The second-most visited national park in the United States, Yellowstone National Park receives a monumental number of visitors every year. Last July, over one million people descended on its 2.2 million acres. Planning a trip but no idea where to begin? Here’s your guide on how to travel Yellowstone National Park
How do you travel Yellowstone National Park?
1. When should I go to Yellowstone National Park?
As one of the world’s most intact temperate ecosystems, there’s never really a bad time to visit Yellowstone National Park, though there is limited access during the winter. Summer is a beautiful time of year to visit the park when the terrain is studded with wildflowers and wildlife, though it’s a busy time to visit too. If you’re not limited by school summer holidays or other commitments, head here outside of the summer holidays, between May and June or September and October. In June, you’ll get the chance to get up close to bear cubs, wolf puppies and bighorn fauns, while in October aspens turn to gold. If you don’t mind the cold, winter is a good time to visit, when the landscape is most dramatic.
The NPS advises bringing a warm jacket, rain gear and lots of layers at any time of year since temperatures are unpredictable and rain and snow are possible at any time of year.
2. How do I get to Yellowstone National Park and which entrance should I choose?
Yellowstone National Park spans three states — Wyoming, Montana and Idaho — and has five entrances. Two of these are in Wyoming and three are in Montana. The Wyoming East Entrance offers easy access to Yellowstone Lake while the South Entrance is best for backcountry hikes. In Montana, most people head to the West Entrance if they want to visit the hot springs and the North Entrance for Roosevelt Arch and the Mammoth Hot Springs. The latter is extremely busy in summer.
3. Where should I stay in Yellowstone National Park?
Accommodation books up as early as a year in advance, so it pays to be organized. There’s a whole host of accommodations to choose from, ranging from camping and glamping to cabins and condos. Most people choose to camp. There are 12 camping grounds in the park, with reservations from early May to mid-October. Some, such as Pebble Creek and Mammoth, also offer first-come, first-served sites. If you’d prefer the safety of booking, you’ll need to book exactly six months in advance, when reservations first become available.
4. How much does Yellowstone National Park Cost?
You’ll need to buy a pass to enjoy access to the park, with several different options to choose from. Private, non-commercial vehicles can purchase a seven-day pass for $35 per vehicle, though you’ll need to pay an additional $35 to explore nearby Grand Teton National Park (home to Grand Teton). An annual pass costs $70 per vehicle.
If you’re considering hitting a few different parks on your trip, the Beautiful National Park Pass is an excellent option. It’s valid for a year from the month of purchase and includes all federally-managed land, including national parks, forests and monuments.
If you’re in the military, you can apply for a free annual park pass. Travellers under 16 years and travellers with a disability also go free.
5. What are the major attractions in Yellowstone National Park?
Yellowstone National Park is teeming with wildlife, from bison and bears to otters and elks. There are hundreds of hiking trails too, including Morning Glory Pool, Lone Star Geyser and Electric Peak — a 20-mile, 3,808-feet elevation gain through varied geologic layers. But the park’s thermal features are the most eye-catching aspect of the park. They include the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces, an hour’s worth of winding boardwalks between limestone pools and plateaus.
6. Where are the best views in Yellowstone National Park?
For the best views, head to Tower Fall – a 132-foot cascading waterfall set over volcanic towers. Lookout Point and Artist Point offers sweeping views over the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, s well as Red Rock Point.
7. Can I join a tour in Yellowstone National Park?
Yes. Wildlife enthusiasts should consider joining one of Yellowstone’s “snow coaches” if they’re travelling in winter. Run by a knowledgeable team of guides, it’s one of the best ways to catch a glimpse of the park’s wildlife. There’s a huge range of reputable tours available on the park’s site and via platforms such as Viator too.