Yellowstone 2 Day Itinerary: A Complete Guide

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Yellowstone National Park is the epitome of the Western United States- sweeping mountain landscapes, fields of free roaming bison, and epic adventure waiting for you around every turn.  But with a footprint of almost 3,500 square miles, it can be challenging to know where to start- especially if you only have two days to explore all the park has to offer.

After completing my second stay in the park this summer on a road trip around the Western United States, I’ve crafted the perfect Yellowstone 2 day itinerary. This guide covers it all, from where to stay, what to pack, and the not-to-be-missed sites.

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Table of Contents

What is Yellowstone?

If you’re a U.S. National Park nerd like me, Yellowstone is kind of a special place- it was the very first national park, founded on March 1, 1872 by Ulysess S. Grant!

The park, which sprawls across parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, is the sixth most visited one in the beloved National Park System, surely due, in part, to the plentiful geysers (over half of the geysers on the planet call Yellowstone home!), eye-poppingly colorful hot springs, and wildlife galore. The park’s location on top of the Yellowstone Caldera, North America’s largest supervolcano, is the reason for the park’s approximately 10,000 geothermal features, like the world-famous Old Faithful or the Grand Prismatic Spring. 

Hot spring with a mountain in the background in Yellowstone National Park

If I had to take a guess as to why Yellowstone is so popular, it would likely be because of how family-friendly it is- most of the park’s attractions are accessible via “hikes” on flat, wooden boardwalks that are usually under two miles roundtrip, making this the perfect place for everyone from new parents pushing strollers, travelers with mobility issues, or beginner hikers.

So if you’re looking to get into hiking or exploring the outdoors a bit more and don’t know where to start, Yellowstone is a great place to dip your toes into the waters of the great outdoors!

How to Get to Yellowstone

Note: Since Yellowstone is so huge, the distance noted in this post, unless otherwise noted, will be based on mileage to the Canyon Visitor Education Center, the visitor center located near the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, one of the park’s most popular attractions and centrally located(ish) in the park.

For better or worse, Yellowstone isn’t easily accessible from any major airports.

If you plan on tacking your trip to Yellowstone on to your Grand Teton itinerary, flying into Jackson Hole Airport (the only U.S. airport that’s actually inside of a national park!) is probably your best bet (driving distance: 107 miles). Alternatively, flying into Bozeman, Montana (via the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport) will likely offer you the most reasonably priced airfare (as most other nearby airports are teeny tiny), clocking in at 129 miles away.

And finally, it’s hard to ignore Yellowstone’s connection with road trips through the expansive Western United States- so if you’re looking to take an epic American road trip, I’d consider flying into Salt Lake City, Utah (395 miles away) or Boise, Idaho (482 miles away- if you’re driving through Idaho, be sure to check out my guide to Idaho hot springs!).  Scoring affordable tickets to these smaller airports can be kind of tricky-  I always swear by Skyscanner to find the cheapest fare!

Another important thing to note- whether you’re road tripping from home or flying in, you’ll need to rent a car to get around the park as, unlike some other national parks, there is no centralized shuttle system.

When to Visit Yellowstone

The best time to visit Yellowstone is May through October, with July and August being the busiest months (and the best months to visit if you’re wanting to find comfortable camping weather). If it’s wildlife viewing you’re after, I’d recommend heading there in September or October, when animals, who generally seek refuge in the higher elevations of the park during the hotter summer months, return to the park’s meadows and valleys.

Green mountains and valley with a river running through it in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone usually has rather extreme winters, getting upwards of ten feet of snow in some areas of the park annually- but if you don’t mind treacherous road conditions and freezing temperatures, this is certainly a great time to have the park all to yourself!

What to Pack for Yellowstone

I assume you’ll have the toothbrush and undies part of your packing list covered, but what about the odds and ends that will make your trip to Yellowstone a bit better? Here’s some of the extras I’d recommend bringing along for your trip:

  • Binoculars: Undoubtedly, one of the coolest parts of Yellowstone is all of its wildlife, from the elk, who seem to like to casually hang around in parking lots to the plethora of bison. While sometimes you get lucky and have a furry creature right by the road (both bears that I saw in the park were literally on the shoulder of the road), you’ll probably need binoculars or a spotting scope to see more elusive animals like wolves (which, frankly, is a good thing- friendly reminder that you should always view bears and wolves from at least 100 yards away and all other animals from at least 25 yards away).

    Since we plan on going to a lot more national parks in the next couple of years, these binoculars are on my “to buy” list, so I can enjoy my new wildlife friends from a distance, keeping both the animals and myself safe.
Coyote walking through the snow in Yellowstone National Park in winter
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat: During my first trip to the park in May, I inexplicably assumed that Yellowstone would be cold- I mean, those big hairy bison can’t possibly be hanging out in the heat, right?  Accordingly, I packed fluffy beanie hats, thermal underwear, and other cozy cold-weather clothes to brave the Wyoming wilderness with my bison brethren.

    Turns out, this was a terrible, terrible mistake- with an average elevation over 8,000 feet, the sun in the park is REAL during the non-winter seasons- bright, direct, and very warm (especially if you just happen to be wearing long underwear in May). I spent that first trip being very uncomfortably sweaty and eventually, with no better clothing options packed, hiking around in my sports bra.

    Second time around, I was much better prepared with all the sunshine essentials- a good reef-safe sunscreen, sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection, and my very favorite adventuring hat
  • Bear spray: As mentioned above, Yellowstone is home to both black and grizzly bears- super cool to observe from a safe distance, not so cool (or safe) to observe up close and personal. Both kinds of bears will generally try to move away from a human if they hear, see, or smell you approaching, but certain factors, such as the noise from a stream or the wind, can make it harder for them to know you’re hiking near them. 

    Bears are generally not aggressive, but may act aggressively if their young is near or if you have startled them. Because of this risk, I leave bear spray (which is used much like pepper spray to temporarily deter, but not permanently injure aggressive animals) in my car and take it with me wherever I go hiking in bear country.

    Although we thankfully have never had to use it, we have this one. Note that you cannot take bear spray on airplanes, so if you’re flying and then driving to Yellowstone, I suggest renting a can at Canyon Village in the park.  It’s also best practice to make noise while you’re hiking- by chatting to your hiking partner, intermittently clapping, or clipping a bear bell onto your bag (I like this one, as it comes with a magnetic silencer for when you’re not trying to scare away bears).
Bear walking down the road in Yellowstone National Park in winter
  • A swimsuit: If you’re anything like me, the term “Yellowstone” will conjure up ideas of cowboy hats and warm flannel shirts. But did you know there are a couple of really rad opportunities to don your swimsuit in the park?

    If you’re a hot spring junkie like me, you won’t want to miss soaking in the Boiling River, where cold water from the Gardner River mixes with extremely hot water from Yellowstone’s natural hot springs to create the perfect hot tub-esque temperature.

    If you’re more interested in cooling off for the day, jumping in the Firehole River swim area, located two miles south of Madison Junction on Firehole Canyon Drive, is the perfect place to spend a warm summer afternoon.

    Unlike some other springs in the Western United States, clothing is required in both of these areas, so make sure to pack a suit! I just bought one of these in both red and white for next summer and for the dudes, these Nike ones look simple and classic and have solid reviews. 

    The current at these spots is pretty swift and, given the slippery footing, bringing along water shoes is also be a good idea (I’m planning on picking up a pair of Tevas to double as hiking sandals and water shoes; here is an option for men).
Important reminder: NEVER go swimming or soaking in areas of the park where it isn’t explicitly permitted (i.e., pretty much any other body of water other than the two I noted above). The Gardner River’s current can be incredibly strong and dangerous in lots of areas and equally (or more) terrifyingly, dozens of people have died or sustained life-threatening burns by purposefully or accidentally jumping into the park’s hot springs.

Not. Worth. It.
Boiling River hot springs in Yellowstone National Park in winter
  • Travel towel: If you’re going to go swimming in the park, you’re also going to need a towel; luckily, travel towels are super light, packable in even the smallest carry-on luggage, and quick drying. These ones have solid reviews.
  • A cooler: There is a variety of cafes, snack shops, and sit-down restaurants in Yellowstone (check out their menus, hours, and locations here), but like any national park, you should expect to pay top dollar for some pretty mediocre food within the park. And unfortunately, unless you happen to be in the section of the park close to Gardiner or West Yellowstone, Montana, there aren’t many towns close to Yellowstone, so you won’t have a solid selection of restaurants outside of the park without driving for a good hour or two.

    As such, if you’re roadtripping here like we did, I’d highly recommend packing a cooler (we picked up one very similar to this for our three road trips in 2020 and have been using it all the time!) to keep in your car with some easy to make meals (think sandwiches, wraps or salads) to cut down on costs and to allow for more time to actually explore the park. 
  • Offline maps: A lot of the park has spotty cell coverage, so I definitely recommend downloading offline maps on the Google Maps app before heading here.

    I’ll also note here that driving between attractions can often take longer than Google Maps might guess, from traffic, construction, or sometimes, even wildlife road obstructions. This map provides a pretty handy breakdown of the park’s highlights, with approximate distances and drive times between the various points of interest. 
River surrounded by pine trees in Yellowstone National Park
  • America the Beautiful Pass: For one car, it costs $35 for a one-week pass into the park. However, if you have plans to stop by a couple of U.S. National Parks within a year span, these fees are included if you pick up an America the Beautiful Pass, an annual pass that costs just $80 and gets you into more than 2,000 U.S. national parks, forests, shorelines (and on and on). 

    The proceeds support the National Park Service and if you plan to go to at least three national parks per year (which usually cost around $30-$35 per car per visit), picking up one of these bad boys is a no brainer. You can either pick one up here, at your local REI, or at most staffed entrance stations at U.S. National Parks.

    Obviously, if your adventures this year don’t include some National Park visits other than your trip to Yellowstone, purchasing a pass probably doesn’t make a ton of financial sense. But otherwise, it’s seriously one of the best money saving “travel hacks” that I know!

Where to Stay when Visiting Yellowstone

As noted above, Yellowstone is not particularly close to any major cities, so that leaves you with two options- either staying in the park itself or staying in the two closest towns to Yellowstone- Gardiner and West Yellowstone. Given the remoteness and the popularity of the park, you should expect to pay higher than normal prices for accommodations here, unless you opt to camp, and make reservations well in advance (at least six months to a year).

Accommodations inside Yellowstone

If you’re looking to stay in the park, there are nine accommodations within the park (only two of which stay open in the wintertime), ranging from upscale hotels to rustic cabins and each with corresponding price points.

The most luxurious option is probably the Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cottages (starting at around $220 for two adults per night), with one of the most affordable options being the Roughrider Cabins at the Roosevelt Lodge– small, sparsely decorated cabins, heated only by a wood-burning stove and with shared bathrooms (starting at $109 for two adults per night).

Justin and I stayed in a Roughrider Cabin during our first time in the park and it felt like a cozy, romantic cabin in the woods- would definitely recommend!

Roughrider Cabin at the Roosevelt Lodge at Yellowstone National Park

Alternatively, if you’re looking to get even a bit more rustic, Yellowstone offers 12 campgrounds, with over 2,000 sites! You can only make reservations at five of them- Fishing Bridge RV Park (closed in 2021), Madison Campground, Grant Village Campground, Canyon Campground (probably the most popular option in the park due to its central location), and Bridge Bay Campground; the rest of the campgrounds are all open on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Most of these campgrounds allow RVs, subject to varying size restrictions, but the only campground with full hookups is the Fishing Bridge RV Park. It’s also important to note that almost all of the campgrounds are closed in the wintertime.

Canvas tent in Yellowstone National Park at dusk

If you’re truly a grizzly outdoorsperson, backcountry camping in Yellowstone seems like an EPIC experience (check out this post for backcountry packing suggestions). No matter what time of year you go, you’ll need to pick up a backcountry camping permit- you can either apply for advance backcountry reservations or pick up a permit at the park’s backcountry offices no earlier than two days before your trip. Here’s a helpful resource before you head out.

Accommodations Outside of Yellowstone

The two best options for staying outside of Yellowstone are either Gardiner, Montana, to the north of the park (about an hour and a half drive from the Canyon Visitor Education Center) or West Yellowstone, to the, well, west of the park (about a 45 minute drive). You’d think that, given the fact that Grand Teton neighbors Yellowstone, that you’d be able to stay in Jackson, Wyoming during your time in the park, but in reality, this would be about a four hour plus roundtrip drive each day. 

Gardiner, Montana is a super cute town with plenty of mom and pop coffee shops and cafes, guides offering rafting and hiking excursions, and, in my opinion, just a more fun vibe as compared to West Yellowstone. Some decent options to stay here are the Yellowstone Gateway Inn, The Roosevelt Hotel- Yellowstone, Yellowstone Basin Inn, Yellowstone Village Inn, and Yellowstone Riverside Cottages

West Yellowstone, on the other hand, is a small town, with Wild West undertones and a bit more of a rustic feeling than Gardiner. I’d recommend checking out the Kelly Inn West Yellowstone, Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone, Yellowstone Park Hotel, and City Center Motel. Alternatively, if you wanted to try your hand at glamping, Under Canvas sounds pretty neat!

Having a tough time choosing where to stay? I’d recommend looking at your itinerary and seeing if one of the locations makes more sense for what you plan to see and do in the park (if you follow my suggested itinerary below, I’d probably stay in Gardiner the first night and West Yellowstone the second).

Otherwise, I’d recommend finding accommodations in Gardiner if you plan on only staying in the park for about eight or so hours per day and exploring the town in the morning or night. Alternatively, if you primarily think you’re going to be spending most of your time in the park, West Yellowstone probably makes more sense for you.

Is 2 Days Enough in Yellowstone?

While I’m sure you could spend months exploring Yellowstone, two days is sufficient to see a LOT of the main highlights of the park. Thanks to most of the attractions being easily accessible, it’s pretty easy to squeeze in most of the best things to do in Yellowstone in just a 2 day itinerary. That being said, depending on how long you want to stay at each stop and if you want to do any longer hikes along the way, you may have to cherry pick the sites that most interest you.

Yellowstone National Park 2 Day Itinerary

My favorite aspect of Yellowstone is how diverse it is- from alpine meadows, to technicolor hot springs, steaming geysers, and jaw dropping waterfalls, Yellowstone truly has it all! A trip to Yellowstone can definitely be customized to your interests, whether you’re a solo traveler or a family, have a mobility problem, etc.- so below, I’m suggesting a possible two-day itinerary, with optional add-ons and activities between the park’s main attractions.

Day 1

  • Start the day off bright and early at the world’s most famous geyser- Old Faithful! Given that this is hands-down the most popular spot in the park, it’s great to visit during the more calm and quiet morning hours.  This geyser has been “faithfully” erupting approximately every 92 minutes for several decades, making it easy to catch her in action- since the predicted eruption times vary per day, you can check when you should visit Old Faithful during your visit at  Geyser Times

    There are three options for viewing Old Faithful: you can sit on the benches along a 0.7 mile wooden boardwalk loop around the geyser; you can make the 1.6 mile roundtrip hike to the Old Faithful Observation Point, taking you some 250 feet above the geyser (and the boardwalk’s crowds); or, if you happen to go a bit later in the day, you can snag a seat on the patio at the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room to watch the eruptions, cold beer in hand!
Old Faithful exploding in Yellowstone National Park
  • Keep walking past Old Faithful’s boardwalk to explore the rest of its geyser basin and the world’s largest single concentration of hot springs, the Upper Geyser Basin. There’s over 150 geysers in this one square mile area so truthfully, if you wanted to hit them all, you could easily spend all day moseying around here.

    But if you’re looking for just the highlights here, I’d recommend walking the 2.8 mile roundtrip wheelchair accessible trail to arguably one of the most stunning sites in the park, the Morning Glory Pool, a stunning brilliantly blue-colored hot spring. Along the way, you’ll get to see many of the highlights of the Upper Geyser Basin, including Geyser Hill, Grand Geyser, and Riverside Geyser areas in about a leisurely two hour hike. Here is a link to an interactive map of the Upper Geyser Basin area.
Hot spring in the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park
  • Next up, make the 6.5 mile drive to one of the coolest spots I’ve ever laid eyes on (and the main reason I wanted to visit Yellowstone in the first place)- the Grand Prismatic Spring, a vibrantly-colored hot spring of blue, orange, and yellow, spanning a massive area larger than a football field.

    It’s so large, in fact, that it’s the biggest hot spring in the United States and third largest in the entire world! The spring is named after its rainbow colors, which it gets from different species of heat-loving bacteria living in the progressively cooler water around the spring.  You can enjoy the spring by walking on top and over it, via more wooden boardwalks, or get an eagle’s eye view from above.

    Let’s start off with the 0.8 mile flat boardwalk over the spring, which can get pretty crowded, especially in the middle of the day. Nevertheless, I’d still recommend visiting during this timeframe-the spring is shrouded in a cloud of steam in the morning and the later afternoon, so, by visiting in the later morning through mid-afternoon (at which time, the steam “burns off”), you’ll have the best chance of seeing the spring in all of its technicolor glory (this is true for most of the springs in the park).

    Given the popularity of this site, though, and the ridiculously tiny parking lot, you may have to wait about 15 minutes or so to find a parking spot.  In my opinion, it’s totally worth the wait- there’s no other way that you can get up close and personal to see the sights- and smells (the beloved rotten eggs/sulphur smell of hot springs) of this epic- albeit, at times, stinky- beauty.
Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park
  • Next up, to see the springs from above, you’ll have to give up that well-deserved parking spot and drive about a mile to the Fairy Falls trailhead. Although this parking lot is less ridiculously tiny than the Grand Prismatic Spring one, you may still be required to wait a bit before finding a spot.

    From the parking lot, you’ll hike along a mostly flat gravel trail for about 0.6 miles, where the trail will split into a fork. Continue along the trail to the left for a strenuous climb uphill for the last 0.2 miles of the hike up to the viewpoint, where you’ll be afforded a jaw-dropping view of the spring.

    Once you’ve managed to pick your jaw up off the ground, you can either return back to your car via the route you came or, if you’re looking to get away from the crowds a bit and up for a hike, you can turn right at the viewing platform to continue along the Fairy Falls trail, to see one of the tallest waterfalls in Yellowstone (almost 200 feet!). Roundtrip, this will add an additional 3.3 miles to your hike.

    While I would absolutely recommend doing both the boardwalk and the overlook, if you absolutely only have time to do one, I’d probably pick the overlook- it’s easier to appreciate the massive size and contrasting colors of the springs from above.
Protip: If you REALLY hate crowds, I’d recommend considering stopping at Black Sand Basin as an alternative (or if you just can’t get enough hot springs, as an add-on) to the Grand Prismatic Spring immediately after your time exploring the Upper Geyser Basin. 

It’s sort of a hidden gem (if anything in Yellowstone can be considered one)- WAY less crowded, offers similar geothermal features, like the Rainbow Pool (albeit on a smaller scale), as the Grand Prismatic Spring, and offers some other points of interest, like colorful hot pots. The boardwalk is only about 0.5 miles long, so plan on budgeting about half an hour for this stop.
Hot springs along the Fairy Falls in Yellowstone National Park
  • Make the hour-long drive north to Mammoth Hot Springs, one of the most unusual features in the park (I feel like I keep saying that, but IT’S TRUE. Yellowstone is wild, y’all!). These step-like springs are made from travertine, a kind of limestone formed by calcium deposits (and actually, Mammoth is home to the largest known calcium-depositing spring in the world). Given that the minerals from these springs are continuously building the terraces, the landscape here is constantly changing. Also, our good ol’ friend, thermophilic bacteria, is also present in the springs, making the steps vibrant colors of orange, pink, and white. 

    There are two areas of Mammoth: the Upper Terraces and Lower Terraces. Each have their own wooden boardwalks, which are connected by staircases (walking both boardwalks will clock in at 1.75 miles). Note that, there are quite a bit of stairs between the two terraces, so if you have limited mobility or are dealing with a stroller, you may want to move your car between the two areas (which each have their own parking lots).
Bonus: while Mammoth Hot Springs are quite a sight in and of themselves, keep your eyes peeled for some new elk friends in the nearby parking lots- they LOVE this area for some reason. 
Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park
  • End your day with a 10-minute drive to the only hot springs you can actually bathe in at Yellowstone, the Boiling River! After a 0.6 mile hike from the parking lot, you’ll be greeted by a shallow part of the Gardner River, whose chilly water mixes with the waters of Mammoth Hot Springs, creating your own natural hot tub.

    Set amongst the rolling green hills of Yellowstone, this is easily one of the most gorgeous hot springs in the United States. While you likely won’t have the springs all to yourself, this spot is thankfully not included on the National Park’s maps, allowing this gem to fly a bit more under the radar than it otherwise would.

    A few safety tips: as mentioned in the What to Pack section above, I’d recommend bringing along some kind of water shoes (like these or these), as the rocks in the river alternate between being very slippery and very stabby. Be sure to only swim where the signs indicate it’s safe to do so and to check this National Park site for the springs’ operating hours.

Day 2

  • If you’re a real go-getter, try to get a head start and catch the early morning hours in the Lamar Valley, about a one and a half hour drive from Gardiner. The Lamar Valley is easily the best place in the park to spot wildlife, like bison, elk, moose, and more elusive critters, like wolves and bears, which are usually only spotted around sunrise or sunset. There’s few places that are a more picturesque setting to observe our furry friends than the glacier-carved hills of the Lamar Valley, with the pastel early morning sky above.

    I would advise against driving in Yellowstone in the dark (or at most, driving exceedingly slowly), as animals tend to use the park’s roadways to get around (animals- they’re just like us!). Many of them, especially bison, can be hard to see at night; let’s not add to the estimated 76 large mammals per year that are hit and killed in the park by motorists. Since Lamar Valley is a bit out of the way from many other attractions in the park, you may want to consider skipping this stop if you prefer exploring at a more leisurely pace (i.e., if you want to sleep in) or you’re visiting during a time of the year where the days are a bit shorter. 
Bison in the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park
  • Did you know that Yellowstone has its very own Grand Canyon, some 1,000 feet deep (like I said above, this park truly has it all!)? Along with the rugged and colorful canyon walls, which span 1,500 to 4,000 feet wide, the canyon is home to the tallest waterfall in the park, the 308-feet tall Lower Falls.
    The best way to explore this area is on foot through one of the many trails in the area- I’d recommend checking out the Brink of the Lower Falls trail, a steep 0.7 mile hike that will lead you to a point literally on top of the falls (you’ll literally get misted in the face as the water tumbles hundreds of feet into the canyon below!).

    While the Brink of the Lower Falls will put you up close and personal with the falls, you won’t be able to see them in all their glory, so next up, head to Artist’s Point, one of the marquee overlooks over the canyon (about a mile from the falls). Once you hit this viewpoint, you’ll totally understand the name- it’s easily one of the most photographed spots in the park.

    If you want to keep taking in the views, continue walking along the Point Sublime trail, a flat, 2.7-mile roundtrip hike providing spectacular overlooks of the canyon below. This trail is the epitome of the “it’s all about the journey, not the destination” cliche (read: while the views along the trail are great, the endpoint is slightly lackluster), so once you’ve had your fill, feel free to turn back at any point along the trail. 
Lower Falls from Artist's Point in Yellowstone National Park
  • Continue heading south to the Hayden Valley, the second best spot in the park to see wildlife. While sunset and sunrise are allegedly the best times to catch large mammals here, you shouldn’t have a problem spotting some regardless of the time of day you visit- both times I’ve been to Yellowstone, we’ve had “traffic jams” driving behind bison moseying down the road (Ya know. As one does in Wyoming)!

    There’s tons of pull-offs along the road that you can park at to take in the panoramic views of the valley and observe Yellowstone’s wildlife from a safe distance.
Bison walking down the road in the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park
  • Along the way, make a pit stop at the odoriferous Mud Volcano trail, which offers some boiling mud pots, a neat hot spring that spews steam and “growls” (fittingly called the “Dragon’s Mouth”), and some other features with fun names like “Churning Caldron” and “Black Dragon’s Cauldron.” While the springs here are less colorful than the ones on the western half of the park, they’re still unique and the 0.8-mile boardwalk is the perfect place to stretch your legs. 
  • Keep driving south, on the banks of Yellowstone Lake (with plenty of picnic spots with epic views on along the way). Yellowstone Lake is quite a sight in and of itself, spanning 136 square miles and also holding the title of the highest elevation lake in North America.

    Eventually, end your day at West Thumb Geyser Basin, with bubbling mud pots and steaming hot springs. While it’s one of the smallest geyser basins in the park, it’s easily one of the most picturesque, with the lake and the far-off Rocky Mountains as the gorgeous backdrop.

Got more time in Yellowstone? Here’s some other ideas of things to see and do:

  • Take a one-mile hike along more colorful hot springs at the Artist Paintpots.
  • Hike the Dunraven Pass trail, a 6.8 mile out-and-back trail, where you have a good chance of spotting wildflowers and bighorn sheep and are afforded sweeping panoramic views from the top of Mount Washburn, one of the tallest peaks in Yellowstone.
  • Kayak or stand-up paddleboard around Yellowstone Lake (note that there are no rentals within the park, so you’ll need to rent one in the neighboring towns and obtain a permit from the Lewis Lake Ranger Station, Grant Village Visitor Center, Bridge Bay Marina and the Lake Ranger Station. It was too much of a hassle for us for our short stay, but the lake looks like it’s begging to be paddleboarding in!).
  • Take a rafting tour down the Yellowstone River in Gardiner.
  • Go for a (chilly) dip in the Firehole River Swim Area.
  • Take a 2.4 mile hike through a conifer forest to the 70-foot Mystic Falls.

Where to Eat in Yellowstone

As I mentioned above, there are several dining options in the park, but they’re often crowded, incredibly expensive (while being of disappointing quality), and have incredibly limited options if you have any kind of dietary restrictions.

And unfortunately, seeking out dining options outside of the park usually isn’t a great option either as most restaurants are a good hour-plus roundtrip drive away from any of Yellowstone’s attractions. As such, I would strongly recommend packing a cooler for your meals in the park and bringing along snacks.

Aerial view of breakfast at Roosevelt Dining Room in Yellowstone National Park

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for places to get some grub, here are my recommendations:

Note: Justin and I follow a vegan diet, so I only recommend places that offer at least one vegan or vegan-izable dish and that I think everyone will find delicious and enjoyable!

Inside the park:

  • Old Faithful Inn Dining Room: Sit-down dining experience with Western fare, offered in a gorgeous historic lodge. Make a reservation in advance if you can- it gets CROWDED!
  • Mammoth Dining Room: More modern restaurant, dishing up more Western fare (but this time, with some Italian twists), with a focus on sustainability (it’s the first 4-star certified Green Restaurant in the National Park system… whatever that means!).
  • Roosevelt Dining Room: Rustic and historic lodge near a beloved spot of Theodore Roosevelt, serving (you guessed it!) Wild Western-themed food, with friendly service.

In Gardiner, Montana:

  • Wonderland Cafe: An eatery serving up creative eats and microbrews (they have beer flights, so you know they’re good in my book!), in a Montana-meets-hipster environment.
  • Tumbleweeds Bookstore and Cafe: Homey and inviting bookstore/coffee shop/cafe; expect simple options (wraps, salads, and soups) with fresh ingredients.

In West Yellowstone:

Now you know everything you need to have an amazing two days in Yellowstone. Now go forth and enjoy all the bison!

Yellowstone National Park

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