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Itinerary advice for 3 days in August

posts: 6
Itinerary advice for 3 days in August

After some juggling of reservations, I finally have my in-park lodging figured out. Now I'm seeking some itinerary help to help me get the most out of my Yellowstone trip. I will be traveling with my 9yo son - just the two of us - and we are ready for adventure!

I've been reading through the forums, but need some help with an itinerary. I want to hit the highlights, of course, and I'd like to do at least one trail -- in particular the Fairy Falls trail to see Grand Prismatic Spring from above.

We are driving from Seattle, overnight first in Missoula, then on to West Yellowstone. We plan to arrive Monday and may have some time in the late afternoon to enter the park. We will spend 3 full days in YNP before heading south to Grand Teton on Day 4.

Mon - arrive West late afternoon, overnight West Yellowstone

Tues - overnight West Yellowstone or Gardiner (any advice here?)

Wed - overnight at Lake Cabin

Thurs - overnight at OF

Fri - head south to Grand Teton

I would love any advice on whether to go back to West on Tues or stay in Gardiner. Returning to West would allow us to go back to our room without having the inconvenience of repacking/unpacking. But will Gardiner put us in a better position for starting Wed?

Hoping Pam will chime in here with a detailed itinerary. :)

Thanks! Danielle

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 19,265
reviews: 323
1. Re: Itinerary advice for 3 days in August

Here are the must sees for your trip to YNP-


Yes I am sure Pam will be glad to give you a detailed daily trip plan.

Enjoy your trip!!

N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
posts: 12,621
reviews: 89
2. Re: Itinerary advice for 3 days in August

I'm here!

At first thought, West Yellowstone pops to mind, but with another look, it might be easier with you as the sole driver to stay in Mammoth or Gardiner. It will be less driving for you plus it would position you for an early AM to Lamar and you might be able to catch a Ranger program at Mammoth.

Monday: Driving from Missoula, you can probably be to West Yellowstone by lunch or shortly thereafter. I drive from N. Idaho and I always exit the Interstate at Cardwell. After you make the right turn at the bottom of the exit ramp, the big brown sign routes you to the left. This goes to Lewis and Clark Caverns if you want to see that. I usually go straight onto the smaller county road which cuts a few minutes off the journey. This connects with US 287 on down the way. This will take you in to West Yellowstone. Have your son start looking out for pronghorn antelope along the way!

Once you get to West Yellowstone, he might enjoy the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery center that afternoon which is next to the IMAX and across from McD's. You can also stop in the West Yellowstone Visitor Center for Yellowstone and get your entrance paid, then you can go thru the short line at the gate the next morning. This will also give you a chance to look at the little newspaper handout and see if there are Ranger programs of interest to you. They are divided by location. If you are anxious to get in to the park, drive in to Madison junction and turn right. Cross the Gibbon River and turn right in to Firehole Canyon. Rejoin the main road and continue toward Old Faithful. Stop at Fountain Paint Pots, then a bit further on the main road and do Firehole Lake Dr. This will probably be enough windshield time! Return to West Yellowstone before dark.

So, here's how I would send you if you are spending night 2 in Gardiner.

Tuesday: Head in to the park. After about 5 miles have your son keep his eyes peeled for bald eagle in the trees. You might also see a trumpeter swan on the river at about the 7 mile mark. After you cross the little bridge, you will likely see elk and bison. At Madison, turn left and head for Norris Jct. Stop at Artist Paint Pots if the parking lot is not full. Do Norris Geyser Basin, then head north to Mammoth. Do the Upper Terraces by car, then walk the lower terrace. The best bathroom in this area is right by the gas station at the edge of the bus parking lot. The Visitor Center is a bit further on, and is interesting as well. They have a self guided tour of Ft Yellowstone and maybe you can check on the ranger programs for the afternoon/evening.

Wed: Head East to Tower Roosevelt Junction. Turn left toward Lamar Valley. Look for wildlife, stopping if you see people stopped with big camera lenses. Return to Tower Jct, turn left and go to Tower Fall. Stop at some of the overlooks if you can...there is roadwork going on along here, so not sure what the situation will be. After Tower Fall, cross Dunraven Pass, stop at the Canyon Visitor Center. Do overlooks on the North and South Rims. If you are wanting to cut this short, I would do the Brink of the Upper Falls on the North rim and the Artist Point overlook on the South Rim. From here head south into Hayden Valley again hunting for wildlife. Stop at Mud Volcano. Continue South, stopping at Fishing Bridge. Park and walk across and look for wildlife here as well. Overnight at Lake.

Thursday: This will be your geyser day. From Lake head South to West Thumb and then to Old Faithful. I would skip West Thumb geyser Basin and do it in the AM as you head to Grand Tetons as you will come back to this junction to head south. At Old Faithful, head to the VC. Write down the predicted eruption times on the brochure available at the desk. (50cents). If you are early enough, take the Ranger walk (I think it's at 830). Otherwise, head around and behind Old Faithful, I usually go to the left, then cross the bridge directly behind OF and go to Geyser Hill. Tour the geyser basin down to Morning Glory Pool (pit toilet here) then return to the main area by the paved walk. I like to eat lunch at the Lower General store which is by the gas pumps and fronts on the geyser basin. Save room to eat ice cream on the 2nd floor deck of the OF Inn overlooking the geyser basin. One of you must get huckleberry. It is a rule. LOL!! Go back to the main road, head north to the Fairy Falls trailhead, hoping there is parking room! Get your picture of Grand Prismatic. Back in the car, head north to Firehole Lake Dr and Fountain Paint Pots if you didn't do these on Monday when you got in to West Yellowstone.

Friday: Leave Old Faithful, stop at Keppler Cascades if you wish, then West Thumb geyser Basin if you are not geysered out!

Have fun!


posts: 6
3. Re: Itinerary advice for 3 days in August

Wow, Pam, this is awesome! Thanks for the tips on the Cardwell exit, and also getting park entrance paid in West Yellowstone. Yes, I plan on putting my son on wildlife spotting duty. :) As much as I like the convenience of a consecutive night stay in West Y, I think you're right about staying in Gardiner instead.

Appreciate the details, thank you!

N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
posts: 12,621
reviews: 89
4. Re: Itinerary advice for 3 days in August

Oh, I forgot I think you can also get him signed up for the Jr Ranger program at the West Yellowstone VC. If not, you can sign him up at any Visitor Center and I believe at the rest area at Madison Junction.


5. Re: Itinerary advice for 3 days in August

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