In this 2 days at Yellowstone National Park itinerary + guide we’ll cover everything you need to know before you go, plus where to eat, where to stay, and things to do in Yellowstone National Park!
After spending a week in Jackson, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park, we headed north to Yellowstone National Park!
To be honest, we weren’t totally sure what to expect from our 2 days at Yellowstone and thought it may be a tad overrated, but we were blown away by the diverse scenery and the crazy hydrothermal features–it is unlike anywhere we have ever been!
We stood in awe of the colorful hot springs, gasped when Old Faithful erupted, and had a scary run in with a bison. (Watch this vlog to see the exact moment it happened!)
It was a magical 2 days at Yellowstone and we’re so excited to share this itinerary and guide. It’s full of information about the park, where to stay, and the must-see sights. And the treat you must have while you’re there!
- About Yellowstone National Park
- How to get to Yellowstone National Park
- Where to stay at Yellowstone National Park
- Getting around Yellowstone National Park
- When to visit Yellowstone National Park
- Tips for Yellowstone National Park
- Yellowstone National Park Itinerary
- If you have extra time…
- Ready to explore Yellowstone National Park?
Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!
These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.
About Yellowstone National Park
Out of the 61 National Parks in the United States, Yellowstone is extra special because it was the first one! The park was established in 1872 by Ulysses S. Grant and is now the 5th most visited park in the United States with 4,114,999 visitors. And it’s popular for a reason!
With over 10,000 hydrothermal features, such as geysers (over half of the world’s geysers are in the park!), hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles, it truly feels like another planet and it is hard to not be mind blown by how incredible these features are.
And for those of you wondering “where the heck is Yellowstone anyways?”, it’s actually located in 3 states. 96% of the park is in Wyoming, 3% is in Montana, and 1% is in Idaho. This Yellowstone itinerary will heavily focus on the Wyoming portion of the park, as that’s where the main attractions are.
If you’re looking for more Wyoming adventures, combine this 2 days at Yellowstone itinerary with our Grand Teton National Park itinerary for the ultimate trip!
How to get to Yellowstone National Park
Note: In this 2 days at Yellowstone itinerary + guide, will note the distances from Old Faithful, since that area of the park is loaded with things to do. These accommodations may be closer or farther from other areas of the park, but to give you some context of their distance, we wanted to choose one spot to measure from.
Similar to Grand Teton, Yellowstone is a bit far from any major city. So it’s definitely not the easiest park to get to. The closest option is the Yellowstone Airport (33.5 miles to the Old Faithful Visitor Center) in West Yellowstone, Montana. The next closest airport is Jackson Hole Airport (88.7 miles to the Old Faithful Visitor Center). American Airlines, Delta, United, and SkyWest fly in and out of.
However, both are smaller airports with limited flights and could be pricey. But if convenience is worth the extra cost, definitely look into flights for both of them.
The next closest airports are in Cody, Wyoming (120 miles to the Old Faithful Visitor Center) or Bozeman, Montana (139 miles to the Old Faithful Visitor Center).
As for larger airports, the two best options are Salt Lake City, which is 372 miles away, and Denver, which is 536 miles away. So if you’re down for a road trip, these two airports are a good option!
Where to stay at Yellowstone National Park
Unlike the neighboring Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park is not super close to any towns. While you could stay in Jackson, WY and travel to and from Yellowstone, that’s about a 4 hour round trip drive.
The closest towns to the park are West Yellowstone, Montana and Gardiner, Montana. West Yellowstone is a bit more central to all items on this Yellowstone itinerary. But Gardiner is not a bad option either and looked super cute when we drove through it.
Between the two closest towns and accommodations inside the park, here are our top suggestions of where to stay!
Note: This 2 days at Yellowstone itinerary + guide, will note the distances from Old Faithful, since that area of the park is loaded with things to do. These accommodations may be closer or farther from other areas of the park, but to give you some context of their distance, we wanted to choose one spot to measure from.
Outside of the Park
We normally always choose vacation rentals as our accommodations when we travel. But it’s definitely not the most ideal for 2 days at Yellowstone, as there are none inside of the park. However, if you are okay with a little driving, here are a few spots to check out!
- Option #1 (West Yellowstone): Just minutes from the West entrance and ~50 minutes to Old Faithful.
- Option #2 (West Yellowstone): Just minutes from the West entrance and ~50 minutes to Old Faithful.
- Option #3 (West Yellowstone): Just minutes from the West entrance and ~50 minutes to Old Faithful.
- Option #4 (Gardiner): Just minutes from the North entrance and 1 hour and 40 minutes to Old Faithful. It is a lot closer to the activities on Day 2 of this guide though!
- Option #5 (Gardiner): Just minutes from the North entrance and 1 hour and 40 minutes to Old Faithful. It is a lot closer to the activities on Day 2 of this guide though!
- Kelly Inn West Yellowstone
- Holiday Inn West Yellowstone
- 1872 Inn (West Yellowstone)
- Golden Stone Inn (West Yellowstone)
- Yellowstone Village Inn and Suites (Gardiner)
- The Antler Lodge (Gardiner)
If you want to experience the great outdoors, but with some luxury, we highly recommend checking out Under Canvas. It is a glamping resort with luxurious tents with comfy beds and some with private bathrooms! They also have a restaurant on site!
If you want to stay right in the action, we recommend staying at one of the 9 lodges and cabins on the park’s property! One thing to note is that these lodges do not have TVs or internet. That could be a pro or con depending on how unplugged you want to be. 😉 Here are a few to check out:
Old Faithful Inn
This lodge is one of the largest log-style structures in the world! We explored the lobby areas of this hotel and were blown away by how cool the architecture was! It’s also, as the name implies, right by Old Faithful, making it a perfect location in the park.
Lake Yellowstone Lodge and Cabins
With both a hotel and cabins, this hotel has a variety of options and a great location on Lake Yellowstone.
This is a pricier option located close to the canyon, which would be a pretty central area to stay!
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins
This hotel is right by Mammoth Hot Springs and would be a great place to stay after day 2 of this guide. It may be a little far from the other attractions. But if you need a place to rest after exploring Mammoth Hot Springs, this would be a good spot!
Yellowstone has 12 campgrounds and over 2,000 sites! All but one allow reservations, but Mammoth Campground which offers first-come, first-served sites from October 15 – April 1. When we visited the weekend after Labor Day, we were able to snag a campsite super last minute, which was a huge surprise. Here are some of the reservable campgrounds to look into for your trip:
This is where we camped. We arrived and left in the dark, but they had quite a few spots available last minute when we went. They also had laundry (paid), showers (two included per night), RV dump, and potable water! The campground is located right next to Lake Yellowstone. We are bummed that we didn’t get to enjoy more of this great location!
Bridge Bay Campground
This campground is also located on Lake Yellowstone, but without showers and laundry.
Located right by the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, this campground has laundry and showers!
This is the most central campground. It’s also open the longest during the year, making it a hot spot to camp at! It does not have showers or laundry though.
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Getting around Yellowstone National Park
If you want to fully enjoy the park, we recommend renting a car for your 2 days at Yellowstone. While there are tours that can take you around, having the flexibility to enjoy the park at your own pace is totally worth the driving!
We are actually surprised how driving friendly this park is compared to other national parks which cater more to hikers. There are not many big hikes in the park. Most sights you will drive to, park your car, and then walk to a boardwalk or some other overlook. This makes the park a great place for all ages and activity levels.
When to visit Yellowstone National Park
While Yellowstone is accessible any time of the year, some roads, campgrounds, and lodges shut down in the winter months. We would recommend visiting between May and September to have decent weather and the chance to experience all aspects of the park.
But if you really want to avoid the crowds, May and September will not be as crowded because kids are in school. We visited the weekend after Labor Day and the park didn’t feel too busy which was a nice surprise!
Despite it being best to visit in the spring and summer, that doesn’t mean you cannot visit during the winter! You’ll experience way less crowds and great cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. But be prepared to see a bit less due to road closures.
The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins are the only lodges open in the winter. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge is only accessible by oversnow vehicle, while Mammoth Hot Springs is accessible by car.
Tips for Yellowstone National Park
- Start early! Being the 7th most visited national park (as of 2022), it gets busy! So start early to hopefully beat some of the crowds. Plus, the morning light with all of the geyser steam is magical!
- Buy or rent bear spray! Yellowstone is home to both black and grizzly bears. While we didn’t see a bear (we’re both happy and sad about that!), we made sure we always had bear spray on us and learned what to do if you see a bear.
If you’re road tripping or visit bear country often, you can buy bear spray in advance. But if you’re flying, we recommend either buying the spray there or renting it.
- Wear sunscreen and drink lots of water! While the temperature isn’t brutal in the summer, a lot of the main areas to explore do not have any cover from the sun.
- Pack food. There isn’t really anywhere to eat besides the restaurants inside the park. So we suggest packing some snacks and food to save some money!
Yellowstone National Park Itinerary
You could definitely spend more than 2 days at Yellowstone, but if you only have a short amount of time and want to see the highlights, this 2 day Yellowstone itinerary is filled with some of the best things to see at the park! If you’re looking for more ideas, make sure to check out our “If you have extra time” section, which is loaded with more incredible things to do!
Day 1 of this 2 days at Yellowstone itinerary is almost identical to how we spent our first day in Yellowstone. We are mind blown by how unique and beautiful this park is! Watch our first day in Yellowstone here.
- Kick off your time at Yellowstone with a bang and see Old Faithful erupt! We loved doing this first thing because 1. It was pretty dang epic! 2. We were able to have a more relaxed day and not worry about scheduling around an eruption or accidentally missing it. 3. You can then go again and see more than one!
The eruption times for Old Faithful change daily, so keep track of what times it will be erupting with Geyser Times. They give you a window that it may happen, so plan to arrive early so you don’t miss it. They do not post the times super far in advance, so what we did is looked at the previous couple days eruption times to get a general sense of when it would erupt that morning so we could figure out what time to arrive at the park. We then checked Geyser Times on our drive to the park to see which time slot we would be there for.
- Spend the rest of the morning walking around Upper Geyser Basin to the Morning Glory Pool, which is about 1.5 miles one way, but almost all of it is on flat boardwalks. Every step and turn on this boardwalk will leave you amazed.
From the smaller hot springs to the Grand Geyser (which is insane!!!), we were oohing and ahhing the entire time! We had a list of the spots we wanted to see, but we ended up stopping at almost every single geyser and hot spring.
At the end of the path is the Morning Glory Pool, which is absolutely incredible! The colors are so vivid and the hot spring has this deep hole in the middle that makes you feel like you’ll be sucked into another dimension. This pool used to be blue, but people have thrown trash into it and it has changed color over time 🙁 , but the yellows, greens, and blues are still amazing!
- After the morning glory pool, take the trail to the right to Biscuit Basin, which adds around another 2 miles round trip. We contemplated just driving to Biscuit Basin, which is what most people do, but we are so glad we walked!
We saw only a handful of people on the trail and this trail had some of the most beautiful blue pools of the whole day! Once you arrive at Biscuit Basin, take the boardwalk around to see some even more vivid blue pools and if you’re lucky, some bison!
- After a busy morning and early afternoon, take a break for some mid-day huckleberry ice cream! Huckleberry ice cream is a delicious and popular treat in Wyoming and a must have whenever you’re in Yellowstone. We got ice cream at the Old Faithful Inn, but the Old Faithful General Store also sells it. Warning: the scoops at Old Faithful Inn are HUGE!
- Take the quick hike up to the Grand Prismatic Spring overlook. This is the best way, in our opinion, to see the Grand Prismatic, as you get to see it from higher up, which shows how massive it is and makes the colors pop more. They say it’s best to visit this around noon on a sunny day for the most vivid colors.
- If you’re doing well on time, continue on the main trail from the Grand Prismatic Spring overlook to Fairy Falls. In total, Fairy Falls is around 5 miles. We were pretty exhausted at this point, but did the hike anyway, as it looked really cool!
The trail is easy, not packed (at least when we went) and leads you to a super neat waterfall! You can also continue on to Imperial Geyser from here, which is 0.6 miles.
- Finally, end the day at the Grand Prismatic Spring boardwalk. You park in the parking lot, which had a wait when we went, and then walk the boardwalk up to the spring. It was extremely busy when we went, but if you want to get up close and personal with the spring, it’s worth checking out!
We still preferred the overlook over the boardwalk, as you can’t really see the size and colors as well at eye level, but if you have time, definitely do both!
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Day 2 of this 2 days at Yellowstone itinerary is very close to how we spent our second day in Yellowstone. We didn’t have time to do all of this because we drove to Missoula, but if we could’ve planned our perfect second day, this would’ve been it! Watch our second day in Yellowstone here.
- Start the morning with the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Yellowstone Falls! To be honest, we didn’t really know there was a canyon at Yellowstone (this park truly has it all!), but despite us not really knowing it existed, it sure is one beautiful canyon!
The Yellowstone river runs through the canyon and there is a stunning waterfall and the combination of the two with the tan canyon walls is beautiful. There are many ways to enjoy the canyon, both from the north and south rim, and most without much of a walk at all. Here are our top spots to check out:
- South Rim: South Rim Trail ( the mileage varies depending on how far you go) or Artist Point, which is a popular spot to view the falls.
- North Rim: This is where we spent our time! We loved the Lower Lookout Point, which required a steep, but relatively short, walk down to an overlook. This view was amazing! There is also an easier to access overlook right where you start the hike down called Lookout Point.
Just down the road from these spots is Grand View which gives you a grand view of the canyon. Brink of the Lower Falls is also a good spot to visit which gives you a view from the top of the waterfall and Inspiration Point gives you a similar view to Lookout Point, but a lot farther away, so it’s more canyon focused and less waterfall focused.
- South Rim: South Rim Trail ( the mileage varies depending on how far you go) or Artist Point, which is a popular spot to view the falls.
- Drive about 35 minutes from the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to Tower Fall. This 132 ft tall waterfall is named after the jagged towers that are behind the waterfall, which are very unique! It is a super quick and easy stop, with the walk to the overlook being only 150 yards from the parking lot.
One thing to note is that there is a trail to the side of the overlook, but it does not take you down to the falls. The overlook is the only spot to see them. We would hate for you to walk all the way down there and be disappointed!
- Get back on the road and head to Lamar Valley! This valley, along with Hayden Valley, is famous for being a great spot to see bison! We didn’t even drive that far and probably saw 50+ bison, including one that walked right next to our van!
- Keep driving north to Mammoth Hot Springs, which are massive travertine formations that some describe as an inside out cave. There is an upper and lower boardwalk. We only got to explore the lower area due to a nice rainstorm that we were unprepared for.
One of the most iconic sights at the hot springs is the Minerva Terrace, which looks like stairs, includes multiple colors (some of it almost looks pink!), and is nice and steamy.
- For your last adventure of the day, get in the Boiling River! This river is where the cold Gardner River meets the steamy, hot springs, making the temperature perfect for a nice, warm dip!
There are designated hours that you’re allowed to get into the river, which you can see here. Not going here is our biggest regret of our time in Yellowstone!
- Celebrate the end of a fun day, and trip, in Yellowstone with dinner in Gardiner, Montana! A few good options to check out: The CORRAL, Wonderland Cafe, or Yellowstone Pizza. If you’re around the next morning, check out Yellowstone Grill for breakfast!
If you have extra time…
If you’re looking for more ideas of things to add to your 2 days at Yellowstone itinerary, check out these spots!
- Visit the West Thumb Geyser Basin
- Kayak on Yellowstone Lake
- Visit Firehole Falls, the Firehole River, and hike to Mystic Falls (3.5 miles, 606 ft elevation gain)
- Check out the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone
- Check out the wildlife in Hayden Valley
- Hike up Mount Washburn, which is 6.8 miles and 1,394 feet of elevation gain
Ready to explore Yellowstone National Park?
Pin this 2 days at Yellowstone itinerary to plan your trip!