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Yellowstone National Park

Established in 1872, Yellowstone is the first US National Park. Famous for its wildlife and geothermal activity, the park covers almost 3,500 square miles (9,000 square kilometers) stretching over parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The park boasts one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America (Yellowstone Lake), the longest undammed river in the contiguous United States (Yellowstone River), and even its own “Grand Canyon”.

Yellowstone covers a whopping 2.2 million acres (890,000 hectares) of wilderness, so guided tours are the best way to fully appreciate this massive park. There are a number of Yellowstone National Park tours suitable for any age and interest, including full-day visits of the park highlights; lower-loop tours from Jackson, Wyoming; guided trail hikes; rafting or kayaking excursions; scenic river floats perfect for young kids or the elderly; and wildlife viewing.

  • Yellowstone is home to hundreds of animal species, including black bears, grizzly bears, bison, wolves, and elk. Keep a safe distance from all wildlife.

  • The National Park Service charges entrance fees, which includes a seven-day entry permit for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

  • Annual passes provide unlimited entry for one year (valid through the month of purchase).

  • Bring attire for warm and cool weather as temps can fluctuate with altitude, and pack a hat and sunblock.

  • Yellowstone is ideal for visitors of all ages, perfect for a multi-generational family trip.

Yellowstone has five park entrance stations with visitor centers to the northwest, northeast, south, east, and west. The nearest airports are the Yellowstone Airport near the town of West Yellowstone in Montana, and the Jackson Hole Airport in Jackson, Wyoming.

You can visit Yellowstone year-round, though most roads close from early November to mid-April, when travel is limited to snowmobile and snowcoach. The park is most crowded in July and August, so plan a spring or fall trip for good weather and fewer visitors.

When it comes to Yellowston’s hot springs, the Old Faithful Geyser is just the beginning. To visit the park's geysers, enter through the West Entrance and continue to Madison, the jumping off point for geyser basins to the north and south. The Lower Geyser Basin, which includes Fountain Paint Pot, and the Upper Geyser Basin, home to Old Faithful, are both to the south. The Mammoth Hot Springs and Steamboat geysers are in the Norris Geyser Basin to the north.

The best month to visit Yellowstone National Park depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. If you want the absolute best weather, come June–August—though that means crowds. If you want a wild, snowy landscape all to yourself, come from November to February. And if you can brave a little chill for a little more elbow room, come in the shoulder season.

Yellowstone is a whopping 2.2 million acres. If you simply want to hit the most famous spots like Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring, you could get by in 2 days. But if you want to drive both the Upper and Lower Loops, catch some wildlife, and not feel rushed, you’ll definitely want to devote 3-4 days to the world’s first national park.

You do not need a reservation to enter Yellowstone National Park, though you do need a park pass. Purchase 7-day passes at the entrance or online for $35 per vehicle ($30 for motorcycles; $20 for individuals). Save time at the park gates and buy yours ahead of time at

Driving through Yellowstone will cost you the price of gas, but entering Yellowstone requires a park pass. Nab yours online or in person at the entrance—7-day passes are $35 per vehicle, $20 per individual, and $30 per motorcycle. Note that if you use the South Entrance, you’ll run into Grand Teton National Park, which is a separate fee.

Viewing Old Faithful is free, but you’ll need to pay to enter Yellowstone National Park. 7-day passes can be bought in person or online for $35 per vehicle. Individuals are $20; motorcycles are $30. To save time in Yellowstone’s typically long entrance lines, prebook your pass online at

There are guided tours in Yellowstone National Park for nearly every activity you can think of, from backpacking and snowmobiling to fly-fishing and even painting—the national park works with designated concessionaires across all these services, and their information can be found on the park website. Of course, rangers lead small guided excursions as well, most often in summer.


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