, and activities.
However, it’s important to note that staying outside of the park will add more driving time than if you were to stay inside. This is especially true if you’re visiting Yellowstone in the winter.
- Don’t Burn Out
If you’re planning to spend time in Yellowstone, you’ll want to give yourself at least three full days. This will allow you to see the main sights without feeling like you’re racing to get from one site to the next.
Keep in mind that you may need additional time to avoid unexpected diversions and traffic jams on roadways and parking lots.
You’ll also need extra time to wait for wildlife to pass by, particularly if you’re driving through the bison-rich Hayden Valley. It’s common for bison to stop smack in the middle of the road, creating animal traffic jams that can slow you down or even cause accidents.
- Don’t Get Too Close to Wildlife
Getting too close to wildlife is a bad idea. It can lead to fines and jail time.
National parks are great places to watch animals in their natural habitats, but it’s important to be respectful and stay far away from them. This is especially true in Yellowstone, where large grazing animals like bison can be extremely aggressive.
The National Park Service advises that visitors stay at least 25 yards away from wild animals and 100 yards from predators. This includes grizzly bears, wolves, and coyotes.
- Don’t Miss Out on Thermal Features
Geysers, hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles and other hydrothermal features are Yellowstone’s signature natural attractions. Thousands of these wonders are protected, and each year millions visit to witness their bubbling, gurgling, spouting and colorful displays.
These geothermal features are the result of a complex underground plumbing system, which feeds them from waters 2.5-3.1 miles deep. These deep sources of water are heated by magma and hot rock, and they return to the surface much like lava in a lava lamp.
These thermal features are the habitat for microscopic organisms called thermophiles. These microorganisms thrive in extreme environments like hot water, acidity and alkalinity.
- Don’t Forget About Hiking
Hiking is a great way to escape the crowds and get a more intimate look at Yellowstone’s incredible landscape. Not only is it a rewarding experience, but it also fosters a deeper bond with the park.
While a lot of hikes are simple strolls through geyser basins or wooded areas, there are plenty of more challenging trails to choose from. Some even take you to summits that overlook the park’s iconic features!
Whether you’re hiking for a day or weeks, it’s important to stay well-hydrated. Keep a Hydro Flask water bottle on hand to keep cold water chilled for hours at a time, and make sure to pack socks that can wick moisture away from your feet.
- Don’t Miss Out on Wildlife Viewing
A trip to Yellowstone is not complete without seeing the park’s wildlife. Bison, elk, and bears are often at the top of visitors’ lists, but there are many other animals that can be seen in the park.
A good wildlife viewing guide can help you spot the right animals and know when to look. It’s also important to stay safe while watching wildlife.
The best time to watch wildlife is in the early morning or late evening. These are calm periods, away from the heat of the day, and most animals will be grazing or resting at this time.
- Don’t Miss Out on Scenic Drives
If you are a geyser aficionado and want to see the best of Yellowstone’s fantastical vistas, then it’s a must that you plan to drive some of the park’s main roads. The Grand Loop Road, which links most of the park’s major attractions, takes between four and eight hours to complete depending on traffic, but it’s worth it for the spectacular sights you’ll see along the way.
You’ll be treated to geysers, multi-colored hydrothermal springs, bubbling mud, and hissing steam as you make your way to Yellowstone’s most iconic sites. Old Faithful, Norris Geyser Basin, Artist’s Paintpots, Midway Geyser Basin, West Thumb Geyser Basin, and Mammoth Hot Springs are just a few of the highlights you’ll find along this scenic route.
- Don’t Forget About Road Closures
If you’re planning a visit to Yellowstone during the busy summer months of June, July, and August, be sure to plan ahead for road closures. The park closes roads at this time of year to prepare for winter and snowmobile and snowcoach travel.
During these times of year, traffic is heavy and parking can be challenging. To avoid the hassle, be sure to utilize pullouts and road shoulders if available.
- Don’t Forget About Parking
Depending on where you are going in Yellowstone, parking can be a real hassle. This can be especially true during summer when the park is super crowded and there are often traffic jams due to wildlife or road works.
In order to avoid forgetting about this, make sure that you are aware of the times that parking is most likely to be available at your chosen landmarks. This will ensure that you are not missing out on an amazing experience in the park just because you forgot to plan ahead.