Yellowstone national park, what to see in the most iconic natural park in the USA

Yellowstone national park, or more commonly Yellowstone Park, is one of the must-sees among the many natural parks the United States has to offer and its variety of scenery makes it a real gem. It is a vast area offering countless natural beauties: rivers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons, mountains, forests and the many bison living freely on the prairie. But above all, it is important to know that Yellowstone is an enormous active volcano, a huge caldera where geothermal areas are uncountable and can be visited safely via scenic wooden walkways. It is certainly one of the best known parks in America, almost entirely in the state of Wyoming and with a small part in Montana and Idaho.

Welcome to Yellowstone, the first national park in the United States established by President Ulysses Grant on 1 March 1872, later named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

Visiting Yellowstone Park

Normally, a visit to Yellowstone Park is one stage of a broader itinerary in the American West. It is recommended to plan three days in the park to appreciate the endless natural wonders but if this is not possible a full day may be enough to visit the highlights and still capture the essence of the area.

Yellowstone national Park how much does it cost

Single tickets to Yellowstone national park, by vehicle or on foot, range from $20 to $35 and are valid for 7 days. If you intend to visit several federally managed US national parks, invest $80 for the annual ‘America the Beautiful‘ pass, valid for 12 months from the date of purchase.

Yellowstone whereabouts

Yellowstone National Park, a natural wonder of incomparable beauty, stretches across three US states: Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
Predominantly located in Wyoming, this park is famous for its spectacular hot springs, geysers, rich wildlife and breathtaking scenery.

How many entrances are there to Yellowstone?

Yellowstone national park offers five main entrances to visitors: the North entrance near Gardiner, Montana; the Northeast entrance near Cooke City, Montana; the West entrance in West Yellowstone, Montana; the South entrance near Jackson, Wyoming; and the East entrance near Cody, Wyoming.

The northern access in Montana to Yellowstone national park remains operational all year round, while the remaining ones close during the winter period, north-east in Montana, east and south in Wyoming and west on the Montana-Wyoming border.
The southern entrance also provides access to the Grand Teton Park, with its imposing mountains, the Teton Range, also visible from the well-known Jackson Hole, a valley within the park, where animals such as bison, bears and moose can be spotted.

Each entrance takes visitors to a unique area of the park, offering a variety of experiences, landscapes and wildlife viewing opportunities. Whether exploring the famous Mammoth Hot Springs near the North entrance, or admiring the majestic Yellowstone Falls near the South entrance, every corner of the park offers a new adventure. With its picture-postcard views and biodiversity, Yellowstone Park remains a must-see destination for nature lovers and adventurers the world over.

Yellowstone Map – Yellowstone national park

Yellowstone map Yellowstone national park
Yellostone map – Yellowstone national park

The nearest airport is the regional airport in Cody, which is just over two hours away, but does not have direct connections to our continent. To be connected to Europe I suggest Salt Lake City at 6h away or Denver at 8h. If you are planning an itinerant trip that includes several destinations in the American West, you can also opt for other international airports such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix. I recommend hiring a car and letting yourself be enchanted by the beauty of this corner of America.

The official and free NPS app includes an interactive map of the park.
The map is easy to use when outdoors and features large fonts, illustrated paths and services, viewpoints and different zoom levels. By tapping the ‘Locate Me’ icon, you will always know where you are.

The villages of Gardiner and West Yellowstone offer various services including hotels, shops and restaurants. A small airport is operational in West Yellowstone.

Yellowstone what to see

Yellowstone Park offers many things to see for nature lovers, but the first thing that comes to mind is the animals.

Wildlife in Yellowstone

It may be that as children we were attached to the figure of the bears Yoghi and Bubu, to see Yellowstone Park as a magical place where rangers, visitors and animals coexisted peacefully – apart from the theft of picnic baskets.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Yellowstone is truly its incredible variety of wildlife.

Yellowstone Heyden Valley Nature Park
Yellowstone national park, what to see in the most iconic natural park in the USA 9

Certainly when thinking of Yellowstone, bison come immediately to mind, but they are in good company with bears, lynx, moose, wolves, foxes, trumpet swans and bald eagles.

In the park, you can find large mammals such as elk, bison, deer and wapiti, and there is also the possibility of spotting grizzly and black bears, as well as wolves, a species reintroduced in 1995.
To observe these animals safely, it is advisable to maintain an adequate distance of at least 23 metres from bison, elk, wapiti and elk, and at least 90 metres from bears and wolves. The Hayden and Lamar valleys are particularly suitable for wildlife observation.


Yellowstone national park, What to see in 1 day

What to see in 1 day in Yellowstone National Park Although perhaps having only one day to visit this spectacle of nature is not enough, many are the natural attractions, it will still give you an idea of how spectacular nature can be.
I propose six iconic places entering through the north entrance from South Dakota and Little big horn.

mammoth hot springs yellowstone national park
Mammoth hot springs – Photo credit: @CarShowShooter on Visualhunt
  1. Mammoth Hot Springs: Start the day by exploring these unique hot springs with their limestone terraces and hot water pools.
  2. Norris Geyser Basin: Continue to the Norris Geyser Basin to see some of the park’s most active geothermal phenomena, including geysers and hot springs.
  3. Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin: After lunch, head to Old Faithful, Yellowstone’s most famous geyser. It then explores the Upper Geyser Basin, rich in other geysers and geothermal phenomena.
  4. Grand Prismatic Spring: Don’t miss Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin, famous for its bright colours.
  5. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: End your day with a visit to the impressive Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, stopping at Artist Point for spectacular views of the falls and the canyon.
  6. Hiden Valley: If time permits, visit Hayden Valley to observe the bison and wildlife before leaving the park

Yellowstone, what to see in 3 days in Yoghi Park

Here is a 3-day itinerary in Yellowstone starting from the North entrance:

Day 1: North and Northwest of the Park

  • Morning: Start at Mammoth Hot Springs to explore the limestone terraces.
  • Afternoon: Drive to the Norris Geyser Basin to admire the geysers.
  • Where to eat: Picnic at Norris Geyser Basin or lunch at Mammoth General Store.
  • Where to stay: Stay in Canyon Village, booking a room at Canyon Lodge.

Day 2: Old Faithful and Geysers

  • Morning: Visit the Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin.
  • Afternoon: Explore the Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin.
  • Where to eat: Lunch at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
  • Excursion: In the late afternoon, take an excursion to the Biscuit Basin.
  • Where to stay: Stay overnight at the Old Faithful Inn.
Yellowstone national park Old Faithful
Old Faithful geyser – Yellowstone

Day 3: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Hayden Valley

  • Morning: Explore the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, including a stop at Artist Point.
  • Afternoon: Visit Hayden Valley to observe wildlife.
  • Hiking: Follow the trail to Mt Washburn, starting at Dunraven Pass.
  • Where to eat: Dinner at the Canyon Village Dining Room.
  • Where to stay: Return to Canyon Lodge for another overnight stay.

Remember to book accommodation well in advance during the high season and check the opening hours of the restaurants in the park, which may vary according to the season.


Other places not to miss in Yellowstone

A park full of attractions and spectacular landscapes, there are many places worth visiting among them, to name but a few:

Lamar Valley

This place is a true paradise for nature and wildlife lovers. Located in the north-east of Yellowstone National Park, Lamar Valley is often referred to as ‘America’s Serengeti’ for its abundant wildlife. Dawns and twilights here are magical moments: bison, elk, deer and even packs of wolves can be spotted in their natural beauty. The valley is also a spectacular area for birdwatchers, offering the chance to observe bald eagles, falcons and many other bird species. The majestic mountains surrounding the valley create a breathtaking landscape, with wide open spaces and grasslands that seem to stretch into infinity. Visiting Lamar Valley is like stepping back in time, to a time when nature ruled supreme. Every visit here is an unforgettable experience, a chance to connect with the wilderness in one of its purest sanctuaries.

Yellowstone Lake

With a maximum depth of just over one metre, it is the largest freshwater basin in North America above 2,000 metres.

Yellowstone Lake is a natural wonder located in the heart of Yellowstone National Park. When visiting this lake, a panorama of crystal-clear waters framed by lush forests and imposing mountains awaits you. During the summer, its waters come alive with activities such as canoeing, kayaking and fishing, offering a relaxing and picturesque experience. It is also an exceptional place for wildlife observation, with frequent sightings of bald eagles, beavers and the occasional bear wandering along its banks. The area around the lake is geologically active, with hot springs and fumaroles adding an extra layer of mystery and beauty. For hikers, there are several trails that meander along the coast, offering breathtaking views and the chance to discover isolated corners of the lake. A visit to Yellowstone Lake is an immersion in tranquillity and natural beauty, an experience that leaves an indelible memory in the mind of every visitor.

Lake yellowstone
Leke Yellowstone – Photo credit: Rennett Stowe on Visualhunt

In winter, much of its waters are covered by a blanket of ice, the thickness of which varies according to the season. In the remaining months you can fish and go boating.

Mount Washburn

It is possible to climb this mountain thanks to two trails of 5 and 4 km (one way), accessible from June to September. The panorama from the summit is at a height of just over 3,000 metres.

Mount Washburn, located in Yellowstone National Park, is a must-see destination for hikers and nature lovers. Reaching the top of this majestic mountain, visitors are rewarded with one of the most spectacular panoramic views in the park. The path to the summit is well maintained and offers exceptional opportunities to observe the local flora and fauna. During the hike, it is not uncommon to encounter wild animals such as mountain sheep, roe deer and, if you are lucky, even bears. The summit of Mount Washburn, at an elevation of over 3,000 metres, offers a 360-degree view of Yellowstone’s vast landscapes, including geysers, lush valleys and sparkling lakes. At the top, there is also a fire watchtower, which serves as a viewpoint and information centre. In addition, the available binoculars allow visitors to explore the landscape in even greater detail. Hikes to Mount Washburn offer an immersive experience in the Yellowstone wilderness, leaving a lasting impression of beauty and wonder.


Events in Yellowstone

Christmas in August

Every year on 25 August, the Christmas atmosphere is experienced in advance in the park’s hotels. Ma qual’è l’origine? At the beginning of the 20th century, it happened that visitors were stranded by a blizzard in August and so, on that day, some guests of the Old Faithful Inn decided to celebrate a kind of Christmas and the tradition continues.

Musical performances

Fine musical entertainment is organised at some accommodation facilities.


Yellowstone where to sleep

If you book well in advance, staying in Yellowstone will not be a problem as you can choose from campsites, bungalows, hotels, rustic or more modern facilities.

It is important to check the periods of operation of the preferred facilities and to check their location within the park according to the points of interest to be visited.


Yellowstone when to go

Yellowstone Park is a spectacle of nature in every season of the year, although in winter many areas are restricted in access and

Yellowstone in summer

Given the altitude at over 2,000 metres, the temperature is not very high and usually ranges from 20° to 27° with cool evenings and occasional thunderstorms. It is notoriously the season with the highest concentration of visitors.

Autumn in Yellowstone

Daytime temperatures range between 5° and 15° and some rainfall is possible. Not surprisingly, temperatures drop below zero in the evenings. Although the flow of tourists is less at this time, those who decide to visit Yellowstone can enjoy, as in New England, the spectacular fall foliage that sees the leaves of the trees turn red, ochre, yellow and orange.
The rangers at the Visitor Centres and the website are updated on the areas where the phenomenon is most evident.

Yellowstone in Winter

Temperatures are very cold, below zero. In Yellowstone, snow is a common phenomenon that provides the opportunity to ski or snowshoe as well as to appreciate the splendour of the whitewashed landscape, a fairytale setting. Many points of interest, including the Old Faithful geyser, are not accessible by car but by snowmobile. The road connecting the northern entrance to Montana can be travelled all year round. Winter is a fascinating season, but not for everyone.

Yellowstone in Spring

Towards the end of April, the roads begin to be free of snow. The daily temperatures gradually become pleasant, reaching 15° – 20°, but it is still cold in the evenings, particularly at the beginning of the season. Rainy days cannot be ruled out. From the end of April, services that were closed in winter begin to reopen and then begin to close again during the course of autumn.


Yellowstone national Park – Utli information

☆ Under no circumstances should you leave the walkways, as there are deep pools, hot springs with extremely hot temperatures, and animals roaming freely around the park.

☆ Four-legged friends are allowed in Yellowstone but must be kept on a leash in designated areas and only some accommodation facilities allow their stay.

☆ Telephone line coverage is not guaranteed throughout the park.

The hotels are equipped with restaurants and shops.

For any needs please consult the Park’s website


Surroundings of Yellowstone

There are significant places and towns around Yellowstone that make sense to visit on your road tour:

Jackson

This town of about 10,000 inhabitants, about two hours’ drive south of Yellowstone Park, lies at an altitude of 1,900 metres and is in an excellent location for visiting both Yellowstone and the Grand Teton.
Just a few kilometres from the town of Jackspn is Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, an ideal destination for ski and snowboard enthusiasts, with a grandiose panorama accessed by cable car.

I suggest a walk through the western atmosphere of the delightful old town where Town Square has the distinction of having an arch decorated with elk antlers at every corner. The square is also surrounded by various buildings housing shops, restaurants and a few blocks away are hotels.

If you are thinking of a wonderful holiday in this area, in May there is theOld West Daysan event packed with events including performances related to Native American culture, a parade and rodeo that continues throughout the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.

Jackson is also one of the possible airports to Yellowstone and Grand Teton Park

Cody

At an altitude of 1,500 metres and with a population of about 10,000, Cody, about two and a half hours east of Yellowstone national Park, is another excellent destination, both for overnight stays and because it is a pleasant town with western-style buildings and a rich historical past, plus the surrounding areas such as Yellowstone and the Grand Teton are must-see sights.

Cody Wyoming Buffalo Bill
Cody wyoming – Buffalo Bill Photo credit: skua47 on VisualHunt

Cody is the birthplace of William Frederick known as Buffalo Bill. For local history, I recommend the Buffalo Bill Center of the West museum complex, which includes the Buffalo Bill museum, Cody Firearms museum, Plain Indians museum, Natural History museum and Western Art museum. The complex is named after the famous bison hunter Buffalo Bill Cody, an eclectic character who founded the town in 1896.

To feel fully in the atmosphere of the West I suggest the Old Trail Town for a full immersion among historic buildings some of which have been moved to Cody from nearby locations. The complex is operational from mid-May to the end of September.

Along the Yellowstone Highway, heading west, I point out the impressive Buffalo Bill Dam, a dam on the Shoshone River, about 100 metres high.

In summer, there are concerts and the Stampede rodeo, a major event held during the period of American Independence celebrations.

Yellowstone Park at a glance

If you are planning your holidays and want to visit one or more American parks, Yellowstone is certainly an excellent choice because in the park’s vast expanse Mother Nature has enclosed different scenarios, each of extraordinary beauty, capable of providing unforgettable emotions.


Yellowstone national Park – Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Yellowstone National Park located?

parco naturale di Yellowstone heyden Valley

Yellowstone national Park is one of the most iconic natural parks in the United States.
It is located in the northwestern part of the USA in the state of Wyoming for almost the entirety and touches the states of Montana to the north and Idaho to the west.

Why is Yellowstone famous?

Bisonti Custer State Park South Dakota Black Hills

Yellowstone Park is famous for two main reasons:
The first is the spectacle of nature represented by geothermal energy. The great volcano beneath Yellowstone offers incredible spectacles such as the Geyser phenomenon and large thermal pools;
The second reason is the abundance of wildlife and large mammals such as the grizzly bear, grey wolf, American bison and wapiti.
There is actually a third one: It is the park of Yoghi and Bubu, the cartoon characters of the 70s and 80s

How many bears are there in Yellowstone?

In Yellowstone National Park, there are more than 700 bears. Despite this, fatal attacks on humans are very rare, especially if one follows the rules dictated by the Rangers. the increase in cases, however, is due to the increasing transfer of inhabitants to rural areas.

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