Planning for Yellowstone National Park

May 10, 2017

Yellowstone National Park is USA’s first national park. Though it’s one of the oldest, it one of the best and well preserved national park with a difference. Yellowstone offers you so much of wildlife, rivers, canyons, geothermal features and wildfires too. I never even thought I would get an opportunity to watch a volcano in my lifetime. This was truly a dream come true for both of us. We however did Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park together over a span of 5 days.

You can check my posts on other parks of USA like Arches, Zion, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Goblin Valley here.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is spread over approximately 3500 sq. miles over a volcanic hot spot. It has multiple entrances and we entered the park through the West Entrance. It’s one of the largest parks and spread over 3 states of USA – majorly in Wyoming and also spread across Montana ad Idaho. It is nearly impossible to finish Yellowstone in one day becasue of its huge size. You will need to plan multiple days in order to see at least the majority of what Yellowstone has to offer. We spent around 4 days here.

Yellowstone National Park
Mammoth Hot Springs

Interesting Facts about Yellowstone National Park –

  • Yellowstone Lake is the one of the largest high altitude lakes in North America.
  • It is home to one of the world’s largest volcanic hot spots (Caldera).
  • Yellowstone has over 1000 thermal features, 300 geysers and 250+waterfalls.
  • It is greater than Delaware and Rhode Island combined in area.
  • Yellowstone National Park has around 67 species of mammals including 7 species of native ungulates and 2 species of bears, nearly 300 species of birds, 16 species of fish, 5 species of amphibians, and 6 species of reptiles. Grizzly bears, black bear, wolves, fox, bisons, elks, moose etc are some of the commonly visible animals.

Planning for Yellowstone National Park  –

Yellowstone National Park
Planning goes a long way!

1. Season

It may sound so weird, that I am telling you that you will need to decide which season you want  to visit Yellowstone. Now depending on the season, only some of the entrances will  be open. This will also impact on where you will need to find an accommodation. The distance from one entrance to the other will need you a minimum of 3 hours(You may encounter animals on your way, there are strict speed limits enforced and you may face traffic depending on the season).

Spring:

  • During Spring you may get to see extra roaring waterfalls, hot geysers and animals will be coming out of hibernation.
  • All along this, you might even encounter sudden changes in the weather so be ready for that.
  • Some of the park entrances will be closed until Mid May, so you definitely don’t want to drive so long and be sad seeing a closed-door.
  • Spring is also a good time for seeing baby animals.

Summer:

  • Summer months will be more crowded obviously.
  • All entrances will be open and you will have wider choice of options about accommodations, food etc.
  • Traffic jams are very common in Yellowstone and strict speed limits are enforced. So proper plan will help you a long way.
  • Enormous crowds would also mean you will have to wait for the crowd to clear if you want some great solo photos.
  • Summer is also the time for wildfires everywhere. So be aware of your surrounding and be safe.

Autumn

  • Already by September 1st week, the temperatures would be around 0 to 5 degrees (C). So Autumn months will be much cooler. Get you warmest clothes.
  • Some entrances may close depending on the weather especially during first week of October and it may get difficult to drive around.
  • On whether it will snow, it will purely depend on your luck too.
  • The crowd will become less and Yellowstone will be covered all of Fall colors. How pleasant it may be to watch!
  • Check weather regularly and plan accordingly.

Winter

  • Winters are extremely harsh and only the North entrance and North east entrance will be open to vehicle traffic. They won’t move the snow in other areas, so only way to get access to them would be through a snow coach, skiing or snowshoeing.
  • You will have fewer accommodations and dining options.
  • Winter guided tours are available if you would like to explore this amazing land in winter. If you want to go one self guided tour, you need to get a permit.

By now, I hope you know why deciding the season is important for Yellowstone. For more up to date info on closing and opening hours of Yellowstone, click here.

2. Accommodation

  • As you have decided which season you want to visit Yellowstone, you would plan to stay somewhere close by to avoid driving time to the park.
  • If you plan on staying inside the Yellowstone National Park, then you will have to book your rooms at least a year in advance and worst case would be at least 6 months. Yellowstone is a highly popular across the world and summer months can get extremely crowded.
  • As we had own rental car problems, we booked our accommodation in the end as our plan to visit this place was not finalised until the very last-minute.
  • I managed to get an awesome Airbnb accommodation some 1 hour away from the West entrance. Since I am a vegetarian, I will need to cook my food on all days of our stay there. This Airbnb was overlooking a golf course and we had the entire basement to ourselves.
Yellowstone National Park
Our AirBnB was too good – A wooden swing, a wooden bridge, golf course and an entire basement just for us.
  • As we did not have much option we opted for that 1 hour drive to the park.

3. Airports

  • If you are planning to fly to the nearest airport to Yellowstone, you would need plan that sooner too. You rental car will be dependent on this decision.
  • The nearest airports would be the very expensive Jackson Hole airport in Grand Teton National Park or much cheaper Salt Lake City Airport. It close to 6 to 7 hour drive from the SLC airport.

4. Rental Cars

Yellowstone National Park

  • Rental cars sometimes get overbooked too at airports. We usually book ours as early as possible. The rates will go up as you delay. Rental insurance is very important, don’t forget to buy it additionally. In US, rental car price does not include the insurance. You will have to pay extra.

Once you are in Yellowstone National Park – Visitor Centre, Collect the Yellowstone map and Newsletter. Make sure to spend some extra time in reading the map. This will help you to put up a rough plan to navigate in the park.

These are entirely our experiences with planning for the magnificent Grand Teton and complex Yellowstone Road trip. Hope these things help you plan yours. Check out the beauty of Yellowstone here. Also do not miss to check my post for Grand Teton National Park here.

You can check my posts on other parks of USA like Arches, Zion, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Goblin Valley here.

Thank you for visiting! If you have any questions / suggestions / feedback you can comment below or send me an email. I would love to hear back from you.

Have a nice day!

 

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