Planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park? You won’t regret it! We just spent 3 nights in Yellowstone on our #EpicUSroadtrip as we toured the U.S. We had a great time exploring Yellowstone and have put together some tips for visiting Yellowstone to ensure your trip is flawless.
Tips for Visiting Yellowstone National Park
Get Out Early
If you must visit Yellowstone during peak season (June-August), unfortunately, you won’t be alone. Yellowstone is the 4th most visited National Park in the United States in 2014 according to the National Parks Conservation Association. In July 2015 a total of 980,702 people entered the park, compare that to April with 46,600 or even May 383,669. BUT, if you get up early the number of tourists at the prime spots is significantly different.
We recently went to Old Faithful at 7:30 a.m. and only waited about 5 minutes before “it went off” it was only us and maybe 50 other tourists around. Now if we would have come anywhere between 10a.m.-7p.m. there would be 1,000’s of tourists lined up for up to 2 hours waiting to see this. I would suggest getting there about 30-60 minutes before scheduled time if you are coming during 10a.m.-7p.m. Now Yellowstone uses Twitter to announce the next scheduled eruption click here.
NOTE: If you are planning to go for the first of the day this will NOT be tweeted as they don’t start tracking the eruptions until around 7a.m. up until 9p.m.
Allow Enough Time to Go From Place to Place
Yellowstone National Park is large, and best to split up into sections over several days. Adam and I recently spent 3 days exploring Yellowstone and think this was just enough time. You may think it will take you 20 minutes if something is 20 miles away, but in all reality 20 miles will take you 30-45 minutes. The drive times will all vary on the number of animals either in the middle of the road or on the side of the road that you will stop and observe. The speed limit within the park varies between 15mph-45mph. There will be lines of traffic, and even though the speed limit is 45mph you may get behind a line of cars that are going 30mph…trust me this will happen. One other thing we weren’t expecting was road construction, we got stopped for 30 minutes as lanes were down to one lane.
If you don’t want to switch hotels/lodges every night, you may want to base yourself somewhere central. We based ourselves in West Yellowstone at the Brandin’ Iron Inn, which is less than a mile to West entrance of the park. West Yellowstone was centrally located and made it a good place to rest our heads at night. We explored the park daily 7a.m. – 9p.m. and on the way back we pulled over and watched a magical sunset. There are several places to stop on the drive back that put on a good sunset show.
Go For a Hike
If a particular site requires tourists to hike even for 15 minutes, odds are you have just eliminated over 90% of them. Grab your bottle of water & tie on your shoes, hit the hiking trails and say adios to tourists. I would always suggest bringing along a bottle of bear spray, and try and not hike alone if possible.
If you listened to tip #1 then you might be heading out the doors early when the temps can be in the 30’s F (0°C)! Yes…we visited end of August and it was 32°F one morning. Don’t worry once that sun comes up things warm up fast, in the summer months expect temperatures in the 70°-90’s. Just make sure to throw on that tank top underneath your sweatshirt, and pack along some shorts. If you forget too there are plenty of visitor centers within the park that would love to sell you a souvenir shirt!
Keep Your Eyes Open For wildlife
If you are out early in the morning, this will be the prime time for wildlife viewing. When driving keeps your eyes out on alert, we had to stop several times for deer & buffalo. I was hoping to see a bear or elk, but no luck… Remember to stay inside your car when viewing the animals, every year people are attacked by wildlife within Yellowstone National Park. Be smart, keep your distance.
If you follow these tips you will have an amazing time at Yellowstone National Park. If you are looking for budget tips, make sure to check out our budget tips for Yellowstone post. Now get out and start exploring Yellowstone!