Your visit to Yellowstone National Park will be an incredible experience. Nowhere else in the United States is quite like it and you are sure to remember your visit for years to come.
The enormous size and popularity of this National Park makes it a bit of a challenge if you are visiting during prime seasons.
Our family managed a wonderful visit during the month of August and I have seven tips that made our visit more enjoyable.
Seven Tips for Visiting Yellowstone National Park
Visit Yellowstone Tip One: Grand Prismatic Springs Viewpoint
Grand Prismatic Springs is one of the most iconic sites in Yellowstone National Park and you will no doubt want to visit this site on your trip.
The most iconic view of this spring is NOT the one you will get at the designated Grand Prismatic Spring parking area. Your view at this location will be at eye level. You’ll be able to see the edges of the vibrant colors, but it isn’t the view most people are looking for.
The view we were anticipating was actually located along one of the stops on the Fairy Falls Trail. It’s a much better view and the parking lot is much larger. After a fairly short, though somewhat steep hike, you are rewarded with the postcard viewpoint.
It’s worth it to do both, but make sure these two locations are on your list for early in the morning visits because they will both be crowded.
Visit Yellowstone Tip Two: Geyser Time App
Visit the Geyser Times website or download the Geyser Times app for quick access to predicted geyser eruption times.
This app is extremely handy when you want to know how much longer to wait for a potential eruption. While many geysers are unpredictable, there are plenty that erupt on a predictable time table.
Visit Yellowstone Tip Three: Sleeping in Different Locations
Yellowstone National Park is HUGE! If you intend to visit for more than one day, which I highly recommend, then spend the night by different entrances each night.
If you spend your first night near the north entrance (or in Mammoth Hot Springs) then spend the next night near the west entrance (or near the geysers). This will give you time to meander slowly and enjoy the sights while heading toward your next nighttime destination.
We entered the park at the north entrance and spent the night at Mammoth Hot Springs. The next day we traveled through the park and then slept in a cabin by Old Faithful.
By choosing different locations, you don’t have to repeat the drive back to your original location in this HUGE National Park.
Visit Yellowstone Tip Four: Stay IN the National Park
It isn’t always possible due to the cost or the timing, but if you can swing it (even for one night) then stay inside the park.
We made our reservations a year in advance and found accommodations for all six of us inside the park at Mammoth Hot Springs and then the Old Faithful Cabins.
The advantage is that you can avoid the line of cars waiting to get into the park in the morning. You can also slip out at night or in the early morning to explore the park before the crowds arrive.
We watched Old Faithful erupt by moonlight and then early the next morning we enjoyed hot tea while watching again. It was cold, but having Old Faithful to ourselves was well worth it.
Staying in the park makes it easy to enjoy some of the most popular locations without the crowds.
Visit Yellowstone Tip Five: Early Morning Visit
Even if you aren’t able to stay inside the park, do your best to rise early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
By 10 AM, the parking lots near the main sights in Yellowstone were filling up. What was once a desolate early morning eruption at Old Faithful was now a full spectator event!
Visit Yellowstone Tip Six: Bring Binoculars
Go make a note right now on your packing list that reminds you to bring a nice pair (or more) of binoculars.
Binoculars are a must have to observe the bison and elk in the distance.
Visit Yellowstone Tip Seven: Pack Hats and Gloves
You may have noticed that we have long sleeves, winter hats, and even gloves on in some of our pictures. This is true even though we visited in August.
The nights and early mornings are COLD so be prepared.
We kept a bag in the car with some winter gear so it was quick and easy to distribute. Everyone packed a pair of gloves and shoved them into a winter hat. We put everything in a drawstring bag and kept it handy during our trip.
Visit Yellowstone Tip Eight: Take a Path Less Traveled
The rangers at the Visitor’s Center are a wealth of information when it comes to selecting the best hikes for your family. Ask them for a less traveled hike that is the right skill level for your crew.
Then go hike it.
Take in the beauty of Yellowstone in a less crowded location.
You can still hit the big sights, but just make sure to get off the beaten path a little bit. Not so much that a bear gets ya, but just enough to see the beauty in a quiet place.