Two days in Yellowstone, yeah it’s a bit
crazy ambitious. But I am the type of person that wants to see as much as I possibly can in the shortest amount of time possible. I think that’s coming from formerly being a part of the corporate world, where you’re only allowed 15 measly days off a year! That limited PTO bank has motivated me to plan trips in record time and see more than most people ever expect!
In fact, a year and a half before this trip happened, I told my dad I wanted to do Yellowstone in a long holiday weekend. He told me it couldn’t be done and I’m here to tell you, we did it! Although I don’t believe most people are into the express lane of national parks, we wanted to go even for a short time instead of not getting to go at all.
We flew into Bozeman, Montana. As far as airport experiences go, Bozeman was good in terms of efficiency. We got our baggage quickly and were able to get a rental car easily too. We rented a Jeep there and headed to West Yellowstone.
When we got to West Yellowstone, I was happy to see there were several restaurants and little stores available. We ate at Bullwinkles Saloon & Eatery and then we stopped in at the Visitor’s Center and then headed into the park with the itinerary I had created through my research.
I had done lots and lots of research. But apparently, not enough! This was our first true National Park visit that we didn’t strictly just drive through the park, and wow was it a big one to check off! Although it can be done as we did (a bit ill prepared!), I highly recommend preparing far better than we did! I’ve listed my best tips for you below.
Our first stop was Lower Geyser Basin. Then Grand Prismatic Spring and I don’t know if it was because it was one of our first stops or if it’s because I didn’t expect such a cool experience, but I think this was one of my favorite parts of our trip!
Our next stop was Old Faithful and the anticipation of waiting made it more fun! As you can see, there was a crowd so you might want to plan this stop throughly before you go.
After Old Faithful we drove to the West Thumb Geyser Basin. It was also pretty too!
After that we drove all the way back through the park exiting at the West Entrance. This was a good easy amount of stops for the day and it was enjoyable and leisurely. We could have even fit in more geysers if we would have been staying closer to Yellowstone! Instead we stayed in Big Sky, Montana, which is about an hour from the West Entrance of Yellowstone.
After a completely full day of flying, driving to Yellowstone, seeing multiple spots within the park, and driving to our condo an hour away, we needed a day to rest in between! We chose Big Sky because it was a destination I’d always wanted to go to and it was beautiful! It was a small mountain town that was new and modern. I loved it!
We spent the day going to restaurant and shops before going horseback riding up a mountain for the afternoon. This was a cool experience I can’t say I ever want to do again! Per usual, riding up the mountain was fine, it was coming down that was terrifying.
Then we went to Beehive Basin Brewery for beer flights and to finalize our plans for day 2 in Yellowstone. Highly recommend stopping there if you are in Big Sky!
The next day we started out at the North Entrance of Yellowstone visiting Mammoth Hot Springs. We decided to hike the board walks. Again, not really prepared we just went along the trail with the crowd. It ended up being super steep and a little more strenuous than the sight seeing walk we thought we were going on. I do recommend it, but come prepared and bring water!
We tried to stop for lunch at Mammoth Dining Room but they were completely full. If you can plan better than we did, it looks cool!
We made a quick stop at the Albright Visitor’s Center before driving to the Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room for lunch. It was pretty typical of a national park restaurant and it gave us what we needed for our next destination, which was the Tower Falls. We did a hike down to see the Falls and the Yellowstone River which was a perfect hike down. On the way up it was of course much harder!
Then we stopped at Tower General Store for a little snack break and it was nice how close it was when there wasn’t really anything else around!
There was a lot more driving the rest of the afternoon. Hayden Valley was a big highlight of our drive because we got to see so many herds of bison.
We drove by Yellowstone Lake for quite a while. It was gorgeous! We finally made our way through the park out the South Entrance. Let me tell you, starting at the North Entrance and ending at the South Entrance in one day while seeing the park is no easy feat! Overall, I’m glad we did it this way but it’s probably too much to realistically and enjoyably fit in to one day!
We started very early in the day and by the time we hit Grand Teton National Park it was sunset. Which was another extremely magical and unexpected moment in the trip! I absolutely fell in love with the Grand Tetons! They are the most beautiful mountains I’ve seen besides the mountains in Glacier National Park.
And I couldn’t stop there because I had not yet been to Idaho. So instead of staying just outside of Yellowstone that night, we drove through Jackson Hole, and all the way to Victor, ID where we stayed at Teton Springs Lodge and Spa. This was a great idea in theory and it’s a gorgeous place to stay but we got there so late we didn’t even have time to enjoy it! The next day we drove all the way to Salt Lake City and flew home.
I actually can’t believe we packed all of this into one trip after sharing it! It was one of the most intense road trips I’ve planned but we made it happen! All in all, I think my dad ended up being right unless you have the sheer determination to make it happen. 😉
Best tips for Yellowstone:
If I could go back and do this trip over again here’s what I would recommend:
Explore West Yellowstone Entrance Restaurants & Shops
Spend afternoon inside the park seeing the geysers:
Stay in Jackson Hole, WY
Obviously there are so many things to do and see in Yellowstone but these to me are the highlights! If you don’t mind a far drive for lodging Big Sky, MT is a very cute mountain town and Teton Springs Lodge is also nice!
If I went back I would also take time to explore Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole!
You can see more of this trip on Instagram @amybrittonphotography