Yellowstone National Park is one of the dreamiest destinations for adventure seekers and outdoor wanderers. Marvel at giant waterfalls, spy upon hundreds of wild bison, or pop on your hiking boots to embark on a magical hike on one of the many trails.
Our buddies at Hotel.com asked us to share an adventurous itinerary for exploring the awe-inspiring National Park in a sustainable way. Now is your chance to discover vast volcanic landscapes and unique natural wonders.
The Best Way to See Yellowstone in 4 days
A Yellowstone trip promises outdoor lovers a truly magical experience that is unlike many others. With incredible natural wonders, like eerie, smoking geysers and rainbow cliffs, each day offers its own unique oddity.
To make the most of your experience, visiting Yellowstone for 4 days gives you enough time to soak up the landscapes and have an action-packed vacation.
This itinerary includes the top attractions and activities in Yellowstone. Of course, you can modify each of the days to suit your travel needs and what Yellowstone entrance you stay near. Because Yellowstone is such a massive park you want to make sure you stay closer to the activities you want to most see, so you don’t end up driving through the park all day without actually experiencing it. The two main places to book a hotel in Yellowstone are West Yellowstone and Gardner.
4 Days in Yellowstone
This Yellowstone itinerary is designed to show off the top attractions in the park. It’s also planned out in a way that won’t leave you spending hours in the car getting from one place to another.
Day 1: Mammoth Hot Springs and Lamar Valley
Mammoth Hot Springs may look like it’s from another planet, some even describe it as an upside cave. While there are many hot springs to see in Yellowstone, Mammoth is largely made from soft limestone, which allows it to create all kinds and weird and wacky formations.
Mammoth Springs has several boardwalks and terraces to wander along, equipping you for a 1.75-mile walk (roughly an hour). Soon you’ll notice that all of the hot springs vary in color, creating a rainbow-like appearance. You can thank the bacteria for that!
Next up, head to Lamar Valley. Wildlife enthusiasts will be delighted to spot hundreds of wild bison grazing in the Lamar Valley. The Valley is considered the best wildlife viewing spot in Yellowstone, and while bison are almost a guaranteed spot, other animals also call Lamar Valley home.
Bald eagles, deer, coyotes, badgers, and osprey are common. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and even spot a grizzly bear. For those of you looking to get a little closer to the wildlife, Specimen Ridge Trail is a challenging hike that reveals incredible landscapes and wildlife.
Day 2: Norris Geyser Basin and Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
There are three reasons to include Norris Geyser Basin on your Yellowstone National Park itinerary. It’s the oldest, hottest (reaching temperatures of 459°F (237°C)), and the tallest geyser.
It’s also one of the most dynamic thermal areas in the park, and you can expect to see the springs come to life. Go hunting for the various geysers that are bursting through the rock formations.
There are three areas that make up the Norris Geyser Basin: Porcelain Basin, Back Basin, and One Hundred Springs Plain. The best way to see the changing geysers and incredible color variations is to take a stroll along the boardwalks.
Did you know that Yellowstone has its own kind of Grand Canyon? Giant waterfalls, pastel color cliffs, and hot springs make the Canyon the most marvelous sight in the National Park. Set off on one of the popular hikes, Uncle Tom’s Trail, and experience panoramic views and several spectacular viewpoints.
For more of a gentle walk, you can opt for the Inspiration Point lookout deck that shows off expanding views and magical cliffs.
Day 3: Hayden Valley and Yellowstone Lake
The third day of your trip to Yellowstone calls for an early start! Waking up before dawn means you have the chance to view the sunrise at Artist Point before heading to Hayden Valley. Bring along a flask for tucking into some hot chocolate along the way.
If you head to Hayden Valley early enough, you stand more of a chance to see the wildlife. This is a great opportunity for embarking on a hike. The Hayden Valley Trails is situated parallel to the Yellowstone River. There’s also the Mary Mountain Trail that follows the northern edge. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the Sulphur Spring and Mud Geyser.
When you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone you can’t miss out on visiting Yellowstone Lake – the biggest body of water in the park. It’s magical to visit regardless of the season. During winter, parts of the lake freeze. With a road surrounding the lake, you can drive around the perimeter and experience panoramic views.
In the warmer months, pack along a picnic and set up lunch along the water’s edge. Fishers and boaters are often seen soaking up the soak.
Day 4: Grand Prismatic Spring
And on the last leg of your Yellowstone trip itinerary, you get to see the star of the park – the Grand Prismatic Spring! Deeper than a 10-story building, boasting crazy colors and enormous size, it puts on quite the show for travelers.
The Grand Prismatic Spring is most known for its bright orange and yellow that shines from the deep blue and green waters. A phenomenon brought on by heat-loving bacteria and because they’re living organisms, the color always seems to be changing.
Grand Prismatic Spring is without a doubt going to be packed with tourists. If you don’t plan on spending too much time with the crowds, you can embark on another adventure in the area.
The Firehole Waterfall falls amidst lava flows that previously ran from the Canyon walls. Visiting the Firehole swimming area is a must during the warmer months.
COVID Travel Advisory
In these uncertain times please be mindful of changing travel regulations and ensure that you prioritize the safety of yourself and others at all times. If you feel comfortable traveling to a destination it is your responsibility to be up to date with latest regulations and follow all necessary guidelines.
As a general standard here are some great tips for traveling during COVID.
- Wear a face mask whenever required by local and state laws. It’s always good to have a few extra to make sure you’re never without.
- Pack hand sanitizers in all of your different travel bags and wash your hands regularly when you get the chance.
- Research the destinations that you’re traveling to (local websites, Twitter, Facebook, etc) to get real time information of closures, restrictions and regulations in place.
- Search for and book a hotel that offers free cancellation in case you need to change your plans at the last minute.