If you’re looking for a trip of a lifetime, here’s the itinerary we recommend for spending 4 days at Yellowstone National Park.
Use this Yellowstone National Park travel guide to know what to pack, where to stay, and things to do on your 4-day trip.
This Yellowstone National Park itinerary will detail the things to see, do, and photograph each day.
Plus we’ll provide alternative suggestions so you can create a Yellowstone itinerary that’s tailored to what YOU want to see and do!
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A Photo Tour of Yellowstone Waterfalls
Take a visual tour through Yellowstone National Park to see the stunning landscape and waterfalls you’ll find in the park!
Tips For Visiting Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is a massive park. Be patient and flexible! The maximum speed limit is 45 miles per hour. It will take more time to travel the long distances from area to area so know that in advance so you can relax and enjoy the park.
The park covers roughly 3,500 square miles of wilderness and includes parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.
Yellowstone National Park sits atop a volcanic hot spot that creates a unique, natural landscape that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. You’ll see canyons, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, forests, colorful hot springs, hot pools, and mesmerizing geysers.
You’ll see bears, wolves, bison, elk, and antelope in Yellowstone. We’ve written all about our recommendations for the best places to see Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park.
Here are some guidelines to viewing wildlife:
- Buffalo or bear jams: be patient and know what to do in a buffalo jam!
- Use pullouts: watch wildlife and take pictures using the pullouts – DO NOT stop your car in the middle of the road!
Take safe selfies: be aware of your surroundings and never approach animals.
When to Visit Yellowstone National Park
The best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is during one of the park’s shoulder seasons from April through May and September through October. Most of the crowds visit the park throughout July and August during summer vacation.
You can also avoid crowds by visiting Yellowstone National Park during non-peak hours before 8:00 am or after 3:00 pm.
Our favorite months for a Yellowstone vacation are May, October and during the winter. We think they are the best times to visit yellowstone for wildlife.
Here’s what you can expect during each season of the year at Yellowstone:
- Yellowstone in the Spring
- Yellowstone Summer Vacation
- Yellowstone Vacation in the Fall
- Yellowstone Winter Vacation
Yellowstone Operating Hours
Yellowstone is open year-round. But not all roads and services are open year-round so check the operating hours & seasons.
Entrance Fees at Yellowstone
There are a variety of passes available to visit Yellowstone National Park. Check the website for the most current Yellowstone fee prices and information.
We recommend you purchase the National Parks Pass, especially if you’ll be traveling through the south entrance between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. You will need to purchase a separate pass for Grand Teton.
You can access Yellowstone through five park entrances when the park is full open: West (near West Yellowstone), North (near Gardiner), Northeast (near Cooke City), East (near Cody, Wyoming), and South (between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park).
Yellowstone sits above 6,000 feet in elevation so the daily Yellowstone National Park weather patterns can vary unpredictability throughout each month of the year. Expect and be prepared for significant seasonal changes in temperature, rain, and snow.
Be prepared for extreme cold when packing for a winter vacation in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone weather in the spring and fall, daytime temperatures can vary between 30°F and 60°F in a single day, with overnight lows in the teens and single digits. Snow storms can roll in any time throughout these seasons, with accumulations of 12 inches in a twenty-four hour period being quite normal.
Yellowstone weather in the summer, daytime highs can range between 70°F and 80°F in lower elevation areas. Nights are also typically cooler, with temperatures below freezing at higher elevations. Thunderstorms are also common throughout the afternoon during the summer months.
Yellowstone weather in the winter, average daytime temperatures range between zero and 20°F, with sub-zero temperatures common throughout the evening. Be prepared for significant amounts of snow and cold!
Yellowstone Pets Policy
Pets are not permitted on boardwalks, hiking trails, in the backcountry, or in thermal areas at Yellowstone.
If you do decide to bring a pet with you on your Yellowstone vacation, please remember that pets may only accompany people in developed areas and must remain within 100 feet of roads, parking areas, and campgrounds at all times.
Pets must also always be physically controlled while in either a car, crate, or on a leash that is no more than six feet long. They may not be left unattended or tied to an object at any time.
It is recommended that pets are not left in a car unattended. Owners are required to pick up after their pets and dispose of their waste.
Yellowstone Goods and Services
Check the Yellowstone website for operating hours and seasons for the various services in the park.
Yellowstone Visitor Centers
- Old Faithful Visitor Education Center (open daily between April and early November)
- Canyon Visitor Education Center (open daily between May and mid-October)
- Fishing Bridge Museum and Visitor Center (open daily between late May and late September)
- Grant Village Visitor Center (open daily between late May and late September)
- Madison Information Station (open daily between late May and late September)
- Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth (open daily, year-round, between 9:00 and 5:00 pm, at Mammoth Hot Springs)
- Norris Area Museums (The Norris Geyser Basin Museum and the Museum of the National Park Ranger are open daily between late May and late September)
- West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center (open daily, year-round and located in the town of West Yellowstone)
Many of these visitor centers also contain park stores that sell a variety of different souvenirs: books, artwork, and educational materials.
Yellowstone Service Stations
These service stations offer 24-hour, year-round, credit card fueling: Canyon Village, Fishing Bridge, Grant Village, Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, and Tower Junction.
Yellowstone Cell Service
Cell service is limited in Yellowstone since cell towers are only found at Mammoth Hot Springs, West Yellowstone, Old Faithful, Grant Village, and Mount Washburn. You’ll find the best service near the most developed areas of the park, as well as at both the North entrance and West entrance.
Guests can use free WIFI services at Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth Hot Springs (WIFI is also available at some hotels and lodges around the park).
Yellowstone Medical Services
- Mammoth Clinic
- Lake Clinic
- Old Faithful Clinic during the summer
All clinics are open to the public and fully equipped for most medical emergencies and routine care. Services include injury/illness treatment, x-rays, and some lab and pharmacy services. If in-patient care is required, clinic staff can stabilize patients and transfer them to hospitals outside the park.
Miscellaneous Services at Yellowstone
- Powell Lock for locksmith services
- US Post Offices: Canyon Village, Grant Village, Lake Village, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Old Faithful.
For visitor convenience, general stores, gift shops, mini stores, and park stores can be found throughout the park allow visitors to buy a wide variety of gifts, food, and travel essentials.
Yellowstone National Park Map
You’ll find printable and interactive Yellowstone maps helpful to navigate through the park.
Yellowstone & Grand Teton AUDIO TOUR
“Download the app to your phone – no cell or wifi service needed. Based on your GPS location, the app takes you on a guided tour of the park and points out all the interesting features and stops. It’s like having a park ranger in the car with you.”
Itinerary for 4 Days at Yellowstone National Park
Creating Yellowstone itineraries for people to follow is tough because everyone likes to see and do different things.
Some visitors enjoy the thermal features, but others would prefer to skip those areas and focus on wildlife or hiking instead.
We’ve put together this 4-day itinerary based on the regions within Yellowstone. You’ll find a list of things to see, do and photograph in the area. That way, you can tailor the itinerary to fit the things YOU want to do!
Here’s a list of things to do at Yellowstone National Park to add to your vacation itinerary when visiting the North and South Loops:
You can also book a tour to drive the Yellowstone Grand Loop Road! We recommend the GyPSy Yellowstone Audio Tour!!
Day 1: Lamar Valley, Tower/Roosevelt and Mammoth
Get an early start because your best chance to see wildlife in Lamar Valley is BEFORE the sun rises. Stay alert as you drive through the park in the dark. The herds of bison in the park are known to walk on the road so drive slow when it’s dark!
TIP: If you see lots of cars and people with scopes, stop and ask what they’re looking at. Most people are happy to share their bear or wolf sightings! Or you can book a Lamar Valley Wildlife Tour!
Lamar Valley Points of Interest:
- Slough Creek Road: popular spot to see wolves in the distance
- Osprey nest between Slough Creek and Lamar Valley
- Lamar Valley overlooks and turnouts to look for wildlife
- Soda Butte: quick stop
- Pebble Creek: moose love this area
- Soda Butte Picnic Area: moose can be found here too
Lamar Valley Hiking Trails:
Drive to Tower Fall.
Walk the short trail to see Tower Fall. This is a good place to eat lunch. The Tower Fall General Store has a yummy Tower chili dog and ice cream.
At Roosevelt you’ll find the Lodge and cabins, a store, restaurant, gas station, and horse rentals. One of the fun things to do here is ride out to Yancy’s Hole on a horse or in a covered wagon to enjoy the popular Old West Dinner Cookout.
The Tower/Roosevelt area is a terrific place to see black bears, grizzly bears, and bison!
Drive from Tower-Roosevelt to Mammoth Hot Springs – places of interest along the way:
Mammoth Hot Springs
You’ll find a lot of things to do at Mammoth Hot Springs:
- Visit the Albright Visitor Center
- Tour Historic Fort Yellowstone
- Explore the Lower hot springs terraces
- Drive along the Upper Terrace Drive
IMPORTANT: Elk live in the Mammoth Hot Springs area all year. Remember they are wild and unpredictable. Each year visitors are chased, trapped, and sometimes injured by elk, especially during the elk rut in the fall when bull elk become extremely aggressive! Follow the guideline to stay 25 yards away from elk.
Day 2: Madison and Norris
Drive through Firehole Canyon first thing in the morning. Firehole Falls is one of our favorite Yellowstone waterfalls to photograph!
Drive from Madison to Norris Geyser Basin – points of interest along the way:
Norris Geyser Basin
You’ll want to get to the Norris Geyser Basin in the morning to score a parking spot! The basin consists of two areas: Porcelain Basin and the Back Basin.
Porcelain Basin is barren of trees, but you’ll experience sounds, colors, and smells as you walk along the 3/4-mile trail and boardwalk in the area.
Back Basin is more heavily wooded. You’ll see features scattered throughout the area as you walk along the 1.5-mile trail of boardwalks and bare ground that encircles this part of the basin.
Pack a lunch and eat at Norris Geyser Basin or find a nearby picnic area. Norris Meadows is a beautiful place to enjoy lunch…and it has a pit toilet!
Drive from Norris to Mammoth – points of interest along the way:
- Museum of the National Park Ranger
- Frying Pan Spring
- Roaring Mountain
- Sheepeater Cliff (picnic area with 1 vault toilet)
- Swan Lake Flat
- Rustic Falls
Watch for grizzly bears and black bears along this drive. The meadow around Swan Lake is a fun place to stop – we’ve seen grizzly bears, elk, and swans here!
Rustic Falls – once you leave the open meadow area and head down the mountain toward Mammoth, be sure to pull off at the second turn out on the right. You can’t easily see Rustic Falls as you drive down so you’ll need to stop, get out, and look back to see these pretty falls!
If you need more time to explore Mammoth, this would be a good time to do it!
Day 3: Canyon, Hayden Valley, Fishing Bridge
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
We recommend you drive the North Rim road first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds and find a parking spot.
North Rim Drive:
- Brink of the Lower Falls Trail – spectacular place to feel the power of the Yellowstone River
- Red Rock Point Trail – leads to a scenic lookout point
You can drive along the North Rim road and stop at the various pullouts to see different views of the canyon. OR you can park in the main lot and walk along the canyon rim.
Brink of the Upper Falls – take the short walk to the overlook platform.
South Rim Drive:
- Upper Falls Viewpoint (Uncle Tom’s Point)
- Artist Point Overlook
You’ll find Canyon Village dining options for lunch, or pack your own lunch to enjoy at any picnic spot in the area!
If you’ve got time, check out the Canyon area day hikes!
Drive from Canyon to Fishing Bridge – points of interest along the way:
- Hayden Valley – great spot to see wildlife!!
- Sulphur Caldron
- Mud Volcano
- LeHardy’s Rapids
- Fishing Bridge – it’s a fun stop to park and walk on this historic bridge!
Drive toward the East Entrance – points of interest along the way:
- Mary Bay
- Steamboat Point
- Sedge Bay
- Lake Butte Overlook
If you keep going on this road, it takes you to the East Entrance and on to Cody, Wyoming.
Day 4: Old Faithful, West Thumb, Lake, South
Old Faithful Area
Here’s a list of all the points of interest near Old Faithful!
- Lower Geyser Basin
- Fountain Paint Pot
- Firehole Lake Drive
- Midway Geyser Basin – Grand Prismatic
- Upper Geyser Basin
- Biscuit Basin
- Black Sand Basin
- Old Faithful Geyser – a must-do activity to see the most famous geyser!
- Historic Old Faithful Inn
- Grand Prismatic Overlook
- Fairy Falls
- Mystic Falls
You can also book Old Faithful Area TOURS!
Old Faithful dining options or eat your own picnic for lunch.
Drive from Old Faithful to West Thumb – points of interest along the way:
- Kepler Cascades
- Continental Divide
Explore the West Thumb Geyser Basin where you’ll find two circular boardwalk trails totaling 0.75 miles pass by colorful hot pools and springs, steam vents and mud pots.
Most of the geysers at West Thumb are just bubbling pools, but it has the added attraction of being right next to Yellowstone Lake.
From West Thumb, you can drive toward Bridge Bay and Lake Village.
Bridge Bay and Lake Village
- Day Hikes in Lake & Fishing Bridge
- Boating and Kayak TOURS at Yellowstone Lake
- Yellowstone Lower Loop Tour
OR you can drive toward the South Entrance if you’re visiting Grand Teton National Park.
Yellowstone South – points of interest along the way:
- Grant Village
- Lewis Lake
- Lewis Falls
- Moose Falls – our favorite waterfall to photograph!
Where To Stay in Yellowstone National Park
There are many options of places to stay at Yellowstone National Park that you and your family will love.
Yellowstone has a variety of different seasonal lodges for guests to enjoy. All of the lodges are open throughout the summer, but the only Yellowstone winter lodging options are: Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins and Mammoth Hot Springs & Cabins.
Always check the NPS website for the most current lodging and camping information and rates.
Yellowstone Park Lodges & Cabins
All Yellowstone Lodges are open from late spring through fall. There are only two open in the winter: Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.
Be sure to make a Yellowstone lodging reservation early!
- Canyon Lodge and Cabins: 400+ guest rooms spread across 5 hotel-style lodges, with 100+ cabins being more rustic accommodations.
- Grant Village Lodge: 300 guest rooms spread across 6 two-story, hotel-style lodges.
- Lake Hotel and Cabins: Large lodge that has hotel room-style and cabin accommodations.
- Lake Lodge Cabins: 186 cabins.
- Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins: Large lodge that has hotel room-style and cabin accommodations.
- Old Faithful Inn: Rustic lodge with hotel room-style accommodations.
- Old Faithful Lodge: Cabin accommodations.
- Old Faithful Snow Lodge: Large lodge that has hotel room-style and cabin accommodations.
- Roosevelt Lodge: Cabin accommodations.
At Yellowstone, no car camping or overnight vehicle parking is allowed in pullouts, parking areas, picnic grounds, or any place other than a designated campground.
Campgrounds reservable through Yellowstone National Park Lodges:
- Bridge Bay Campground – 432 tent, RV and ADA campsites.
- Canyon Campground – 273 tent, RV and ADA sites.
- Fishing Bridge RV Park – 310 sites that are specifically designed for hard-sided, recreational vehicles only. All sites here can accommodate double-wide trailers, have all necessary trailer hook ups, and can hold vehicles that are up to 40 feet in length.
- Grant Village Campground – 430 tent, RV and ADA sites.
- Madison Campground – 278 tent, RV and ADA campsites.
Campgrounds reservable through Recreation.gov:
- Indian Creek Campground – 70 tent, RV and ADA sites.
- Lewis Lake Campground – 84 tent and RV campsites.
- Mammoth Campground – 82 tent, RV and ADA sites.
- Norris Campground – 111 tent, RV and ADA campsites.
- Pebble Creek Campground – 27 tent, RV and ADA sites.
- Slough Creek Campground – 16 tent, RV and ADA campsites.
- Tower Fall Campground – 31 tent and RV sites.
Hotels and Vacation Rentals Near Yellowstone
Places to stay in West Yellowstone
- Holiday Inn, West Yellowstone
- ClubHouse Inn, West Yellowstone
- Kelly Inn, West Yellowstone
- West Yellowstone hotels!
Places to stay in Gardiner
- Yellowstone Gateway Inn, Gardiner – full kitchen and comfy bed, one of our favorite places to stay!
- Park Hotel Yellowstone, Gardiner – charming place to stay and loved by guests!
- Absaroka Lodge, Gardiner – beautiful location with river views!
- Gardiner hotels!
Places to stay in Cooke City or Silver Gate
- Sunny Log Home on the Creek, Silver Gate (VRBO) – the most AMAZING location with an awesome fireplace and comfy bed!
- High Country Motel and Cabins – local owners who love what they do, and make you feel so welcome!
Yellowstone South Lodging and Services:
Yellowstone Maps and Guides at Amazon: