4 Days in Yellowstone National Park

Tripoto
15th May 2017
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Day 1

Yellowstone National Park is USA's first, and perhaps world's first, national park, and among the must-visit places on earth. We were lucky to be able to include this in our US trip last year. Planning a trip to Yellowstone is not very difficult though, thanks to well presented and up to date website by National Park Service.

How to reach

Park is accessible from five airports (Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Cody, Idaho Falls) and has five entrances (North, Northeast, East, South, West). Wikitravel has distance information. Park is open from May to September, and for most part closed rest of the year due to extreme cold and snow. Depending on the month you are looking to travel, you should check which of the five entrances are open (current conditions) and then pick which airport works out cheaper from your origin location. You can drive from airport to enter park. We landed at Bozeman and rented Ford Escape via rentalcars.com. Entrance fee is flat $35 for seven day multiple entry for private vehicle. You can chose to plan your visit based on special events or dates for opening of entrance of your choosing. However, dates and accessibility remains subject to weather so you should always check current conditions before starting for the day.

Drive from the airport to park had signs of things to come...

Photo of Yellowstone National Park, WY, USA by Ashish G
Photo of Yellowstone National Park, WY, USA by Ashish G
Photo of Yellowstone National Park, WY, USA by Ashish G

We had an interesting experience at park entrance. As I put my arm out from my car giving $100 bill to counter, strong wind blew the note away before I could even blink! Lady at the counter was very-very helpful in helping me search, and even continue to search in nearby ditch even when we had given up. Note had flown by 200 feet and was found stuck in a plant in the ditch somewhere. I was upset at my clumsiness, but very grateful to her for her help. She accepted $20 as thank you after much insistence on my part. Lesson learned: hold your note very tight!

Where to stay

Park operates multiple locations for accommodation within park, but they tend to be expensive and fill up fast. You can book them in few months in advance at yellow stone lodging website. Apart from hotels, there are camping sites and RV parks which you can also book. You can get bit cheaper but father stay if you try any of nearby towns outside the park. That will however increase your travel distances on the days you plan to cover farther end of park. I would recommend you split your stay at North and West sides, but it's okay even if you don't. Yellowstone's south is adjoined by smaller Grand Teton Park and hence stay in south means crossing Grand Teton too before you hit your hotel town.

Staying in park feels like staying in middle of nowhere. We could find only one day's accommodation at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins for $99+taxes (=$112) and had a common bathroom to share.

Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G

Even in mid-May, park was covered in snow and lakes were frozen. So, don't expect your cell phone to work there. We also found limited vegetarian food selection but survived on pre-packaged food and grocery from nearby towns. For other three days, we had booked private room in The Hostel, in Teton Village ($64+tax=$73 per night) which turned out to be small basic room too far from the Grand Teton park itself! We essentially checked out after two nights and found one room in Billings on last day as we had return flights from Bozeman.

Enjoy

That's it for planning. Once inside the park, route is fairly straightforward with lots of maps to help you find path. You won't need GPS as there are few main roads and few junctions and you can just trace your journey all the way. Each spot is well marked and parking is freely available, though bit far in some cases. Most places require walking and aren't very accessible with wheelchair or stroller, and you will have to lift those on parts of route if you do decide to use.

Bison are plenty everywhere. Law requires that you don't honk at them or disturb them in anyway and maintain 25 yards distance, so if they do end in middle of road, you are supposed to wait silently for them to move away. That took about half an hour one time this happened with us! In practice, impatient driver do tend to try to pass beside them if part of road is accessible but you may be in trouble Park Ranger catches you.

We had unexpected park closure on third day of our trip and had to make do with trip round Teton Park since Yellowstone was not accessible. It turned out to be not bad decision at all and I will encourage you to consider drive around Teton for one day's plan (map). There is no extra fee for Teton Park if you've taken week long permit for Yellowstone. You can chose to decide which route to cover on which day, but in my experience three days are good enough for Yellowstone Park and one day for Teton Park.

As you can see from pictures below, Park is famous for its geysers which are spring of hot water and gases emanating naturally from ground. This gives unusual colour to ground and surface water due to bacterial chemistry. Popular Old Faithful geyser has predictable fountain spray every hour or so.

This has been one the most memorable trips for us!

Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
Photo of 4 Days in Yellowstone National Park by Ashish G
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