How to Do Yellowstone Park in One Day


With over two million acres of protected public land within its boundaries, Yellowstone National Park could take a lifetime to fully explore. But if you only have one day to spend in the park, you can make it one of the most memorable days you’ll have in your travels. Here’s how to plan your hours in the country’s first national park.

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

When you’re trying to maximize your time with just one day in the park, set your priorities ahead of time. If you know you absolutely want to see Old Faithful, or explore the Lamar Valley, plan your day around the stop you just can’t miss.

Get an early start

With one day, you want to take advantage of every hour. Don’t waste time sleeping in. Seize the day, grab your coffee, and hit the road while the birds are waking up.

Have a plan, but be flexible

You want to know what your day holds so you can make the most of your time. But you also want to leave room for surprise bear or bison traffic jams. You don’t want to pack your day too full so that one unexpected event will derail the whole thing.


Choose your adventure

The number of ways to spend a day in Yellowstone is pretty much endless. With one day (for now, at least), decide what you’re most excited to experience and embrace the fact that you just won’t be able to do everything the park has to offer. But a day in the park is well worth it, no matter how you spend it. Here are three ways to structure your day in Yellowstone.

Take a (day) hike

If you love spending time on the trail, devoting your day in Yellowstone to a hike is a great way to get off the beaten path and away from the crowds. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t have a bucket list of must-see stops, grab your ten essentials and go out on the trail. This is a way to experience the serenity of the park the way the first people to explore it would have.

Hit the road for geological wonders

The Grand Loop Road is by far the most traveled road in the park, and for good reason. This route takes you from Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful and back via the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake, and some of the most striking waterfalls and geothermal features in the world. With stops at intriguing waypoints along the way, you could easily spend your whole day on the drive.


Seek out wildlife

Any trip to Yellowstone could include wildlife sightings out of your wildest imaginings. But if your goal is to view a diverse range of animals, plan your day accordingly. The earlier you start, the better. Dawn is a time when many animals are more active, including the apex predators. Nocturnal critters make their way to daytime hideaways, and day dwellers come out to find food.

Start at the Lamar Valley, pulling off at designated viewpoints and overlooks, and don’t forget your binoculars. If you see someone with a spotting scope, ask what they’ve encountered already.

After a full day in the park, find your way to accommodations close to the entrance gate, and support gateway communities like Gardiner and Bozeman.

Starry Night Lodging strives to make tourism more regenerative for the spaces we all love to explore. Book your stay, and see what you can discover with a day in Yellowstone.