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Update April 29, 2023
Need helping to plan your vacation to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park? I know this can be a daunting task. I took a year to research what, when, and where we would eat and sleep. Planning a trek to Yellowstone and Grand Teton can be an exciting and rewarding experience. This 7 day itinerary has you touring geyser basins, hiking waterfalls, and viewing wildlife. These national parks offer breathtaking landscapes, unique wildlife, and outdoor activities that are sure to create lasting memories.
This guide will allow you to visit most of the best venues in both National Park. This looping trek begins and ends in Jackson, Wyoming. You can adapt this itinerary for other starting locations, such as Cody, Wyoming, or Idaho Falls, Montana. A trip to Yellowstone is easily combined with cross-country trips to the Utah 5 Grand Circle or the Great 8 in the Dakotas. Planning on fewer days in the park, choose only activities that fit with your schedule.
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7 Days of Natural Bliss: Your Ultimate Itinerary Guide for Exploring Grand Teton & Yellowstone National Park
Plan your itinerary based on the number of days you have available. Keep in mind that there is a lot to see and do, and you will need at least 3-4 days to fully explore both parks. Yellowstone and Grand Teton offer a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, wildlife watching, and scenic drives. Research the activities that interest you, and plan your itinerary accordingly.
Gateway to Nature: Your Guide on Getting to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
The nearest airports for either Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park are the Jackson Airport (JAC) and the Yellowstone Airport (WYS). Both airports have daily flights from several major cities. We flew into Jackson and started from there. Some tours begin in Salt Lake City, Utah or Bozeman, Montana.
Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park are accessible by car, and several major highways lead to the parks. The most common routes are via I-90 and I-25, or via I-80 and US-191.
What Time of Year is Best to Visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks?
The best time to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton is from late spring to early fall. The peak season is in July and August, so if you want to avoid crowds, consider visiting in May, June, or September. Be sure to pack appropriate clothing, footwear, and gear for the activities you plan to do. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, insect repellent, a first aid kit, and plenty of water and snacks.
Before You Venture into the Wild: Essential Things to Know Before Visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
It is essential to stay informed about all the road improvement projects taking place in Yellowstone, as they could cause some significant traffic congestion. When travelling through these construction zones, it is important to drive cautiously, being vigilant for any workers, machinery, animals, and other potential risks. For information on the upcoming road improvement projects that are likely to cause traffic delays, click here.
Planning Your Stay in Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Park
You can either drive to the parks or fly to the nearest airport and rent a car. If you plan to drive, make sure your car is in good condition, and bring a map or GPS device. There are several lodging options available in and around the parks, including campgrounds, lodges, and cabins. Book your accommodations early, especially if you plan to visit during peak season.
Wilderness Retreat: Your Guide to Lodging Options for a Memorable Journey through Yellowstone National Park
All reservations for accommodations in the park are through concessionaire Xanterra’s website. Televisions, radios, and air conditioning are not available in park lodging. Wi-Fi is spotty at best in the park. I booked all our stays a year in advance based on the old reservation system.
Guests may book their accommodations 13 months in advance*. In particular, we’ll accept reservations for the same entire month of the following year starting on the 5th of each month. Guests will be able to make Yellowstone reservations on April 5, 2022, for applicable dates and properties through April 30, 2023. Reservations will be available on May 5, 2022, for May 1 through May 31, 2023, and so on.
Some campgrounds have reservable sites, while others are first-come, first-served. For campgrounds (Slough Creek, Pebble Creek, Mammoth, Indian Creek and Lewis Lake) the advance reservation window is typically six months in advance, with reservations opening on the 1st of each month at 8:00 am Mountain Time. For example, if you want to make a reservation for a campsite in Yellowstone on July 15th, you would need to make your reservation on January 1st. Fishing Bridge RV Park, Grant, Canyon, Bridge Bay, and Madison are booked via the Yellowstone Lodges website following there policies.
West Grand Loop Lodging: Your Gateway to Comfort and Adventure in Yellowstone National Park
The Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone National Park provides access to a variety of lodging options in the West Yellowstone area.
Old Faithful Lodging: Stay Close to the Spectacle of Nature in Yellowstone National Park
There are a few different lodging options in this area. Old Faithful Lodge Cabins, Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins, and Old Faithful Inn. The Old Faithful Inn is one of the most iconic and historic lodging options within the park, and it’s located just steps away from the geyser. We stayed in the Old Faithful Inn was a section known as Old House Standard Room with Bath. This historic landmark is the largest log structure in the world. I enjoyed most of the deep claw-footed tub, so wonderful to soak in and the water is hot. WE loved the proximity to the geyser basin to enjoy early morning walks.
The Inn offers a variety of room types, including standard rooms with shared bathrooms, premium rooms with private bathrooms, and suites with sitting areas and fireplaces. The Inn also has a dining room, a gift shop, and a large lobby with a towering stone fireplace.
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins: A Cozy Oasis in the Heart of Yellowstone National Park
The hotel was originally built in 1883 and has undergone several renovations and expansions since then, but still maintains its classic charm and architecture. They have a variety of accommodations, including hotel rooms, suites, and cabins. The hotel rooms and suites are located in the main hotel building and offer modern amenities such as Wi-Fi, cable TV, and private bathrooms. Some have magnificent views of the Terrace Springs. The cabins are located throughout the property and range from rustic to modern, with some featuring kitchenettes and fireplaces.
We stayed in a Frontier cabin. Each frontier cabin is equipped with two queen beds and a private bath or a shared bath (4 have a private patio hot tub). They equip the hotel rooms with either a king bed or two queen beds, a coffeemaker, and refrigerator. Luckily, we booked a frontier cabin with a private bath. We loved the location! We could walk to everything.
Grand Loop Lodging – East Side: Embrace the Serenity of Yellowstone’s Eastern Beauty
Roosevelt Lodge & Cabins: Immerse Yourself in Rustic Charm Amidst Yellowstone’s Wilderness
The closest lodge to the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone’s Tower Fall area. Built in 1920, much of the lodges’ rustic appeal and historic character has been maintained. There are two types of rustic cabins: Roughrider Cabins without a bath (shared bathhouse) or Frontier Cabins with a private bathroom. If you want luxury, these cabins may not be to your liking. They are definitely bare bones/no-frills. However, I must say we loved our stay here. My favorite memory of the lodge is watching the Mule deer browse each morning from the front porch rockers.
The lodge also features a dining room that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with views of the surrounding mountains. In addition, there is a small general store where guests can purchase snacks and souvenirs.
Canyon Lodge & Cabins: A Tranquil Retreat in the Heart of Yellowstone’s Majestic Canyons
Fantastic central location in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone close to the Hayden Valley and the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. The lodge accommodations include hotel rooms, suites, and cabins. They have five newly constructed LEED certified lodges. We stayed in a standard lodge room. They are typical hotel style, with a single queen bed, private shower bath, and coffeemaker. There is no air conditioning, TV, or radio, and neither pets nor cooking are allowed.
Funny thing was, we couldn’t figure out the light switches at first. We finally realized they require the key card to stay in, otherwise you shower in the dark. The Duplex style Western cabins are older rustic but include a full private bathroom. Some Western Cabins are pet-friendly.
Yellowstone Lake Lodging: Lakeside Serenity in the Heart of America’s First National Park
Magnificent location on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. There are two options either: Lake Lodge Cabins and Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cottages. They designated the Hotel a National Historic Landmark in 2015. It is a stately hotel with duplex cottages with two double beds and a private bathroom. The hotel rooms have either a queen or king bed and a full bath. I felt the hotel was very elegant and had hands down the best restaurant in the park. The cottages are perfect for early morning walks along the lakeshore and spotting wildlife.
Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cottages also features several dining options, including the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Deli, which offers sandwiches, salads, and other light fare. There is also a nice gift shop on-site.
Grant Village Lodge: Your Gateway to Adventure and Comfort near Yellowstone’s Pristine Lake
Near the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake in Grant Village. This lodge features modern accommodations and is open seasonally, typically from mid-May through late September. The lodge comprises 2-six-story buildings. They equip each of the 52 rooms with 2 double beds, a coffeemaker, refrigerator, and a private bathroom. The lodge is a bit outdated but is convenient for Lake Yellowstone kayak tours.
You can find additional lodging in West Yellowstone, Cody, Cooke City, or Gardiner.
- Shoshone Lodge -East Entrance 40 minutes from Cody – Peaceful, serene, beautiful rustic mountain cabin experience-a true retreat away from our hectic world.
- Campfire Lodge & Campground -They are in the Gallatin National Forest about 20 miles from West Yellowstone. Cabins on the shore of the Madison River for excellent fly-fishing.
- Rusty Hinge Cabin – Airbnb cabin in Cooke City, close to the park and the Beartooth Highway.
Grand Teton National Park Lodging: Embrace Nature’s Majesty in Comfort and Style
Colter Bay Cabins -Nestled in the vibrant Colter Bay Village, they have 208 rustic homestead cabins, tent-cabins, and RV campsites. The cabins have a private bathroom, double beds, and wall heaters for the cooler mornings. No Wi-Fi or TV. Reasonably priced. These are original log cabins in the heart of colter village.
Jenny Lake Lodge: If you want to stay in the heart of Grand Teton National Park near Jenny Lake, these luxury duplex log cabins are an ideal choice. King or Queen beds, each with a private bathroom. Complimentary Wi-Fi and activities. Packages are available. Pricey!
Jackson Lake Lodge – Located more central to Grand Teton NP. A full-service resort hotel with 37 main lodge rooms, and 348 cabins rooms, each with two queen beds. They equip each room with a coffeemaker and a mini-fridge. Complimentary Wi-Fi. Moderately priced.
Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch – Located central to Grand Teton & Yellowstone, these log style lodging units have two queen beds or one king bed. The rooms each have a coffeemaker, mini-fridge, and microwave. RV Park with campsites available. No Wi-Fi or cell phone service. Moderately priced.
Beyond the Parks: Exploring Diverse Lodging Options Near Yellowstone and Grand Teton
- Climbers’ Ranch – if you are looking to climb the Tetons, this is the place to stay.
- Dornan’s Ranch Cabins -Location is second to none. 10 mins from Jackson, 1 minute from Grand Tetons NP, 15 minutes from Antelope Flats. And the views of the mountains from there are outstanding.
- Signal Mountain Lodge – When you walk out in the morning, the Tetons are right there. Magnificent!
- Triangle X Ranch – Authentic lodging, dining, & activities in a spectacular Teton mountain range setting.
Hiking Through Grand Teton: Day 1 Adventure Guide – Exploring Nature’s Marvels and Must-Do Activities
Welcome to Grand Teton National Park! Day 1 of your hiking adventure promises to be an unforgettable experience, surrounded by nature’s marvels and exciting activities. Let’s get started on your adventure guide:
Day 1 Trek in Grand Teton: Your Ultimate Guide to Planning an Unforgettable Adventure
- Grand Teton Day 1 Map – Downloadable Map Link
Plan at least two days total for trekking through Grand Teton National Park. Many visitors’ book ended their days beginning and ending their itinerary in Jackson. We started our day early by driving to the Jenny Lake area, which is in the southern part of the park. Stunning mountain scenery surrounds Jenny lake, including the Teton Range. Heading toward Moose, we took the Teton Park Rd. Make stops at the overlooks to get great photos of the Teton range and learn important geological facts.
Where should you stop first? Well, definitely the Jenny Lake Visitor Center it opens daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The lake is a go-to destination. However, this also means you will see a lot of heavy traffic. Arrive early if you want to beat the crowds. We parked at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center. The rangers at the information kiosk were willing to answer questions, provide backcountry trail permits, provide recommendations on where to see wildlife, and have the posted boat shuttle times. Kids can enjoy interactive exhibits.
Action-Packed Adventure at Jenny Lake
Visitors can rent canoes, kayaks, or rowboats to explore the lake on their own or take a scenic boat tour offered by the park. Additionally, the park has boat tours. These offer a unique perspective of the lake and surrounding mountains. Jenny Lake is home to several species of fish, including cutthroat trout, lake trout, and brook trout. You can fish from the shore or by boat with a valid fishing license. We opted to take the first early morning shuttle boat across the lake to the Cascade Canyon trailhead. The cost for the shuttle is very reasonable.
We found there were lots of hiking trails for all skill levels. Remember, you can shorten any trail by turning back at any point. We always recommended carrying snacks and have water.with you. Hiking trails accessed by the boat shuttle are:
- Cascade Canyon Trail – is a moderate 9.7 out and back trail with an elevation gain 1,128 ft.
- Jenny Lake Trail – is a moderate 7.9 mile loop trail good for seeing wildlife.
- Hidden Falls – a short walk to Hidden Falls, a beautiful waterfall. The trail is recently improved trail is only about 0.3 miles long, making it suitable for all ages and abilities.
- Inspiration Point Trail – is a moderate 1.8 mile out and back trail starting at the Jenny Lake Boat dock. Superb views of the lake from the top.
Day 1: Scenic Jenny Lake Drive – A Breathtaking Journey
The Teton Road is a part of the 42-mile scenic trek. Take the Jenny Lake Loop Road around the lake for scenic views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The one-way loop starts at the South Jenny Lake Junction, and it takes about an hour to complete without stops. However, it’s recommended to take your time and stop at various points or hike along the way to fully appreciate the natural beauty of the area. The trail to picturesque String Lake is relatively flat and is suitable for all skill levels, making it a great option for families with kids. Kids will also discover that the lake is a great place to swim in the summer.
If you have the time, do the drive Signal Mountain Summit Road to the top at an elevation of 7720 feet. You’ll have to travel a long and windy road, but it’s worth the effort. Signal Mountain has magnificent panoramic views of the snow-capped mountain vistas and green wide valley below. Included a stop at Jackson Lake dam for a picnic lunch where you can watch anglers catching trout or salmon. We had a lone magpie try to steal a few tidbits of our lunch.
Journey Through Yellowstone: Your Ultimate 7-Day Itinerary – Must-Do Activities from Day 1 to Day 7
The drive from Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park’s south gate entrance following the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. A part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, this scenic route that offers breathtaking views of the Teton Range and the surrounding Wyoming countryside. The distance between the two parks is approximately 45 miles, and the drive takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes without stopping.
Day 1 Trek in Yellowstone: Your Adventure Begins – Essential Tips and Must-See Highlights
- Yellowstone Day 1 Map – Downloadable Map
Once you reach the south entrance station to Yellowstone National Park, you can take your picture in front of the Yellowstone National Park sign. There are also spectacular views of the Snake River gorge from the overlook. The entrance fee for the park is 35 dollars (good for 7 days). Instead, we recommend purchasing America the Beautiful pass for $80. The pass is good for one year and helps fund our national parks.
The south entrance road follows the Lewis River, which flows through the park and eventually joins the Snake River. Plan on making the stoop to see Lewis Falls. The falls are named after Meriwether Lewis, who was an American explorer and one leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. You can easily view it from the road. Instead, make the short hike up the hillside to get closeup views of the falls. This is an excellent photo opportunity. If you prefer, you can plan a picnic or snack break at Lewis Lake a little further down the road.
Grand Loop Adventure: From Black Sand Basin to Old Faithful – Day 1 in Yellowstone National Par
Follow the Southern entrance road until it reaches its intersection. We took the right onto the Grand Loop Road. It is the main road that loops (figure-8) through Yellowstone National Park, connecting its major attractions and landmarks. Be sure to stop for pictures at the continental divide before hitting the Black Sand Basin to catch your first glimpse of a geyser. It is named after the dark-colored sand that surrounds the hot springs and geysers in the basin. The basin covers an area of about 10 acres and contains several colorful hot springs and geysers. The boardwalk trail is an easy 0.3-mile walk. The most notable geysers are Black Sand Pool, Emerald Pool, and Sunset Lake.
Day 1 – Old Faithful Complex: Exploring the Iconic Geysers and More in Yellowstone National Park
Head to the Old Faithful complex area. We overnighted at the Old Faithful Inn. there are plenty of dining options at the Old Faithful Inn complex to suit any taste or budget. The Old Faithful Inn Dining Room serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu features classic American cuisine. We had dinner here the first evening. After our delicious meal, we walked through the Upper Geyser Basin. There are two loops on this 2.1-mile boardwalk. First, we walked the upper loop to Observation Point & Geyser Hill. I think the most interesting geyser here was Beehive Geyser, just as the name suggests, the 4-foot cone resembles a beehive.
Day 2 Trek in Yellowstone: Exploring Hidden Gems and Natural Wonders – Your Comprehensive Guide
- Yellowstone Day 2 Map –Download Link
Start your morning on the upper deck of Old Faithful lodge watching Old Faithful Geyser erupt. Old Faithful is the most famous geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Old Faithful erupts approximately every 90 minutes, shooting a column of water and steam up to 185 feet into the air. The visitor center will have eruption times posted for all the predictable geysers. After a light breakfast, our day begins with a leisurely walk through the lower section of the Upper Geyser Basin enjoying the colors of Morning Glory Pool and watch Castle geyser roar erupting 30-feet into the air. A splendid start to your day!
Begin Your Day 2 Adventure at Biscuit Basin: Exploring the Vibrant Geothermal Wonders of Yellowstone
Biscuit Geyser Basin is directly across the Grand Loop road from the Upper Geyser Basin. You can access the basin from the Grand Loop Road. Most people overlook Biscuit Basin as their interests are Old Faithful or Midway Geyser Basin. This basin is named after the biscuit-like deposits that surround the hot springs in the area. Biscuit Basin features a variety of geothermal features, including hot springs, geysers, and mud pots. We were blown away by the colors of the hot springs here. They range from deep blue to bright orange and yellow, making it a remarkable yet unique sight.
Since we arrived so early, we hiked to the 70-foot Mystic Falls. We highly recommend this 2.4-mile round trip loop. It begins with a gentle uphill climb through a forest of lodgepole pine and Douglas fir trees. Along the way, we enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the Firehole River. The trail gains about 500-feet elevation. On the lighter side walk the 0.6-mile looping boardwalk that winds through the thermal area, offering close-up views of the geothermal features. Although this is a short walk, you will see seven inspiring geysers, including Sapphire and Jewel geysers are the most extraordinary to photograph.
Day 2: A Walk through the Majestic Midway Geyser Basin – Yellowstone’s Geothermal Prismatic Geyser
Home to the Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser, Midway Geyser Basin is a short walk. Grand Prismatic Spring is approximately 370 feet in diameter and is one of the largest hot springs in the world. The Grand Prismatic Geyser is known for its brilliant, vibrant colors, which range from deep blue in the center to bright orange and yellow around the edges.
For an exceptional view of the geyser, we took the Fairy Falls trail located one mile south of the Midway Geyser Basin and hiked to the overlook is approximately 0.8-mile. However, the new the Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail is approximately 1.6 miles round trip. It is moderately strenuous because of the incline, but the end views will make it so worthwhile. We took 1-2 hours visiting the Midway Geyser area.
Day 2 – Lower Geyser Basin and Firehole Drive: A Scenic Excursion into Yellowstone’s Geothermal Utopia
The Lower Geyser Basin Is just a few miles down the Grand Loop Road. Spread out over a large area, this basin is approximately 18-miles. Comprising this basin are two different areas: Fountain Paint Pots and Firehole Lake Drive. The Firehole Lake steams and hisses as you walk along the trail that encircles the lake. Seen from the roadway, the Great Fountain Geyser erupts in spurts. White Dome Geyser is a striking pink cone. Be patient! This is a prime location for bison, and jams are common when the herd takes to the roadway.
Fountain Paint Pots are a peaceful walk, although more spread out. The exceptional feature here includes the constantly erupting Clepsydra Geyser, the Celestine Pool, and Silex Spring with their deep sapphire-colored pools. The sounds of bubbling mud pots and smaller hissing vents dominate this landscape. Firehole Canyon Drive is a short, one-way drive along the Firehole River. The deep gorge has rushing rapids, Firehole Falls, and the local swimming hole.
Day 2 – Norris Geyser Basin: Witnessing Nature’s Fiery Spectacle in Yellowstone National Park
This basin is near Madison Junction and divided into two sections, the Porcelain, and Back basins. Looking over the barren Porcelain basin, you can visualize this volatile landscape. Mostly paved the pathways of Norris Geyser Basin form into two loops. The Black Gowler Steam Vent does just that growls, billowing steam into the sky. The Back Basin is a longer loop in a serene lodgepole forest. Congress Pool is the most mesmerizing.Pressed for time, take the time to see the Steamboat geyser. It is closest to the Norris Geyser Basin information station.
The Grand Loop Road continues north towards Mammoth Hot Springs. The road passes Nymph Lake, Roaring Mountain, and Apollinaris Spring thermal areas. Sheepeater Cliffs is a large basalt column formed by cooling lava. Have a snack break and stretch your legs. A small gravel parking lot leads to the area. Finish your day in Mammoth Hot Springs. Mammoth Village has many services, including accommodations, restaurants, a visitor information center, post office, and fuel. If you have time this evening, watch the many elk that frequent the green lawns, and the ground squirrels are pretty comical.
Day 3 Trek in Yellowstone: Exploring Wildlife and Untamed Beauty – Your Unforgettable Adventure Continues
Let’s continue your Day 3 adventure in Yellowstone, exploring wildlife and untamed beauty, and including a visit to the stunning Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. The flow of hot water formed these unique terraces through limestone, creating stunning and otherworldly mineral formations.
- Yellowstone Day 3 Map–Download Map Link
Begin Day 3 at Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces: A Surreal Encounter with Nature’s Sculpted Masterpiece in Yellowstone
This morning, after a hearty breakfast, visit the Upper & Lower Terraces in Mammoth. The Lower Terraces are accessible by a wooden boardwalk and a peaceful walk from the hotel. What makes these geothermal features different from others in the park are the terraces. The boardwalk is a sensory experience in sound, color, and smell. The continuous flow of silica-rich water formed these huge travertine terraces. Directly above the village on the hillside are the Upper Terraces. The one-way road gives another perspective. These seething springs give way to an eerie sight. Canary Spring is otherworldly with its encased trees all covered in white silica. The beautiful views of the Gardiner Mountains as a backdrop.
Day 3 – Follow the River to Gardiner, Montana: Discovering Scenic Beauty and Small-Town Charm near Yellowstone
Mammoth Hot Springs is located closest to the park’s northern entrance. At Mammoth junction, take the turn north to Gardiner. A set of switchbacks descend into the valley, as the road follows the Gardiner River. You can 2-miles down the road stop at the Boiling River Trailhead if the weather permits. The river forms a jacuzzi of sorts where the hot spring runoff meets the colder Gardiner River. A refreshing dip in the river is a must in the summer months.
NOTE: Currently there is no swimming due to the damage from the floods in June 2022.
If you want to take photographs of the rushing river waters, Rescue Creek Trailhead bridge is an ideal location only another mile down the roadway. Gardiner is a prime location to restock your groceries or do a bit of shopping. They also offer river rafting excursions. You will drive through the Roosevelt Arch on your way back into the park. Appreciate the arch history, look for the inscriptions “Yellowstone National Park” and “Created by Act of Congress, March 1, 1872.”
Day 3 – Spectacular Undine Falls: A Hidden Gem on Your Yellowstone Adventure
From Gardiner, make your way northeast, turn left on the Grand Loop Road towards Tower Junction. Bears frequent the woods along this section of the road, so keep a watchful eye. The 60-foot falls are easy to photograph from the roadway. No hiking needed to reach these falls. However, if you have the stamina and want to get closer to the falls, there is a trail near the Lava Creek Bridge.
Day 3 – Lava Creek Picnic Area: A Scenic Spot for a Memorable Picnic Lunch in Yellowstone
This is picnic area is near the Lava Creek Bridge. This is a wonderful place to take a quick break or have lunch. Stretch your legs with a brief walk along the creek before continuing your journey. Stop at the Wraith Falls Trailhead. This is a short, 0.5-mile trail. Keep a wary eye out for bison as you pass through a mountain meadow filled with wildflowers. The trail ends at a small observation platform. Here you can view the 100-foot fall as it cascades down the rock face.
Day 3 -Exploring Ancient Wonders the Petrified Tree & Scenic Hiking on the Lost Lake Trail
The Grand Loop Road parallels the Gallatin Range, cutting through upland meadows and ridges. Blacktail Plateau Drive is a one-way unimproved gravel road that returns to the Grand Loop after 6-miles. If you want to escape the crowds, the forests and panoramic meadows are peaceful, although you will have to drive slowly. Just 1.5-miles before Tower Junction is the spur road for the Petrified Tree. A short trail leads up an incline to the tree. To protect, they have placed fencing around the tree. Bison and bears frequent this valley. Excellent spot for wildlife sightings. From this location, you can access the trail to Lost Lake. Lost Lake is a short, tranquil hike to a small lake. Tower Junction is home to Roosevelt Lodge. This is an ideal location for an overnight stay. They have an Old West Cookout Dinner that is outstanding!!
Day 4 Trek in Yellowstone: Wildlife Encounters and Scenic Vistas – Crafting an Unforgettable Journey
Start your day early and head to Lamar Valley, often referred to as the “Serengeti of North America.” This area is famous for its abundant wildlife, including bison herds, elk, pronghorn, wolves, bears, and various bird species.
- Yellowstone Day 4 Map–Download Link
Day 4 – The Extraordinary Lamar Valley: Wildlife Wonderland and Untamed Beauty in Yellowstone
Start your day by eating breakfast at the Roosevelt Lodge; getting an early start for wildlife viewing in the Lamar Valley. Always have your camera ready is the best tip for a drive into the Lamar Valley. The valley is home to herds of bison, wolves, bears, among others. The best viewing is early morning or late afternoon near sunset. The road follows the Lamar River for a suitable distance. You can access many trails along the highway. Stop at different pullouts, such as Slough Creek, Soda Butte, and Pebble Creek. Often local photographers will share their insights on wildlife sightings and let you peek through their spotting scopes. At Pebble Creek, a park ranger shared her spotting scope, and we saw mountain goats and grizzlies.
If you have more time in the schedule, consider staying overnight in Cooke City and spend a day traveling the Beartooth Highway. If not, have lunch in Cooke City or turn around at Pebble Creek for the return trip through the valley. Keep a watchful eye on wolves and bears. At Tower Junction turn towards Canyon Village. Calcite Springs Overlook is a few miles down the road. Here you get food views of the Yellowstone River as it courses through the valley.
Day 4 – View the Tower Fall: A Majestic Cascade Amidst Yellowstone’s Towering Peaks
Tower Fall has a good general store, and it is popular with park visitors. Especially for ice cream and snack foods. The trail to Tower Fall is closed. However, the end of the parking lot gives you a small glimpse of the fall. The overlook has better access to the fall for photographs.
Day 4 – Mount Washburn to Dunraven Pass: An Epic Hike through Yellowstone’s Alpine Beauty
Chittenden Road to Mount Washburn (10,243 ft) is an option if you are looking for exceptional mountain views. The 2.5-mile hike on the service road will give you 360-degree views of Yellowstone. There is a steady incline the entire way up and takes about 3-4 hours to complete. Sometimes you can spot Big-horned sheep on the mountain. The fire lookout station at the top has restrooms, park rangers staff, the information desk.
Dunraven Pass wayside has excellent views of the forest valley. You can still see the scars left by previous wildfires. Fresh growth is slowly emerging. The wildflowers are beautiful in the springtime. If you are lucky, you will see the remaining remanents of snow at the Dunraven Road Picnic Area. Dunraven Pass often experiences poor weather, therefore, always check before crossing over the mountain.
Day 4 – Canyon Village Complex: Exploring the Grandeur of Yellowstone’s Canyon and Beyond
Canyon Village has accommodations, restaurants, a visitor Center, groceries, and fuel. The Village is a suitable central location to access all areas of the park. Check-in at the lodge, enjoy a nice dinner before watching the sunset at the Brink of the Lower Falls.
The Brink of the Falls trail is the first viewpoint on the North Rim Road. It is a steep 0.8-mile descent down to the river. Perch atop the 308-foot Yellowstone Lower Falls is the observation platform. To witness the falls in person is incredible. This is a superb way to end your day!
Day 5 Trek in Yellowstone: Geysers, Canyons, and Wildlife – Crafting a Day of Wonder and Adventure
- Yellowstone Day 5 Map–Download Map Link
Canyon Village has a few locations that serve breakfast. If you are an early riser, purchase a snack the night before and watch the sunrise at the Brink of the Lower Falls or Inspiration Point. The Brink of the Falls trail is a magnificent place to photograph the sunrise. Today experience the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Day 5 – North Rim Road Vistas: Scenic Delights and Overlooks in Yellowstone’s Inspiring North Rim Road
The one-way North Rim Road has many vistas overlooks. Try to at least stop at a few of them. The Brink of the Upper Falls has two vantage points for viewing the 109-foot falls.
Each has a fresh perspective of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Lookout Point gives you full views of the Lower Falls and is the start of the Red Rock Point Trail. This trial is a good workout. A 0.4-mile path descends 500 feet. At the observation platform, you can hear the roar of the falls. They named this trail for the large rust-colored rock outcropping beside the platform. Grandview is just that a grand view, an enjoyable place to take a break and listen to the river in the canyon below. Inspiration Point is a quick walk to a rock outcropping and an observation platform with marvelous views of the 1,000 foot deep Yellowstone River gorge.
Day 5 – South Rim Road Vistas: Breathtaking Overlooks and Sensational Canyon Views in Yellowstone National Park
If time permits, explore the South Rim Trail. The trail parallels the canyon rim for 1.75-miles passing both Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Artist Point.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is probably the most memorable hike. Overcoming your fear of heights rake the 300 steps to see breathtaking views, feeling the power of the Lower Falls. It requires comfortable shoes for this strenuous hike. Perhaps the most photographed overlook in the canyon is Artist Point. Excellent views both up and down the canyon. The deep walls of the canyon have unique colors as the light changes throughout the day. If you look closely, you can see the puffs of steam from the geothermal vents near the river’s edge.
Day 5 – Hayden Valley: Following the Yellowstone River through a Wildlife Paradise in Yellowstone
Next, enjoy a leisurely drive through the Hayden Valley. This valley was an ancient lake when Yellowstone Lake was larger. Today, the river cuts through the lush valley. This is another premier location to see wildlife. Expect to see large herds of bison grazing on the green grasses that blanket the valley floor. There are a few longer day hikes that take will some planning. The 19-mile Mary Mountain-Nez Perce Trail leads across the valley, climbing through pine forest before skirting Mary Lake and descending to Firehole Lake Drive. Be sure to carry bear spray, as the bear activity is at a higher level here.
Day 5 – Mud Volcano: Unveiling the Unusual and Dynamic Formations of Yellowstone National Park
Stop at the Mud Volcano, a 0.7-mile boardwalk takes you to unique geothermal features that have bizarre names such as the Dragon’s Mouth Springs, Black Dragon Caldron, and Sulphur Caldron. All these geysers are an assault on the senses. The smell is intense.
The Hayden Valley is a pleasant place to stop for your lunch break. Try Otter Creek, Cascade, Nez Perce Ford picnic areas, or the LeHardy Rapids picnic area. Both Otter Creek and Nez Perce Ford are directly on the river, however, the latter is further off the road, so more serene-a hidden gem. Le Hardy Rapids along the Yellowstone River are also a popular spot, listening to the rushing waters of the river. A boardwalk takes you down 100 feet and along the shoreline. Look for cutthroat trout in the clear waters. In July, fly-fishing for these stealthy trout is a worthwhile pursuit.
Lake Yellowstone is an ideal overnight location. Spend your evening in one of the rocking chairs on the porch overlooking Lake Yellowstone, sipping a drink. We spent a pleasant evening being serenaded by the string quartet in the lobby after a fabulous dinner.
Day 6 in Yellowstone: Alpine Lakes and Geothermal Marvels – A Day of Natural Phenomena and Exploration
- Yellowstone Day 6 Map–Download Map Link
Start your day with a short walk around Lake Village before moving on to Fishing Bridge. They built the Fishing Bridge in 1902, originally anglers would line up catching the Native Cutthroat until the numbers became very low. Today, they do not allow fishing from the bridge or within 100 yards of the shoreline.
Day 6 – The Fishing Bridge: Discovering the Beauty and Wildlife Diversity Along Yellowstone River
The Fishing Bridge General Store by RV Park is an excellent place to have breakfast. Near the back of the store is a quaint diner. It is like stepping into the 1960s. The food is tasty. The general store has everything to restock your groceries. In the mornings, the fireplace is a friendly place to keep warm.
Across the road is the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center and Trail Museum. Built-in 1931 using native log and river rock, the facility blends well with the forest. Stop into the museum to see the native mammal and bird exhibits. Plan to attend a ranger-led program at the amphitheater. A walking the Yellowstone Lake shoreline look for animal tracks in the sand before moving on to Bay Bridge. Natural Bridge hike.
Day 6 – Bay Bridge Marina Adventure: Boating Lake Yellowstone and Hiking the Natural Bridge Trail
Located west of lake village is the marina and campground. Bay Bridge Marina is the jumping-off point for boat excursions on the lake. One hour narrated scenic boat tours on the Lake Queen take you around Stevenson Island to view the remnants of the E.C. Waters. There is an interesting story about the history of the boat. Consider renting a motorboat, canoe, or kayak to explore the 140-mile Yellowstone Lake shoreline. Fishing excursions (2hrs) are also available. They include everything in the price. All non-native Lake Trout must be kept, so ask your guide about having one chef prepare your dinner.
The 1.1-mile Natural Bridge trail begins at the marina. There is also access at the campground. The water from Bridge Creek carved the Natural Bridge from the surrounding rock. The level trail passes through pine woods before following a service road. If you want close-up views of the top or backside, you will have to scramble up the rocky side trail. The Natural Bridge is best photographed in the morning when the sun is lower in the sky.
Day 6 – Detour to Gull Point: A Scenic Drive Slow Down Enjoy the Beauty of Yellowstone
Tired of the hustle and bustle on the grand loop? Try taking a scenic detour along the lakeshore. The road hugs the shoreline before returning to the Grand Loop Road. Take the turnoff into the old-growth forested at Gull Point. Park in the picnic area in the shade of the trees. Follow the beach out to the end of the sandbar. The cove is a great place to photograph birds since it is a prime waterfowl habitat. This is also a popular fishing spot. We tried but caught nothing.
Day 6 – West Thumb Geyser Basin: Exploring Yellowstone’s Unique Geothermal Features by the Lake
This West Thumb Geyser Basin does not see the crowds like other areas in the park. There is a short loop boardwalk that passes most of the hot springs, geysers, and fumaroles. The view from the boardwalk over Lake Yellowstone is quite dramatic with the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains. The deep blue sapphire color of the Black Pool is the most stunning!
A couple of trails are originating from the parking lot – Duck Lake and Yellowstone Lake Overlook trail. They are short, relatively easy trails, however, some stretches have steep inclines.
Day 6 – Grant Village: A Rare Jewel Inside Yellowstone National Park – Exploring Nature and History
The village is a wonderful place to have a picnic lunch. Grant Village is located a mile off the Grand Loop Road, right on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. The campground and picnic area both set in a relaxing setting in a pine forest. The Visitor Center has educational displays on the necessary role fire plays in the Yellowstone ecosystem. The theater plays the movie, “Experience Yellowstone and Ten Years After the Fire.” The Lakeshore Pavilion overlooking the West Thumb Bay has benches to just sit and take in the view.
Guided kayak tours from Grant Village paddle along the shores of the lake to Potts Geyser Basin, which is not open to the public. This tour is unique in that you get close to underwater fumaroles. Often seen on the edge of the lake are grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Eating lunch on a secluded beach while looking for animal tracks is the highlight for some.
You can overnight in Grant Village or make the trek to Jackson Lake lodging in Coulter Village. Both have good walking trails along the beach that are quite pleasant for an evening stroll.
Day 7 Return Trek in Grand Teton: Soaking in the Last of Nature’s Grandeur – Crafting Unforgettable Memories
- Grand Teton Day 7 Map–Download Map Link
Jackson Lake has breakfast cruises to Elk Island. This tour was our bucket list of adventure, and the cruise was the perfect ending. The lake was like a sheet of glass, with amazing views of Mt. Moran and the Tetons! The Jackson Lake Cruise Company does day cruises and sunset dinner cruises too. If you prefer a unique dining opportunity on horseback, try an authentic western experience. You could also book a lazy dinner float trip.
Day 7 – Scenic 42-Mile Loop Viewpoints: A Mesmerizing Farewell to Grand Teton National Park
Today, we also complete the last leg of the 42-mile scenic loop started on day 1.
Oxbow Bend Turnout -On a sunny day, if the water is calm, it reflects the Teton Range in the water, and it all takes your breath away. Occasionally a moose will fjord the river providing the perfect photograph.
Cunningham Cabin – This is one of the last remaining historic homesteader cabins built in the 1800s.The cabin offers a glimpse into the past. Just imagine how the pioneers must have lived.
Snake River Overlook – Ansel Adams immortalized this location in 1942. This is where he took one of his iconic photographs in Grand Teton. The lighting is best in the early morning.
Schwabacher Landing – Flat, easy hike to the Snake River for a picturesque view of the Tetons. The beaver ponds are the ideal habitat for ducks and moose.
Day 7: Unraveling the Historic Charm – Antelope Flats Road and Mormon Row
Turn east at Antelope Flats road to access Mormon Row. The sagebrush flats are a prime area for grazing bison and pronghorn. Pick up trail maps in the parking lot. They settled on Morman Row in the late 1890s. The famous John Moulton Barn and T. A. Moulton Barn are the iconic structures most come to see. They are perhaps the most photographed anywhere in the world. The barns, along with the backdrop of the Tetons, are simply breathtaking!
Important Safety Reminders and Tips in the Parks: Ensuring a Memorable and Safe Adventure
- Respect wildlife: While it may be tempting to get close to wildlife for a photo or a better look, it’s important to give animals plenty of space and never approach them.Take the Yellowstone Pledge – Stay 100 yards from bears and wolves. Stay 25 yards from all other animals.
- Never feed wild animals, including birds and squirrels.
- Stay on marked trails: The park has a vast network of trails for hiking, but it’s important to stay on marked trails to avoid getting lost or damaging fragile ecosystems. STAY ON THE BOARDWALKS, otherwise you could easily damage the fragile thermal features.
- Whenever possible, we prefer to eat lunch or a light breakfast while experiencing parks. WE pack acollapsible coolerjust for this purpose. Remember to store all food when not in use. Bears have a keen sense of smell.
- Take advantage of the water refill stations at visitor centers throughout the park. This saves having to recycle plastic bottles.
- Dine in the Park at least once, even if you are camping.
Final Thoughts on Planning Your Unforgettable Trek to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
Congratulations on planning a 7-day itinerary to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks! Here are some final thoughts:
- Be flexible: While it’s great to have a planned itinerary, it’s important to be flexible and allow for some unexpected detours or delays. Weather can be unpredictable in these parks, so be prepared for changes in your plans.
- Plan for early mornings: To avoid crowds and see wildlife, plan to get up early and hit the trails or scenic drives before the crowds arrive.
- Pack accordingly: Make sure to pack layers of clothing, as temperatures can vary widely throughout the day. Also, bring comfortable hiking shoes, sunscreen, and insect repellent.
- Enjoy the scenery: Both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are known for their stunning natural beauty, so take the time to appreciate the scenery and soak in the experience.
We feel that a 7-day itinerary is a great way to see some highlights of these two amazing national parks. With careful planning, flexibility, and a spirit of adventure, you will have a memorable trip!
This trip should be on everyone’s bucket list. If this helped you to plan your trek through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, please kindly drop us a comment about your itinerary. If we can improve this guide, we would love feedback. Please comment below.