Yellowstone National Park is one of the largest national parks in the lower 48s. It’s accessible by 5 entrances in 3 different states, bordered by 4 national forests and 1 national park, and sort of in the middle of nowhere. With so much to do, see and experience, how on earth will you be able to explore it all?
If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone then you’ll need to get organised. It is sure to be the trip of a lifetime and you don’t want to miss anything. Follow this week-long-outdoor-focused itinerary covering the best of the best in the park, and you’ll remember your trip to Yellowstone for the rest of your life.
A 7-day itinerary for Yellowstone adventurers
Spend your first night at the super affordable and historic Chico Hot Springs in the heart of Paradise Valley, just southeast of Bozeman, Montana. This is a convenient base camp for visiting Yellowstone and is the nearest “big” city. Soak in the hot springs, enjoy dinner at the grill, and maybe even take in some music at the bar.
Start at the North Entrance at Gardiner, just south of Chico Hot Springs. Get an early start and drive into Yellowstone with a quick stop at Mammoth Hot Springs before heading out towards Lamar Valley to spot wildlife like bears and wolves. Continue out the northeast entrance at Cooke City and drive to the top of Beartooth Pass to take in the views and perhaps a side hike along the Clarks Fork Trail. Head back into the park to camp at Slough Creek (first come first served campground – an awesome fly fishing location too).
Take in the sites today including Tower Fall and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Uncle Tom’s Cabin Trail is a long staircase down to the spray of the Lower Falls and well worth it. Meander through the Norris Geyser Basin and camp and cook out at Norris Campground (first come first served but fills up quickly).
Head out the West Entrance of the park to the Disneyland-esque town of West Yellowstone. Do the cheesy stuff like the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center and the Giant Screen Theater, then grab lunch at the Mexican Taco Bus (you’ll see it). Go for an afternoon horseback ride with Diamond P Ranch followed by an evening at the Wild West Rodeo. If you’d rather escape the crowds, head towards Targhee Pass (to the west) and go hiking or mountain biking along the Continental Divide Trail. Stop in Free Heel & Wheel in West Yellowstone for maps and suggestions. Camp in West Yellowstone (there are a couple of KOA campgrounds and official RV parks or try Baker’s Hole Campground).
Drive back into the park from the West Entrance and take your time on the way to Old Faithful (above). Drive the Firehole Canyon Road (with a stop at the swimming hole), then don’t miss the Grand Prismatic Spring, the Paint Pots, and the Upper Geyser Basin with its short hike out to Mystic Falls. Continue south to Old Faithful. It’ll be crazy but you really can’t miss this one. Reserve a seat on a Sunset Sea Kayaking tour of Lake Yellowstone and then camp down by Lewis Lake (first come first served).
Take your pick from a few hiking options today … Shoshone Lake via Delacy Creek Trail (6 miles), Lewis Lake to Shoshone Lake (11 miles), or Heart Lake Trail (16 miles). Go on an evening horseback ride just south of Yellowstone and spend the night in a walled tent at a horse camp with Wilderness Trails, complete with a full cowboy style breakfast.
Continue south into Grand Teton National Park and spend the day on the trail, the best way to experience this park. Do something shorter like riding the Jenny Lake Boat across the lake and then hiking back around or something longer like hiking up Paintbrush Canyon and down Cascade Canyon. Have dinner at Dornan’s under the shadows of the Tetons.
Spend your last day in the town of Jackson Hole. Ride the Tram to the top of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, go whitewater rafting on the Snake River, wander around the Jackson Town Square, take part in the touristy but fun Town Square Shootout, and grab a beer and pizza at the Brewery or a steak at Local.
Get a discounted itinerary
We are Get Outside Pass and we just unveiled a new discount “pass” called the GO Yellowstone Pass. It unlocks savings on the best activities around the park. Chances are, if you’re gonna spend time outdoors near Yellowstone (visitors don’t usually come for dining and the entertainment), we have your adventures covered. Best of all, we donate ALL of our profits to organisations that get urban kids into the great outdoors.
GO Yellowstone Pass discounts include stuff like:
- 20% off Whitewater Rafting
- 10% off Horseback Riding
- $2 off the Wild West Rodeo
- … and 30 more!
Cool of the Wild readers get our 2018 Yellowstone Summer Pass for free!
Go to www.getoutsidepass.com and use code COTW18 to get your free pass. Or do it for the kids and buy the pass for only $12 … remember all of our profits get more kids outdoors.
Yellowstone and Glacier Passes are available this year, but stay tuned for more parks in 2019 and beyond, including Zion, Yosemite, and Smoky Mountains. If you have a park suggestion, let us know. And here’s to spending more time outside!