If you love geysers, waterfalls and wildlife, you’ll find a ton of things to do at Yellowstone National Park.
Use this Yellowstone National Park travel guide that lists fun activities to do at the park so you can plan what you’ll do each day.
We share ideas for hiking trails, scenic drives, photography spots and other things to do at Yellowstone.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Printable Yellowstone Packing Lists
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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!
Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park
There are important things to know about visiting Yellowstone during each season: services available, roads open, and things to do. The time of year you visit Yellowstone will determine the things you can do.
You’ll also want to know what type of weather and temperatures to expect when you visit. If you’re not prepared with the right clothing, then you won’t enjoy outdoor activities!
For us, the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is during one of the park’s shoulder seasons, which are from April through May and September through October. Not only do these months offer visitors more temperate weather, but these seasons also give guests a respite from the intense crowds that can overwhelm the park throughout July and August when most families are on summer vacation.
Additionally, you can further reduce your encounters with park crowds by visiting Yellowstone National Park during nonpeak hours, which are either before 9:00 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.
Check out these lists of what it’s like to visit the park during the spring, summer, fall and winter.
- Yellowstone in the Spring
- Yellowstone Summer Vacation
- Yellowstone Vacation in the Fall
- Yellowstone Winter Vacation
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.”
Yellowstone National Park Map
Printable and interactive Yellowstone maps to help navigate through the park.
Things to Do at Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is the first national park established in the United States on March 1, 1872. In fact, it’s the first national park in the world!
The park is located in three states: Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, with most of the land located in Wyoming. It’s the largest national park in the United States, outside of Alaska.
Yellowstone is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. Summer, especially July and August are very busy times at the park so be patient driving the road, looking for parking and sharing the boardwalks and trails with many other visitors. You’ll find the most crowds along the Yellowstone National Park Southern Loop.
Here’s a list of fun things to do at Yellowstone:
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.
Hiking in Yellowstone
Some Yellowstone hiking trails might still be wet and muddy in early July. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when hiking at Yellowstone:
- Check with the rangers at the Visitor Center to get current trail conditions.
- Tell someone your hiking destination, route, and estimated time of return.
- What to Bring on a Day Hike: hydration pack, raincoat, warm hat, fleece jacket, insect repellent, sunscreen, bear spray, and a first aid kit.
- Stay on trails: taking shortcuts causes trail erosion and is dangerous. In hydrothermal areas, stepping on thin crust may plunge you into boiling water.
Here’s a list of hikes in Yellowstone by region:
- Mammoth Hot Springs
- Old Faithful Area Day Hikes
- Canyon Area Day Hikes
- Lake and Fishing Bridge
- Tower and Northeast
- West Thumb and Grant
Yellowstone Geysers and Hot Springs
There are five types of hydrothermal features you’ll see in Yellowstone: geysers, hot springs, mudpots, travertine terraces and fumaroles. Check out the NPS website for the latest geyser eruption predictions!
Here’s a list of the best places to see these wonders:
- Old Faithful, Upper and Lower Geyser Basin
- Grand Prismatic (Midway Geyser Basin)
- Norris Geyser Basin
- West Thumb Geyser Basin
- Mud Volcano
- Fountain Paint Pot
- Mammoth Hot Springs
Here’s a list of the main waterfall attractions:
- Canyon: Lower and Upper Falls, Brink of Upper Falls
- Firehole Falls
- Gibbon Falls
- Kepler Cascades
- Lewis Falls
- Moose Falls
- Tower Fall
- Undine Falls
Wildlife at Yellowstone
Animals can be found throughout the park at any time. Check out our detailed guide for the best places to see Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park!
During each season at Yellowstone you’ll see a wide variety of birds and mammals at Yellowstone. We find May, October, and the winter are the best times to visit Yellowstone for wildlife.
In the summer be sure to drive through Lamar Valley to Cooke City and on along Beartooth Highway to look for moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats!
Remember the parameters to keep you and the animals safe!
- Never approach animals. The animals in Yellowstone are wild and unpredictable, no matter how calm they appear to be.
- The safest (and often best) view of wildlife is from inside a car. Always stay at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all other animals, including bison and elk. You may need to use a spotting scope to see wildlife in Yellowstone.
- Never feed wildlife. Animals that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed. Keep all food, garbage, or other smelly items packed away when not in use.
- Never park in the road or block traffic. Use pullouts to watch wildlife and let other cars pass. Stay with your vehicle if you encounter a wildlife jam.
Here’s a list of camera gear we recommend if you’re serious about photographing wildlife at Yellowstone.
- Best cameras for wildlife photography
- Best tripods for wildlife photography
- Best lenses for wildlife photography
We recommend you have your camera ready to go because the wildlife you may see as you drive through the park won’t wait for you to find the camera in your car.
You’ll also want to photograph the geysers, hot pools, waterfalls and rivers. Here are some tips for taking pictures at Yellowstone.
More Yellowstone Activities
- Beautiful Yellowstone Scenic Drives
- Yellowstone Summer Tours
- Ranger Programs
- Yellowstone TOURS
- Yellowstone DAY TRIPS
Yellowstone Maps and Guides at Amazon:
Plan Your Yellowstone Vacation
Use our guides below to help you plan the perfect itinerary when visiting the park.
- Yellowstone Vacation Planning Guide
- Yellowstone Vacation Planner + 4 Day Itinerary
- Yellowstone Vacation Tips
Where to Stay 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!
- Rent an RV – have it dropped off at your vacation destination!