The original version of this article called “Yellowstone in 24 Hours: How to Maximize Your Time in the Park” was first published on USA Today’s 10 Best.
At the beginning of March, Lisa put her best travel tips forward and showed us how to enjoy Yellowstone National park on a limited schedule.
See Lisa’s USA Today article below:
Have you always wanted to discover Yellowstone? It can be done in 24 hours!
You can wake up in Utah and start your day driving towards Wyoming. Stop to eat in Afton near the largest elk horn arch. Drive towards Jackson Hole and enter the park through the South Gate.
Arriving in Yellowstone National Park — Photo courtesy of Jason Will
Yellowstone has five entrance stations. Coming from Park City, Utah or Jackson Hole, Wyoming, you enter first into Grand Teton National Park Moran entrance and then into Yellowstone National Park. You’ll pay fees to enter each park, but then you’ll be good for a weeklong stay.
Wildlife can be seen everywhere in Yellowstone National Park — Photo courtesy of Lisa Ellen Niver
During the entire drive, we stopped often to take photos of the trees, river and the natural beauty around us. Long before you enter the National Park, you are surrounded by the gorgeous setting. It felt peaceful and reminded me that the journey really is the destination.
Pro tip: This park is HUGE! It takes hours to drive from one entrance to another. When deciding where to stay, take the distance into consideration.
Lewis Falls, Yellowstone National Park — Photo courtesy of Lisa Ellen Niver
Approximately ten miles from the south entrance, pull over for a quick photo op at gorgeous Lewis Falls. Better yet, if you don’t want to climb back into the car yet, take the easy Lewis Falls Trail up to its dramatic overlook.
Yellowstone Lake — Photo courtesy of Lisa Ellen Niver
The Park is thrilling. You never know when you’ll see majestic wildlife right outside your window, meandering along the road. Deer, elk and moose are all common sights. When a bull elk appears on the side of the lane, every car stops to look and take photos. There is more variety of wildlife in Yellowstone National Park than in all the lower 48 states combined.
Pro tip: do NOT forget the Yellowstone guidelines! “Even though the animals of Yellowstone seem tame they are still wild. Feeding the animals is not permitted in any way, and all visitors must keep 100 yards away from wolves and bears, and 25 yards from other animals.”
Bull Elk on the side of the road, Yellowstone National Park — Photo courtesy of Lisa Ellen Niver
Do you love to boat and fish? Yellowstone Lake is North America’s largest high-altitude freshwater lake. At 136 square miles, it’s the largest body of water in the park. It’s superb for boating and fishing, and offers hikers a gorgeous view of the park’s hydrothermal features.
Watching Old Faithful — Photo courtesy of Lisa Ellen Niver
Geysers are everywhere in this hydrothermal park – there are more than 300 active geysers in total. Visit the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center to learn how these awesome landforms occur, as well as about the Yellowstone supervolcano that lies deep below the surface.
Pro tip: Talk to rangers at the Center and outdoors. They’re friendly and love talking about the park. They’ll be happy to answer any questions and help you see as much as possible during your time in the park.
There are 300 active geysers at Yellowstone — Photo courtesy of Lisa Ellen Niver
It is truly incredible to see geysers that send steam and water spewing up to 300 feet in the air! The geyser that erupts most regularly is Old Faithful, like clockwork every 90 minutes or so. (The approximate times can be found online or at the ranger stations.)
Seeing Old Faithful was a bucket list item for our entire group. It felt like being at an outdoor theater with hundreds of people gathered around on the wooden platforms waiting for the show to begin. No one was disappointed.
Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone National Park — Photo courtesy of Lisa Ellen Niver
The stunning rainbow colors of Grand Prismatic Spring in Midway Geyser Basin are created by thermophiles, tiny microorganisms that thrive in hot temperatures. The spring is the largest hot spring in the United States, and third-largest in the whole world.
The science behind the colors is interesting, but even non-scientists will find it mesmerizing.
Waldorf Astoria Park City, Utah — Photo courtesy of Lisa Ellen Niver
Where to Stay on the Way: Park City, Utah
Fly into Salt Lake City and stay in Park City, Utah. It is a beautiful and scenic five-hour drive to Yellowstone. Take your time and savor this beautiful part of the country: hike at Deer Valley Resort or enjoy a hot air balloon ride before heading toward Jackson Hole, Wyo. to enter Yellowstone.
Rainbow Ranch Lodge, Big Sky, Montana — Photo courtesy of Lisa Ellen NiverWhere to Stay near Yellowstone: Rainbow Ranch Lodge
After exploring the park, find serenity at Rainbow Ranch Lodge in Big Sky, Mont. Just 45 minutes from the park’s west entrance, you can soak in the jacuzzi, eat a sumptuous meal and watch the sunrise from your balcony. It feels heavenly.