Yellowstone is an enormous park with a staggering number of attractions to see. The park’s absolute highlights are accessible via the Grand Loop Road, and you can visit most of them in a few days. Tailor your itinerary to your interests—perhaps wildlife, thermal features, or major scenic hotspots—and hit the road. It takes roughly 30 minutes to drive between major junctions, but traffic and herds of bison crossing the road can significantly lengthen travel time. Be patient.
The Upper Loop
Mammoth Hot Springs—The first attraction you’ll hit coming in from the north, Mammoth’s beautifully sculpted travertine terraces (the Upper and Lower terraces ★★ are described in “Yellowstone: The Extended Tour") are well worth a stroll. History buffs will appreciate the Albright Visitor Center and Fort Yellowstone, a collection of preserved buildings from the 1890s and early 1900s.
Norris Geyser Basin ★★—Norris is Yellowstone’s hottest, most acidic thermal area and a wonderful place to wander two adjoining basins, Back Basin and Porcelain Basin. You’ll see examples of geysers, steam vents, and hot springs with colorful bacterial mats, plus the Norris Geyser Basin Museum.
Canyon Village Area—An absolute must-see, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River ★★★ plunges more than 1,000 feet from rim to river and features two stunning waterfalls. Gaze at the polychromatic rock layers from several lookouts, hike the North or South Rims, or even descend into the canyon on Uncle Tom’s Trail. Several fantastic day hikes and overnight trails launch from this area.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.