2 Days in Yellowstone National Park

The main sights of America’s first national park, are best visited by car and can be easily explored in two days by following a rough figure of eight pattern, when approached from the northern tip of the park, heading in from Montana.

I stayed overnight in Livingstone and drove the 50 miles south to the North Entrance of the park early the first morning to start my 2 days in Yellowstone National Park.

Safari in Yellowstone National Park, USA
Safari in Yellowstone National Park, USA

2 Days in Yellowstone National Park: Day 1

The first day of my Yellowstone itinerary includes checking out some of the sights along the northern tip of the national park.

Mammoth Hot Springs

A short 5 mile drive from the entrance and you arrive at the surreal Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. Heat, Water, Limestone and Rock combine to create the most amazing landscape of off-white glistening terraces, bubbling water and steam rising to the surface. It is hard to describe just how spectacular the area is, but the descriptions of some of the Hot Springs may give you some idea – Opal Terrace, Jupiter Terrace and White Elephant Back Terrace are just a few of the areas open to discovery. 

Tower Junction

Next head back on the road and journey 18 miles East to Tower Junction. A great spot to admire vast views of the park and definitely spot some wildlife, maybe some Elk or Bison. The main attraction here is Tower Waterfall, a 132 foot waterfall, but also visit Roosevelt Lodge, named because President Roosevelt used to love visiting the area and often went hunting here. More hot springs are located around Calsite Springs, and definitely don’t miss the surreal Petrified Trees of the Fossil Forrest. 

Canyon 

Continue on the road south about 19 miles to the Canyon Area. Its no surprise that this is where the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is located, stretching some 20 miles long. There is also a great visitors centre here, where transient exhibitions can be found. There are places to rest and eat too and all manner of hiking trails start here, from a quick 20 minute walk to much more strenuous hikes. 

2 days in Yellowstone National Park
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park

Norris 

Loop West on the road about 12 miles, till you arrive at the Norris Geyser Basin. It is the hottest and most changeable area in the whole of the Yellowstone National Park and most cannot be missed. There is a 3.6 km trail, but you can walk a shortened route too, as you pass through pungent smells, hot steam and strange, almost magical colours. Highlights include Whales Mouth, Crackling Lake, Emerald Spring and the Porcelain Terrace Overlook. 

Madison 

Depending on time, you can always stop off here for some more hiking trails and stay overnight in one of the campgrounds, but I drove west out of the park, and straight into West Yellowstone town. There are plenty of cheap motels, shops, and restaurants here and it is a great place to rest overnight.

2 Days in Yellowstone National Park: Day 2

Two days in Yellowstone National Park won’t be complete without visiting Old Faithful, which is what we got up to on day two.

Head back into Yellowstone from the West Yellowstone entrance, but this time head South when you arrive back at Madison. 

Old Faithful 

You may of heard of this place? Located in the Upper Geyser Basin, it is the largest concentration of Geysers in the world. The main attraction here is of course the famous cone geyser Old Faithful, so named, not because it is the most spectacular or largest geyser in the park, but the most reliable. With plenty of places to sit, wait and watch, check the clock for estimated eruption times, and have your camera ready! 

Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

West Thumb 

Continue heading South on the main road about 16 miles to one of the smallest concentrations of geysers in the park, but by no means less spectacular. Also located here are mud pools, fumaroles and hot springs. There is also the amazing Abyss Pool, the deepest pool in the whole park. 

Yellowstone Lake 

Now start to head East again, and follow the edge of the Yellowstone Lake. You can stop off along the way to enjoy the scenary or take a rest and gets something to eat at the Bay Bridge Campground. There is a marina here, and places to fish, boat and raft, if you plan to stay longer than 2 days of course. 

Fishing Bridge 

When you reach the top end of the Lake, take a quick detour to the Fishing Bridge Museum. As well as being a popular place for visitors to fish, there is a landmark museum here made of rock and stone which reflects the beauty of the surrounding area and provides more information about the park. With all the main sights done, its a picturesque 37 mile drive back up the West side of the park up to the North Entrance.

Again, with plenty of stop-off points to admire and soak up the remaining scenery. You will no doubt have to stop at least once to let bison pass you by, and that alone is worth making the trip for.

I have travelled extensively in the USA, but Yellowstone National Park, is by far one of the highlights and should be on everyone’s list to go experience for themselves.

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Reasons to Visit Yellowstone National Park in Winter

Home to a great collection of geothermal features, an abundance of wildlife, the most spectacular views and a thick blanket of snow – Yellowstone National Park in winter is an adventurer’s dream.

Plus, there’s less visitors – so you get to experience the true beauty of the park without the crowds!

So, if you’re brave enough to face the cold, windy and snowy days during the months of November through to April, you’re in a for a treat.

If you’re not quite convinced on experiencing a Yellowstone National Park winter, national park located in the western United States, here’s a few reasons why you should.

10 reasons to visit Yellowstone National Park in winter

Yellowstone in winter is a true wonderland.

Here’s why:

1.      The snowy landscapes and geysers

The wintery landscapes in Yellowstone National Park are absolutely breathtaking! From the steam rising up from the geysers and hot springs to the bison trekking through the snow and the frozen streams.

Old Faithful, the nearly 500-year-old geyser in the park, continues to erupt. In winter, the near-boiling water hits the chilly air and falls down in tiny icy crystals and flakes. Watching the geysers erupt against the backdrop of the snow and stunningly blue skies is a sight to behold.

Yellowstone in winter - the geysers
Witness the Yellowstone geysers in winter.

2.      The winter activities

According to the locals, the best way to experience Yellowstone in winter is on a pair of cross-country skis! From cross-country skiing to snowshoeing – there’s plenty of adrenaline pumping winter-based activities to explore in the area.

You’ll find several places nearby who rent gear and several companies specialising in guided trips if you’d rather not go out alone (this is recommend unless you’re extremely experienced in navigating the snowy hills).

3.      Snowmobiling

In mid-December, many of the roads in the park are only open to oversnow travel, meaning that visitors may only enter the park via snowmobile, snowcoach, snowshoe and cross-country ski.

West Yellowstone offers 400 miles of snowmobiling terrain outside Yellowstone National Park on national forest service land. It’s a snowmobilers paradise, with loads of tour companies taking you into the park on the snowmobiles. The terrain caters to all levels, from beginners to experts.

4.      The wildlife

The Yellowstone National Park in winter is still home to a variety of wildlife. The less-crowded park means that you’ll get to observe the wildlife facing the elements of winter without hoards of other tourists surrounding you.

Against the snowy background, the animals are also much easier to spot and you can easily track them in the snow. Expect to see bison, elk, river otters, wolves and other Yellowstone National Park animals.

Plus, you’ll get to see the bison in their winter coats! Huge balls of snow dangle on their beards, making them look even more impressive.

5.      The cozy lodges in Yellowstone National Park

There’s nothing better than curling up on a sofa with a hot drink (or whiskey), a good book, a crackling fireplace nearby and view of a snowy landscape outside. That’s ultimate relaxation, right?

This is exactly what you’ll get when you visit Yellowstone in winter. Note that not all lodges stay open during the winter months (and due to COVID restrictions, a few more might be closed this year). Best is to check out the full list of Yellowstone accommodation to see what is available.

6.      The quiet, peaceful solitude

Not many people visit Yellowstone in winter, which means that you get to truly experience the natural beauty completely on your own. In the winter, the park is nothing but miles of peaceful solitude in the wilderness.

It’s the perfect winter escape if you want to disconnect from humans, unplug your laptop and switch off your phone.

And since the park is primarily accessed via guided oversnow transport, you get experience Yellowstone’s canyons, woods, wildlife and hydrothermal forces in a much more intimate way.

7.      The Yellowstone holiday traditions

If you love the traditions that come with the holidays, then you’ll still get to experience the magic of the season in Yellowstone. Some of the popular traditions include candlelight Christmas Eve services in the Mammoth Chapel, tree lighting on Officer’s Row and festive Christmas dinners held at the local lodges.

If you’re in the area for New Years, then you’ll get to ring in the new year at Old Faithful, where everyone heads out to the geyser viewing area shortly after midnight to watch the first eruption of the year.

8.      Practice your snow photography

With so much natural scenery around you, Yellowstone in winter is an ideal spot to practice your snow photography skills.

The landscapes are filled with contrasts – from clear blue skies to snowy fields, steamy geysers and woolly animals. You can shoot these images on your own or join one of the guide-led photo safaris on offer.

9.      Witness the star-filled night sky

Yellowstone comes alive at night – from the parks most well-known creatures coming out to play to the star-filled sky lighting up the land.

To witness this spectacular scene, you need to join one of the nighttime snowcoach tours. The tours take you past the hissing geysers and passing wildlife and eventually stops for you to get out and witness the beauty above you. The countless stars on display will leave you in awe.

10.  Take a dip in a hot spring

This one is for the true adrenaline junkies, or the people who just want to say ‘I took in a dip in a hot spring in below zero degrees’.

The naturally heated waters of the hot springs won’t freeze, even during the coldest of winters. Which leaves for a fun opportunity to take a dip any time of year! The water is so warm, that no matter how cold it is outside, you’ll be so comfortable that you won’t want to get out.

Look out for the spot where the Boiling River meets the Gardner River, about two miles north of Mammoth. This is a popular swimming spot during the summer months but is sparsely visited in the winter months – making it one of the more unique experiences of a Yellowstone National Park winter.

Ready to start planning your adventure in Yellowstone National Park in winter?