Our 2 Day Best of Yellowstone National Park itinerary: from the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Norris Geysers, Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lake, each itinerary route is its own day in the park and covers the best sights and tips for enjoying driving through Yellowstone National Park.
And don’t forget to review our complete guide to Yellowstone National Park, as we update it frequently with the freshest information!
Listen to our Yellowstone Sights and Geysers Podcast Episode
In this podcast episode we get into how to spend your time exploring Yellowstone National Park. We get asked quite often about how many days to spend in Yellowstone, where to stay, or just what our favorite sights are. We’ve created itineraries for Yellowstone National Park that cover four days of hiking, geysers and more.
This is the first of a two part series, so be sure to check out part 2 as well!
Yellowstone National Park Itineraries: days 1 & 2
Remember, you can adjust your routes and starting points based on where you’re staying each night. The Grand Loop road will take you around the whole park, so our Yellowstone National Park itineraries are flexible based on your time available and where you need to sleep at night.
This 2 day Yellowstone itinerary is very easy to follow and to add onto if you like. Feel free to download it or print it for using while you’re enjoying your Yellowstone road trip.
Itinerary Day 1 / Route 1 – Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Fun stops along the way, coming from West Yellowstone or Big Sky, Montana:
- Beryl Spring – pretty, super stinky, great first geyser spot to stop!
- Gibbon Falls – easy stop with parking, pretty falls and short trail to view point
- Artist Paint Pots – there are bathrooms here, cool paint pots
- Canyon Village – Visitor Center and groceries with grab-n-go lunch. Best ICE CREAM value in the park!
- Yellowstone Falls and Canyon
- Norris Geyser Basin – the Porcelain Basin is amazing
- Riverside Drive – watch for wildlife along the Madison River
Artist Paint Pots is a really fun stop with easy trails and interesting views. You should allow yourself an hour or more so you can take your time. Heads up, if you’re a bit out of shape, the walk up the hill to the main paint pots has quite a few stairs, but it’s really not that bad.
When it comes to Yellowstone Falls and enjoying the Canyon, there are lots of ways to approach it. We like to stop at the brink of the Upper Falls and walk down to the overlook (a little scary) and then head over to the canyon rim on the south side. Enjoy a picnic lunch before doing Uncle Tom’s Trail to Artist Point and back.
Norris Geyser Basin is a great afternoon exploration. One of the best things to do in Yellowstone, and yet one of the most overlooked later in the day, Norris has lots of unique springs and a few crazy steam vents and geysers. We do Norris in the afternoon because most people visit first thing in the morning, so crowds are way better.
End the day with a drive from Madison Junction to West Yellowstone. Watch for wildlife through the valley and do Riverside Drive at sunset. You’re nearly guaranteed to see elk, bison, eagles and even bear if you’re just before dark.
Route 2 / Day 2 – Madison to West Thumb Geyser Basin.
This day really focuses on hitting the geothermal areas of Yellowstone. This Yellowstone itinerary takes you to both the most famous and the most overlooked geyser in Yellowstone. I LOVE this particular driving day!
This is the ULTIMATE geyser day!:
- Firehole Canyon – beautiful sights, waterfalls and a sanctioned swimming hole!
- Midway Geyser Basin – home of the Grand Prismatic Spring
- Fairy Falls Hike and Grand Prismatic Overlook
- Old Faithful Geyser Basin
- West Thumb Geyser Basin and Grant Village
- Biscuit Basin
- Firehole Lake Drive
- Fountain Paint Pots
As you drive in for day 2 in Yellowstone National Park, take advantage of the spur roads and viewpoints. On the way to Midway Geyser Basin, check out the churning falls of Firehole Canyon Drive. Once at Midway, you’ll get a change to walk through the most bizarre, colorful landscape.
The real highlight of the morning is the Fairy Falls hike to the viewpoint overlooking the Grand Prismatic Spring. WOW! You can’t miss it!
Old Faithful is one of the best things to do in Yellowstone if you’re looking for iconic and consistent experiences. It’s very crowded, but worth the visit. Enjoy a long stroll through TONS of geysers and hot springs, ending with a visit to the Old Faithful Inn or Lodge (ice cream and lunch!).
A nice drive down to Yellowstone Lake is next where you’ll enjoy West Them Geyser Basin. Yes, it’s worth the stop. Geysers set against the backdrop of the expansive Yellowstone Lake. If you have time and interest, kayaking on the lake past West Thumb Geyser Basin is an option. Kayaking in Yellowstone takes planning, but if you can do it you’ll experience a very different side of the part with fewer people and epic views.
Biscuit Basin is an easy, quick stop in the afternoon, with the most vibrant hot springs pools of anywhere in the park. It’s a short visit and simple to work in. Continue on your way back to West Yellowstone and take the detour down Firehole Lake Drive. Another WOW! Geysers, wildlife and boiling cascades make it an awesome Yellowstone thing to do.
End you day in Yellowstone National Park with a stop at Fountain Paint Pots. It’s pretty cool and the bubbling mud is weird. The best part though are the geysers on the backside of the loop. They’re crazy, wild spraying, loud natural wonders.
2 Day Yellowstone Itinerary Download
Here’s a downloadable version of this awesome 2 day Yellowstone National Park Itinerary. Check off the sights and hikes as you go and have an amazing time! Download 2 Day Yellowstone Itinerary here!
2 Days, Best of the Best of Yellowstone Podcast Notes
In this episode…
3:50 – Awesome Road Trip Travel Tip: Chris’s top tip for making a road trip fly by: Download podcasts and audio books for long driving days. We recommend Wow In the World and But Why? and, of course, 2TravelDads Podcast!
6:20 – How geysers work – I let my inner geology geek escape for a moment
Listen to our Geysers of Yellowstone Part 1 podcast episode!
8:35 – Can you get into the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park? NO! They are hot, acidic pools. No, you can’t swim in them. Listen to Yellowstone National Park Itineraries Part 2 for where you CAN enjoy hot spring soaking in Yellowstone. Don’t worry, we’ll tell you how to add the experience to your Yellowstone itineraries.
Exploring the Canyon Area of Yellowstone
11:25 – Yellowstone Falls Viewpoints – Brink of the Upper Falls, picnic area and the trail head for Uncle Tom’s Trail are all accessible from . This is also where you can climb the crazy staircase down into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Note: This trail/staircase has been under construction as of summer 2019.
14:25 – The best view of the Canyon and Lower Falls is NOT at the main Artist Point, but on the way to it on the staircase down. This is a good spot for a photo and you’ll not have to wait through a big line just to get one. Really, the platform at Artist Point is a bit crazy with tour groups.
Evening sights in Norris and Madison Valley
15:25 – End your day at Norris Geyser Basin – the lighting is amazing and great for photographing geysers. The Porcelain Basin is our favorite! You’ll find that there are never-ending trail options as you go, but follow the map and you’ll be sure to see the best of Norris. It’s a must for you Yellowstone itinerary.
16:00 – Riverside Drive on the Madison River is a spur road that runs parallel to the main road. It’s the best place to see sunset in Yellowstone. If you’re not staying in West Yellowstone, this is very out of the way, but if you really want a gorgeous sunset it is worth the drive. Tip: because of wildlife traffic delays, if you want to watch sunset in Yellowstone here, you do need to leave early and pick your spot on the river before sunset starts.
Quick stops on the Yellowstone Grand Loop Road
17:50 – Firehole Canyon Drive is a one way road that travels north to south on the way between Madison and Midway Geyser Basin. It’s very easy to add to your Yellowstone itinerary and is just a beautiful drive. If you are driving Firehole Canyon on a hot day or in the afternoon, there is a beautiful swimming hole that is NPS sanctioned. It’s one of the only swimming spots in Yellowstone.
19:00 – Midway Geyser Basin is small but beautiful. This is home to the Grand Prismatic Spring and several other beautiful pools. It’s a must-see stop and you MUST plan for it!! The main Midway Geyser area is just a boardwalk loop, so it doesn’t take a long time, and this will take you by the Grand Prismatic Spring. TO VIEW FROM ABOVE: hike the Fairy Falls Trail head to get to the overlook. This is a really easy 1.2 mile round-trip hike. Allot 1.5 hours because the view really is spectacular!
Best Geysers and Hot Springs in the Upper and Lake Basins
21:00 – Old Faithful Geyser Basin – you need to make the stop and enjoy the tall spout of Old Faithful (and you have several lunch options) but it really isn’t the most impressive place to put on your Yellowstone National Park itinerary. If you have a bike, you can actually ride bikes all the way to the Morning Glory Pool, but the eastern board walks.
23:05 – West Thumb Geyser Basin – This is a really beautiful spot right on Yellowstone Lake and needs to be on your Yellowstone itinerary. It’s really exposed so on a hot day you’ll want to bring an umbrella for shade. I know that sounds silly, but it’s really necessary. Also, Grant Village is very close and has great ice cream for cheap!
24:00 – Stop at the Biscuit Basin and Firehole Lake Drive – Both of these stops are great on a Yellowstone Itinerary. There are very few people in these areas and they’re really beautiful. Biscuit Basin is a half hour stop unless you do the long hike into the hills. Firehole Lake Drive is a one way road heading north with amazing sights and hardly any people! Really active hot springs, geysers and the Hot Cascades make this spot super cool.
25:00 – Last stop of the day is at Fountain Paint Pots. It’s beautiful and is one of the most active geyser areas. This is where you’ll see both gorgeous hot springs and crazy geysers. The Fountain Geyser is THE BEST geyser in Yellowstone and HAS TO BE on your itinerary.
26:00 – TIP: Fountain Flat Drive is just a bit north and it has one of the few bathrooms off this Yellowstone road trip route. You’ll find that as you continue on your Yellowstone itinerary there are very few bathroom stops along the Grand Loop road. If you’re doing Yellowstone with kids, take advantage of the quick stops for the bathroom.
Tune into our next episode to get our next two days of Yellowstone Itineraries. In the next episode we cover the Northwest corner of the park, including Swan Valley, Mammoth, Tower, Lamar and Hayden Valleys. So much to explore!
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