So you have one day in Yellowstone National Park? Not to worry, you can see the best of this grand National Park, without sacrificing on any of the highlights, with this perfect 1 day Yellowstone itinerary!
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Table of Contents
How to Make the Most of One Day in Yellowstone National Park
This 1 day Yellowstone itinerary hits all the musts, without compromising on any of the iconic characteristics of Yellowstone! Take the guesswork out of planning your trip, and leave with the satisfaction that you didn’t miss a single thing!
This guide to one day in Yellowstone National Park includes:
- Logistics of Seeing Yellowstone In One Day
- What to Know Before You Go
- Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park
- Tips for Spending One Day in Yellowstone National Park
- Map of Your 1 Day Yellowstone Itinerary
- The Perfect 1 Day Yellowstone Itinerary Highlights
- Accommodations for Your 1 Day Yellowstone Itinerary
- Alternative Ways to Spend One Day in Yellowstone National Park
- Recommendations for Spending One Day in Yellowstone National Park
Can You See Yellowstone in One Day?
YES. You can absolutely see the best of Yellowstone in just one day. But it requires planning and knowledge of Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone is a MASSIVE park. There is no way to literally see ALL of Yellowstone in one day. But you can see the highlights. One way to strategically do this is to know which of Yellowstone’s 5 entrances are the best one to base a 1 day Yellowstone itinerary around.
The answer is the West Entrance at West Yellowstone.
Why is West Yellowstone the best region to base a 1 day Yellowstone itinerary around? Because it has:
- the easiest accessibility
- the most infrastructure and amenities
- the most closely grouped highlights in the park
The north, south, and eastern portions of Yellowstone are truly amazing as well, but the best things to see in those parts of the park are more spread out and isolated, which is not conducive to a 1 day Yellowstone itinerary.
West Yellowstone is the perfect home base for a 1 day Yellowstone itinerary. It is close to the town of West Yellowstone, as well as local airports. There is plenty of lodging, dining, and other amenities in West Yellowstone. But most importantly, West Yellowstone is the access point to the following highlights that you can experience during one day in Yellowstone National Park.
The west entrance at West Yellowstone has quick access to:
- Old Faithful
- Grand Prismatic Spring
- Fountain Paint Pots
- Mystic Falls
- Gibbon Falls
- Norris Geyser Basin
- Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Yellowstone River
- Hayden Valley
- and more!
What to Know Before You Go
GOOGLE MAP LOCATION: Yellowstone National Park West Entrance
HOURS: open daily (with seasonal closures of most park roads and infrastructure in winter – see details here).
FEES: $35 per vehicle
PET POLICY: pets are not allowed on trails in Yellowstone National Park
Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park
The best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is late spring – early fall. Summer is the busiest time of year for Yellowstone, and it gets quite busy with crowds. If you are planning to spend one day in Yellowstone during the summer, this 1 day Yellowstone itinerary will help save you valuable time so that you can make the most of your visit!
If you can plan a visit for late spring or early fall, before park closures for winter begin to happen, you can still experience the best of Yellowstone, with moderate temperatures, and fewer crowds in the heart of summer.
Much of Yellowstone’s roads and infrastructure / facilities close in the winter, so while some parts are still accessible, it may not be the best time of year to try and spend just one day in Yellowstone. You can get exact details on seasonal closures here.
All that being said, the 1 day Yellowstone itinerary in this post is based on the months of May – October.
Tips for Spending One Day in Yellowstone National Park
- Plan on traffic – there is always extra drive time
- Have a full tank – make sure you have plenty of gas before heading into the park
- Start early – more parking and fewer crowds on the trail
- Don’t overplan – remain flexible as things can come up (like herds of bison blocking the road!)
- Bring a picnic lunch – this will save time, and allow you to appreciate more of Yellowstone too!
- Leave No Trace – pack it in, pack it out, and leave things how you found them
- Follow posted rules – don’t leave the trail, touch / walk on geothermal areas, approach wildlife, etc.
- Do not approach wildlife – a second warning because it is that important!
- Leave pets at home – pets are not allowed on trails in Yellowstone
- Be prepared for weather – temperatures swings and mountain showers are common
Map of Your 1 Day Yellowstone Itinerary
Use this map to get to know the locations and route of your 1 day Yellowstone itinerary highlights! As you can see, West Yellowstone and the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park are ideal for your one day in Yellowstone!
Follow this map from STOP #1 at Old Faithful to STOP #8 at Hayden Valley!
The Perfect 1 Day Yellowstone Itinerary
- STOP #1: Old Faithful
- Optional Add On: Old Faithful Inn
- Optional Add On: Upper Geyser Basin Trail and Old Faithful Observation Point
- STOP #2: Grand Prismatic Spring
- STOP #3: Fountain Paint Pot Trail or Mystic Falls Hike
- STOP #4:Lunch
- STOP #5: Gibbon Falls
- STOP #6: Norris Geyser Basin
- Optional Add On: Norris Geyser Basin Museum
- STOP #7:Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Artist Point
- Optional Add On: Brink of the Lower Falls Trail
- STOP #8: Hayden Valley
Now let’s dive into the details of each of these stops along your perfect 1 day Yellowstone itinerary!
STOP #1: Old Faithful
Timeframe: 2 – 2.5 hours
Old Faithful is not actually as predictable as you may have heard, but fortunately, it tends to erupt regularly every 30ish minutes to 2ish hours. You can view recent eruptions here. Plan on the longer interval, but you might get lucky with the shorter interval, and have more time for an optional add on.
Either way, plan to arrive early for the best parking and the best start to your one day in Yellowstone!
Optional Add On: Old Faithful Inn
If you have 2.5 hours set aside for Old Faithful, but you happen to catch the eruption early and still have some time, a visit inside the iconic, rustic, Old Faithful Inn is a must. Grab a cup of coffee and take in the views from the second story windows!
Optional Add On: Upper Geyser Basin Trail and Old Faithful Observation Point
Let’s say you arrive and luckily catch an Old Faithful eruption in the first few minutes, then you have plenty of time to hike the Upper Geyser Basin Trail, for a unique perspective on Old Faithful, plus other exciting geysers along the trail!
This loop hike is just shy of 5 miles (4.9 miles roundtrip), and will take an estimated 2 hours to complete. It is rated moderate with about 350 feet of elevation gain.
STOP #2: Grand Prismatic Spring
Timeframe: 45 minutes – 1 hour
This is perhaps the most photographed and iconic sight in Yellowstone, a must see! The colors are unforgettable at Grand Prismatic Spring and Midway Geyser.
The best way to view Grand Prismatic Spring is on the boardwalk trail. It is 1.5 miles roundtrip in length, and is rated easy. Be sure to follow all posted signs regarding safety in this geothermal area, and never leave the trail!
STOP #3: Fountain Paint Pot Trail or Waterfall Hike at Mystic Falls
Timeframe: 1 hour
For stop #3, you can pick your choice of more geothermal happenings in Yellowstone, or up close waterfall views.
For quirky geothermal sightings, check out the Fountain Paint Pot Trail, with its gurgling, burbling, mud pots, colorful pools, springs, and streams, and plentiful steam vents on the Volcanic Tableland.
The Fountain Paint Pot Trail is a 0.6 mile long boardwalk loop trail that is rated easy and almost entirely flat. It is suitable for a wide range of ages and abilities. You can check out a complete guide to the Fountain Paint Pot Trail here.
If you prefer waterfalls, then choose the Mystic Falls Trail. This hike is 2.5 miles roundtrip, rated easy, and estimated to take 1 hour. It is an out and back trail whose highlight is the graceful Mystic Falls!
STOP #4: LUNCH
Timeframe: 30 – 45 minutes
Don’t overcomplicate lunch – there are many great places to pull off the road and have a picnic lunch, or many picnic areas located on the park roads. You may even get lucky and catch some wildlife sightings while you snack. Again, a picnic lunch will save you valuable time on your 1 day Yellowstone itinerary.
STOP #5: Gibbon Falls
Timeframe: 30 minutes
Gibbon Falls is a beautiful waterfall that is extremely conducive to a 1 day Yellowstone itinerary. The effort to reward ratio is definitely in your favor with Gibbon Falls. Gibbon Falls is located immediately off of Grand Loop Road, and is immediately viewable the minute you step out of your vehicle. There is a short, half mile “trail” that is really more of a viewing path that parallels the waterfall overlook. I would suggest walking a bit down the trail, away from the parking lot, as the crowds tend to thin out more, and the views are just as stunning. You and your entire group can easily enjoy Gibbon Falls in under 30 minutes.
STOP #6: Norris Geyser Basin
Timeframe: 1 – 1.5 hours
The Norris Geyser Basin is a literal “hotbed” of activity, with surprises around every corner. There is the tallest geyser in the park, Steamboat Geyser, plus handfuls of other springs, pools, vents, and geysers!
The best way to explore the Norris Geyser Basin area is on the 2.9 mile long, mostly boardwalk, trail. It is estimated to take 1 – 1.5 hours, and is rated easy. There are only a couple spots along this loop trail that are not boardwalk.
Optional Add On: The Norris Geyser Basin Museum
This small, open air museum contains lively and engaging exhibits on the area and the geothermal activity. It is very helpful especially in learning the differences between the varied examples you will see on the trail.
STOP #7: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Artist Point
Timeframe: 1 hour
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone contains the largest waterfall in the park on the mighty Yellowstone River. The views from the Artist Point lookout are the best vantage point, and contain some of the best panoramas in Yellowstone! There is no better way to experience the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone up close and personal than Artist Point!
Optional Add On: Brink of the Lower Falls Trail
Want to feel the spray from the waterfall on your face? Hike this 0.7 mile roundtrip trail as it switchbacks down to an overlook over the Yellowstone River and falls. There are some steep sections to this hike, and it is rated moderate. It is estimated to take 30 minutes to complete.
STOP #8: Hayden Valley
Timeframe: 30 minutes – 1 hour
The final stop on your 1 day Yellowstone itinerary! Hayden Valley is a beloved location for wildlife sightings. Plan to stop and do some sightseeing, and hopefully catch some views of local residents like bison, elk, or even bears! Just be sure to admire from a safe distance, do not leave your car, and do not approach wildlife!
You can spend as much time as you have left watching for wildlife, or just relaxing and enjoying the sights. This stop is the last one for an intentional reason, as you can leave it open ended since wildlife might not necessarily stick to your schedule!
If you happened to catch plenty of wildlife sightings earlier in the day just by driving or maybe during lunch, you can also choose to use this time to instead spend on another nearby sight you want to explore!
Accommodations for Your 1 Day Yellowstone Itinerary
So can you see Yellowstone in one day? Now you know you can, but if you decide to stay longer (who could blame you), or you are wanting to lodge in or near the park after your one day in Yellowstone, you have plenty of options. There are multiple accommodations to choose from for your 1 day Yellowstone itinerary, both inside and outside the park itself.
Accommodations INSIDE the Park:
Accommodations OUTSIDE the Park:
There are hotels and vacation rentals surrounding the west entrance of Yellowstone, in the town of West Yellowstone itself, and in surrounding small towns, like my personal home base for all Yellowstone visits, Island Park, Idaho.
And there you have it, now you have answered the question of can you see Yellowstone in one day!
BONUS! Pin or save a copy of this 1 day Yellowstone itinerary for easy viewing!
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- The Top 12 National Park Marathons and Half Marathons
- The 8 Best Day Hikes in Grand Teton National Park
- Guide to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park
- Guide to Mesa Falls, Idaho
- Best Outdoor Things to Do in Victor, Idaho
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