Yellowstone is quite possibly the most renowned national park within the U.S., celebrated for its scenic views, abundant wildlife and hydrothermal features. The park was established as the world’s first national park in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant, but humans have been present within the region for more than 11,000 years.
Getting to Yellowstone
During the summer, Yellowstone is accessible from five major entrances: North (U.S. 89) from Gardiner, Montana; Northeast (U.S. 212) from Silver Gate and Cooke City, Montana; South (U.S. 89) from Jackson, Wyoming; East (U.S. 20-16-14) from Cody, Wyoming; West (U.S. 20) from West Yellowstone, Montana.
Both the North and Northeast entrances are open year-round for visiting to come and enjoy the park. However, all other park entrances and interior roads close to the public at 8 a.m. on Monday following the first Sunday of November. The roads open to tracked, over-the-snow vehicles from mid-December through mid-March and begin to reopen for all other vehicles come mid-April.
Yellowstone roads have also undergone quite a bit of construction throughout the past year. For updates on road conditions, call the National Park Service at (703) 344-2117 or visit nps.gov/yell.
The entrance fee is $35 for a private, noncommercial vehicle; $30 for a motorcycle; and $20 for each visitor 16 and older entering on foot, bike, ski, etc. However, if you plan on visiting other national parks during your trip, I’d recommend purchasing the America the Beautiful Pass. For only $80 annual pass serves as your ticket to over 2,000 recreational sites which includes national parks. The pass is also good for one year past the purchase date, so don’t worry if you decide to purchase later within the calendar year.
What to See
You could visit Yellowstone a hundred times and never see the same things twice, but to aid you on your travels I’ve compiled a list below of some of the most noteworthy.
- Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
- Grand Prismatic Spring
- Mammoth Hot Springs
- Morning Glory Pool
- Old Faithful
- West Thumb
Where to Stay
In my opinion, camping is half the fun when visiting national parks. It allows you to truly be immersed within your surroundings as well as giving you the opportunity to get a jump start every morning as you’re not wasting time simply getting into the park itself. Grant Village and Lewis Lake are two of my favorite campgrounds, but additional information regarding all the camping options can be found here.
If you prefer more comfortable approach to staying overnight at the park, Yellowstone National Park Lodges – Yellowstone’s principle concessioner – offers numerous options in terms of hotels and lodges. Additionally, if staying within the confines of the park isn’t a major priority for you, there are multiple hotels and airbnbs located near the park as well.
What to Pack
While what you may need for your trip is very much dependent upon the length of your stay and what you plan on doing, below are some items I’d recommend to anyone. For a complete list on what to back, check out my Camping 101: A Beginners Guide to Camping post.
As potable water may not always be accessible, it’s important to bring a water filter or purifier of some sort if you expect to be out on trails for long periods of time. The one I currently use is the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System.
While many of Yellowstone’s famous features are easily accessible via a boardwalk, if you plan on hitting the trails I recommend investing in a good pair of hiking boots. My Danner Adrika Hiker boots have saved me countless times from twisting my ankles and the fact that they’re waterproof is a great bonus!
When entering bear country, it’s important to be bear aware. This includes being observant of your surroundings, putting food items away when not in use and carrying bear spray when exploring the park. If you’re uncomfortable with how to use and deploy the bear spray, feel free to stop at a visitor’s center and talk to a ranger.
All of the park regulations can be found on Yellowstone’s official website, but I’ve noted a few of the most relevant below:
Drones are strictly prohibited within the park.
Campfires are restricted to designated campground and picnic areas where permanent fire grates are provided. You are free to use wood purchased within the park as well as any dead, downed or detached material found within the park. Note: if you wish to collect wood within the park for you fire, please respect the policies put in place and do not detach live branches from trees. I saw a gentleman doing this during my visit to Grand Teton and it was disheartening to see someone destroy the park so easily.
Permits are required for boating, fishing and backcountry camping. You can purchase your permit at both visitor centers and ranger stations.
Prior to leaving for your trip, prepare to have no cell service once entering the park. Cell service can be spotty at best, so when trying to navigate and get around the Yellowstone app comes in handy. Not only does the app provide a map, it also contains additional resources like geyser predictions, campground availability, road closures and much more!
Share your itinerary
To ease the minds of loved ones, I’d recommend creating a rough itinerary of your travels and sharing it. As cell signal is mostly nonexistent within the park, family and friends may become worried after not hearing from you for a few days. Help ease their minds by letting them know what area you plan on being at, just incase anything may go wrong.
The National Park Service offers so many resources online, the answer to any question you may have can most likely be found on their website. To read additional resources created by the NPS, click here.