Disclosure: Hotels.com asked me to share my ideas on the best things to see in Yellowstone in a day.
With shooting geysers, sparkling lakes, and flowing waterfalls, Yellowstone National Park is one of the country’s most spectacular natural attractions. Located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, the 3,400-square mile park is also the oldest national park in America. If you are short on time you can take a day trip to Yellowstone and catch what some of the fuss is all about. We are pretty sure that if you take a Yellowstone day trip, you will want to come back for more in the future!
Yellowstone Day Trip
Most people come to Yellowstone to catch a glimpse of the powerful eruptions of the famous Old Faithful Geyer.
However, there are plenty of other breathtaking sights that make Yellowstone one of the best national parks in the country. From rainbow-colored hot springs and mile-wide canyons, Yellowstone is known for it’s vast landscape and diverse geothermal features.
So if you only have enough time to check out Yellowstone in a day, don’t worry. Here are the seven best things to check off your bucket list during Yellowstone day tour.
Staying In/Near Yellowstone
Staying near Yellowstone gives you several options depending on which entrance you pick. We chose to stay at the Hotel Terra in Jackson Hole, Wyoming near the South Entrance to Yellowstone. Jackson Hole has options for every budget including luxury hotels, inns and rental apartments.
Moreover, you can also stay within Yellowstone National Park itself either in a hotel or camping. Staying inside Yellowstone is as popular as you would think so make sure you book your hotels as soon as you have your dates ready.
We have a friend who went back country camping with his son in Yellowstone for a 10 day trip and loved it. Just like for hotels, you will need to book in advance to get a permit for camping because overnight stays in Yellowstone are by permit only.
Must-See Sights For a Yellowstone Day Tour
We visited Yellowstone over a three day weekend. On our own we spent a lot of time just watching the bison roam and doing some hiking. Although we let our kids dictate what they wanted to do in Yellowstone, we wanted to make sure we saw all the highlights of this national park.
So we took a private day tour with a naturalist from Wild Things of Wyoming who were recommended by Hotel Terra in order to make sure we had seen the national park’s highlights. Moreover, we wanted to understand what we were seeing and why Yellowstone was so important. Not only was the tour fantastic, our guide was great with our kids as well.
It’s also thanks to the encouragement of Wild Things of Wyoming that we took the time to visit the Grand Tetons – also an amazing natural landscape and a lot less crowded than Yellowstone.
This itinerary for Yellowstone in a day shows the most important natural phenomena that our naturalist guide thought was important to see.
Old Faithful Geyser
Although Yellowstone is home to over 500 different geysers, Old Faithful is easily the most famous and most predictable geyser in the park – hence its name. It’s a must-see for any day trip to Yellowstone.
The eruptions occur every one to two hours and can last as long as five minutes. Admiring the powerful bursts of water as they shoot up to 185 feet in the air is a remarkable sight that you won’t want to miss during your visit to Yellowstone.
Our Wild Things of Wyoming guide also made sure we checked out the fantastic architecture at the nearby Old Faithful Inn and explained its importance as the first national park lodging.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the park’s most spectacular landmarks. Silly us! We thought we had seen the Grand Canyon in Arizona and this would be just another canyon. Yes, it’s a canyon but a totally different experience.
There are plenty of lookouts along the 24-mile long canyon, which means you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to panoramic viewpoints and photo ops.
Artist Point sits on the South Rim of the Canyon and boasts dramatic views over the Yellowstone River and Lower Falls. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also trek down Uncle Tom’s Trail to see the canyon and Lower Falls up close and personal.
One of Yellowstone’s most unique attractions is the Continental Divide on Isla Lake. This is the only natural lake in the country whose water drains into two different oceans. The east river heads directly into the Atlantic Ocean, while the west river drains into the Pacific Ocean.
Although it can be difficult to see the flowing water in action, you can take a photo of the Continental Divide Sign at the 8000-foot elevation mark near the lake.
Covering over 136 square miles, Yellowstone Lake is the largest body of water in Yellowstone and the largest freshwater lake at that elevation in all of North America. Although the water is too cold to swim (even in summer), you can still explore the lake by boat or kayak.
You’ll also find several hiking trails that take you along the lake’s shoreline. Storm Point Trail Head and West Thumb Overlook Loop Trail are family-friendly trails that offer some of the best views of the serene lake.
Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring is easily one of the most breathtaking landmarks in Yellowstone and another landmark that you simply need to add to your Yellowstone in a day tour.
The Grand Prismatic Spring is known for its remarkable rainbow-colored waters, which is caused by different micro bacterial mats that line the edges of the spring. The center of the pool is a bright blue, but you’ll also see orange, yellow, and green on the outer rings of the spring.
The Grand Prismatic Spring is truly a magical sight you have to see to believe. In addition, you can also say you’ve visited the largest hot spring in the United States!
Fountain Paint Pots
Located in the Lower Basin of Yellowstone National Park, the Fountain Paint Pots consist of four different geothermal features. The main attraction is the colorful mud pot, which bubbles in different shades of reds, oranges, and yellows.
For the best view of the paint pots, you can walk down the half mile boardwalk trail that winds through the park. You’ll also find the Red Spouter spring, the Fountain and Morning Geysers, and even a hot spring lake in the same vicinity.
Scenic Loop Road
For a picturesque overview of Yellowstone’s top sights, take a journey down Scenic Loop Road. The Grand Loop is an incredible 142-mile journey making a figure 8 pattern that passes through most of Yellowstone’s landmarks except the Lamar Valley.
It’s possible to do all/some of the Scenic Loop Road in a Yellowstone day trip depending on how long you spend at each site. The Grand Loop can be driven in 4-7 hours.
In addition to Yellowstone’s main attractions, you’ll encounter an abundance of wildlife right outside your car window. It’s common to see elk, bison, moose, and even bears while driving down the Scenic Loop Road.
Map For Yellowstone In A Day Tour
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