Spending at least one day in Yellowstone needs to be at the top of everyone’s National Park bucket list.
Yellowstone National Park is so unique, bordering supernatural, that it must be experienced firsthand to truly understand its draw. The park is tremendous in size, comprised of over 2 million acres littered with geysers, hot springs, canyons, rivers, and waterfalls — not to mention, abundant wildlife.
While one day will never be enough to experience everything a National Park has to offer, one day is plenty of time to witness the park’s highlights.
In this guide, I outline the best way to spend one day in Yellowstone National Park, and provide tips for making the most of your day so you can experience the best the park has to offer.
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Important Park Closures
Due to the severe flooding event in June 2022, the Yellowstone North and Northeast entrances are closed. All visitors must enter the park through the West, South, or East entrances.
For current statuses of closures, please visit the National Park Service website.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does It Cost to Visit Yellowstone National Park?
Entrance fees are required to enter Yellowstone National Park. Visitors can choose between a 7-day pass or an annual pass.
A 7-day pass is $35.00 and allows unlimited access to the park during the timeframe. If you plan on visiting nearby Grand Teton National Park or other National Parks within the year, I recommend opting for the $80 America the Beautiful annual pass.
You can purchase your pass ahead of time online or at the entrance station upon arrival.
Can You See All of Yellowstone in One Day?
While you can’t squeeze in the entire park in one day, you absolutely can knock out the highlights. One day in Yellowstone is plenty of time to explore the lower loop, where the park’s most iconic spots are congregated.
Making the most of one day in Yellowstone takes more precise timing and pre-planning but it’s 100% doable. Just prepare to be adventuring from sun up to sun down.
(But honestly, is there any other way to travel?)
How Long Does It Take To See Everything in Yellowstone?
If you’ve got your heart set on experiencing all of Yellowstone’s highlights, plus some additional hikes and more off-the-beaten-path adventures, I would recommend spending at least three days in the park.
Keep in mind that if you’re looking to factor in some downtime on top of your adventures, I would extend your stay to four or five days.
Three days in Yellowstone would allow time for the highlights, such as Old Faithful Geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring, as well as time for more remote destinations like Lamar Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs.
Can You Take a Guided Tour Through Yellowstone?
Guided tours are a great way to make the most of your time without the stress of planning and logistics. Get Your Guide is an awesome resource that helps travelers book meaningful and authentic tours around the globe.
Here are some great Get Your Guide tours available for exploring Yellowstone:
Tips for Spending One Day in Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park is one of the top most visited National Parks in the country. In 2021, the park saw nearly 5 million visitors.
Getting an early start to beat the crowds, traffic, and heat is a must. Due to the popularity of the park, you will encounter busy parking lots, destinations, and overlooks regardless, but starting your day off on the right foot is always a good idea.
If that’s not enough reason for you to hit the road early, keep in mind that wildlife will be most active during the morning, and sunrises in the park are remarkable.
Check Old Faithful Eruption Times
Old Faithful Geyser erupts roughly every 60 – 90 minutes. It’s helpful to plan your day around eruption times so you’re not frantically rushing to catch an eruption, or disheartened to find you just missed it.
There are a couple of ways to learn about the next eruption time. You can visit the National Park Service (NPS) website, check the GeyserNPS Twitter account, or call 307-344-2751 to hear a recorded message for the next predicted time.
Plan for No Cell Service
There is very limited cell service in Yellowstone National Park. Maximize service when you do have it by checking eruption times, downloading Google offline maps and planning your route, and downloading offline trail maps.
If you need cell service, head towards the Old Faithful General Store and Lodge area.
As I already mentioned, the park is going to be crowded. Expect wait times, road and trail traffic, full parking lots, and busy attractions. Show kindness and patience and remember that National Parks are for everyone.
Pack Lunch, Water, and Snacks
If you travel like us and are trying to cram all you can into your one day in Yellowstone, you’re going to want to stock the car with snacks and water.
A full day of adventuring calls for lots of fuel and water for your body. There aren’t many food options in the park as it is, so packing your own lunch is a quick option and an awesome way to enjoy a scenic lunch on the go.
Stay in the Park
Lastly, one of the biggest ways to save time and maximize your one day in Yellowstone is to stay in the park.
Camping is going to be the most budget-friendly lodging option. Grant Village Campground is the most central of all the camping areas within the park and my personal favorite.
Sites at Grant Village are $33/night. You can reserve your site and learn about other campground options in the park here.
If you’re looking to splurge on accommodation, I recommend checking out Old Faithful Inn. Again, the Inn is centrally located and architecturally beautiful as a bonus. Keep in mind, that reservations do not come cheap and can fill up to a year in advance.
You can learn more about the reservation window here.
The Best Way to Spend One Day in Yellowstone
You could spend a week in Yellowstone without running out of things to do. Only having one day in Yellowstone, however, makes things a little trickier and requires more strategic preparation and planning.
Luckily, I’ve done the planning for you and put together my top recommendations for things to do and see when spending one day in Yellowstone National Park.
If you follow this itinerary in order, you maximize your time the most by never having to backtrack.
Old Faithful Geyser
There are over 500 geysers located in Yellowstone National Park but almost none of them are as “faithful” or iconic as Old Faithful.
On the plus side, Old Faithful eruption times can be predicted accurately, give or take 10 minutes. On the down side, you still need to plan around those predictions and be in the right place at the right time.
I recommend starting your one day in Yellowstone at Old Faithful. Doing so checks off the one time-sensitive activity from your itinerary, and opens up the rest of your day to be more flexible.
Pro Tip: Plan to arrive 20 minutes early in order to get a parking spot, find where to go, and snag a spot to sit along the boardwalk.
After viewing the eruption, head to the nearby Morning Glory Pool to knock out two stunning destinations in one stop.
Located just 7 minutes down the road is Mystic Falls. Mystic Falls Trail was my favorite trail we did during our one-day adventure through Yellowstone.
The trail is accessed via Biscuit Basin (again, two adventures checked off in one stop), which houses several geothermal pools and geysers. The Sapphire Pool was my favorite attraction here.
After strolling the Biscuit Basin boardwalk, you come to the Mystic Falls Trailhead.
The trail is an easy 2.4 mile hike that takes you past wildflowers, through the forest, and along the river, before dropping you at the falls.
Cascading at 70 feet, Mystic Falls is surrounded by lush green grasses and pine trees. We only encountered a handful of other hikers here and were able to find a secluded spot to sit and soak in the views.
If you’re up for a couple more miles and as obsessed with waterfalls as I am, Fairy Falls is another itinerary must. Fairy Falls Trailhead is just 6 minutes up the road from Mystic Falls.
The trail is 4.8 miles, relatively flat, and suitable for hikers of all ages. Fairy Falls is breathtakingly tall, standing at 200 feet high with a large pool at its base.
While we didn’t jump in, we did see some others enjoying the refreshing pool. Had there not been so many people at the waterfall, I could have been tempted to take a quick dip.
Do note, possibly due to its proximity to Grand Prismatic, Fairy Falls is a highly trafficked trail. While there’s a large parking lot, it fills up early.
Pro Tip: If you’re up for adding .6 miles to your hiking distance, you can combine Fairy Falls Trail with the Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail for a total of 5.4 miles round trip. Both trails begin from the same starting point and can be easily navigated by following signs.
Grand Prismatic Spring
If I had to pick just one destination from our day in Yellowstone that absolutely stole the show, it would be Grand Prismatic. This spot is located just 3 minutes from Fairy Falls.
The contrasting textures, rolling steam, and vibrant colors from the thermophiles make witnessing Grand Prismatic truly, well, grand.
Keep in mind that this itinerary specifically places you at Grand Prismatic during the afternoon hours because this is the best time to witness the colors. By afternoon, the steam will have burned off giving you the best view of the spring.
Take your time strolling around the boardwalk and stop to read the information boards to learn more about the fascinating springs.
Keep in mind that Grand Prismatic is one of the most popular destinations in Yellowstone National Park so expect crowds and long wait times for parking.
Pro tip: During busy times, avoid pulling into the designated Grand Prismatic parking lot. Instead, avoid the standstill line and look for nearby street parking off of the highway.
Fountain Paint Pot Trail
If you still have the energy and time, head to the Lower Geyser Basin to end your night at the Fountain Paint Pot Trail to watch the sunset.
The combination of geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mud pots creates a beautiful display as the sun goes down.
Worth the Drive: Grand Teton National Park
You can’t visit Yellowstone National Park without making the hour and a half drive to Grand Teton National Park. Even if you can also only swing one day in the Tetons, do it.
Conquering the Delta Lake Hike was the highlight of our visit to the Grand Tetons and perhaps the best hike in the park. The trail is just over 7.4 miles and worth every grueling, uphill step.
Have you taken a trip to Yellowstone National Park or planning one in the future? If you have any questions about other spots to see in the park or camping in the area, drop me a message in the comment section below!
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