geyser exploding

geyser exploding

7-Day Yellowstone National Park Itinerary


Yellowstone National Park Tour Map

For the Ultimate Explorer

A week in Yellowstone is just the right amount of time for exploring the best that the park has to offer.

You’ll drive along its scenic roads, stretch your legs on a few short, sweet hikes, visit all eight major geyser basins, and take in the sights at all the top lookouts.

Feel free to edit this itinerary as you see fit for shorter trips. If you’ll be staying longer, consider adding some more local highlights to your trip.

Every stop on this itinerary is on Shaka Guide’s Yellowstone National Park Tour. This tour features 110 stops in total and over 400 audio narration points. It is completely customizable - choose your starting point and go!

The tour works regardless of which direction you're traveling. So, take a small portion of the itinerary or the whole thing - the choice is yours!

Don't have a full week to explore Yellowstone? No worries. This itinerary is broken down into the main sections of the park. So, pick the area you'd like to explore and use this as your guide. 



DAY ONE - West Yellowstone Entrance

This day is all about settling in, getting supplies, and sampling a quick taste of the park. We’ll explore the West Entrance and check out all of the stops up to Madison Junction.

This way, when we head out early the next morning, it’s straight to the southern loop at the heart of the park. If you don’t have time to explore on your first day, you can always add these stops to your final day instead.

Lodgings: West Yellowstone

1. Begin the Tour From Outside West Yellowstone

Just minutes outside of the town of West Yellowstone, your Yellowstone adventure begins. Whether you’re coming in from WYS Airport or off the Targhee Pass Highway, Shaka Guide will help you get acclimated with some quick tour instructions.

2. Supply Stop in West Yellowstone

If you’d like, stop to pick up supplies and food you might need in West Yellowstone. There are several grocery stores and camping and equipment stores in town.

3. Pass-Through the West Entrance

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Alright, now it’s on through the West Gate. If you have your NPS park pass already, take the right express lane. Otherwise, pick one up in one of the other lanes. 

4. See Scenic West Yellowstone

river with a broken tree on the left sideImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 1 hour

Start your adventure by driving along the crystal-clear Madison River. As one of the best rivers in the nation for fly fishing, it holds the honorable distinction of being a Blue Ribbon Fishery. The drive down and back will take about an hour, but you will need about two hours to enjoy all of the stops.

5. Two-Ribbon Trail

trail with river on the side and a mountainImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

This trail passes through conifer trees as it follows the Madison River. This 3/4-mile flat walk is a great way to explore an area so beautiful that it was once thought to be where the idea of a national park was born. 

6. Head on Back

After arriving at Madison Junction and campground, turn around, and we’ll make a few more stops in West Yellowstone. If we’re here close to sunset, it will be an especially stunning drive back in.

7. Talus Mountain

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Stop by Talus Mountain and see the long-weathered mountainside for yourself. Hidden in the small stones formed by rockfall are some of Yellowstone’s tiniest, cutest rodent residents. See if you can spot any of the elusive Pika for yourself!

8. Historical Exhibit

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Visit this historical display to discover more about the explorers and early history of the park. This pullover provides a view of a meadow that is frequented by elk and deer.

9. Madison Picnic Area

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

Immediately past the historical exhibit, we’ll find the Madison Picnic Area. This is a great place to have a snack, admire the river, and look for wildlife.

10. Riverside Drive

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Veer left to take Riverside Drive. This short road is nestled in pine trees and parallels the riverbank. This is a great area to see many animals, and at dusk, coyotes dart in and out from between the trees.

11. Return to West Yellowstone Town

road with cars parked outside of restaurants on sunsetImage by Rachel Ennis

If there’s time, consider grabbing a bite or exploring the town. For more information on what to see and do in West Yellowstone, check out our highlights. 

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DAY TWO - Madison Junction and Old Faithful

Head into the park through the west entrance. Today's adventures begin just south of Madison Junction, so turn right where we left off yesterday. Then you’ll follow the lower loop counterclockwise all the way to the West Thumb Geyser Basin, exploring six geothermal basins along your route. 

Listed in each day’s itinerary are a few of the best optional hikes in the area. I suggest you pick out one quick favorite, as every day is already full of activities. Otherwise, consider adding another day or two to your itinerary.

Lodgings: West Yellowstone

1. Drive to Madison Junction

madison junction signImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 25 minutes

Begin your epic day loop by turning right at Madison Junction. Don’t forget to stop by the restroom or information station if you need to!

2. To the Southern Edge of Yellowstone

Approximate Time: 50 minutes

The southeast portion of Yellowstone is overflowing with geyser basins. Even if you never leave the car, the roads are surrounded on all sides by steaming, bubbling hot springs and fumaroles.

3. Cruise Firehole Canyon Road

river with tress on the sideImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 20 minutes-1 hour

Before rejoining the Grand Loop, enjoy the stunning Firehole Canyon and Fall as we follow the river upstream.

In the river, there is a bathing area that is heated by hydrothermal springs. Keep an eye out for the stairs and boardwalk that go to the swimming hole.

4. Fountain Flat Drive

fountain flat drive signImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Take a quick detour down Fountain Flat Drive, where you’ll find a lively, grassy meadow, two small hot springs, and the legendary Maiden’s Grave.

You’ll also get another good look at the Firehole River,  jumping and splashing with trout. 

5. Explore Fountain Paint Pots 

geyser on paint potsShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

As you drive to Fountain Paint Pots, you’ll pass a few roadside hot springs, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled.

You’ll definitely want to make time to walk the 0.6-mile Fountain Paint Pots boardwalk trail.

There are several lesser-known geysers and hot springs here, such as Celestone Pool and Spasm Geyser.

6. Take Firehole Lake Drive

geyser smokingImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

A brief loop on the 3-mile Firehole Lake Drive leads to several stunning hydrothermal features, including the White and Pink Dome Geysers and the Great Dome Geyser.

They’re all available from roadside lookouts or short boardwalk walks. 

7. Walk along the Biscuit Basin (and optional hike)

sky blue basinShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 30 minutes-3 hours

This 0.6-mile boardwalk trail encircles several unique hydrothermals, such as Sapphire Pool and Biscuit Basin.

For those with the time and a sense of adventure, the 2.5-mile Mystic Falls Trail, beginning at the end of the boardwalk, leads to the beautiful Firehole River cascades, known as Mystic Falls.

Another Shaka secret here: this is a great place for a midday picnic! The tables are right by the parking lot.

8. Meander through Midway Geyser Basin (and optional hike)

geysers on sunsetImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 1-4 hours

The Midway Geyser Basin may just end up being your favorite stop in the park. Along the short boardwalk trail that encircles the gigantic, 370' Grand Prismatic Spring, you'll also witness a number of other smaller hot springs. 

If you have time, be sure to pull into Fairy Falls Trailhead and take the 0.6-mile one-way hike to Grand Prismatic Overlook. If you’re feeling adventurous, this trail continues for another 1 mile each way to Fairy Falls, one of the park’s most spectacular waterfalls.

9. Black Sand Basin

geysers with pathway on the sideImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

Named for its rare obsidian black sand, Black Sand Basin has some of the most colorful but overlooked hot springs in the park.

Be sure to see the Emerald Pool, Opalescent Pool, and Sunset Lake along this short, half-mile boardwalk.

10. Say Hello to Old Faithful

Shutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 1-3 hours

It’s not a trip to Yellowstone without visiting the iconic and reliable Old Faithful. The big geyser itself erupts about every 60–110 minutes, but if you get there early, don’t fret.

There are lots to see and do nearby, including checking out the Visitor Center, the Tribal Heritage Center, or the surrounding hydrothermal features along the Geyser Loop Trail.

If you need a snack, coffee, or restroom break, be sure to stop by the historic Old Faithful Lodge. That’s also where you’ll find the gift shop.

11. Kepler Cascades (and optional hike)

river flowing between rocksImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 30 minutes-3 hours

A short boardwalk allows visitors to see the roaring Kepler Cascades. If you’re looking for a bigger adventure, this pullover also marks the beginning of the partially paved Lonestar Trail. To reach the famous Shoshone Basin, the largest backcountry geyser basin in Yellowstone, it’s a 5-mile walk there and back.

12. Straddle the Continental Divide

continental divide signage along a bridge surrounded by pine treesShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Stop at Isa Lake and see the only lake in the world that flows into two different oceans. Not only that, this lake drains backward—the western end flows to the Atlantic, and the eastern end flows to the Pacific. It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind stop.

13. Shoshone Lake Overlook

overview of pine trees from top of a mountainImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Squint your eyes, and you can just make out the beautiful Shoshone Lake across the horizon. Hidden in the backcountry, this lake is named for the Native Americans who frequented it. The trip is worth it, though, with about a dozen campgrounds and its own geyser basin.

14. Continue Along the Lower Loop

sky blue colored basinShutterstock Image

Don’t take that south exit! We’re continuing on to see the West Thumb Geyser Basin.

15. Visit the West Geyser Basin (and optional hike)

small geyser in the middle of a water during sunsetImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 1-3 hours 

This may just be one of the best-kept secrets in Yellowstone. Without traveling too far off the beaten path, you’ll be able to enjoy one of Yellowstone’s best geyser basins. Be sure to check out the famous Fishing Cone Geyser while you’re there! The Yellowstone Lake Overlook Trail is also worth a walk if you have time. It’s a quick 1.7-mile loop that’s popular with birders.

16. Turn on Around

Approximate Time: 50 minutes

Once you finish up at West Thumb, it’s time to head back. Don’t worry; you’ll check out Fishing Bridge and the east entrance another day. For now, as the sun begins to set, just enjoy a peaceful drive back to your accommodations in West Yellowstone.

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DAY THREE - North Entrance and Norris Geyser Basin

Day three takes us north of Madison Junction. We’ll stop at a few geothermal basins, including the famous Mammoth Terraces, before heading out the north entrance to the town of Gardiner.

Accommodations: Gardiner

1. Begin Your Drive To the North of Yellowstone

Approximate Time: 1 hour

For the last time, your day begins in West Yellowstone. Just as before, you’ll drive through the east entrance, but this time, you’ll head north at Mammoth Junction. The drive to Gardiner will be full of hot springs, pine forests, and no shortage of exciting stops.

2. Take some time at Terrace Spring

spring lake with pathway in the middleImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 10 minutes 

It’s less than a quarter mile on this quiet looping boardwalk to see the large, hot spring lake with boiling springs. The best part? You may just have this hidden gem all to yourself!

3. Tuff Cliff

cliff with pine trees below and above itImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Yellowstone's early volcanic eruptions left behind this mountain of compacted, welded volcanic ash. Be sure to stop by to see it. Additionally, picnic tables and a restroom are available at the pullover.

4. Gibbon Picnic Area and Falls

picnic area with tables and treesImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

Want to enjoy the music of the Gibbon River while having lunch? Swing by the Gibbon Picnic Area! After you’re done, it’s less than a half-mile drive to Gibbon Falls, named for early Yellowstone explorer Colonel Gibbon.

5. Beryl Spring

hot spring near a slopeImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

This is one of the most radiant hot springs in the park, with a striking blue color like that of a beryl stone. It’s just on the side of the road, so it’s more than worth the stop.

6. Critique the Artist’s Paint Pots

colorful terrain and pine treesImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 45 minutes

Artists’ Paintpots 0.6-mile boardwalk begins in pine woods and emerges into a basin full of colorful mud pots. It's one of Shaka's top spots for avoiding the crowds while enjoying the park's unique, bubbly, gurgly hydrothermal.

7. Gibbon Meadows Picnic Area

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

Have you worked up an appetite for a snack break? Enjoy some shade under the tall pines while listening to the gentle run of the Gibbon River.

8. Walk to A Chocolate Spring

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Take a quick stroll along the river to see “Duck Rock” and Chocolate Spring,

9. Norris Geyser Basin

sky blue hot basins Shutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

You’re not “geysered out” yet, are you? Because there is one more major basin to see before you head on up to Mammoth Hot Springs. The Norris Geyser Basin is Yellowstone’s hottest and oldest geyser basin, featuring the tallest geyser in the world! You won’t want to miss this 2.9-mile looping boardwalk trail. 

10. Continue to the Northern Loop

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Don’t head down Norris Canyon Road; you’ll hit that area another day.

11. Museum of the National Park Ranger

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

Drive down this side road to check out a film about the park rangers, browse some historical exhibits, and maybe pick the brain of a current or retired park ranger. After all, without these dedicated employees, none of what you’re experiencing would be possible.

12. Nymph Lake and Frying Pan Spring

lake surrounded by trees on a cloudy skyImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Stop off to check out two unique hot springs, Nymph Lake and Frying Pan Spring. Nymph Lake is surrounded by several small, pale blue springs.

Frying Pan Spring is a sizzling hot spring with a sound to match its name.

13. Hear the Roaring Mountain

smokie-emitting white rock mountainShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

You’ve seen them, you’ve smelled them. Now, let’s hear them. Roaring Mountain is pocked with fumaroles, super-hot chasms that “roar” and hiss with steam.

The ash-gray color of this mountain is caused by sulfur-reducing bacteria that dissolve the lava stone over time.

14. Obsidian Cliff and Exhibit 

rocky cliff

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Because of some extra-handsy tourists (shame!), you aren’t allowed to walk directly to the Obsidian Cliff.

But, we’ll get a great view as you drive past, and then we’ll stop off at the exhibit. Then, take a short 5-minute walk to get another view of the cliff, black glass shining and shimmering in the sun.

15. Drink in the Sights at Apollinaris Spring

rocks with grass and waterImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Look, I’m not part of the Yellowstone Health Department, but technically, the water at Apollinaris Spring has been deemed unsafe to drink.

Even so, it's worth the short stroll over to visit this iconic water feature and natural spring, which has served tourists in the early 19th century.

16. Sheepeater Cliff (with optional hike)

basalt columns at sheepeater cliffsShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 30 minutes-2 hours

Pull in to see Sheepeater Cliff, a geometric basaltic wall that was named for the Sheepeater people, one of the few Native American tribes to live in Yellowstone year-round.

These hexagonal columns formed naturally over 1.3 million years ago and cooled into the unique shape you see today. Its short, 1-mile there-and hike leads to a second basalt cliff and then the chutes of the Gardner River. 

17. Take a Gander at Swan Lake

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

On the way north, you'll pass the wildlife haven known as Swan Lake Flats, a popular nesting ground for the endangered Trumpeter Swan. Keep your eyes and ears open—that’s a photo op you won’t want to miss!

18. Bunsen Peak Trail (optional hike)

bunsen peak road sign with mountain on the sideImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 3 hours

Named for Robert Bunsen, inventor of the Bunsen Burner, this trail is just shy of 5 5-mile roundtrip and leads you 1,300 feet up to Bunsen Peak.

From the mountain’s summit, you’ll have a bird’s-eye view of Mammoth Hot Springs.

For the explorers looking to go beyond the beaten path, they can continue to Osprey Falls, an 8-mile round-trip hike that leads to one of the park’s deepest canyons.

19. Rustic Falls and Golden Gate

concrete road with a river below and pine treesImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

These two pullovers let you admire the plummeting rustic falls and the Golden Gate viaduct.

Though this new concrete bridge is much more stable than its wooden predecessor, its sheer height is sure to take your breath away. 

20. To the Hoodoos!

rocks piling up between pine treesImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

This quick looping drive takes you through Yellowstone’s “hoodoos.” Though we call them "hoodoos," they are actually boulders that rolled down from nearby Terrace Mountain.

Real hoodoos are formed by erosion. You should take a few minutes to check out this boulder field and “false hoodoos” for yourself.

21. Drive the Upper Terrace

water flowing from rocksShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for—Mammoth Hot Springs! Some big highlights on this 1.5-mile drive are the Orange Spring Mound, Angel Terrace, and Aphrodite Terrace. You won’t want to miss this iconic drive around Yellowstone’s white travertine terraces.

22. Walk the Lower Terrace

A mirror smooth pool of water on Minerva Terrace in Mammoth Hot Springs,Image from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 1 hour

Now that you’ve explored the Upper Terrace, it’s time to check out the Lower Terrace.

Those instantly recognizable photos of snow-white terraces you see online? Most of those happened down here.

Minerva Terrace, Jupiter Terrace, and all of these park icons are sure to enchant you.

If you have time, I suggest you walk the entire 2.2-mile boardwalk. Don’t forget to stop by Liberty Cap before heading out!

23. Check out Mammoth Village

village with mountain at the backImage from Flickr by 


Approximate Time: 1 hour

If you’re here before about 4 p.m., consider checking out Mammoth Village. There’s the historical Fort Yellowstone, the Albright Visitor Center, and the Mammoth General Store. If you’re hungry, consider stopping by the Mammoth Dining Room.

24. Head out the North Exit

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

From here, it’s a short trip out the north exit and to Gardiner. The drive itself is only about ten minutes.

25. Cast Your Eyes to Eagle Rock

As we near our exit and Gardner Canyon, we’ll pass by one of the regular nesting sites for Golden eagles. Keep your eyes to the sky and you may be lucky enough to spot one.

26. Rest Your Eyes in Gardner Town

view of town and a canyonImage from Flickr by 

You’ve more than earned yourself a good rest and a hot meal. The town of Gardner has tons of activities, such as the Yellowstone Research and Heritage Center and Yellowstone Hot Springs baths. Check out highlights for more suggestions.

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DAY FOUR - Lamar Valley and the Northeast Entrance

Today starts by exploring the north entrance. Then, it’s on to Lamar Valley and the northeastern exit. There are several hikes available, but as always, consider your time and pick just one of your favorites, or add another day to your tour.

Accommodations: Cooke City

1. Explore the North Entrance

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Since you arrived late the day before, today you’ll take some time to explore the short but sweet northern entrance. 

2. See Roosevelt Arch

yellowstone north entranceShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

The Roosevelt Arch is the historic gateway to Yellowstone. In a 1903 opening ceremony, Roosevelt placed its cornerstone, declaring Yellowstone to be “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

3. 45th Parallel Photo-Op

45th parallel of latitude signboardImage from Flickr by 

You’ll want to snag a quick photo of this landmark sign! This marks the 45th parallel of latitude, and sure, it might all be imaginary, but it’s still pretty neat!

4. Dip into the Boiling River (optional)

Approximate Time: 1 hour

This is one of only two places in the park where visitors can swim. Hydrothermal waters raise the temperature of the otherwise rigid water to a cozy 140 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a perfect spot to wade and keep warm. 

Please note: The 2022 floods have altered the course of the Yellowstone River, and, as of May 2023, swimming has not reopened at the Boiling River swimming area.

5. Begin a New Day on Grand Loop Road

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

Turning left in Mammoth Village connects you to the new area of the Grand Loop that you’ll be exploring today. It includes an area known as the Northern Range, which is home to some of Yellowstone's most dangerous and fascinating predators.

6. Undine Falls (and optional hike)

falls with trees besideImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 20 minutes- 5 hours

Undine Falls is where Lava Creek tumbles over basaltic stones. To reach the overlook, you just go down a few wooden steps. At the next pullover—just seconds ahead—lies the Lava Creek Trail and Picnic Area. This trail leads to Undine Falls, but if you choose to hike it, it’s 8 miles there and back.

7. Wraith Falls (optional hike)

water flowing smoothly between forestsImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 1 hour

Take a half-mile walk down to Wraith Falls, an 80-foot fan fall. Be on the lookout for the antelope and elk that frequent the area along the way.

8. Forces of the Northern Range (optional hike)

pathway with views of grassland on cloudy skymage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 1 hour

Take this half-mile looping boardwalk with informational displays to learn about this area’s unique wildlife. On the horizon, across a sprawling meadow, you'll see the profile of the Absaroka foothills while strolling along the half-mile looping boardwalk.

9. Cruise Down Blacktail Drive (optional drive)

road on a foggy morningImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

Blacktail Drive is accessible to all vehicles, but exercise caution after rain. This gravel road is much more scenic and private than the main road, and that means you’ll have a better chance to see wildlife.

the other

10. Hellroaring Mountain and Trail (optional hike)

rocky mountain on a clear skyImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 5-6 hours

If you can’t drive down Blacktail Drive, the good news is that sticking to the main road means you’ll pass the Hellroaring Trailhead. This 6-mile day hike takes you to the Yellowstone River and suspension bridge and is one of this area’s most popular hikes.

11. See the Petrified Tree

petrified tree guarded by railings

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Take a short detour to see one of Yellowstone’s petrified trees—a fossilized remnant from a time when Yellowstone was covered in redwoods and warm-weather forests.

12. Tower Junction Pit Stop

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Take a quick restroom break and fill up the tank before heading out to the east entrance. If you’re feeling hungry, step into the historic Roosevelt Lodge to fill up your internal tank.

13. Petrified Forest Trail (optional hike)

Approximate Time: 3 hours

This 3.6-mile there-and-back trail leads to a petrified redwood forest. It’s a steep climb, but seeing these still-standing trees and the sweeping view of the valley below is well worth it.

14. Take in the Sights at Lamar Valley

valley with bisons on the grasslands belowShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 40 minutes

As you drive through this wildlife mecca, keep on the lookout for bison, bears, antelope, foxes, and all of the wildlife that frequents the area.

Your tour will point out glacial erratic boulders and notable Absaroka mountain peaks, and, as always, you’ll hear several exciting stories about the area and its history.



15. Warm Creek Trail (optional hike)

Approximate Time: 3 hours

Walk through beautiful rolling meadows before emerging out to Pebble Creek. If you stop there, each way will take just over an hour. Backpackers can continue on to the Pebble Creek Trailhead, a 12-mile one-way hike. 

16. Enjoy a Rest in Cooke City

city with parked cars and a mountain at the backImage from Flickr by 

After passing out of the northeastern exit, you’ve earned a good, long rest in Cooke City. There are restaurants, the Cooke Museum, hiking trails, and more. To learn more about this city’s highlights, check out our guide here.

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DAY FIVE - Lamar Valley + The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Day five heads from Cooke City, back through Lamar Valley, into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and out through the east exit and into Cody. This will be a particularly long day, so be sure to set out early!

Accommodations: Cody or Wapiti

1. Take a Second Glance at Lamar Valley

Approximate Time: 40 minutes

On this re-entry, we’ll have a few more optional stops. Set out early to spot more wildlife, as they tend to be more active in the mornings and evenings.

2. Cool off in Ice-Box Canyon (optional hike)

Approximate Time: 1 hour

A short, quarter-mile walk leads you back to the entrance of Ice Box Canyon. This wintery canyon stays shadowed and icy far into the summer—a quirky and unique park stopover.

3. See Soda Butte

small crater with mountain at the backImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

You’ll stop to see the majestic hot spring cone known as "Soda Butte." Even though it's no longer active, it's still worth the stop. Not to mention, cliff swallows have turned the cone into a kind of bird condominium, so be sure to check it out!

4. Pass the Buffalo Forever Institute

Along your drive, you’ll pass the historical spot where bison were successfully reintroduced after being pushed to extinction. Today, the institute partners with the park, offering funds and classes to visitors. To find out how to enroll, see our highlights for the link.

5. Keep Your Eyes to the Sky

As we follow along the Lamar River, keep your eyes open for ospreys. The valley’s riverbanks are a favorite nesting ground that they return to most years.

6. Visit Yellowstone’s First Bridge (optional hike)

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

Follow the Yellowstone River upstream for only a half-mile to see the remains of Yellowstone’s first bridge, built by explorer Jack Yellowstone Baronette in 1871.

7. Pass through Tower Junction

Hang a left to begin heading towards the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

8. Calcite Spring Overlook

overlook in calcite springImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Here at the Calcite Springs overlook, the canyon walls have been covered by a cascade of white calcite.

At the same time, black oil and sulfur ooze out from the rock, streaking the canyon’s face with contrasting black.

These streams trail down to the river, where steam rises from riverbank hot springs.

9. Overlook the Tower Falls

Approximate Time: 30 minutes- 1 hour

Tower Falls has a general store and, as you may have guessed, a waterfall. A short boardwalk leads to several breathtaking overlooks of the plunging 132-foot falls.

There is also a one-mile there-and-back trail that leads to the river and past a few bubbling cauldrons.

10. Chittendon Road (with optional hike)

overview during sunsetImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 30 minutes- 5 hours

The drive up to Mount Washburn is sure to leave you breathless—whether from the heights or the narrow road.

The stunning view that awaits you looks over the river, peaks, and valleys off in the distance. If you have the stamina, consider embarking on one of Yellowstone’s most challenging and rewarding hikes.

The Mt. Washburn Trail is a steep climb to the summit—about 6 miles there and back—but hikers are rewarded with a 360-degree view at over 10,000 feet.

Be sure to check out the fire lookout and interpretive exhibit when you reach the top!

11. Washburn Hot Springs Overlook

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

The Washburn Hot Springs Overlook is a great place to stretch your legs, look out at the Yellowstone caldera, and take a quick restroom break.

12. Continue South through Canyon Junction

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Continue south through Canyon Junction, and in just a few moments, you’ll arrive at your first Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone stop.

13. Continue Exploring the North Rim

Approximate Time: 1 hour

Your epic Grand Canyon adventure begins with a turn right onto North Rim Drive. The Brink of the Lower Falls has one scenic stop after another, including the Brink of the Lower Falls, Lookout Point, Grand View, and Inspiration Point. Most of these lookouts are roadside or accessed by a short walk. Be sure to stop by every point on your way up.

14. Seven Mile Trail and Silver Cord Cascade (optional hike)

Approximate Time: 1-4 hours

Walking one mile along this trail leads to the Silver Chord Cascade overlook. If you go down five miles, however, you’ll reach the misnomer known as Seven-Mile Hole, where the canyon touches the Yellowstone River. The final two miles of this trail are a steep descent, so be sure you’re prepared.

15. Get Refreshed in Grand Canyon Village

Approximate Time: 1 hour

Canyon Village has a restaurant, a lodge, several shops, and a visitor center. If you do nothing else, be sure to stop by the visitor center—the displays, including one lit diorama of Yellowstone, are informative. They really help to visualize complex geological processes like the formation of the canyon and caldera.

16. Brink of the Upper Falls

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

After you circle around, turn right just past the North Rim Drive to get one final look at the Upper Falls. This viewpoint, right at the brink of the falls, is one of the best in the park. You’ll need to walk just over a quarter mile on an easy trail to enjoy its viewing platform.

17. Head Down the South Rim

Approximate Time: 1 hour

This drive leads to two more fantastic canyon viewpoints—the Upper Falls View and Artist Point—along with some optional hikes. I recommend Uncle Tom’s Trail. Take one last look at this geological wonder: the eras of rock carved through by the Yellowstone River's awesome power are truly breathtaking.

18. Uncle Tom’s Trail (optional hike)

Approximate Time: 1 hour

There used to be a series of thrilling rope bridges that connected this historic trail. No fear now. To reach its viewing platform, hugging the side of the canyon, you’ll just need to take the 300 stairs down. And then…up.

19. Enter Hayden Valley

cars lining up in the road with grasslands besideImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Continue your journey south by driving into the wildlife haven known as Hayden Valley. This marshy landscape attracts grazers from all over, and grazers attract predators. 

20. Mary Mountain Trail (optional hike)

Approximate Time: 2-3 hours 

If you’d like to see wildlife away from the traffic and noise, consider heading to Mary Mountain Trail. While the entire trail is 20 miles long and leads all the way to Fountain Flat Drive, there’s an alternative turnaround point that is much shorter and still gives you a chance to connect with nature. Consider hiking for four miles to see Violet Creek—a favorite bison watering hole—before heading back the way you came.

21. Two Fantastic Riverbank Pullovers

Approximate Time: 10-15 minutes

Make two quick stops along your scenic drive to admire the valley, river, and wildlife below.

22. See Mud Volcano Geyser

geyser on a muddy water, water bubblingShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 1 hour

This may not be one of the park’s best-known geysers, but it should be! Mud Volcano is one of the most unique and overlooked hydrothermal areas of the park—and one of the most acidic! Be sure to check out Dragon’s Mouth Hot Spring—a roaring, sloshing, bubbling hot spring full of personality.

23. To LeHardy Rapids

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

Take a short boardwalk down to the Yellowstone River and the roaring LeHardy Rapids. In early spring, these rapids are alive with jumping, spawning cutthroat trout. 

24. Drive out the East Exit

Approximate Time: 1.5 hours-2 hours

Hang a left at the Fishing Village Junction, and you’ll be on your way to some well-deserved R&R. And I know it’s tempting, but just pass by Fishing Bridge itself—you’ll be back in the morning, and, trust me, you’ll want to see it in daylight. To get to Wapiti, it’s about an hour and a half. To Cody, it’s two hours. Wapiti is a quiet place, but check out bustlin’ Cody’s highlights here.

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DAY SIX - East Entrance and Yellowstone Lake

Your last full day starts from either Cody or Wapiti and then into the east entrance. Today, you'll explore all of the stops we passed by yesterday evening. After that, we’ll explore Fishing Bridge, then head over to West Thumb, and finish by cutting through Norris Canyon Road on our way to West Yellowstone.

Accommodations: West Yellowstone

1. Experience East Yellowstone

Approximate Time: 35 minutes

Today, you’ll take time to explore the east entrance along with its most notable stops. This area of Yellowstone is like no other. The jagged spires of the Absaroka Mountains are truly awe-inspiring.

2. Pull Over for Corkscrew Bridge

old historic tunnelImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

The first stop along our east road is the Corkscrew Bridge. In the early 1900s, this bridge helped funnel visitors into the park from Cody. It’s no longer used but instead remains a historic memorial to the park’s early history.

3. Eleanor Lake

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Stop over to snap a few photos of Eleanor Lake and its reflecting pine trees. Follow the 0.6-mile loop for great bird-watching opportunities, or take a quick snack break at one of the many picnic tables.

4. Avalanche Peak Trail (optional hike)

Approximate Time: 4 hours

Summit this strenuous peak to take in sweeping views of the Teton and Absaroka mountains and Yellowstone Lake. It’s a short but strenuous hike—just 5 miles roundtrip.

5. Sylvan Picnic Stop

sylvan lake and picnicImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Take a break by the lake under the shady pines.

6. Lake Butte Scenic Overlook

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Follow this one-mile road to a high overlook where you can take in all of the glory and scale of Yellowstone Lake. On a clear day, look out across the gentle reflections of the lake, and you can see all the way to the Teton Mountain Range. 

7. Nine-Mile Post (optional hike)

Approximate Time: 5 hours to multi-day

This isn’t a trek for the casual hiker. This is a multi-day back-country expedition leading to the Thorofare Cabin—the farthest standing dwelling from a main road in the lower 48 states. Consider this 32-mile hike if you have several weeks in Yellowstone. If you just want a short hike to check it out, Turbid Lake is only 3 miles in.

8. Sedge Bay Picnic Area

flowers on a rocky terrainImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Even if you don’t want to take a picnic break, taking a moment to walk along the lake shore is a peaceful, relieving experience.

9. Stop at Steamboat Point

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Steamboat Point is where several fumaroles pump out steam along the lakeshore. The riparian plants, white steam, and blue lake water combine to make a picturesque scene.

10. Pelican Valley (optional hike)

Approximate Time: 4-5 hours

After passing by Mary Bay, you’ll have the chance to take a hike through Pelican Valley. This area is a wildlife hub, especially for bears. It’s 6.2 miles there and back to reach the valley. If you’re interested in this hike, be aware that this is prime grizzly habitat. Come prepared with bear spray.

11. Indian Pond and Storm Point (with optional hike)

Approximate Time: 10 minutes-3 hours

Pull over to check out this pond formed from superheated water pushed out of the earth. Eventually, this superheated water exploded out, forming the crater and lake you see today. If you’d like to check out Indian Pond up close, take the 2.3-mile loop at Storm Point.

12. Explore Fishing Bridge

long bridge on a lakeImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

Fishing Bridge is home to the ranger station, a general store, and, of course, the fishing bridge. Be sure to walk along the bridge to scan for the Cutthroat trout that like to gather below.

13. Take a Cruise around the Lake

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

Sit back and relax as we drive clockwise around the largest high-elevation lake in North America. 

14. Elephant Back Mountain Trail

Approximate Time: 2-4 hours

Ready for a truly breathtaking climb? I mean, erm, view? Then you won’t want to miss the Elephant Back Mountain Trail. It’s a 3.6-mile loop that offers expansive views of the lake, but you’ll work hard for it! Those switchbacks are no joke!

15. Stop by Lake Village

lake overview with peopleImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

Stop by to visit the ranger station, restroom, and general store. Get all the supplies and information you need before our final stop for the day. Be sure to stretch your legs and admire the view from behind the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, the park’s oldest standing hotel!

16. Bridge Bay Marina and Natural Bridge

Approximate Time: 1-3  hours

Tired of admiring the lake from afar? Rent yourself a boat at the marina! Or, if you’d rather take a hike, the Natural Bridge is just 3.1 miles out and back to a beautiful stone bridge, carved out by years of erosion.

17. Gull Point

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

Take this scenic drive along the lake peninsula and enjoy a picnic stop at Gull Point.

18. Turn Back to Fishing Bridge

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

It’s time to continue your journey across the last few sections of Yellowstone. Turn around at the West Thumb intersection to begin exploring Norris Canyon Road.

Note: If you are visiting the Grand Tetons, continue heading south to the South Entrance Road. Then, replace day seven with one day from the Teton itineraries.

19. Head Down Norris Canyon Road

Approximate Time: 35 minutes

Turn left at the Canyon Village intersection to drive the final stretch of Yellowstone you have yet to see. Norris Canyon Road takes you through thick Lodgepole pine forests and bear country to the west entrance.

20. Ice Lake Trailhead (optional hike)

trail path with trees besideImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 1 hour- 1 day

This short trail leads through the charred remains of a pine forest out to several lakes. The first lake, Ice Lake, is only a half mile away. You can then return the way you came or continue on to complete the “Chain of Lakes." The entire chain is 7.1 miles one way.

21. Fire Exhibit

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Pull over to browse a quick fire exhibit detailing the damage and history of the 1988 Inferno. This will give you some insight into the devastation and regrowth that you witness along this road.

22. Take a Diversion By the Virginia Cascades

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

This is a scenic, high, and narrow one-way road that leads to the Virginia Cascades, the 60-foot roaring falls of the Gibbon River. There are two overlooks on this road to let you admire the falls from outside the car.

23. Head West and Out

Approximate Time: 45 minutes

A left at Norris Junction takes you back to Madison Junction. From there, we can head home to west Yellowstone, back where it all started.  

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DAY SEVEN - West Yellowstone (or Continue to Grand Teton) 

There are two options for this day.

If today is your final day in the park, we need to think about wrapping up the few things we didn’t get to do.

If you have a late flight and didn't get to explore the west entrance on day one, consider adding it to this day.

And if you have already seen all you need to see, check out our highlights for activities in and near West Yellowstone. Then, it’s to the West Yellowstone airport to head home.

If you’re continuing your journey down to Grand Teton, we’ll be able to enjoy the verdant, mountainous beauty of the southern entrance.

This is one of the most beautiful drives in the park. To reach the southern entrance from the west entrance, you’ll need to drive 1.5 hours down towards the West Thumb intersection and then turn right to drive the south exit road.

1. Drive to Grand Teton

Approximate Time: 35 minutes

After driving 1.5 hours from the West Entrance, you'll enter the as-yet-unexplored South Entrance. Your magnificent drive will take you through a land of deep forests, rocky mountains, and diverse wildlife.

2. Grant Village

front view of a visitor center in grant villageImage by Rachel Ennis

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

Grant Village is your last-stop shop for supplies before we enter Grand Teton National Park. It’s a great chance to freshen up with restrooms, a visitor center, a general store, a gas station, and an amphitheater that overlooks Yellowstone Lake. 

3. Continental Divide

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

If you have a little extra time, you can stop at the Continental Divide sign, and take a picture of yourself on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides of the continent! 

4. Moose Falls

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

The plunging Moose Falls is just a 5-minute, 0.3-mile walk from the roadside pullovers. This is one of the nicest waterfalls is the South Entrance.

5. Lewis Falls

falls flowing in yellowstoneImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Just a few steps off the road lie Lewis Falls, named for Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It’s a convenient photo op and a good chance to stretch your legs.

6. Riddle Lake (optional hike)

Approximate Time: 2 hours

This is a flat and easy five-mile or eight-kilometer round-trip hike, that winds through the forest to the bifurcated Riddle Lake.

7. Dogshead Trail (optional hike)

Approximate Time: 4-6 hours

Named for the Dogtooth Violet flowers that line it, this 10.8-mile trail features beautiful views of the Lewis River, Shoshone Lake, and the surrounding forests. 

8. Heart Lake Trail (optional hike)

lake overviewImage from Flickr by 

Approximate Time: 7 hours- full day

Just 400 feet past the Dogshead Trailhead awaits the Heart Lake Trailhead. This one’s a real doozy. It's a 15.9 miles out-and-back trail that leads across several thermal pools and onto Heart Lake. 

9. Enter Grand Teton

Approximate Time-15 minutes

Congratulations! You’re just 115 minutes away from Grand Teton National Park! You’ll kick off your journey by driving along the scenic Rockefeller Highway, the connecting road between Greater Yellowstone and Grand Teton. And at this point, it’s time to switch over to your Grand Teton itinerary and tour. You’re going to love it—trust us!

Map of 7 Days Yellowstone National Park Tour

We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

Maximize your tour experience! Gain valuable insights and tips in this informative article before setting off on your adventure.

Ready to take the tour? Check out Shaka Guide's Yellowstone National Park Tour!

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3-Day Yellowstone National Park Itinerary

Grand Teton National Park: Know Before You Go

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Yellowstone and Grand Teton Two Days Itinerary

Yellowstone vs Grand Teton—Which Park is Right for You?

Hikes at Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Hot Springs and Where to Find Them

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Yellowstone's Hidden Gems: Nature's Hidden Delights

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What state is Yellowstone National Park in?

Yosemite vs Yellowstone: Which National Park to Visit?

Fishing Bridge Yellowstone

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