The vast Yellowstone National Park, stretching over portions of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, was the first U.S. National Park when it was established in 1872. Famous for its scenery, wildlife, and geothermal activity—most notably, the geyser known as Old Faithful—Yellowstone covers almost 3,500 square miles (9,000 square kilometers) of mountainous countryside. The park boasts one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America (Yellowstone Lake), the longest undammed river in the contiguous United States (Yellowstone River), and even its own Grand Canyon.
Yellowstone covers a whopping 2.2 million acres (890,000 hectares) of wilderness, so guided tours are the best way to fully appreciate this massive park. There are a number of Yellowstone National Park tours suitable for any age and interest, including full-day visits of the park highlights; lower-loop tours from Jackson, Wyoming.; guided trail hikes; rafting or kayaking excursions; scenic river floats perfect for young kids or the elderly; and wildlife viewing.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Yellowstone is home to hundreds of animal species, including bears, bison, wolves, and elk. Be sure to keep a safe and respectful distance from all wildlife.
- The National Park Service charges visitors to the park an entry fee, which includes a seven-day entry permit for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
- The lion's share of your visit to the park will be spent outdoors, so be sure to bring attire for warm and cool weather as temps can fluctuate with altitude, and pack a hat and sunblock.
- Yellowstone is an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages, perfect for a multi-generational family trip.
How to Get to Yellowstone
Yellowstone has five entrances with visitor centers to the northwest, northeast, south, east, and west. The nearest airports are the Yellowstone Airport near the town of West Yellowstone in Montana, and the Jackson Hole Airport in Jackson, Wyoming.
When to Get There
Yellowstone can be visited year-round, though most roads close from early November to mid-April, when only travel by snowmobile and snowcoach is permitted. The park is most crowded in July and August, so plan a spring or fall trip for good weather and fewer visitors.
Yellowstone’s Hot Springs and Geysers
There are more geysers in Yellowstone than any other place in the world. To visit the park's geysers, enter through the West Entrance and continue to Madison, the jumping off point for geyser basins to the north and south. The Lower Geyser Basin, which includes Fountain Paint Pot, and the Upper Geyser Basin, home to Old Faithful, are both to the south. The Mammoth Hot Springs and Steamboat geysers are in the Norris Geyser Basin to the north.