As the first National Park and one of America’s most treasured and wild places, planning a trip to Yellowstone is a rite of passage for many outdoor lovers. The raw beauty and the ability to see a diverse wildlife display is a dream come true. Below we’ll dive into a Yellowstone National Park itinerary for how to map ut your 3 day Yellowstone itinerary.
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3 Day Yellowstone Itinerary: The Ultimate First-Time Visitor Guide
What to know when visiting Yellowstone National Park:
Limited cell service
Yellowstone is an incredibly undeveloped National Park for a good reason. It’s one of the few places we haven’t destroyed, but this also means your cell phone coverage will be spotty. So when you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone, make sure to download your map offline.
Or better yet, bring a physical map with you! Or, just put your phone onto airplane mode during your 3 days in Yellowstone. Everyone will be better for it!
Weekends will be utterly crowded
During the summer months, Yellowstone is a zoo. Arriving early and staying later (sunset times hover between 8 pm and 9 pm throughout the summer months) will provide you with more solitude during your 3 days in Yellowstone.
Wildlife is everywhere:
It’s one of the reasons you came to Yellowstone. Or I hope so. As you drive and hike, keep your eyes open, as bears, deer, or bison can always cross (or walk on) the road. Plan for early mornings with your 3 day Yellowstone itinerary.
Act civilized Around Animals
This is a follow-up to the animals. At the same time, everyone wants a photo of a bear, act composed. I’ve seen hundreds of grown adults go crazy trying to take a picture of a bear or bison. Stay about 100 yards from a bear and 50 yards from a bison (unless you’re in a car, just be calm).
Yellowstone’s Elevation Matters
Yellowstone’s average elevation is around 8,000 feet. For every single person visiting from east of the Mississippi, this is higher than every mountain around you. So, be prepared to be out of breath while hiking, and also understand that during the summer, it’ll still be chilly throughout the day.
Related: Exploring Grand Teton National Park
Planning your trip to Yellowstone National Park
As you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, make sure to see these stunning sights on your 3 day Yellowstone itinerary.
- Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
- Hayden Valley
- Lamar Valley ( Might be hard for 3 days in Yellowstone)
- Yellowstone Lake
- Old Faithful
- Morning Glory
- Biscuit Basin
- Grand Prismatic
- Firehole Spring
- Artesia Geyser
- Gibbon Falls
- Artists’ Paintpots
- Mammoth Hot Springs (far north and might be out of the way for most people)
Best time to plan your Yellowstone National Park itinerary
The summer months, for sure. With its elevation, winter holds on for a while, and the cold can discourage people. (However, winter in Yellowstone is supposedly phenomenal for those wanting to see some unique things.) I’d say the best time would be July or August, though you can miss all the families in September.
What to pack for your 3 days in Yellowstone:
As you devise your Yellowstone national park itinerary, we’re hoping for sunny skies and perfect temps for your trip!
- Wool base layer to keep you warm: Men’s and Women’s
- Nice comfy fleece as a mid-layer: Men’s and Women’s
- Down Jacket for extra warmth: Men’s and Women’s
- Comfy yet durable pants: Men’s and Women’s
- Rain jacket: Men’s and Women’s
- Beanie and or Hat
- Wool Socks: Men’s and Women’s
- Sturdy Hiking Shoes: Men’s and Women’s
- Midsized hiking backpack: 20L, 25L, 30L
- Bear Spray (but you can’t fly with it)
How to get to Yellowstone National Park?
Spending time in Yellowstone National Park isn’t an easy logistical feat. It’s thankfully not situated by any major metro areas, so flying in requires some drive time no matter what airport you land at.
The most popular airports would be Salt Lake City, Idaho Falls, Jackson, and West Yellowstone (decently small). As you can imagine, SLC will have the cheapest flights, but you’ll have to drive about 5-6 hours – though most of it is on the highway.
Idaho Falls, West Yellowstone, and Jackson will cut your commute into Yellowstone National Park and cost more for flights (and maybe a rental car). So I’d do a deep dive into the logistics and see which works best for your Yellowstone National Park itinerary.
Best Places to Stay while Planning a Trip to Yellowstone?
This is where your 3 day yellowstone itinerary can be a logistical headache, as there are not a lot of places to stay around Yellowstone. Camping is probably the best bet, but we know how quickly those can get filled up. The next best option is staying inside the park at a hotel.
Thirdly, West Yellowstone is the closest you can stay outside the park without a crazy long drive time. Some people will drive from Grand Teton/Jackson, which is fine. It’s just a long drive, and when you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone, I recommend sticking closer to the park.
How to structure your 3-day Yellowstone itinerary
As you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone, think about how long you usually spend in places. While many of these are grouped together, you must still spend time parking, walking, viewing, reading, and more. So while it doesn’t seem like it’ll take that long, I promise the day will fly by. And that’s without seeing any animals – which sucks up a ton of time!
Yellowstone National Park – Day 1
Arrive in Yellowstone National Park from West Yellowstone. Instead of heading to the famous parts, save that for a full day. Instead, head north to Mammoth Hot Springs and take in less visited portions of the park. Drive on the Grand Loop Rd and hike to the Hellroaring Suspension Bridge. As this is less visited, your chances of wildlife increase! If you have time, complete the circle and visit Tower Falls, a 132-foot waterfall near Devils Den.
On the flip side, head straight to Mt. Washburn for those looking for a longer hike. It’s a 6-7 mile round trip hike with gorgeous views. This is a great way to start your Yellowstone itinerary 3-day trip.
Yellowstone National Park – Day 2
Start your day early! And plan most of your day around the geysers and hot springs on SR 191. This includes Old Faithful, Morning Glory, Grand Prismatic, and Biscuit Basin. Once you’ve gotten your fix, head to Canyon Village and check out the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. A short walk to Artist Point will provide unbelievable views of the falls.
Make sure to do both the Grand Prismatic Overlook, which allows you to see the glorious colors from above, and the boardwalk, which lets you get up close and personal.
Depending on how long your day takes, you can swing by Hayden Valley for sunset and hope to spot some wildlife.
Yellowstone National Park – Day 3
Your final day in the park is what I like to call clean-up duty. Hit the areas you didn’t see or would like to see again. I’d recommend a sunrise trip into Hayden Valley to enjoy the quiet and calm while looking for animals. Yellowstone Lake is also a gorgeous place to relax and enjoy the views.
If you want to extend your trip by a day, I’d add Lamar Valley to your Yellowstone national park itinerary. It’s a stunning place to view wildlife. But, sadly, it’s so far away from the other sites.
What not to do in Yellowstone National Park
- Approach wildlife: This one’s crucial. There are many warnings about being careful around bison, yet people still approach for photos. Do not do this. You or your child could get severely hurt. If you want good photos, spend the money on a telephoto lens. Unless they’re walking by your car, do not expect to get an up-close photo on your trip.
- Choose destinations far away: Driving in Yellowstone Nationa Park is a slow ordeal. There are lots of people and animals blocking the road. Try to group your days near each other. Better yet, lace up your hiking boots and walk between places.
- Touch the water: Stay on the boardwalks and designated paths. The water in these hot springs and geysers is incredibly hot and will burn you or worse. Additionally, keep your kids close so they don’t run off. While you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone, read up on the best methods to visit with kids so everyone leaves with smiles on their faces.
How Yellowstone Became a National Park
Yellowstone National Park, located primarily in Wyoming, was established in 1872, making it the first national park in the world. The area had been inhabited by Native American tribes for thousands of years, but the first recorded visit by European explorers was in 1807.
Over the next few decades, various expeditions and surveys were conducted of the region, and reports of its geothermal features and natural wonders began to circulate. However, it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that the area became widely known and began to attract visitors.
As more people visited Yellowstone, concerns grew about the impact of human activity on the natural environment. Then, in 1864, a group of concerned citizens led by Ferdinand Hayden, a geologist and surveyor, convinced Congress to pass the Yellowstone Park Act, which set aside a large area of the region as a public park.
However, the park was not yet under federal protection, and illegal hunting, logging, and mining continued threatening the area. Finally, in 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act, which placed the park under federal control and provided for its management and protection.
Over the years, the park has faced many challenges, including wildfires, invasive species, and increased visitation. However, it remains one of the most popular and well-known national parks in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year to its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and unique geothermal features.
3 day Yellowstone itinerary – Wrapping Up
Thank you for taking the time to read this Yellowstone itinerary. I hope you have a fantastic 3 days in Yellowstone!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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