Exploring Yellowstone National Park | Itinerary, Favorite Sights, & Tips for Visiting

Yellowstone National Park was the first nationalpark to open in the US, and is one of the most popular destinations in the county.

It’s a place that’s known for its wildlifeand geothermal landmarks, and is even designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Hey, how’s it going everyone? It’s Ernest from Trip Astute.

In this video, we’re doing a destinationreview of Yellowstone National Park, a place that should be on your bucket list, if youhaven’t been there already.

A lot of you know that we are huge fans ofthe National Parks, so it only seemed fitting that we went on a National Parks road tripfor our Honeymoon last September.

Our trip covered six national parks in twoweeks and in this video we’re focusing on our Yellowstone adventures.

Yellowstone National Park is one of the largestNational Parks at around 2.

2 million acres, and spans across three states; Idaho, Montanaand Wyoming.

It was also the US’s first national park, established in 1872, and is a place that draws about four million visitors every year.

There are five entrances to the park.

We entered through the West Yellowstone entrancewhich is about a five hour drive north of Salt Lake City.

If you’re coming from another direction, you have the option of entering through one of the other four entrances.

In fact, even though we came in through thewest entrance, we left the park using the South Entrance which connects to Jackson Holethrough Grand Teton National Park.

In this video, I’ll be reviewing our itineraryfor visiting the park, as well as some tips in case you’re planning a visit.

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So, let’s start with a rundown of our itineraryand favorite sights.

Keep in mind that we had five days, four nightsto explore the park.

This was enough time for our trip, althoughwe definitely could have squeezed in an additional day of hiking.

Also, we visited in mid-September of 2019, which is considered off-peak season for the park.

After our five-hour drive from Salt Lake Citywe stopped in West Yellowstone for a night before heading into the park first thing thenext morning.

We stayed at the 1872 Inn, which was justoutside the West entrance.

Before entering the park, I highly recommendthat you stop at one of the visitor’s centers for a park map to help you plan your trip.

We opted for the West Yellowstone VisitorCenter, located not far from the park entrance.

West Yellowstone has a variety of restaurantsand stores to visit.

It was good launching point to start our adventuresin the park.

Day 1We entered the park using the West Entrance, which was busier than we expected, given thatit was September.

After clearing the entrance, we drove a shortdistance and found our first hot springs.

Terrace Springs is one of the more modestsprings in the park, however it was still exciting to see, especially since it’s oneof the first landmarks to check out when entering the park.

Since we were staying at Canyon Village forour first two nights we continued westward into the park.

There were plenty of stops along the way.

For example, we stopped at Gibbon Falls tosee the beautiful waterfalls which flow into the Gibbon river below.

Not too far north of Gibbon Falls is BerylSpring, a steamy hot spring located along the side of the road.

The amount of steam generated by the springwas incredible to see, though be warned that it also means that the area has a strong odorof sulfur.

A little further up and we reached ArtistsPaintpots, and were glad to be able to stretch our legs with a short 1 mile hike.

The hike loops around a basin of bubblingsprings, geysers and mud pots.

The trail elevates above the basin so youget a spectacular view of the artists paintpots and the over 50 thermal features surroundingthe area.

Our last stop of the day before heading toour hotel was the Norris Geyser Basin.

This is more of a substantial stop and I’drecommend putting aside a couple of hours to explore here.

There are two sides of the basin, and we startedoff with the back basin area.

Here we were able to see the Steamboat Geyser, which unfortunately didn’t erupt while we were there but we could still see the steambillowing from its base which was pretty cool.

As with many of the geysers in Yellowstone, the timing of eruptions can be sporadic and difficult to predict so it’s best to checkin with the park rangers at the visitor centers if there is a specific eruption you’re hopingto see.

After exploring the back basin, we walkedaround the main basin which was our favorite sight of the day.

There were so many spectacular colors, steaminghot springs and more bubbling thermal pools which made it a really beautiful environmentto explore.

After finishing up at the Norris Geyser basin, we made our way to Canyon Village to check into our hotel, the Canyon Lodge hotel.

The hotel was pretty basic especially forthe price.

You’re definitely paying a premium to stayin the park but it’s worth the cost being so close to many of Yellowstone’s landmarks.

Given the vast size of the park, you couldwaste a lot of time driving in and out each day, so if you can plan in advance it’swell worth securing your accommodation inside the park.

It’s also worth noting that there are campsitesavailable for more reasonable lodging options.

Canyon Village offered many amenities includinga gas station, restaurants, general store and a visitors center, along with comfortablelodging at the Canyon Lodge hotel.

We did have to book in advance.

In fact, we made our booking in January fora September visit.

For dinner on day one, we drove through theHayen Valley to the Lake Yellowstone hotel restaurant.

We made reservations in advance, which wehighly recommend as there was a long line of people waiting for a table without reservations.

We were spotted a bison spotting right outsidethe restaurant and had some beautiful views of the lake.

It’s worth leaving some time for a slowdrive through the Hayden Valley for possible wildlife spotting.

We saw bison and wolves, albeit from a veryfar distance on the drive.

Definitely bring binoculars! Day 2We started day two with a drive to Artist’s Point (via South Rim Drive), which has awesomeviews of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the lower falls.

There are a few stopping points in this area, including Uncle Tom’s overlook and Upper Falls View, which all offer spectacular viewsof the falls and canyons.

We then headed to North Rim Drive and parkedup at the “Brink of the Lower Falls” trailhead.

We hiked the short but steep path to the topof the falls.

We took the scenic drive to Inspiration Point, for a different perspective on the canyons.

From here, we took Norris Canyon road throughthe park and turned north at Grand Loop road towards Mammoth Hot Springs.

This was a really scenic drive and offereda couple of stopping points along the way, including the “roaring mountain”, whichbellowed steam from cracks in the ridge.

We reached Mammoth Hot Springs, which is anotherpopular area of the park to stay.

There is a nice hotel with many amenitieshere, and the main attraction of the area – the hot springs.

We stretched our legs with a loop around thehot springs and made a stop for coffee in one of the many cafes in the area.

From Mammoth Hot Springs, we continued alongthe main road towards Tower Junction.

A few miles before reaching the junction, we took “Blacktail Plateau Drive”, a scenic unpaved road suitable for most vehicles.

This ended up being a hidden gem of the day, as we spotted a herd of charging bison along the side of the road.

At Tower Junction, we took the North EastEntrance road to explore the Lamar Valley.

This was definitely the area where we sawthe most wildlife in the park, and it helped that we visited late afternoon / early evening.

We saw hundreds of bison in the fields, elk, and there were even some spectators with binoculars on the lookout for Yellowstone’s famouswolves.

This was the highlight of the day, and itwas such an experience to be able to get so close to the wildlife.

After visiting the Lamar Valley, we drovethrough Dunraven Pass back to Canyon Village, and we managed to spot a black bear from theside of the road.

For dinner, we were able to grab a quick biteat Canyon Village.

We noticed most places closed early, so makesure you plan accordingly when visiting the park.

Day 3After checking out from our two night stay at Canyon Village, our next stop was the OldFaithful Inn for our last two nights in the park.

We made our way to the US highway 191, whichloops down past many geysers towards Old Faithful.

In fact, this is the area of Yellowstone thatis most well known for its geysers.

There were many stopping points and plentyof geysers to explore in this area, it’s worth picking up a map to help guide you throughthis area although we found it easy to just stop each time we saw an interesting sign.

One of the most popular and iconic landmarksin Yellowstone is the Grand Prismatic Spring.

Our first attempt at seeing the famous springfrom ground level didn’t go very well.

It was very misty in the area and we weren’table to get that postcard view that we’d been hoping for.

However, we came back the following day andhiked to a viewing point from the Fairy Falls trailhead.

The hike was less than two miles and was afairly easy hike.

This is definitely worth the effort to geta better view of the Grand Prismatic Spring.

After exploring some of the geysers in thearea, we stopped for lunch at the Old Faithful General Store and walked over to watch OldFaithful erupt at around 3pm.

Old Faithful gets its name due to the regularityof its eruptions.

If you visit one of the nearby visitor centersyou’ll be able to get an approximation of the next eruption.

It’s typically every 90 minutes, makingit a lot more frequent than some of the other geysers in Yellowstone.

We checked in to the Old Faithful Inn, a historicand beautiful hotel nestled right next to the Old Faithful geyser.

The inn was built in 1904 and is the largestlog structure in the world.

It has multiple levels that overlook the lobby, giving it a very magical feeling.

We loved the charm of this hotel, and enjoyedlistening to live music while relaxing with a drink on the balcony.

It’s worth noting that there are a coupleof different styles of room, most of which have a shared bathroom.

Since we visited during our honeymoon, wesplurged on a room with a bathroom which gave us a little more space.

However, if having your own bathroom is apriority, you’ll want to reserve your room way in advance.

We had dinner at the Old Faithful formal diningroom and also it’s more casual counterpart, the Bear Pit.

Both offered good dining options and werevery convenient when staying at the Inn.

Day 4On day 4, we drove to the Fairy Falls trailhead for our second attempt at viewing the GrandPrismatic Spring.

As I mentioned earlier in the video, it wasmuch clearer on our second try, and was definitely worth the short hike to the viewpoint overlookingthe Spring.

It really is as spectacular as the postcards! We also explored Biscuit Basin and the SapphirePool, where we saw geysers erupting as we walked around the basin.

We then made our way back to the Old FaithfulVisitor Center to check out eruption times before exploring Geyser basin by foot.

Just a short walk from the Old Faithful Innis a geyser basin with accessible broad walks to explore the many geysers and springs inthe area, including one of our favorites, the colorful “Morning Glory Pool”.

Day 5On our last day, we checked out of the Old Faithful Inn and drove south to West Thumbto explore our last geyser basin before leaving the park.

This is one of the few geyser basins nextto water, and it looks out across the huge Lake Yellowstone.

We explored the area and spotted Elk grazingnear the warm geysers.

We then drove to Grand Teton National Parkwhere we spent the next couple of days.

During this trip, we did come back to LakeYellowstone for a Kayaking tour with Rendezvous River Sports.

This was one of our highlights of the trip.

We were able to get a completely differentperspective of the park from the water, and enjoyed kayaking past West Thumb geyser fromthe water.

Overall, Yellowstone completely exceeded myexpectations.

The things you’ll see in the park are trulyunique, and the abundance of wildlife is hard to believe.

I went into this trip thinking that Yellowstonewouldn’t live up to the hype, but I was glad to be proven wrong.

And one thing that impressed me about YellowstoneNational Park is its accessibility.

Most of the major attractions are easily accessibleby all ages and levels of mobility.

Since there is so much geothermal activityin the area, many of the paths are restricted by a boardwalk or defined trail.

This means that it’s important for parentsto watch little ones who might try to walk off the path.

However, it also means that folks with mobilitychallenges can enjoy all the sights and sounds of the park.

If you’re planning a trip to YellowstoneNational Park, here are a few tips to keep in mind.


Make dinner reservations in advance: We hadto settle for an early reservation and a late reservation as we didn’t book until theweek of our stay.

I highly recommend making dinner reservationsas soon as you’ve booked your trip as the dining rooms have limited seating and fillup quickly.

Also, If you’re planning on eating aroundOld Faithful, you may want to time your reservation around the time of an eruption since it tendsto be quieter before all the crowds come in 2.

Get a room charge card: When you check intothe park hotels, you often are given the option of placing charges to your room.

You can charge meals and even some gift storepurchases on this card.

This is particularly useful if you’re apoints and miles enthusiast.

The final bill will charge everything intoyour room which codes as lodging, meaning that you earn extra points if you’re usinga card with a travel bonus category.


Join the Yellowstone Forever Foundation: Thereis a one off charge of $35, and membership comes with a free gift and 15% off purchasesaround the park.

Not only are you contributing to a great cause, but it’s also tax deductible.


Bring reusable water bottles: The park doeshave water stations at the visitor centers.

Rather than paying money for bottled water, I highly recommend refilling bottles at the stations to save money and reduce plasticwaste.


Use cruise control when driving through thepark: It’s easy to get distracted with all the sights and wildlife, and I often losttrack of the speed limit while driving though the park.

To help keep you at the right driving speed, I recommend using cruise control.


Bring binoculars: It’s hard to not to havea close encounter with wildlife while visiting Yellowstone.

However, many of the most sought after wildlifelike bears and wolves are usually further away.

I highly recommend packing a pair of binocularsso you can get a better look at the wildlife from afar.


Download offline maps and any other entertainmentbefore entering the park: Expect limited to no connectivity while in the park.

Even when connected to WiFi, we struggleddownloading pictures.

We liked this aspect of the visit, as it wasnice to disconnect during our honeymoon.

Though I did notice a lot of grumpy teenagerswho couldn’t load their Instagram feed over wifi.


Prepare for temperature and weather variations:The temperature can vary significantly from day to day, so pack with this in mind.

One day it was in the 60s and two days latertemperatures were in the 30s! We had to buy extra hats and gloves at thevisitors center to keep us warm.


Pack polarized sunglasses: Polarized lensesfilter much of the glare, especially when looking at water.

Since you’ll be visiting many geysers, havingpolarized lenses can help you see more of the contrasting colors and improve the visibility.

And finally, 10.

Be prepared for bear sightings: While we didn’thave any up close encounters with bears, we did listen carefully to the rangers warningsand rented bear spray while in the park.

We rented ours from the Canyon Lodge visitorscenter, which worked out at $28 for 3-7 days, and we could drop it off at a location nearOld Faithful on our last day in the park.

This was cheaper than purchasing a can, especiallygiven you can’t take it home on a plane.

We also purchased a bear bell for $4, andfollowed the guidance to stay 25 feet away from bison and 100 feet from bears.

The guidance from the rangers was to hikewith no less than three people.

Since it was just the two of us, we thoughtthe bell might be handy to create more noise while walking along some of the less busytrails and paths.

Unfortunately, we did see some people gettingdangerously close to some of the bison in the area, which is a terrible idea.

Visitors are injured every year because theyget too close to the animals.

It’s not worth risking your life for a photo! Have you been to Yellowstone National Park? If so, what are your recommendations? Let us know in the comment section below.

And if you have any questions, don’t hesitateto ask.

If you enjoyed this video or found it useful, please give us a thumbs up and consider sharing our video with others.

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Until next time, travel safe and travel smart.


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