After 12 visits, we’ve got all the need-to-know Yellowstone National Park tips and tricks for having a great visit. You could just roll into the park on a summer afternoon and hope you can navigate the crowds just fine, but it’s better to be prepared and be armed with the best Yellowstone advice.
In this podcast episode we get into everything we love about Yellowstone National Park. It’s America’s first National Park and is quite the experience. Here we dish about the need-to-know Yellowstone tips and tricks for having an awesome visit. Not sure if camping in the park or choosing a hotel in a nearby town is right for you? We can help!
What you'll find...
- Listen to our Need to Know Yellowstone Tips Podcast Episode
Need-to-know Yellowstone NP Tips
- Things to Love about Yellowstone National Park
- What’s the Climate Like in Yellowstone
- Favorite Sights Not To Miss in Yellowstone National Park
- Where to Stay at Yellowstone National Park
- Yellowstone National Park Entrances
- Driving the Beartooth Highway to Yellowstone
- Best Wildlife Tips for Yellowstone National Park
Listen to our Need to Know Yellowstone Tips Podcast Episode
Need-to-know Yellowstone NP Tips
Even though we’ve been to Yellowstone so many times, there are no doubt more aspects to planning a visit based on you and your family’s needs. If you have any questions that we don’t answer, please let us know by leaving a comment or sending us a note.
In this episode… [time in playback of episode noted on the left]
Things to Love about Yellowstone National Park
1:00 – Why Yellowstone? What do we love so much about Yellowstone National Park? Truly, it’s the geothermal activity with the many geysers and hot springs, but then also the abundance of wildlife. And you can’t forget the views! Epic landscapes cover all of Yellowstone National Park.
Even if you’ve explored the Rocky Mountains or the West Coast, Yellowstone provides a completely different sort of environment. You’ll see more varied habitats here than on the Pacific Northwest coast or even in Everglades National Park.
What’s the Climate Like in Yellowstone
3:05 – You need to know Yellowstone’s climate before a visit: the weather can change drastically in a day or overnight, from a heat wave to a snow storm. Being prepared for Yellowstone National Park means planning for any weather.
Even with summer being the warmest months to visit Yellowstone, the weather can quickly change, as can the continuous weather pattern (climate). From June to September, it’s mostly warm (60-80 degrees F) but also snow can randomly happen in the middle of July. Don’t be caught hiking or camping without the right gear or a backup plan!
Favorite Sights Not To Miss in Yellowstone National Park
4:50 – Chris picks his favorite aspects of spending time in Yellowstone National Park. Mammoth Hot Springs and all the elk tops his list.
Even though Mammoth Hot Springs changes its flow continually, meaning that sometimes you’ll visit and it’s nearly dry and other times it’s a cascading river, it is consistently impressive as a sight. And there are ALWAYS elk all around the area. There are few other places on earth where you can encounter both this sort of geology AND the concentration of wildlife.
7:40 – Rob’s most favorite Yellowstone National Park memory: realization that I got to take my own kids to Yellowstone. We didn’t even think that we’d get to have kids, so taking them to a place that’s so special to me we really emotional.
Where to Stay at Yellowstone National Park
9:00 – Where to stay and need-to-know tips for having a stress-free Yellowstone trip. Top pick for the easiest Yellowstone vacation is camping at the Canyon Campground. It’s the most convenient and is centrally located to most Yellowstone activities. **Episode audio refers to recreation.gov, but all in-park camping has been moved to the link below.
10:50 – Yellowstone National Park Lodges options:
- Canyon Lodge for a retro stay
- Mammoth Hotel is newly renovated and open in the winter
- the Lake Hotel is at the top end of the budget (book it here)
- Roosevelt Cabins at Tower Junction is mid-line budget
- Old Faithful Inn, Old Faithful Lodge, and the Snow Lodge (open December through March)
13:30 – Staying outside the park: need to know Yellowstone towns. West Yellowstone is a very popular place to stay, with the West Yellowstone gate being the busiest of the five entrances to the park. Our West Yellowstone hotel recommendations:
- Best Western Weston Inn or Best Western Desert Inn
- Holiday Inn West Yellowstone – we stayed here using points for travel. Loved the huge hotel rooms
If you choose to stay outside the park, you’ll find that prices are much better for hotels. You won’t have the convenience of waking up each day IN Yellowstone, but it’s a huge cost savings.
Yellowstone National Park Entrances
14:30 – There are five entrances to Yellowstone National Park:
- West Yellowstone – busiest entrance, goes directly into the Madison Valley
- North entrance in Gardiner through the Roosevelt Arch – second busiest, closest to Mammoth Hot Springs
- Cooke City / Silver Gate from the Beartooth Highway – takes you directly down into the Lamar Valley (great wildlife viewing in Yellowstone here!)
- Cody, Wyoming entrance on the east side, you have to drive around Yellowstone Lake
- South entrance / exit to Grand Teton National Park
15:45 – Yellowstone need-to-know: staying in West Yellowstone will add an hour to your projected travel time both in and out of the park because there is so much wildlife along the road. It’s mostly bison and elk, but there are eagles, swans, coyotes, and even moose. The drive is beautiful, but the traffic is really bad.
18:00 – Staying in Gardiner or on the north side of Yellowstone. Gardiner has chain hotels and boutique options. Search for a Gardiner hotel here!
- My #1 pick for north Yellowstone: the Sage Lodge. Gorgeous property, incredible setting, great food. Favorite hotel of 2019!
Driving the Beartooth Highway to Yellowstone
19:20 – If you want to drive the Beartooth Highway, it’s beautiful with the most epic views I’ve seen in North America. This takes you to the Cooke City entrance and into the Lamar Valley. Search for a Cody, WY hotel here!
20:00 – Staying in Cody, Wyoming – it’s a really cool old west town, but it’s far from most of the Yellowstone National Park attractions. Search for a Cody, WY hotel here!
20:20 – Big Sky, Montana is another option for accessing Yellowstone. This is north of West Yellowstone, so you’ll have a longer drive into the park, but Big Sky on its own is an incredible destination. There are so many things to do in Big Sky, MT!
Best Wildlife Tips for Yellowstone National Park
Wildlife in Yellowstone is always going to be a highlight for any visitor. Since it’s all WILD, you can never pick exactly where you’ll see it, but we’ve been to Yellowstone enough times to be able to predict the best places to see wildlife. To access parts of the park many others never will, plan for some kayaking in Yellowstone. Pristine lakes and nobody around is a great way to find wildlife.
21:45 – Our top wildlife picks and need-to-know Yellowstone wildlife tips:
- Bison in Hayden and Lamar Valleys
- Elk in the Madison Valley and at Mammoth Hot Springs – always be aware of wildlife safety!!!
- Moose in Yellowstone – the population in the park has dwindled and migrated to the Tetons
- Bighorn Sheep – cliffs of the Lamar Valley
- Trumpter Swans on the Madison River, Yellowstone River and in Swan Valley – get to the river EARLY to watch swans!
Thanks for hanging out with us. Clearly we love Yellowstone National Park and there’s a lot that you need to know and consider before planning a trip to the park. It really is a remarkable place and no matter how you approach it, you’ll enjoy. Please let us know if you have any questions!
Be sure to listen to our Yellowstone Geysers podcast episodes (there are two)!
What do you want to hear about from us on our podcast? Please leave us a comment below or send us a note with your questions and what you’d like to hear. We are excited to share!
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