How to Best Spend 2 Days in Yellowstone National Park
I was in absolute awe when I spent 2 days in Yellowstone National Park, on a coast to coast road trip with Trek America. Yellowstone is indeed one of the world most unique natural experiences from erupting geysers to beautiful flowing waterfalls. The parks beauty is sure to leave your jaw dropping to the ground, and it is absolutely essential to visit the park, even if you are pushed for time.
It can be slightly overwhelming planning a short visit to Yellowstone. There are so many extraordinary places to explore within the National Park, and it is basically impossible to fit it all in, in just two days. You may find yourself asking …
What places should I visit in Yellowstone?
Is 2 days in Yellowstone enough time?
Where can I find an itinerary for 2 days in Yellowstone?
This is why I have decided to compile some of my favourite spots from my Trek into a 2 day itinerary for Yellowstone National Park. The guide will tick off many of the parks major attractions, without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. So if you are planning on taking a short trip to America’s very first National Park and have no idea where to start. Then stay tuned for this action-packed 2-day itinerary.
*There is a Bonus One Day Possible Itinerary at the End*
The above map shows all of my favourite spots from my 2 days in Yellowstone National Park. Starting points may vary, I personally began my journey from Cody, Wyoming (highlighted in dark Purple).
All stops on day one, Old Faithful, Black Sand Basin and Grand Prismatic Spring are highlighted in Red.
While those from day 2, the West Thumb Basin, Mud Volcano, The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Calcite Springs and Mammoth Hot Springs, are highlighted in Yellow.
This Itinerary includes some of Yellowstone’s most popular spots, outstanding viewpoints and a sneaky sunrise opportunity.
Showing that it is in-fact possible too see many of which Yellowstone has to offer in just under 2 days.
The Itinerary begins is Cody, Wyoming, a gateway to Yellowstone National Park. Cody is a 3 hour scenic drive away from Yellowstone.
The first stop on our 2 days in Yellowstone National Park Itinerary is one of Yellowstone’s most famous attractions, Old Faithful.
Old Faithful was the first of nearly 500 of Yellowstone’s Geysers to be named. The geysers typically erupt in intervals, ranging from 44 to 125 minutes, with an average of 90 minutes. The eruptions can reach anywhere between 90 to 184 feet. It is a truly magnificent thing to watch. Let’s just say, Old Faithful really knows how to put on a show.
I would recommend spending one to two hours in the Old Faithful area, depending on the predicted eruption time. Once you witness Old Faithful erupt in front of your own eyes, I’d recommend exploring the area some more. It is possible to walk around Old Faithful and see many more beautiful geysers along the Upper Geyser Basin Trail. Just be mindful of timing as the trail stretches for 4.5 miles. The visitor centre is also a great place to visit for some factual information about Yellowstone and specifically, Old Faithful.
The Black Basin Trail
A short distance from Old Faithful lies the Black Basin Trail, offering views of some smaller geyser with regular eruption patterns. Highlights from the trail consist of Rainbow Pool, Sunset Lake and Emerald Pool.
The trail lasts for half a mile and is an easy flat walk. It is the ideal place to go for a nice leisurely stroll taking in the viewpoints along the way. I’d recommend spending half an hour to 40 minutes exploring this trail.
It is possible to walk from Old Faithful to the Black Basin on a 1 and a half mile trail, taking approximately a 30-minute to walk. Alternatively, It’s a 4 minutes to drive away, with parking on site.
Following your visit to the Black Basin, it would be a good idea to stop for a bite to eat. I’d suggest bringing a packed lunch as food can be rather expensive in Yellowstone. Just remember Yellowstone is part of Bear Country so always be careful with food and keep it locked up and stored when not in use.
Grand Prismatic Spring
The next stop on the itinerary is one with a truly spectacular view. The journey begins at the Fairy Falls Trailhead. The trail passes over the fire hole river and continues until it reaches a viewing platform of the Grand Prismatic Spring.
The Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the top spots at Yellowstone National Park. So much so, that the viewing platform and trail was built back in 2017, due to the number of visitors attempting to climb what was originally an unofficial trail. Just to catch a glimpse of the Grand Prismatic Spring from a height.
The Spring presents viewers with lovely orange, yellow and green tones. The crystal blue water can, at times, reach temperatures of 188 degrees. I’d suggest spending an hour to an hour and a half exploring the area, it is possible to hike to Fairy Falls from this trail.
End of the Day
Depending on where you are staying, it may be located away from the Grand Prismatic Spring. The Yellowstone Loop road is a lovely scenic driving route and the ideal place to spot some of Yellowstone’s captivating wildlife. Yellowstone
For those of you planning on camping while at Yellowstone, it is a good idea to make it back before dark to set up camp, cook some dinner and ensure all belongings\food with oder are stored in a bear safe storage unit.
For those staying in a hotel or planning on eating out while at Yellowstone, there are a selection of dinning experiences throughout the National Park.
Day 1 Suggested Timetable for 2 days in Yellowstone National Park
The timing really depends where you are coming from. On my Trek we came from Cody, which was a 3 hour drive away (the drive is beautiful). This timetable can be adapted for those planning on staying in Yellowstone the night before. In fact, you fit a stop or two more on the itinerary.
7.30am Wake Up/Breakfast/Break Down Camp
8.30am Drive to Yellowstone
11.30 Old Faithful
1.30pm The Black Basin Trail
3.30pm Grand Prismatic Spring.
5.30pm Drive some of the Yellowstone Loop
6.30pm Dinner\Home for the Evening
Day 2: The West Thumb
Rise and Shine! And get ready for the second day exploring Yellowstone National Park. I’d recommend setting an alarm before sunrise and heading towards the West Thumb Geyser Basin. The Geyser faces towards Yellowstone Lake and is one of the best places to watch the sunrise at Yellowstone National Park.
It is magical watching the sun begin to rise as the steam from the thermal pools fill the air. Just be prepared and wrap up warm. Yellowstone tends to be FREEZING in the early hours of the morning.
Highlights in the area include, Abyss Pool, the Fishing Cone and the view of Yellowstone Lake. It is possible to stay pass sunrise and check out some of these awesome geysers.
The Mud Volcano
A 40 minute drive from the West Thumb Geyser Basin lies Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano.
In the 19th century, the rumbles from the Mud Volcano could be heard from over half a mile away. When it erupted, it shook the ground and splattered mud all over the surrounding area.
Luckily today, the volcanos activity is a lot calmer and the eruption left some extremely interesting spots to explore along the trail.
The trail last for 3/4 of a miles, some points of interest include the Mud Caldron, the Sizzling Basin and the Dragons Mouth Spring. Just a little heads up the smell of sulphur is rather strong along this trail.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Following a walk around Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano head towards Artist Point. The scenic drive typically takes 20 minutes.
having the opportunity to see a 180 view of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon is an absolute must. The viewpoint is outstandingly beautiful.
This an extremely popular spot in Yellowstone and can at times be quite crowed. The view is however worth the crowed battle. Yellowstone’s Lower Falls is a truly magnificent waterfall.
Once done exploring the startling viewpoint, have a look out for a small wooden Ribbon Lake Sign. Pass the sign a trail map will appear showing some further walking options.
If time allows, walk about 10 minutes up the Point Sublime Trail. The trails brings walkers through a uphill forest area. Not long into the trail, there is a stunning view of the Canyon.
This particular trail is also a lot less popular, a great way to avoid the crowds and gear a little off the beaten path. Once reaching the viewpoint, it is possible to turn back around and return to the carpark.
Calcite Springs Lookout
To get an alternative view of the Canyon of Yellowstone be sure to stop at the Calcite Springs Lookout Point. The view is located a 40 minute drive away from Artist Point and offers a beautiful view of Yellowstone River.
The viewpoint is far less crowed and is a nice place stop to stretch the legs and admire the view.
After catching another glimpse of the Canyon, it is a good idea to stop for a bite to eat.
Mammoth Hot Springs
Following some yummy lunch, the next stop on the itinerary is Mammoth Hot Springs. The springs are a 40 minutes drive from Calcite Springs Lookout Point.
I highly recommend visiting Mammoth Hots Springs as the are unbelievably unique to Yellowstone. I have never seen anything like them. The area has two designated boardwalks, the lower and upper. The boardwalks offer views of over 50 hot springs.
The Lower Boardwalk consists of highlights such as the Liberty Cap, Palette Spring and the Devils Thumb.
While the Upper Boardwalk is popular for Orange Spring Mound, Bath Lake, Prospect, Angel and White Elephant Back Terrace.
Day 2 Suggested Timetable for 2 days in Yellowstone National Park
The following time frame is simply a guide, as the time of sunrise varies from month to month. The time frame between stops also takes into consideration travel duration between stops.
Before Sunrise – Wake up
Sunrise (6.00am) – The West Thumb
7.30am – Return\Stop for Breakfast
9.30am – Mud Volcano
11.00am – The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
12.30pm – Calcite Springs
2.10pm – Lunch
3.40pm – Mammoth
5.15 – Dinner/Return Home
Tips before visiting Yellowstone National Park
Entrance Fee: To enter Yellowstone National Park costs $35 per private vehicle, $30 per motorcycle and $20 per individual.
Winter in Yellowstone: In the winter time, Yellowstone turns into a winter wonderland. Just be mindful that not all roads and facilities are open at this time. For more information check out the Yellowstone in Winter page.
Camping: For those wanting to camp in Yellowstone I’d recommend Grant Village Campground. The Summer rate for 2019 is $31. The camp grounds are near the West Thumb Geyser Basin and Yellowstone Lake.
Packing: Yellowstone can get extremely cold at night and then rather hot in the day time. I’d therefore recommend bringing some layered clothing. Making it easy to add or take off clothes when needed.
Food Storage: Yogi Bear doesn’t only exist on the television screen. Yellowstone is the home to many grizzly and black bears. Therefore it is extremely important to store any food or personal items that smell in bear proof storage units.
DO NOT! Leave food or smelling items in your tent. Unless you are hoping to get up close and personal with Yogi in real life.
Bear Spray: Another way to avoid an encounter with Yogi, is bringing along some bear spray. It’s a good idea to always be prepared. Be Bear Aware!
Bug Spray: Those adored by mosquitos. I suggest bringing bug spray to avoid an itchy situation.
Sun Protection: It’s always important to protect your skin, particularly when spending regular time in the great outdoors.
Driving in Yellowstone National Park
The time frame between each stop on this itinerary may seem a little far fetched for those who have never visited Yellowstone before. However with that being said, it is almost 99% guaranteed that you will in-counter some wildlife trying to cross the road while driving in Yellowstone. Causing massive traffic jam. If this happens on your visit. Just take your time. It is all part of the experience.
See photoed above, a herd of Bison walking along Yellowstone’s roadside. We where easily held up for 30 minutes waiting for the herd to pass. It was however super cool to watch. There was easily 15 to 20 Bison.
Yellowstone is connected via two loops, all the stops on this itinerary are located on these loops or within proximity of one of the loops.
One Day Itinerary for Yellowstone
Yellowstone is a wonderful place, a place where it is simply not possible to explore in just one day. However, with that being said, if you have the opportunity to stop by Yellowstone, even just for 24 hours. I’d 100% recommend it.
I have put together a bonus timetable for those a little stuck for time. Please be mindful, that this timetable will only allow quick stop offs in each location and further exploration may not be possible. It is also a very heavy itinerary, with a lot of driving, so be sure to get plenty of rest before attempting.
Before Sunrise: Wake Up\Breakfast
Sunrise (6.00am) – The West Thumb (Spend 45 minutes)
*30 minute drive to Old Faithful*
7.15am Old Faithful (spend 90 minutes)
8.45am The Black Basin Trail (Spend no more than 1 Hour)
9.45am Grand Prismatic Spring (Spend 1 hour)
*@ 11.00 1 Hour Drive to Mammoth*
12.00pm Mammoth Springs (Spend 1 hour)
1.00pm Small Packed Lunch
*@ 1.30pm 45 minute drive to Calcite Springs*
2.15pm Calcite Springs View (Spend 30 minutes)
*2.45pm 40 minute drive to Grand View*
3.30pm Grand View\The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (Spend 40 minutes)
*4.10pm 20 minute drive to Mud Volcano*
4.30pm Mud Volcano (Spend 1 hour)
5.30pm Dinner Time
Disclaimer: I personally did not travel this route. It is just a suggested timetable. At times, the roads can get congested at Yellowstone due to wildlife and may cause a delay in schedule, resulting in missing some stops.
Grand Teton National Park
Those on a road trip of the state of Wyoming. Yellowstone neighbouring National Park, Grand Teton is 100% worth the visit. Grand Teton is famous for it’s captivating scenery, beautiful wildlife and snow capped mountain tops.
While on my USA coast to coast road trip, I was lucky to visit Grand Teton after exploring Yellowstone. I was spent one day hiking both String and Jenny Lake. Please free to check out my Itinerary for hiking the Grand Tetons.
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