Spend the Perfect Day in Yellowstone National Park
People from all over the world flock to Yellowstone National Park. From the abundance of wildlife and unique geological activity, there is plenty to see and do in Yellowstone. Although it would take a lifetime to explore everything the park has to offer, you can spend one day in Yellowstone and see quite a bit. Here’s our local guide to the perfect day in Yellowstone National Park.
Head Out on a Guided Excursion
If you’d prefer to explore Yellowstone National Park with a naturalist, then you’ve got to book a Best of Yellowstone tour. This guided journey takes you to all of the highlights from geysers like Old Faithful to the hidden wildlife hot spots of Hayden Valley.
Experience the magic and wonder of America’s first national park with this day-long journey. You’ll be getting an early start so you have the best chance at spotting Yellowstone’s famous wildlife such as buffalo, bears, and maybe even a grey wolf.
Our world-class naturalists have all the expert knowledge about the unique geology and ecology of the park. Experience the beauty of Yellowstone without having to plan your own day. Tours start before sunrise and return between 5 pm and 7 pm.
Prefer to Plan Your Own Day? Here’s How to Spend One Day in Yellowstone National Park
If you’d prefer to visit Yellowstone National Park on your own agenda, check out this suggested itinerary for one day in the park.
Check the Geyser Times
The most important thing to do before you head to Yellowstone National Park is to check the predicted geyser times – this will help you plan your day. You’ll want to be at popular geysers – like Old Faithful – at least a half-hour before the eruption time in order to get a decent viewing spot.
Be sure to opt for an early morning geyser time if possible, as fewer people are willing to rise and shine early.
Since geyser times differ throughout the year, we haven’t included them in this itinerary. Instead, we have put plenty of time in between activities so you can insert a view of an erupting geyser whenever it works for the time you are visiting.
Scope Out a Sunrise
Don’t miss out on a chance to watch the sunrise in Yellowstone National Park. Snag a packed breakfast (and lunch) so you can spend the entire day in the park.
You’ll have a better chance at spotting wildlife earlier in the morning since animals become active (or if they are nocturnal, head to bed) before the heat of the day.
There’s nothing quite like a scenic sunrise in Yellowstone. Not to mention, getting here before the sun ensures you stay ahead of the crowds (which create massive traffic jams by mid-day).
A few of our top sunrise spots include:
- Artist Point by the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
- West Thumb Geyser Basin near Grant Village
- Yellowstone Lake
Note: It’s $35 per vehicle to enter the park or free with an America the Beautiful Park Pass.
Check Out the Thermal Pools
After sunrise, it’s time to hit up one of the most popular Yellowstone attractions – Grand Prismatic Spring. This insanely huge and colorful hot spring is a must-see on any one-day itinerary in Yellowstone.
The incredible colors dazzle like jewels in this geological hot spot. You can walk parts of the spring on the raised boardwalk (due to dangerous and fragile terrain, that’s the only way to get close). Hit up this amazing hot spot first thing after sunrise to beat the immense crowds that gather here.
After you’ve been mesmerized by these opal-colored pools, head to the nearby Upper Geyser Basin and make your way (on foot) to the Morning Glory Pool. Be sure to time this part of your visit with geyser eruptions. If Old Faithful is on your list of things to see then you’ll want some extra time here.
Take a Scenic Drive Through Hayden Valley
After you’ve gotten your fill of geyser action it’s time to hang out with some wildlife. Make your way up Hayden Valley. The end destination is the far-off Lamar Valley – known for its abundant wildlife (and fewer crowds).
Drive through the famous Hayden Valley and make your way north (passing the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake, and Mt Washburn on the way). If you skipped these spots for sunrise, be sure to make a stop and check them out along your drive.
Keep in mind the drive through Hayden Valley can easily be jammed up for hours if bison are crossing the road. Because of the unpredictable jams, we recommend taking a packed lunch so you aren’t caught without food.
Spot Wildlife in Lamar Valley
Once you reach Lamar Valley bring out the binoculars, it’s time to spot wildlife! From huge herds of deer to bison and eve bear, there is an abundance of wildlife in the Lamar Valley. Take your time as you cruise through this savannah-like landscape. Stretch your legs at scenic pullouts and admire the amazing animals that call Yellowstone home.
Soak Up the Sunset
From Lamar Valley, you’ll be curving back south along the Grand Loop Road. There are plenty of stops along the way, including the under-rated Mammoth Springs. There’s nothing else like this bubbling cauldron of water. The colors tend to be more striking later in the day as well.
Ultimately, you’re making your way back towards the start of your day for sunset along Firehole Lake Drive. The misty air around Firehole Spring makes for dramatic photo opportunities. After the sun rests below the horizon your one day in Yellowstone is complete. It’s time to come back and kick your feet up around the fireplace at Spring Creek Ranch.
What to Bring to Yellowstone National Park
Spending a full day in Yellowstone requires some planning. Be sure to bring along plenty of water, sun protection, and food for your self-guided day tour of Yellowstone. There aren’t too many services once you’re inside the park, so come prepared. Be sure to pick up and pack out all of your trash or use designated waste disposal bins and toilets.
You can plan your own day in Yellowstone National Park or go on one of our signature day tours and enjoy the sights. Either way, you’ll find plenty of exciting adventures to be had in Yellowstone National park.
Be Prepared for Car Time
It’s about an hour’s drive from Jackson to the entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Be prepared for a very full day – leaving before the sun comes up and returning back after sunset. This will enable you to see everything, but you should certainly bring all of your water, food, and essentials with you.
The park is huge and many of the attractions in the park are quite far away from one another. Traffic is ultra-common, not just from crowds (be aware of limited parking – you may have to book in time to wait to park), but also from wildlife.
Bison-jams are commonplace and part of the experience in Yellowstone National Park. These jams can last hours, so make sure you have a full tank of gas so you can relax and stay cool if you’re stuck in a long bison jam.
Be sure to take car time as an opportunity to rest, refuel, and rehydrate between all of the amazing activities!