Yellowstone in 2 Days Itinerary | Yellowstone Travel Guide

Yellowstone National Park Itinerary in 2 Days

If you plan on visiting any National Parks this year, Yellowstone is a perfect place to start! With over 3,400 square miles within 3 states (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming), there is plenty to explore!  In this Yellowstone itinerary, I am covering the best attractions to see self-driving with 2 days in Yellowstone National Park!

Did you know Yellowstone is actually the United States’ first National Park which happened in March 1, 1872? Yellowstone is also an active supervolcano!

Make sure to add the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to your Itinerary
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone – A must on every itinerary!

Disclaimer*Please note this post contains affiliate links which I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

How Many Days Should do You Need in Yellowstone

How many days you will need in Yellowstone really depends on your travel style, however, 2 days in Yellowstone is a good place to start. If you start your days very early (8 am), you can easily see the most prominent attractions in the park and some.

If you prefer moving at a slower pace, want to camp, or plan on hiking lengthy trails, you might want to spread out this itinerary to 3 or 4 days.

We went with a large family group to Yellowstone so the below 2 day itinerary will be perfect for just about any age.

Alternatively, if you plan on just doing a road trip through Yellowstone, you can still hit some major attractions in just 1 day.

Also, if you are concerned about not seeing wildlife (like me), don’t worry! There will be plenty of opportunities to see wildlife throughout the park.

Wildlife you are likely to see in abundance are American Buffalo and Elk. Other animal sitings include Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Coyotes, and Wolves (more-likely to see in winter months).

Have less then 2 days in Yellowstone National Park? Here are the Must-See Things in Yellowstone!

Make sure to add Lamar Valley to your Yellowstone Itinerary
Buffalo herd Pronghorn at Lamar Valley

FYI- All spots were vetted by our Airbnb host who was a Park Ranger at Yellowstone for over 15 years!


Best Time To Visit Yellowstone National Park

The best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is from May to October. This is because November through April might have too much snowfall, leaving roads closed.

Depending on the experience you want, it’s still possible to visit during the winter, but you will not be able to freely roam the park, like in the summer months.

If you are interested in seeing baby wildlife in Yellowstone, the best time is May- June.

July through August will be the busiest time in Yellowstone. We visited early July and by mid-day popular stops were crowded.

September through October in Yellowstone will see fewer crowds than mid-summer and you will have an opportunity to experience Yellowstone’s Elk rut (mating season).

Elk in Front of the Albright Visitors Center
Elk in front of the Albright Visitors Center

Getting Around Yellowstone

The best way to get around Yellowstone National park is to rent a car and for this itinerary, you will definitely want to do just that. By renting a car you will get to see Yellowstone on your terms and be able to avoid crowds if you’re visiting during high season.

The next important thing to know is that there is very little cellphone reception in Yellowstone. If you have an Andriod, however, you might have better luck.

In our group, my husband was the only one with an Android (the rest of us are iPhone users) and he was the only one getting a weak single and the rest of us have zero service.

Because of this, you might also want to consider getting one of those old school car GPS that runs on satellite.

You can also utilize Yellowstone’s app. They provide an interactive map and alerts if you have service. If you download the map from their app ahead of time, it should continue to work without the internet! It will also let you know if there are any road closures which will be very important in making sure your day goes smoothly!

I will also include an interactive google map below with all Yellowstone stops in this itinerary!

Scenic views of Yellowstone National Park
Scenic views of Yellowstone National Park East upper Loop

Day 1 in Yellowstone: Bottom Loop

Yellowstone is generally broken up into 2 loops, the upper and bottom loop which covers most of the main attractions.

We stayed in an Airbnb right outside the West Entrance of Yellowstone. FYI, when it comes to booking anything for Yellowstone, it’s best to do everything well in advance because it books up like crazy!

Your entrance can differ depending on where you choose to Lodge, but overall the loop attractions will be the same, but just in a different order.

I would recommend starting as early as possible to avoid some of the crowds. However, traffic can happen at any time when wildlife decides they want to hang out on the road.

Buffalo traffic jam
These Buffalo finally decided to move to the side of the road

When visiting the park, please leave no traces, meaning anything you take into the park, TAKE BACK OUT including litter. Also please follow all the park guidelines. These include staying on the trails and staying at a safe distance from wildlife. Many people have been seriously injured by breaking these rules.

The map above covers each stop you to add to your Yellowstone Itinerary. You can save it to your Google maps to use for later!

Firehole Falls

Firehole Falls was our first stop from the West Gate Entrance. It is a nice spot to take a minute to stretch your legs and view the falls. They are not terribly huge but still nice to view.

Firehole Waterfall
Firehole Waterfall

Fountain Paint Pot

Next, stop at Fountain Paint Pot, which will be the first geothermal attraction of many. This short trail brings you in a loop of petrified trees and various hydrothermal features including geysers and mud pots.

The trail is a .5 mile loop bringing you around the boardwalk with mud pots and geysers surrounding you. You can also find restrooms here.

Leather Pool at Fountain Paintpots in Yellowstone
Leather Pool

Midway Geyser Basin

Midway Geyser is one of the best Yellowstone attractions in my opinion so I would highly recommend this stop. Here you will get to explore one of the top attractions, Grand Prismatic Hot Springs.

Grand Prismatic Hot Springs is the 3rd largest hot spring in the world stretching 370 ft in diameter. It’s as deep as a 10 story building and the colors are insanely gorgeous rainbows of blues, oranges, and golds!

If you have extra time, you might also want to consider seeing Grand Prismatic Springs from above which would give you the best view of the spring. To get there, you must hike from Fairy Falls Trailhead. The hike there and back is a total of 1.2 miles.

While there, you can also see smaller features including the Opal Pool, Turquoise Pool, and Excelsior Geyser. With even less than 2 days on your Yellowstone itinerary, Grand Prismatic Springs should be at the top of your list!

Grand Prismatic Springs is a must-see on any Yellowstone Itinerary
Grand Prismatic Springs

Old Faithful

Old Faithful is probably the most famous feature of Yellowstone and a must-see with 2 days in Yellowstone. With that being said, it will also be one of the most crowded places.

Old faithful gets its name for, well being faithful in terms of eruptions. This geyser erupts 22 times a day for about 1-5 minutes. The height of the geyser can reach 100 – 180 ft and temperatures have clocked in over 350 F.

The Yellowstone app should tell you when they are predicting the next eruption.

This is also a good rest stop for food and restrooms while waiting for Old Faithful to erupt.

Add Old Faithful to your Yellowstone Itinerary as its the most popular feature in the park
Old Faithful eruption

Old Faithful Eruption

West Thumb Geyser Basin and Yellowstone Lake

Next, head to Thumb Geyser next to Yellowstone Lake. Here you can spot tons of geysers of which have that really cool metallic orange. We even saw an elk during our visit here.

West Thumb Geyser Overview
Overview from West Thumb Geyser

Mud Volcano

Mud Volcano is actually one of the most acidic features in the park. At this point, I am sure you are used to the smell of rotten eggs, and you will get loads of that wif here! There are a couple of cool features here with a .6 mile boardwalk loop you can check out if you’re doing ok on time.

Trail to Mud Volcano in Yellowstone
The trail to Mud Volcano

Drive through Haydens Valley

From the Mud Volcano, you will continue driving up towards Lookout Point. Lucky for you, this drive brings you right through Haydens Valley! Plan to see tons of buffalo, beautiful landscapes, and even have the possibility to see grizzly bears and coyotes.

Lower Falls of Yellowstone Lookout Point

The Canyon Village area is one of my favorite places in Yellowstone! If you can, this area is just amazing around golden hour/sunset! From here, you can see a beautiful waterfall and what is known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

There are several lookout spots and hikes you can check out depending on how you are doing on time.

No matter how you view this area, just know it is beautiful!

Artist Paintpots Trail

If you still have daylight left, then make your way to the Artist Paintpots Trail. It’s a short hike to see more geysers and hot springs with an area to overlook the landscape. If you are geyser’ed out at this point, or tired, you could probably skip this one.

For us, it was on our way back to the West Gate where we needed to exit, so we figured we’d take a break to stretch our legs. To give you an idea of how long it took us to do the lower loop of Yellowstone, we got into the park at 9 am and left the park at 7:30 pm. 


Day 2 in Yellowstone: Lamar Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs

So we have made it to day 2 of our Yellowstone Itinerary! Most of the excitement in Yellowstone is definitely in the lower loop, so if you only have one day in your itinerary, I’d recommend spending it there.

The upper loop has more scenic views and lots of Buffalo! You will also be driving through elevations over 8,000 FT, which is pretty cool if you ask me!

To give you an idea of how long it took to do the upper loop; we got into Yellowstone at 8:30 am, arrived at Lamar Valley around 10 am, and then left Mammoth Hot Springs around 12:30 – 1 pm.

Scenic Views of Yellowstone
Scenic Views of Yellowstone while driving the East side of the upper loop
Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone National Park
Grizzly bear spotting on the East side of the upper loop heading towards Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley

Again we started from the West Gate and headed East, back towards Canyon Village. From there, we drove up the right side of the Upper Loop to Lamar Valley. The best wildlife spottings are generally known to be in the morning or late afternoon so we got into the park by around 8 am.

Update: The east side of the Grand Loop is currently closed as of July 2021. This is the road we took to Lamar Valley coming from the West Gate. Depending on where you are coming from, it could take a longer time to get to Lamar Valley. Double-check to see if the road has reopened. Please see the map below for reference.

Yellowstone National Park Map

The views of Lamar’s Valley are incredibly picturesque. The East side of the Upper Loop also has better chances for Black bears and bighorn sheep spottings!

Once we got to Lamar Valley, we saw a crazy amount of Buffalo in the distance, I mean herds!

I am a huge animal lover/ photographer, so driving all the way to Lamar Valley was very worth it to me, however, if you feel fulfilled with the amount of wildlife you have seen, you can consider skipping Lamar Valley.

If Lamar Valley is too far, consider checking out Tower Fall (near Tower Junction), a 132 ft waterfall and Calcite springs overlook.

Larmar Valley is a must on your Yellowstone Itinerary for lots of wildlife

Mammoth Hot Springs

After, watching the buffalo play, we headed back to Mammoth Hot Springs, another very popular feature of Yellowstone National Park. Again, this is one I would definitely add to my Yellowstone itinerary because it’s really unique!

The area itself is like a little town. You can go to the Albright visitors center, see the Mammoth Chapel, Fort Yellowstone, and of course, the springs!

The terraces of the spring look like the inside of a cave. The only difficult part is trying to find parking here, but it’s worth it!

If you still have time left, also consider swimming at Boiling River, a Hydrothermal swimming hole. The Boiling River is a hot spring that flows into the cold river water, one of the very few places you are actually allowed to swim.

Boiling River opens after the snowmelt floods which happen in spring. Therefore, Summer is the best time to go but always double-check to make sure it’s open before driving all the way there.

Elk in front of the Albright Visitors Center

Elk in front of the Albright Visitors Center

mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park, USA.
Photo by Jéan Béller on Unsplash

 How To Get To Yellowstone

Depending on where you live, getting to Yellowstone can be a little tricky. For us coming from New York, it was easiest to fly into Bozeman, Montana (BZN).

Other options are Cody, Wyoming(COD), Billings, Montana(BIL), and Jackson, Wyoming(JAC). There is also a limited seasonal service to West Yellowstone, Montana(WYS).

We headed to Bozeman after our visit to Yellowstone National Park, so it made the most sense for us. For flights, I use Skyscanner to find the best places to fly into for the most reasonable price. I’ve used them for the past 3 years and it has yet to fail me!

View of Yellowstones waterfall

Yellowstone Entrance Costs

Visiting Yellowstone National Park comes with a small price tag. It costs $35 USD per private vehicle for a 7-day pass. This does not include driving through Grand Teton.  Tickets can be given upon entrance.

If you plan on visiting more often, you can also get an annual pass for $70 USD. However, for 80 USD you can get the America the Beautiful pass which will allow you entrance into all national parks and federal recreational land.

America the Beautiful passes can be purchased here, or at your local REI.

Where to Stay in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone has lodges inside the park including Old Faithful Inn, Canyon Lodge and Cabins, and Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cottages. All Yellowstone Lodging can be booked directly of Yellowstone’s Official Website.

If you are planning to stay in Yellowstone National Park, you should look into booking your accommodations a year out. Especially now more than ever, National Park vacations have been at an all-time high, so accommodations are limited.

Alternatively, you can also camp inside the park. Use Yellowstone’s official website for campgrounds and RV lots!

Staying in West Yellowstone

Rather stay outside of Yellowstone National Park? There are tons of hotels and Airbnb’s that surround the park. Again, these go quickly, so you will want to book your stay ASAP since there has been such an uptick in National Park visits.

We came from Bozeman, Montana, so we decided to stay in West Yellowstone in Montana. 

The town is really cute with tons of places to eat and just about 5-10 minutes from the West Yellowstone Gate Entrance. This gate is also closest to most of Yellowstone’s main attractions, which makes this one of the best and most popular areas to stay in.

Some lodges to consider in West Yellowstone include:

Crosswinds Inn is one Booking(dot)com’s top picks with over 1.5k reviews! The lodge features a pool, complimentary breakfast, located .9 miles from the West Yellowstone Entrance, and just 30 minutes from Old Faithful! As a bonus, they are also pet-friendly.

Kelly Inn West Yellowstone is another top-rated hotel located in West Yellowstone. This hotel offers complimentary breakfast, an indoor pool, a hot tub, and a sauna. Kelly Inn is also pet-friendly and just a 3-minute drive from the Yellowstone entrance!

Best Western Weston Inn is located .9 miles from the West Yellowstone entrance, has a pool and hot tub, complimentary breakfast, and pet-friendly.

Alternatively, you can consider staying in Gardiner, Montana. It is located North of Mammoth Springs and a good option if you are coming from Glacier National Park. View available lodging at: Booking.com | Hotels.com

Additionally, if you have planned to do a whole West Coast National Park road trip through Yellowstone to Grand Teton National Park, you might also want to look in Jackson Hole for additional accommodation.

Jackson Hole is also extremely popular so hotels go quickly. Booking.com | Hotels.com

2 Days Yellowstone National Park Itinerary Wrap-up

Well, that was a mouthful, but I hope this itinerary helps you plan your perfect trip to Yellowstone! Of course, with just 2 days you won’t be able to see EVERYTHING, but as you can tell, 2 days is more than enough to get an idea of the park!

If tours happen to be your jam, check out Get Your Guide Yellowstone options.

For more guides and destinations here!

If you enjoyed this Yellowstone 2 Day Itinerary, I’d love it if you could share/pin it! 

Yellowstone National Park itinerary in 2 days with Free Map included and travel tips.

23 thoughts on “Yellowstone in 2 Days Itinerary | Yellowstone Travel Guide”

  1. Hi! I know this was posted quite some time ago, but I am wondering if you can share some info on the timing of it all – how long you spent in the park each day? We will also be traveling in a large group – 3 adults and 8 kids and I want to be prepared for possibly how long we will be in the park each day following your exact itinerary.
    Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Hi Mar, thank you so much for your question and thanks to the time-stamps on photos, I can give you a pretty good time estimate, however, I must say that we did not hit any animal traffic jams. We were there during 4th of July weekend. Anyways, on our first day, we were inside the park at 9am and left Artist Paintpots Trail at 7:30 pm. Some family members skipped Artist Paintpots Trail and went home after Canyon Village.

      On day two we got into the park around 8:30 am and it was a pretty long drive to Lamar Valley. We didn’t arrive until 10 am. The drive is very scenic (right side of the upper loop – unfortunately, is closed to road work), however, if you have seen a lot of wildlife the day before and you don’t care to see more bison, you could probably skip Lamar Valley and just head by Mammoth Springs. Plus, on the upper loop, the whole right side of the highway is closed which might actually make it take a lot longer to get to Lamar Valley depending where you are coming from.

      From Lamar we went to Mammoth springs and probably left the park by around 12 pm. Depending on what gate you are coming from would depend on what else you can do.

      Please let me know if you have any more questions and I will do my best to help you out!

      Reply
  2. Thank you for this! Hikes seemed pretty short these two days. Did you get by with regular gym shoes or do you recommend hiking boots?

    Reply
    • Hello Nora, I am glad you found this guide helpful! We were a pretty large group of people and regular gym shoes were fine for all of us!

      Reply
  3. I am in awe in front of those landscapes Sam! I would love to see these amazing views by myself! And all the wildlife is so impressive too!

    Reply
  4. Yellowstone has always been on my bucket list, but beyond Old Faithful, I didn’t know what there was to do! I’m actually really relieved to see that everything else is even better/more amazing!

    Reply
  5. Hi Samantha,

    Exploring Yellowstone Park is my dream! Geysers, mud volcanos, hot springs, rock formations, waterfalls… all in one place. And all the buffalos and dear hanging around is so cool!

    Thanks for this great post because I have learned a lot about Yellowstone by reading it!

    Diana

    Reply
  6. I had no idea there were geysirs here. Really cool guide that I’ll save for later. Yellowstone has been on my bucket list for a while but it will have to wait until we can enter the US again 🙁

    Reply
  7. This is a great article Sam! I’m really trying to do Wyoming and Montana this fall and Yellowstone is high on the bucket list. All of your photos are beautiful and the sites you saw were amazing! 🙂

    Reply
  8. Super helpful info, Sam! We are heading to Yellowstone in September and I will take advantage of all your tips. We still have an old school Garmin GPS for our cars so will use that since Google maps won’t work. Appreciate the heads up and all the tips on best places to see!

    Reply
    • You guys are going to have the best time! It was so odd that only Alexs android phone would work, but just a little and all our iPhones had no service – go figure! I am so excited to see your wildlife photography there! Because we went with his whole family – I was slightly limited to how long I could go animal searching and it was also before my telephoto lens!

      Reply
  9. I love visiting National Parks and while I’ve been to quite a few, I have not yet checked Yellowstone off my list! I can’t wait to visit one day as it looks absolutely beautiful. Thanks for the great guide 🙂

    Reply
  10. I love Yellowstone. And I have to say my favorite time to visit is in the winter. It’s possible to get to many of the places listed with the snow coach. beautiful photos.

    Reply
  11. This is on my US bucketlist! I’ve been wanting to visit for a while but still haven’t gotten around to it. Urgh!

    Reply

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