When to visit
- Very Favourable
What to do
- Worth the detour
- Must see
Yellowstone National Park is well known for its colourful hot springs, powerful geysers and impressive canyon. But it is also an important wildlife reserve, where it is possible to watch bison, grizzly bears and wolves. Did you know that the park is actually an active volcano? The next eruption is expected in 1,000 to 10,000 years: that should give you enough time to enjoy your visit to the park ;-)
If you only have one day to visit the park, your best option is to drive around the Grand Loop Road . This iconic route will take you past the park's most striking geysers and hot springs. You will also drive through Hayden Valley, a prime spot for wildlife viewing.
From Madison (West entry), drive south in the direction of Old Faithful.
Season: Open year-round, 24 hours a day
Visitor Center: The park has 5 different entrances and many information stations. The 3 most popular, open daily from late May to late September, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. are: Grant Visitor Center, Fishing Bridge Visitor Center and Old Faithful Visitor Education Center.
Road closures: Note that most of the park's roads are closed from November to mid-May, due to weather conditions. Only the road from Gardiner (Montana) to Cooke City (Montana) is open year-round.
Admission fee: $30/vehicle, including occupants. Valid 7 days. Purchase an America the Beautiful Pass for $80 if you plan to visit 2-3 parks.
Shuttle service in the park?
GRAND PRISMATIC SPRING
Your first stop should be Grand Prismatic Spring. With its vibrant colours, Grand Prismatic is the most stunning hot spring in the park.
Tip: the hill behind Grand Prismatic provides a stunning view from above (accessible from the Fairy Falls Trail parking area).
OLD FAITHFUL GEYSER
One of the park's star attractions is Old Faithful, named for the regularity of its eruptions which generally occur every hour or two (enquire at the Visitor Center for approximate eruption times).
This spectacular geyser shoots columns of hot water more than 50 metres into the air. Time permitting, walk the boardwalk trail through Upper Geyser Basin to colourful Morning Glory Pool .
The Grand Loop Road continues along Yellowstone Lake to Lake Village. From there it heads north, following the Yellowstone River into Hayden Valley.
Hayden Valley is the best sector of the park for wildlife viewing. It is common to come across bison and moose along the road.
Grizzly bears are most frequently seen in spring and early summer. Pay attention and keep your camera close at hand!
As you continue to make your way north, stop in Canyon Village to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
GRAND CANYON OF THE YELLOWSTONE
The best view of the canyon is from Lookout Point , which is also very easy to reach. There is a parking area close by, making it the ideal viewpoint for families. If you have the time (and energy), Brink of the lower falls is a more spectacular 1-hour roundtrip hike that leads to a platform right at the top of the falls.
The 180 metre elevation change can be tiring on the way back. If you still have time after the wonders of the Grand Loop Road, pay a visit to Mammoth Hot Springs north of Norris.
MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS
Mammoth Hot Springs is a complex of hot springs on terraces made up of travertine deposits, where heat-loving microorganisms create tapestries of colour in the warm water. The must-see section of Mammoth Hot Springs is the Lower Terraces area .
The must-see attraction of the Lower Terraces is Palette spring . If you want to hike through the lower terraces, it will take you about 2 hours.
Where to eat
- $ Inexpensive
- $$ Moderate
- $$$ Upscale
- $$$$ Fine dining
For your trip to Yellowstone National Park, it's a good idea to pack a picnic lunch and bring snacks and drinks because, as is the case in many national parks, the park's restaurants are frequently expensive and not necessarily of the best quality. All Yellowstone National Park restaurants and cafeterias are managed by two competing companies (Xanterra and Delaware North).
Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room ($$$)
The Lake Yellowstone Hotel stands on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. Opened in 1891, it is the park's oldest restaurant. The dinner menu is creative and upscale, with unique dishes featuring fresh fish, lamb, duck, quail and game such as bison, as well as at least one vegetarian entrée.
The emphasis is on sustainable cuisine using locally sourced organic ingredients. Wines from California, Oregon, and Washington predominate on the wine list. Reservations are not needed for breakfast or lunch, but they are essential for dinner. Open daily from mid-May to early October, from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Lake Village Road, 1 mile south of Fishing Bridge Village, Yellowstone / 307-344-7311
THE CODY CATTLE COMPANY ($$)
The Cody Cattle Company offers a homestyle American buffet followed by a live country-western music show. The concept is simple: enjoy an all-you-can-eat Chuckwagon dinner featuring beef brisket, grilled chicken, steak (extra charge), baked potatoes, corn bread, apple sauce, baked beans, Caesar salad and Cole slaw, along with water, lemonade or coffee. Then sit back for a thoroughly enjoyable evening of foot-stompin' fun family entertainment with Ryan Martin and the Triple C Cowboys Band.
There are three ticketing options: "Show only", "Dinner and Show" or "Dinner, Show and Cody Nite Rodeo" (at nearby Stampede Park, June 1 to August 31). Doors open at 5 p.m., dinner is served at 5:30 p.m. and the show is from 6:30 to 7:30. The rodeo starts at 8 p.m. June 1 to September 18, 2018.
1910 Demaris Drive, Cody / 307-272-5770
CAFE MADRIZ ($$-$$$)
Café Madriz brings the authentic taste of Spanish cuisine to Montana. The owner and chef, Elena de Diego creates every dish from scratch: appetizers, hot and cold tapas, main dishes and desserts. Enjoy a variety of authentic dishes made with fresh ingredients and imported products such as Manchego cheese, Serrano ham and chorizo. Open from mid-May to September, Monday-Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
311 Canyon Street, West Yellowstone / 406-646-9245
- Very Favourable