Yellowstone National Park is famous for its diverse beauty and recreational opportunities. No wonder it is one of the most popular destinations for travelers from around the world. This Traveling Mom points out that there are many factors that should be taken into consideration when planning a visit. Read on to learn what you need to know before you make your travel arrangements and what to expect when you arrive.
America’s Showcase of Natural Attractions.
To help preserve the beauty of the land for generations to come, in 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established as the world’s first national park. Today the park is recognized by the United Nations as a biosphere reserve and a world heritage site for its worldwide significance of natural and cultural resources.
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Because of its importance, diversity, and location, Yellowstone is not a drive-thru destination. It is a huge park, rather remote, and often crowded.
Travelers should plan well in advance and be aware of challenges they might face during their visit. One of them is the abundance of wildlife. You might be staring at a bison’s butt for half an hour if it wishes to stroll in the middle of the road in front of your car. There is nothing you can do about it. Just enjoy the view! Animals are at home there and should never be disturbed.
Planning Your Visit to Yellowstone National Park
If possible, avoid summer months. Yellowstone receives 3 million visitors a year. Nearly two-thirds of them arrive in June, July, and August. During these months, expect traffic jams and crowds at major attractions. Consider taking your kids out of school for this educational trip.
Plan to stay at least a week. Plan to see one major attraction per day. They are spread apart and it takes time to reach them. There is a huge lake right inside of the park. Almost anywhere you go, you will have to circle a large portion of it.
Where to Stay at Yellowstone
Plan to stay inside the park. Staying outside the park will add hours of driving. Yellowstone is huge–3,472 square miles! The popular gateway towns are Jackson Hole, Wyoming (60 miles from the South Entrance) and Cody, Wyoming (52 miles from the East Entrance).
Because of crowds, frequent construction, wildlife viewing, and narrow mountain roads, it can take a long time to cover these distances.
There is a wide choice of accommodations ranging from upscale lodges to numerous camping sites. Lodges are beautiful but expensive.
For those on a budget, I suggest Pioneer Cabins. This is the least expensive option if you if want to have your basics – a roof, a bed, and a private bathroom. On the outside, they look like they have not been touched since the pioneer days. Inside, they are OK. You will only sleep there.
There is one feature that make them stand out – they are located next door to beautiful Lake Lodge. You can spend your evenings there on a huge veranda overlooking the lake or by one of two fireplaces inside of a grand lobby. This lodging offers the best views in the park.
Please note: Make your reservation as soon as you decide on the trip. The accommodations sell out quickly, especially in the summer. And don’t expect to find a television, radio, air conditioning or Internet service. None of the park accommodations have them.
Getting to Yellowstone
Flying to Yellowstone is advised if time is an issue. Commercial airlines serve the following airports near Yellowstone National Park all year: Cody and Jackson, Wyoming; Bozeman and Billings, Montana, and Idaho Falls, Idaho.
When flying, you will need to rent a car. There are no shuttles in Yellowstone. Your own means of transportation is a must.
From a financial point of view, a long road trip might be a better idea. For families it may be less expensive to drive than to pay for airfare and a car rental. Long trips with kids are challenging, but still create priceless memories. This Traveling Mom says, just do it! See here how to entertain kids on the road.
From anywhere in America, you can make multiple interesting stops along the way. On our way to Yellowstone from Pennsylvania, my family visited Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Devils Tower Monument, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
When planning my trip back home, I discovered one of the most beautiful vacation spots in the USA – Flaming Gorge, Utah.
Arriving at Yellowstone
Yellowstone has its own village with grocery store, liquor store, and a gas station.
Groceries: Prices are significantly higher inside the park. Buy some your snacks and beverages before you enter. A cooler full of food can save you a chunk of money.
Gas: This is also more expensive inside the park so fill your tank before you enter.
Dining is available in the Yellowstone National Park lodges. Food is served cafeteria style. All lodges have the same menu. Eating out every day will be expensive.
Because of distances and slow traffic, you will not be coming back to your hotel to eat. Having a cooler with food in your car and eating at one of the numerous picnic areas is an inexpensive option and always offers spectacular views.
How to Beat the Crowds
In order to get the most out of your visit, go to bed early and start your day at sunrise. Not only will you will beat the crowds, you will witness the spectacular sight of the park’s awakening. This is the best part of the day to see nature.
One of the main reasons people come to Yellowstone is to see the wildlife.
National Park Service rules recommend staying at least 25 yards from most animals (elk, bison, moose, coyotes, etc.) and 100 yards from bears and wolves.
Visit Grand Teton National Park Next Door
With only 600,000 visitors a year, this park remains beautiful and pristine. It protects stunning mountain scenery and diverse wildlife.
The Teton Range is the centerpiece of the park with the highest peak, Grand Teton, standing at 13,770 feet.
With these massive mountains, lakes, rivers, and wildflowers, it is a magnetic draw for hikers, photographers, and mountain climbers.