Best Yellowstone Tips and Tricks For Planning a Trip to Yellowstone

Best Yellowstone Tips and Tricks For Planning a Trip to Yellowstone

Yellowstone is the grandaddy of the US National Parks! It is also one of the most visited parks which means that is also one that gets exceptionally busy! As such I have rounded up our best tips and tricks to make the most out of your visit to Yellowstone!

When to book a Yellowstone trip

The key to this is as far in advance as possible – says the woman who booked her trip six days in advance! Accomodations get booked up quickly and early so to have your pick of the best spots you need to be

Where to Stay in Yellowstone

The Yellowstone lodges and campgrounds open up for bookings 18months in advance. There are nine lodges within Yellowstone itself and while it is not essential that you stay on site it would greatly help reduce your time taken to get to the major sites and allow you to be on the park very early and in the evening – peak wildlife watching times and least busy in terms of tourists.

Perhaps the most central lodge if you only want to stay at one lodge is the Old Faithful Inn with great views of the Geyser! However to make the most out of being on site you may want to consider staying a couple of nights at two or three different lodges depending on your itinerary length!

Places to Stay Near Yellowstone

If you haven’t booked far enough in advance or you decide not to stay in Yellowstone National Park itself you will need to stay in one of the towns just outside of the park. The closest town is West Yellowstone with most of the hotels only a few minutes drive from the entrance to Yellowstone! However please note that from the West Yellowstone entrance it is still around a 40 minute drive to Old Faithful Geyser.

While we were in West Yellowstone we stayed at the Days Inn West Yellowstone. While the rooms were nothing fancy they were clean and spacious and the hotel had a pool with a good slide which is great for littles that need to blow off some steam at the end of the day! It is also conveniently located at walking distance from everything in the centre of West Yellowstone itself!

Other Choices in West Yellowstone:

Holiday Inn West Yellowstone

For those wanting a more outdoors experience outside of the Park should consider Under Canvas Yellowstone!

Other nearby towns are Cooke City and Gardner.

Cooke City is closer to the the Beartooth Highway and the Lamar Valley so you may want to consider staying here if you want to get into the Lamar Valley (known as the best wildlife spotting area) very early in the morning.

The best place to stay in Cooke City: Super 8 by Wyndham

Gardiner on the other hand is closer to the entrance near the Mammoth  Hot Springs.

The best place to stay in Gardiner: Comfort Inn

What is the best Yellowstone Entrance?

There are five entrances to Yellowstone National Park. They are:

  • North Entrance
  • closest to the Mammoth Hot Springs. The nearest outside town is Gardner. It is the closest entrance for those considering entering from the Pacific North West. The bonus to this entrance is that it is open year round. The closest big attractions of Mammoth Hot Springs and the once hidden gem Boiling River.
    • North East Entrance
  • Closest town – Cooke City! It is the perfect entrance if you want to enter the Lamar Valley early for wildlife spotting! You can also Drive the world renown Beartooth Highway, into the Park from this entrance. This is the best entrance for those entering the park from Red Lodge and Billings Montana!
  • The biggest attraction nearby is Lamar Valley. Please note that this entrance is closed during the winter and it is worth checking before you start your drive as the Beartooth Highway can be closed during bad weather at any time of year!
    • East Entrance
    • The closest entrance to Lake Yellowstone. The closest town is Cody, Wyoming, one of the bigger towns located conveniently near to Yellowstone however saying that it is 53 miles from the entrance! However saying that Cody has more touristy attractions that any other entrance having been founded by Buffalo Bill!
    • South Entrance
  • The best entrance for those coming from or wanting to stay in Jackson or Jackson Hole! Coming from here you can tackle both Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Park. Jackson offers the most luxurious of accommodations but is further from the Yellowstone entrance!
    • West entrance
  • the closest town is West Yellowstone and is mere minutes from the entrance itself. This is the best entrance for those wanting to get to the geysers quickly. The town also has a reasonable amount of amenities.
  • Best time to visit Yellowstone Park

    I’m going to be honest with you – while I did love seeing Yellowstone – it is impossible not to enjoy the stunning scenery and amazing wildlife I didn’t LOVE our time there as much as I have other national parks! And there is one reason and one reason alone for this – it was so just busy! Even when we were in the one before 5am sun up we were always with another car and we were visiting in September! Therefore if I had to do my trip again I would definitely visit in low season and avoid the summer school holidays like the plague!

    If you have no choice but to go during peak season or can’t face the colder weather then make sure you are up and in the park very early or for sunset to try and avoid the crowds and maximise your chances for seeing wildlife!

    Yellowstone Packing List

    As the drive into Yellowstone and between the sites are so big, you need to  make sure that you are correctly packed for the day! Here is what we found to be essentials for our days in Yellowstone!

    Clothing Yellowstone Packing List

    Layers! 

    Layers are absolutely  key! If you are trying to get up and into the park early you will definitely feel cold in the morning!

    Hiking boots with a good sole

    Whether you are going on long hikes or perhaps just sticking to the boardwalks, it is essential to have good hiking boots with a good non slip sole!

    Backpack

    Essential for keeping everything you need for your day in the park!

    Waterproof

    The weather can change quickly, especially if you are heading into the park at sun up. A light compact waterproof is an essential

    Yellowstone Packing List for Kids

    Toddler reins

    I know people hate them but for me they are an essential at Yellowstone. There are so many dangerous spots near geysers etc so you need to make sure you keep a good hold of your kids. For me the reins were a must! We had backpack reins which my toddler calls her adventure pack!

    For more tips on visiting national parks with kids check out this post!

    Other Yellowstone Packing List

    Lunch, Snacks & Water

    Though there are fuel stops, cafes etc at some of the lodges you want to make sure you have the provisions for the day!

    Flask of coffee

    Getting into the park early is an essential for those prioritizing wildlife views but if you are like me you will need some caffeine to keep you going!

    Other things to consider: 

    If staying in the park in campground or rv please make sure you food is in sealed containers to not attract bears

    Bear deterrents

    If you are going on any hike you should be taking bear deterrents with.

    Chargers

    With cell phones constantly searching for signal, and especially if you use your iPhone for photos and videos you will need to have a car charger!

    Tips for viewing the main Yellowstone sites

    Tips for viewing geysers!

    Make sure you have checked the website for timings of geysers! Contrary to popular belief old faithful actually erupts every hour and twenty minutes (plus minus ten minutes either way)! You need to know times to plan your day! As this is one of the most popular stops in the whole of Yellowstone I recommend planning to do this in the early morning.

    If you forget to check the website or find yourself in the many areas without service be sure to call in at one of the lodges as they will have latest geysir info for all of the parks geysers due to erupt that day!

    Tips for viewing the Grand Prismatic Lake!

    If want to see colours go in the afternoon when less steamy otherwise all you’ll see is this! It is best viewed from the Fairy Falls trail that runs above the lake for the best views.

    Tips for viewing Wildlife in Yellowstone

    Best areas to see wildlife in Yellowstone

    This is undoubtedly the Lamar Valley and the Hayden Valley! You are pretty much guaranteed to see bison but you are also having a better chance to see wolves and bears in this area too!

    Safety tips for Yellowstone wildlife viewing

    Don’t stop on road (unless there is animal blocking the path)- this causes traffic jams and you will be everyone’s least favourite person! There are loads of pull ins along the road so make sure you use them!

    Don’t touch, get out of your car or get too close to wildlife

    Wild is in the name – don’t be that person!

    Ones are marked by person on boardwalk on map! All of the walls around the geysers and prismatic lake are boardwalks and therefore easy to do for those with kids or having accessibility issues! However please note these get busy

    Other things to know before visiting Yellowstone

    No cell service so make sure you have maps, or anything else you are going to need for day printed or pre loaded on your phone!

    Have you been to Yellowstone? What are your top tips and tricks?

    The best tips and tricks Yellowstone for planning your trip to Yellowstone National Park

    This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, this is at no extra cost to you, although I receive a small commission. 

    24 Comments

    1. October 29, 2018 / 9:02 am

      I NEED to see this place. Some amazing pictures Leona. Err…what are bear deterrents??

    2. October 29, 2018 / 1:09 pm

      We visited in the summer and knew it was going to be horrible but didn’t expect it to be as full as it was. There were so many places to stay that I was overwhelmed as well and we stayed pretty far and each day we were driving around 2-3 hours. Way too much! I agree with you that the next time I go, it needs to be offseason. #MondayEscapes

    3. October 30, 2018 / 12:47 am

      The Grand Prismatic Lake is a reason in itself for visiting!! #mondayescapes

    4. October 30, 2018 / 2:13 pm

      Lots of great tips. I had heard it can get busy, such a shame really! Agree with you on the reins thing as well, honestly they hate them in Germany and in Italy, but tough. Sometimes they are completely necessary! 😀 #mondayescapes

    5. October 31, 2018 / 11:04 am

      It looks amazing there – I’ve always wanted to visit. I was a big fan of reins too – especially when you’re somewhere dangerous. I used them around Iceland where there are similar hazards! #mondayescapes

    6. October 31, 2018 / 12:49 pm

      The US does national parks so well. I’ve never been to Yellowstone. Thanks for the tips!

    7. November 1, 2018 / 10:26 am

      Really useful to know that even September’s mega-busy. I’d love to visit Yellowstone. Your pictures are so beautiful!

    8. November 1, 2018 / 10:35 am

      What an awesome place to visit and some great tips – especially the coffee flask! Essential stuff for making the most of the start of the day!!

    9. November 3, 2018 / 6:54 am

      18 months in advanced, holy guacamole!! Sure is a popular national park. I will make sure to plan my visit well into the off season!

    10. November 3, 2018 / 7:14 am

      I can’t believe I didn’t visit Yellowstone while I was still living in the US! Your photos are absolutely beautiful. I’m all about efficiency when I’m planning trips, so your guide to the Yellowstone entrances is right up my alley. Maybe I can convince my family to meet up at Yellowstone when I do my yearly visit back home 🙂

    11. November 3, 2018 / 7:16 am

      Anothe ron our list for our 12 month tour of US and Canada, thank you.

    12. November 3, 2018 / 8:28 am

      Such an amazing place to visit. I wish I had known to book somewhere to stay in advance, we ended up camping in the snow. It wasn’t much fun as I didn’t get much sleep with animals walking round the tent and rangers driving round to keep the bears away from the campsite.

      • November 3, 2018 / 8:30 am

        Oh my goodness! That sounds like quite a traumatic visit! It is really a place that good planning is essential! I hope you get to go again and get a more relaxing experience – what month did you go in?

    13. November 3, 2018 / 9:39 am

      Oh I have wanted to visit Yellowstone for years! Maybe one day we will get over there. Gorgeous photos!

    14. November 3, 2018 / 9:51 am

      This has been on my bucket list for way too long – when I move back to the U.S., I will finally see Yellowstone. Good to know that summer is the worst time due to the crowds. I didn’t feel this same sense of crowding when I was in Yosemite in July, so that’s helpful! And thanks for the tip to go in the afternoon to see the lake without all that steam. Had no idea! Fantastic photos!!

    15. November 3, 2018 / 12:43 pm

      This looks so fun! Yellowstone is definitely high on my list. Great photos!

    16. November 3, 2018 / 12:57 pm

      Love the pics you’ve used! Im in the UK so would never have considered visiting Yellowstone but it looks amazing!

    17. November 3, 2018 / 1:07 pm

      Is it sad that I really want to to go to Yellowstone to see Yogi Bear and Deputy Dawg. Great post, now I know that I have to visit for real!

    18. November 3, 2018 / 2:32 pm

      I have always wanted to go here and these are excellent tips. I have pinned onto my bucket list board 🙂

    19. November 3, 2018 / 11:04 pm

      This place looks amazing, might have to add it to my family bucket list.

    20. November 4, 2018 / 12:29 am

      Yellowstone National Park looks so beautiful. I haven’t been there yet. I would really like to go there in the future. I love all your wonderful tips from packing to where to stay.

    21. November 11, 2018 / 12:32 pm

      This is an awesome post for anyone planning a trip to Yellowstone – and your pictures have made me want to pack up and visit right now!! Great tip to book early and find accommodation within the park, I think that would very special.
      Thanks for linking up to #MondayEscapes

    22. November 11, 2018 / 6:38 pm

      Such a fab informative post Leona. You have listed some fab tips for anyone planning a trip to Yellowstone. Would love to do this one day xx

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