This article describes the top 5 places to visit in Yellowstone National Park and things to do at each place.
Yellowstone National Park is vast. Trying to narrow down the places to visit and things to do can be tricky. Of course, the longer you have in the park, the more you can see and do. We have listed our Top Five Places to visit in Yellowstone National Park to help you get started! Spotting, viewing and photographing wildlife is one of the top things to do while visiting this wonderful park. It can be done anytime and anywhere while visiting here. Definitely keep your eyes peeled and always consider a wildlife ‘safari’ at dawn and dusk for increased spotting opportunities.
The visitor centers always have boards inside near the ranger desk which will list where various animals were seen by visitors in the park, to include the exact location and date. This is a good place to start if you are looking for a specific animal. You will likely run into a bison or two while exploring a geyser basin or even see a coyote walking down the side of the road while driving. You may see 30 vehicles stopped on a section of road, commonly known as a “bear jam” instead of a traffic jam. However, it’s not only bears that cause these, but any wildlife including bison, antelope, elk, coyotes and wolfs.
Travel Tip: Bring a pair of binoculars for everyone and a good telephoto lens if you want to get some good wildlife photos because this is one of the best parks in the U.S. for a wildlife safari.
Click here to see a visitor’s map of the park to better understand the road layout and sightseeing locations. Read on for our Top Five Places to Visit and Things to Do In Yellowstone National Park!
1. Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin
When people think of Yellowstone National Park they often think of the Old Faithful geyser. However, there’s so much to see in this area. The interior of the Old Faithful Inn is an amazing example of national park lodge architecture and has a nice restaurant there as well. The Old Faithful Visitor Education Center is a great place to start your exploration of this area. You can pick up maps, ask a park ranger any questions you may have, watch the park movie, get the latest geyser eruption times for Upper Geyser Basin and buy a souvenir or two.
The Upper Geyser Basin Boardwalk is easily accessible from here and is where you can see many additional geysers like Beehive, Plume, Giantess, Castle, Grand, Daisy, Riverside and Great Fountain as well as many steam vents and pools. It’s definitely a wonderful boardwalk and a top thing to do in Yellowstone National Park as within one square mile it contains at least 150 various hydrothermal features.
This area is home to the Old Faithful Inn, Old Faithful Lodge Cabins, Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins, several restaurants, a Visitor Education Center, gas station, general store, post office, ranger station and first aid station. From here you are just a short drive away from Lone Star Geyser, Black Sand Basin, Biscuit Basin and Midway Geyser Basin.
2. Mammoth Hot Springs
This is the easiest place to get to from outside Yellowstone National Park as it is only a short drive from the North Entrance. The terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs are amazing in their size and formation. The pictures of these colorful travertine terraces just don’t do them justice. There are a series of boardwalks that allow you to explore the lower terraces on foot and the scenic Mammoth Terrace Drive allows you to explore the upper terraces from your automobile. If you have an opportunity to see Mammoth Hot Springs in the winter; it is absolutely beautiful.
This area is home to the Albright Visitor Center, Historic Fort Yellowstone, a gas station, general store, post office, park headquarters, first aid station, the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins and the Mammoth Campground. The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel has a restaurant and the general store sells snacks and souvenirs. The town of Gardiner is a short drive from the North Entrance of the park and has some shops and restaurants as well as accommodations. Between Gardiner and the North Entrance, you can visit the historic Roosevelt Arch, once the main entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Connecting a visit to Mammoth Hot Springs with a drive through the Lamar Valley for an evening wildlife safari is an ideal combo and something we did on our last trip.
3. The Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring, located in the Midway Geyser Basin, is the largest hot springs in the park. The bright blue color of the water with shades of yellow and orange around the edges are simply amazing. There are also a number of other hydrothermal features in this basin that are worth seeing. In fact, the section between Madison and Old Faithful has the most hydrothermal features then anywhere else in the park.
4. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
The Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River and the massive gorge that has been cut into the land are the main attraction here. There are paved walkways from the parking area to multiple viewing areas as well as more rugged trails that allow more adventurous visitors to explore the rim of the canyon more fully.
The Canyon Village area, located within walking distance of the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, is home to a Visitor Education Center, restrooms, gas station, general store, Canyon Lodge & Cabins, Canyon Campground and several places to eat.
5. The Lamar Valley
The Lamar Valley was created by the Lamar River and consists of wide open rolling hills where herds of bison, mule deer and prong horn roam. You may even see a coyote or wolf pack if you’re lucky. The Lamar Valley is an excellent location for wildlife spotting as it is one of the primary summer grounds for bison and elk, which then attracts predators such as wolves and grizzly bears. The Tower / Roosevelt area is considered the gateway to the Lamar Valley and is home to a gas station, general store, ranger station, the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins and the Tower Fall Campground. The 132 foot (40 meter) high Tower Fall is located just south of this junction.