3 Day Yellowstone Itinerary

If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, it can feel overwhelming at first. 

What should you see? How long do you need? What do you need to know? 

If these thoughts have gone through your head, you’ve come to the right place.

Hotels.com asked me to share my perfect Yellowstone Itinerary. This itinerary covers three days in the incredible park.

Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park and is a powerhouse of geothermal activities. The park is so large it sits in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.  It also hosts the highest number of geysers and hot springs on earth.

Note that a car is the best way to explore Yellowstone. The park covers over 2.2 million acres of land! To see all the attractions, you will need a car to get around.

You can stay inside the park, which makes the experience extra special, or outside the park to explore the surrounding areas.


When is the best time to visit Yellowstone?

Yellowstone is a year-round destination, but of course, each season comes with its benefits of visiting.

Spring is a fantastic time to visit Yellowstone. The landscapes are changing from the winter, and beautiful colors start to emerge. However, with the park’s high elevation, you might still have chilly weather and snow on the ground. The weather can be a bit unpredictable at this time so pack accordingly!

Summer is the most popular time to visit, so you will find the most tourists during this season. This also leads to increased prices around the park. However, during summer, you will be able to experience everything the park has to offer. All the attractions will be open and accessible. You will also be able to partake in the summer activities – swimming, hiking, rafting, and more!

Autumn is a great time to visit the park as there are fewer tourists, great weather, and beautiful fall colors. However, this season is short, and you might miss it. The weather can change quickly into winter, so the window to experience autumn at the park can be limited.

Winter activities in Yellowstone are plentiful, and the park turns into a winter wonderland. Although, be aware that many of the roads will be closed because of the snow, so you might miss out on some of the sites. If the cold does not bother you, you will experience winter activities such as cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and even ice climbing! 

Now, let’s jump into our 3 Day Yellowstone Itinerary. 

Day 1

Start your day at Gibbon Falls, a scenic waterfall that is easily accessible as it’s only a short walk from the parking lot. It’s a great place to start the day, breathe in the fresh air and take some pictures before you continue on the rest of your journey.

Next stop, Norris Geyser Basin. Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest thermal area in Yellowstone and is home to the world’s tallest geyser. Steamboat Geyser is the world’s tallest geyser, standing at 400 feet. There is a Norris museum where you can start your tour and learn about the area. You can also take guided tours of the sites from here.

You can travel to Mammoth Hot Springs next. Mammoth Hot Springs is a unique hot spring to the others you will find in the park. It almost feels like you have stepped into another world. The rainbow colors of the hot spring are distinctive and magnificent. You can’t swim in these hot springs, but the scenery is fantastic and shouldn’t be missed.

Just 4 miles from Mammoth Hot Springs, you will find Undine Falls Viewpoint. You don’t need to hike to get to the falls, so it’s easily accessible and a great stop to stretch your legs. Once you park, it’s a short walk to see these beautiful falls. It’s not common to be able to see such an impressive waterfall with minimal effort!

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The last stop of the day takes us to Lamar Valley. Lamar Valley is situated in the northeastern corner of the park. This is one of the best places to spot wildlife, and you won’t be disappointed!  Wildlife you might find includes bison, badgers, grizzly bears, osprey, deer, coyotes, and bald eagles.

Day 2

The first stop on Day 2 is at the Upper Geyser Basin. This area has the largest concentration of geysers in the world! As such, most of Yellowstone’s geysers are located in the Upper Geyser Basin. The site is broken up into five sections. 

The most famous geyser being the Old Faithful Geyser. Old Faithful erupts every 90 minutes! You can get a seat if you’re lucky to watch it erupt or hike up to the viewpoint to watch it from an aerial view.

Next stop, the largest hot spring in the country – Grand Prismatic Spring. The Grand Prismatic Spring is also the third-largest in the world. The hot spring is massive and has bright colors, making it unique and picture-perfect.

Up next, time for a swim! Drive to the Boiling River, where you can take a dip in the river. Don’t worry – it’s not too hot! The hot spring waters mix with the cold river, making it a comfortable temperature for a swim. 

Day 3

The last day in Yellowstone! 

First stop, West Thumb Geyser Basin, a small and colorful geyser. The geyser boasts aqua blue mineral water. This geyser is unique because you get two views in one. There is a scenic lake, which makes a picture-perfect backdrop for this site.

The next stop is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Yes, Yellowstone has its own Grand Canyon! This is one of the most breathtaking spots inside the park. The colorful canyon walls and sparkling waterfalls will make you want to spend hours here (and take endless pictures). 

There are numerous viewpoints you can hike to. Artist Point is the most popular viewpoint, as it is only a short hike to get to, and the views are phenomenal.

For a short hike, Uncle Tom’s Trail is a staircase that takes you down the canyon. As you are going into the canyon, you will get a unique viewpoint. The stairs are steep, so while going down might be easy, be prepared to go back up!

Fairy Falls Trailhead Parking Lot is the next stop to find even more amazing scenery of the park. You can hike up to the Grand Prismatic Overlook. The trek to the top is a bit of a workout, but the views are worth it! 

Last stop of the day, Lewis Falls. The falls are easily seen from the road or from a nearby bridge. It is easily viewable with little effort – the perfect finish to an exciting day. The falls are incredibly gorgeous during the autumn when the trees have turned pretty fall colors.

Final Thoughts

Yellowstone can seem overwhelming at first glance, as there is so much to see and do! Having a plan ahead of time will ensure you don’t miss the best spots and waste your time figuring out where to go next. 

It’s recommended to download the Yellowstone app on your phone before you go! There is limited service within the park, so this will help you get around and know when the geysers will erupt!

Yellowstone is a special place for the whole family. The natural geysers, hot springs, and surrounding wildlife all contribute to this breathtaking park and unforgettable experience.

Disclaimer: Traveling these days remains uncertain, so make sure to stay safe to protect yourself and others at all times. Many hotels offer free cancelations at the moment, so you should book a hotel that allows you to change your plans if you need to. Remember that traveling right now is at your own risk.

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