Perfect Yellowstone 2 Day Itinerary

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!

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

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With that being said, 2 days in Yellowstone is totally doable. If you start your days very early (8 am), you can easily see the most prominent attractions in the park and some.

However, 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 itinerary will be perfect for just about any age.

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!

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. 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 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.

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. 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.


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!

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 hit the road by 7 am.

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

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

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!

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

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1M-RGngjDO/

 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.

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 in advance.

Since we were coming from Bozeman, Montana, we decided to stay in West Yellowstone, Montana at an Airbnb.

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 Yellowstone’s main attractions.

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!

2 Day Yellowstone National Park Itinerary Review

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 guide, I’d love it if you could share/pin it! Sharing is caring!

19 thoughts on “Perfect Yellowstone 2 Day Itinerary”

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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

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