Below is our 2-day itinerary for Yellowstone National Park. We rented a car and toured the park at our own pace.
While it’s easy to spend more time in the park, severe weather in early October forced us to head to Grand Teton National Park a little earlier than we were hoping. If you’re visiting during the late fall, winter or early spring, you should always check which roads are open on YNP’s website.
Day 1 – North Yellowstone
Gibbons Falls Overlook.
This overlooks is a popular quick stop that we did on our way to the Yellowstone’s ‘Grand Canyon’. There’s a short walking path that provides views of the falls.
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Besides Old Faithful, this was one of the busiest spots we visited. One of the popular spots at the canyon is Artist Point, a lookout over the south rim with views of the lower falls. Other great viewing points are Inspiration Point, Brink of Upper Falls and Lower Falls, and Uncle Toms Trail.
An area in the northeast part of Yellowstone that boasts an abundance of wildlife. Since it’s far from many of the other main sites, it tends to be overlooked in favor of Hayden Valley. If you have the time, I wholly recommend adding this to your itinerary. We spotted countless bison, a baby pronghorn, and some elk.
Mammoth Hot Springs.
Located in the northern part of Yellowstone, its main highlights are Minerva Terrace, Palette Spring, Liberty Cap, and Canary Spring. All of the hot springs are accessible by boardwalks. Nearby is Boiling River, a natural hot spring that you’re able to take a dip in, and the historic Roosevelt Arch.
Day 2 – South Yellowstone
On our way to the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, we stopped at this large blue geyser. On the day we went, it was so windy that when we walked through we were steam blasted and our clothes became damp. Plan to leave early in the morning if you want to beat the onslaught of tour busses.
Grand Prismatic Hot Spring.
The technicolored hot spring boasts its colors from thermophiles or bacteria that are attracted to heat. While it’s the world’s third-largest hot spring, it’s the largest in the United States.
No trip to Yellowstone would be complete without seeing Old Faithful erupt. The visitor center has an eruption schedule, dining options, gift shops, and an exhibit on the geyser. While we waited for it to go off, we explored the lodge and visitor center. The lodge is the oldest, largest log cabin in the United States.
West Thumb Geyser Basin.
This was one of my favorite places in the park because of the basins’ vibrant colors and it straddles Yellowstone Lake. Since it was late in the afternoon when we visited, it was quiet due to the lack of tourists. We were able to selfishly enjoy a moment to ourselves and the inherent serenity of nature.
While on the walkways, we saw a young elk grazing, it was undisturbed by us snapping a quick photo. At the edge of the lake are Fishing Cones, natural ‘hot pots,’ which were previously used by fishermen for cooking. However, this practice is now illegal.
Mud Volcano and its surrounding areas.
We hadn’t heard of the Mud Volcano until we were at the park and referring to the map. It didn’t seem to be a popular spot, but it was interesting and informative. The immediate landscape had changed due to a recent earthquake that exposed even more volcanic activity. Fortunately, it was a quick trip around the boardwalks to see all of the cauldrons because of the horrendous sulfuric smell.
In the same area, across the street is a small parking lot that overlooks hills created by magma pushing up from inside the earth.
As previously mentioned, the day we went to was relatively disappointing. Unlike other parts of the national park, we only saw a handful of bison and no additional wildlife.
We absolutely loved our trip to Yellowstone National Park, and I would recommend it to anyone seeking the wild side of the United States. Our main takeaway was that the landscape and nature at Yellowstone are fascinating and beautiful, but also, highlights it’s dangerous power.