Planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park? We have some great and helpful Yellowstone tips for any first time visitor to Yellowstone. From essential gear to bring to how to how to avoid crowds in Yellowstone, we have you covered. We want you to have the best possible time you can have. Check our our below tips for visiting Yellowstone to plan one epic park visit!
Tips For Visiting Yellowstone
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1. Bring Binoculars
Trust us, you’ll want a good pair of binoculars for spotting wildlife. Bison tend to be right next to the road or in some cases, right in the middle of the road, but for animals like Elk, Bears, Wolves and Moose, they stay tucked away from crowds. To see a bear strolling through the valley or a moose crossing a river, you’ll want a good pair for binoculars to see that off in the distance animal up close.
2. Start Your Day Early, Especially If You Want To See Wildlife
The best time to see wildlife is the morning. So best get up before sunrise and make your way to Hayden Valley or Lamar Valley to catch wildlife. Plus, seeing a Yellowstone sunrise is never a bad thing. For us, we found bringing a thermos full of hot coffee helped with the chilly mornings and our tired eyes.
3. Pack Your Lunch & Bring Snacks
If your tight on time or looking to make the most of your time in the park, packing a lunch is always a great idea. It’ll save you time (and money) from stopping at one of Yellowstone’s in-park restaurants or, having to venture outside of the park for food.
Plan to have a cooler with you and pack it full of snacks, your lunch and beverages. You can plan to nice little picnic at one of the many pull-offs along the park or by Yellowstone Lake.
4. Stay Up To Date On Yellowstone Road Closures
Yellowstone has frequent road construction, so to avoid any bumps in your Yellowstone itinerary, know if there are any road closures that could affect your route. Yellowstone’s National Park website is the best place to stay up to date on road construction projects.
5. Don’t Underestimate The Time It Takes To Get To Yellowstone Attractions & Visit Them
We’ve been to Yellowstone twice now and we always seem to forgot just how much time it can take to get places. Be it the distance/miles, the traffic jams due to animal sightings to just the time it can take to find a parking spot, definitely allow yourself extra time to get to different attractions within Yellowstone.
Plus, not to mention once your at your destination, allow yourself the time to explore the area you’re in! For instance, the boardwalks around the Geysers are long and do take some time to walk. Enjoy your time in the park. Don’t rush through it!
6. Respect The Wildlife & Be Bear Aware
Please, whatever you do, do not get up and close with wildlife. It’s seems like a no brainer, but every time we’ve been to Yellowstone, there are always people that get a little too close to the wildlife. Not only are wildlife WILD, but provoking them can cause harm to yourself, your group or the animal itself.
Enjoy wildlife from the proper distance and make sure you have binoculars with you if you want to get a closer look.
Now, for being bear aware, it just simply means you are in bear country and bears LOVE food. Do not leave food in your truck bed or displayed in your campsites or RV sites. Keep it locked up in bear proof containers and you’ll be just fine.
7. Layer Up
One of our biggest Yellowstone tips is layers. People can forget that just because your visiting Yellowstone during hotter months, doesn’t mean it’ll be hot in Yellowstone. Trust us, you’ll want a jacket. Yellowstone is chilly and can be down right cold in the mornings and evenings. Bring a jacket or fleece that you can easily pull on and off as the temperatures change throughout the day.
8. Leave No Waste
Ok, not really a tip but we definitely wanted to drop in this reminder. Please do not litter. Don’t be “that person”. You should always be leaving nature better than you found it. Also, if you see trash, please pick it up. Yellowstone is a space for everyone to enjoy. She’s beautiful, so please, let’s keep her that way.
9. Know The Best Time To See Old Faithful
If you’re looking to escape the crowds of Old Faithful, plan to watch the geyser erupt in the morning. If you’re staying at Old Faithful Inn, you can check the estimate eruption time at the visitor center or Old Faithful’s twitter feed to plan your morning visit. Please know that times are not accurate so plan to show up 10 minutes (at least) before the next guessed eruption.
10. Book Yellowstone Accommodations & Tours In Advance
Yellowstone is one of the most visited National Parks in the U.S., meaning things book up fast. If you’re wanting to stay inside the park or just outside the park, we recommend making your reservations at least 6 months in advance. Once you have your planned reservations confirmed, it’ll be easy to plan your itinerary and route from there.
Same goes for any Yellowstone tours your looking to take. Definitely make booking your accommodations your first priority, followed by any Yellowstone tours you may be interested in booking.
11. Cell Reception Doesn’t Exist
No lie. Getting texts or calls out while in Yellowstone is tall task. With so many people in the park, everyone is trying to use the same little reception the park has. To avoid getting in a bind, plan to download anything you need before entering the park like:
- Podcasts or music playlists to listen to as you drive
- Maps of the park – maps.me is our go to
- Any accommodation confirmations you may need
Also, it’s not a bad idea to let anyone who may try and get ahold of you that you are going into Yellowstone and will have limited to no cell reception. We don’t want anyone worrying about you 🙂
12. Have A Plan
There is a lot to see and do in Yellowstone Park and depending on how much time you have, you may not get to experience it all. It’s best to plan ahead to know 1) what sights you absolutely consider are your must-see’s 2) What are the nice-to-see’s and then 3) planning your route based on this.
Not gonna lie. The first time we went to Yellowstone, we winged it. We stopped as we pleased and ended up missing some pretty great spots, like West Thumb Basin. When we came back, we had a plan of attack and route to make sure we saw what we wanted.
Check out our Yellowstone itinerary to help you plan an amazing route!
13. Know How To Avoid The Yellowstone Crowds
The last on our list of Yellowstone tips is the infamous question, “how to avoid crowds in Yellowstone.” To be honest, it’s sorta unavoidable, especially if going during peak season.
- Tip 1 is to go during the shoulder seasons. Think mid-May to end of May or after Labor Day weekend in September. We went the first week in October and it snowed, some facilities were closed but crowds were far and few in between. We loved our early October trip.
- Tip 2 is to start early. Not a lot of people are morning birds. So if you can get up and morning at first light, the earlier you get to popular sights like Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful, the less crowds you’ll encounter.
14. Be Patient
If you happen to be visiting Yellowstone during it’s peak season (summer months), be prepared to practice your patience. There will be lots of visitors who, just like you, want to see the best of Yellowstone and snap some incredible pictures.
There will be traffic jams due to animals crossing the road. You may have trouble finding a parking spot that may require you to circle the lot a few more times or park down the road. You may have to wait behind a few slow walkers on the geyser boardwalks, but just remember your in a beautiful place so enjoy it.
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For more travel tips, guides and awesome travel shots, be sure to poke around our site, follow us on Instagram @wanderingstus, Pinterest and on Facebook. Oh and if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section. We’re happy to answer. Or, just leave us a positive note!
– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)