Whether you are looking for a 4 day Yellowstone itinerary – or 3 days, 2 days or 5 days – we have suggestions for making the most of your time in this amazing National Park. You can find a number of different options for the different itineraries and you can adjust each one based on your own interests.
These itineraries all assume that you will get an early start (not crazy early) but early enough to see some wildlife, and can be adjusted based on the people in your group, their interests and abilities. If you are travelling with very young kids, you may need to adjust your schedule a bit for naps and more breaks (we get it, we’ve been there!), and on the other end, if you are travelling with older kids you may be able to move a bit faster.
If you are traveling with kids, check out A Complete Guide to Exploring Yellowstone with Kids and Teens (20 Amazing things to Do).
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How many days in Yellowstone? Why a 4 Day Yellowstone Itinerary?
The right amount of time in Yellowstone depends in so many factors, many of which are likely outside your control (price, time off, flights, etc). The right amount of time in Yellowstone is however long you can stay! The right amount of time in Yellowstone also depends on what you want to see while you are there. If there were no other limiting factors, I think a 4 day Yellowstone Itinerary is the right amount of time to see some of the highlights and do some hikes without going crazy.
You can do 3 days in Yellowstone (or even 2 long days) and still have time to see the geothermal features, some wildlife and do some hiking, especially if you can stay in the park. If you only have one day in Yellowstone you will have to choose what you want to see most. If you look below you can find suggestions on how to divide up your time based on the number of days you have to explore.
What to Know About this Yellowstone National Park Itinerary
This 4 day Yellowstone itinerary is meant for the warm months – May-Oct when the park roads are open. Yellowstone National Park is huge, but still gets very crowded in the summer months (July-August) and even if the sites are still uncrowded when you get there, driving and parking can become long and slow and difficult. If you are there in the summer you should also plan for hot weather and try to do activities in the morning or evenings when possible to avoid the heat.
As mentioned above, this itinerary works well with older kids and teens, but it easy to adjust this to travel with youngers kids or without children.
If you are looking for the best things to do in Yellowstone, check out A Complete Guide to Exploring Yellowstone
Highlights for ANY Yellowstone Itinerary
Whether you’re doing a Yellowstone day trip or have time for 4 days in Yellowstone here are some of the MUST SEE things in Yellowstone:
- Go looking for wildlife – visit the Lamar and Hayden Valley first thing in the morning or at dusk
- Go for a hike – there are some great, short hikes, consider the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Fairy Falls or Mt. Washburn
- Check out some of the Geyser Basins – we loved them all, but make sure to check out Norris Geyser Basin, Midway Geyser Basin, Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin, West Thumb Geyser Basin, and Mammoth Hot Springs
Pro Tip: Wildlife in Yellowstone (especially bison that stop in the middle of the road) can cause long traffic jams of up to a few hours. Be prepared for unexpected waits and make sure you have snacks in the car.
Yellowstone Itinerary 4 Days
If you are looking for a full 4 days in Yellowstone itinerary this is it! Get ready for all the main sites, plus a few off the beaten path places to visit and since you have 4 full days you don’t need to rush quite so much. You can follow this Yellowstone 4 days itinerary exactly or switch the days around based on the weather.
For this itinerary you can plan to stay in the park at one of the campgrounds or lodges or you can book a place to stay with kids in West Yellowstone. If you stay at the same place for your 4 day Yellowstone itinerary, you won’t have to pack up everyday, but you also will do more driving. On the other hand you can book a place to stay for each night which means less driving overall.
Day 1 of your 4 day Itinerary Yellowstone
Start your first day by hitting some of the major geysers and geothermal features. If you are staying at the Old Faithful Inn, you can adjust this schedule a bit since it’s easy to pop right out to see the geyser when you’re there. This day assumes you are coming from West Yellowstone – if you are coming from Grand Tetons, you may want to switch this day and day 3, and if you are coming from the North, you can reverse today’s itinerary.
Start the day at Norris Geyser Basin. This is a large basin so can take a few hours to explore.
Next head up to Mammoth Hot Springs. You can grab lunch here.
In the afternoon stop at Boiling River Hot springs for a swim.
Add on – if you have time there are a few hikes in this area including Osprey Falls and Bunsen Peak.
Day 2 of your Yellowstone 4 day itinerary
On the 2nd day of your 4 day Yellowstone itinerary, you will want to get an early start for some wildlife viewing. Head straight to the Lamar Valley to see roaming bison. If you want, take a short morning hike at Trout Lake.
Head south and take a hike at either Mount Washburn, or the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (or do both). If you don’t hike at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, at least make sure to drive and take in the view at Artists Point or one of the many viewpoints on the North and South Rim.
Head back to your hotel for the evening.
Day 3 of Your Yellowstone National Park 4 Day Itinerary
Today focuses on seeing more geysers and geothermal features. Start at Old Faithful and the the Upper Geyser Basin. Grab some food here before you head off for the afternoon.
Next stop is at Grand Prismatic Spring. You will want to park at Fairy Falls and go to the overlook. Also take the hike out to Fairy Falls. Finish this off by going to the boardwalk to see the Grand Prismatic Spring.
Based on how much time you have, visit some of the other geothermal features along this portion of the road like the Fountain Paint Pot Trail, and drive along the Firehole Canyon Rd to see the falls.
Day 4 of You 4 Day Yellowstone Itinerary
Today you will head to the eastern part of the park and you can head south from here if your next stop is the Grand Tetons. You will either want to plan to visit the Hayden Valley early or late in the day on your final day to see the wildlife.
From here drive south along Yellowstone Lake to visit West Thumb Geyser Basin. This is a cool basin right on the edge of the lake that doesn’t take too long to explore.
From here head off or you can book a kayak tour on the lake.
If you want someone to do the planning for you, check out this full 4 day Yellowstone Tour. And if you want to add a day or only have 1, 2, or 3 days to spend in Yellowstone you can add or subtract from this 4 day Yellowstone itinerary or see other itineraries below.
5 Day Yellowstone Itinerary
If you’re looking to spend 5 days in Yellowstone (or even more) you can start with the 4 day Yellowstone itinerary and make some add-ons for your final day. You can also go back and do anything on the 4 day Yellowstone itinerary you missed or really enjoyed.
A few options for additional activities include taking a guided tour. You can find a few options below:
Another awesome activity that we did is to drive up to Bear Tooth Pass just northeast of Yellowstone. This is a beautiful drive and we strongly recommend it if you have the time.
Yellowstone Itinerary 3 days
Three days in Yellowstone gives enough time to see all the major sites in the 4 day itinerary but you will need to cram more into each day. You can also decide for yourself what to skip since you may get to a point where you’ve seen enough geyser or bison. Below you can see a suggested 3 day Yellowstone itinerary.
Day 1 on your 3 day itinerary Yellowstone
Start your day at Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin. Grab some lunch and then head over to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Take a hike along either the south or North Rim and snap some photos of this majestic canyon. Stop for some food either at Old Faithful or Canyon Village.
In the late afternoon drive through the Hayden Valley to look for wildlife. If you aren’t totally burnt out you can add a quick visit to West Thumb Geyser Basin.
Day 2 on Your 3 Day Trip to Yellowstone
Start your day in the Lamar Valley. You should plan to get there as early as possible for the best chance to see wildlife in motion.
At midday head to Mammoth Hot Springs. You can grab food here if you didn’t bring your own. Head north to swim in the boiling river hot springs or take a hike at Mount Washburn.
Day 3 on Your 3 Day Yellowstone Itinerary
On your final day in Yellowstone, start with a visit to Norris Geyser Basin. This will take most of the morning. From here take your time driving south – take a side drive down the Firehole Canyon Rd and then head to Grand Prismatic Spring. It is worth seeing this from both the boardwalk and the overlook. You can add a hike to Fairy Falls from the same parking lot as the overlook.
Yellowstone 2 Day Itinerary
If you have 2 days in Yellowstone, you will want to plan to stay either in the park or in West Yellowstone as this is the quickest place to get to outside the park. I have a few suggestions on this post of places to stay with kids in these areas. If you can, stay at the Old Faithful Inn. With two days in Yellowstone I recommend the following itinerary:
Day 1 Yellowstone in Two Days
Starting your day at the West Gate of Yellowstone, today you will drive the Grand Loop road in a counter clockwise direction. This gives you a chance to see many of the geysers in the morning and end the day going through the Hayden Valley. These are full days so if you feel like you’ve had your fill of geysers on the second day adjust your itinerary as you go.
Your first stop is the Grand Prismatic Spring. You will want to take the time to see the geyser from both the overlook and the Midway Geyser area.
Next make your way to Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin. While you’re here you may want to grab something to eat as there aren’t great options in the afternoon until you get to Canyon Village.
Mid/late afternoon – drive through Hayden Valley on your way to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. You will likely see bison and maybe other wildlife.
You will end your day at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Take the time for a short hike along either the north or south rim. Since you are well into the park, it will take time to get back to your lodging – enjoy the late day drive and keep your eye out for wildlife.
Day 2 of your Yellowstone in 2 days itinerary
On day 2, you will head back into the park and head up North. You should start your day by driving directly to the Lamar Valley to get there as early as possible. Bring breakfast in the car!
Take your time looking for wildlife in this area.
Around midday, head to Mammoth Hot Springs. You can also grab some food here and check out this amazing geothermal feature.
After leaving Mammoth Hot Springs, head towards Norris Geyser Basin. This is a large geyser basin and will take you a few hours to explore. I recommend doing both the Back Basin and Porcelain Basin.
If you have extra time you can add on either West Thumb geyser Basin on your first day, or Trout Lake on day 2.
Can you See Yellowstone in One Day?
It is possible to see Yellowstone in a day and if this is your plan, you are likely driving through from one place to another, or you are looking to spend one day at Yellowstone as a day trip from Grand Tetons National Park. If you are planning to see Yellowstone in one day you will only have time to hit the big sites. This itinerary assumes you are entering at the South entrance on the way from the Grand Tetons and returning at the end of the day through the same gate. You can adjust this itinerary to leave from a different entrance but try to plan so you are visiting the Lamar or Hayden Valley at dusk or dawn.
Please note there isn’t a great place to stop for lunch on this trip, so plan to bring something along or get snacks and find something to eat when you visit Old Faithful late in the afternoon.
8:00 Start your day driving through the Hayden Valley. Depending on where you are coming from, and the time of year, you should try to arrive here early enough to see the wildlife. You are on the lookout for bison, bear and more.
Mid-morning – Grand Canyon of Yellowstone – visit either the north or south rim, but if you only have time for one stop, go to Artist Bluff on the South Rim. You can walk part of the trail, or stop at one of the overlooks for some photos.
1:00 Grand Prismatic Spring – walk to the overlook to see this amazing spring.
Late afternoon – Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin. Watch this famous geyser and check out the other geothermal features in this basin.
If you have time and want to squeeze in some more, you can add on some of the other geothermal features near the Old Prismatic Spring. Return to the Grand Tetons or head on your way from here.
Combining Yellowstone with the Grand Tetons Itinerary
Since they are so close together, it’s very easy to combine the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone into one epic trip! On our most recent trip we did this and it was not only close and easy but a great combination of activities. The two parks are only a few hours apart (depending on where you are going to and from) and if you combine the parks it makes a great week long National Park trip. See suggestions for a Grand Tetons itinerary.
Looking to explore more of the United States National Parks? Visit our National Parks section of the website.
You might also like this itinerary for Yellowstone.