Planning the perfect Yellowstone National Park vacation

old faithful geyser in yellowstone
Mountain view from a Big Sky, MT vacation rental

Yellowstone National Park means so much to so many people. Millions from all over the world have memories ranging from awkward, tweenage photos in front of Old Faithful to their first bison sighting along an epic hike through the park. For those of us who haven’t made the trek, planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park can be a bit confusing, with its myriad of natural wonders, endless recreation possibilities, and multiple park entrances.

But if you’re guilty of putting off a vacation to Yellowstone, fear not. We’ve broken it all down for you and included the best vacation homes to kick back in after a day of adventuring.

Where to stay in Yellowstone

What to do in Yellowstone

Marvel at Yellowstone’s otherworldly geysers and springs

Of all the wonders in Yellowstone, the geysers are perhaps the most famous, and for good reason. The park sits on top of an underground volcano, whose heat creates wild and colorful thermal features like geysers, pools, and hot springs. Visit the Upper Geyser Basin for a glimpse of Old Faithful, the park’s most famous (and most photographed) geyser. The Midway Geyser Basin nearby is home to the fantastically hued Grand Prismatic Spring, as well as a few other photo-ready hot springs.

waterfall in yellowstone national park

Seek out Yellowstone’s waterfalls, hoodoos, and petrified forests

You don’t have to be a geology buff to appreciate Yellowstone’s extraordinary natural features. Adults and kids alike will enjoy investigating what nature has to offer up including fossil forests—literal tree trunks turned into stone—throughout the northern part of the park. The “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” boasts three waterfalls, as well as spectacular hoodoo (also known as fairy chimneys and goblins) rock formations.

a couple hiking in yellowstone national park

Explore Yellowstone via kayak, horse, bike, or foot

A Yellowstone National Park vacation offers endless opportunities for playing outside. While summer is prime time for sunny weather, don’t neglect the shoulder seasons that can offer similar opportunities with less crowds. Popular activities are abundant for those both active and not, from whitewater rafting, kayaking and hiking, to horseback riding or simply sunning in the beauty of the park.

a roaming bison in yellowstone national park

Get up close to the park’s wildlife

Yellowstone is world-renowned for its spectacular wildlife. While you’re in the park, keep an eye out for bison, bears, moose, eagles, and more. Serious nature lovers can book a wildlife tour for better odds of seeing roaming herds of bison or bumbling baby bears. Stay watchful around your Yellowstone vacation rental, too—if you’re staying in Big Sky or another nearby town, the odds of seeing wildlife are still pretty good!

Things to consider before your Yellowstone trip

Plan in advance

Most traveling to Yellowstone are spending a year or more planning their adventure, meaning accommodations fill up fast.

It’s less expensive outside the park

This applies to nearly everything, from food to gas to lodging to hotels and vacation rentals.

Map out your itinerary

Having a general game plan for each day will ensure you see all the things you’d like to see during your trip.

Give yourself time

With a trip like Yellowstone, it’s easy to try and cram a lot into each day. And like any adventure, there will be snags, so remember to give yourself extra time for each activity.

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