by Joseph A. Sprince – Photography by Gerald B. Allen
The Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks Travel Guides are a resource for those planning to tour Yellowstone National Park and/or Grand Teton National Park. The adjacent national parks are typically visited at the same time and offer very different experiences. Yellowstone offers the world's largest concentration of thermal features such as geysers and hot pools. Grand Teton features one of the world's most spectacular mountain ranges. Both parks offer outstanding opportunities to view wildlife.
Introduction to Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park lies in northwest Wyoming immediately to the north of Grand Teton National Park. Ninety-six percent of the park is located in the state of Wyoming, another three percent is in Montana, and one percent is in Idaho.
This guide provides a list of campgrounds for the park and neighboring areas, a list of accommodations for the park and neighboring areas, and a section for each of the major areas in the park. Each section describes the area’s special features, points of interest, suggested hikes and/or scenic drives, recreational opportunities, and available services, including camping, lodging, and location of visitor centers. A blue Yellowstone National Park Travel Guide Menu is provided at the top of each page to allow you to navigate to each section.
Recreational Activities at Yellowstone National Park
A wide variety of organized outdoor activities are available at the park. These include: day hiking, backcountry camping and hiking, boating, bicycling, cross country skiing, fishing, viewing wildlife, horseback riding and llama packing trips, and guided tours. See the NPS’s Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park web page for more information.
The NPS also offers Ranger-Led Programs throughout the summer. Explore Yellowstone’s backcountry on a half-day interpretive hike with a park ranger. Visit lesser-known hydrothermal areas, explore wildlife habitats, and experience a slice of Yellowstone’s wilderness. Program locations vary daily. Hikes rated from easy to strenuous. Some hikes not recommended for people with heart, breathing, or serious medical conditions. Information and tickets are available at these visitor centers: Old Faithful, Albright (Mammoth), Grant, Canyon, and Fishing Bridge.
Where to View Wildlife
Yellowstone National Park has an abundance and variety of wildlife unequaled in the United States outside of Alaska. Generally the number and types of animals a visitor will observe is a matter of luck. When there are many cars pulled over or slowed down on the park roads, there is some wildlife present. Visitors are requested to use pullouts when observing wildlife and to keep a safe distance as all of Yellowstone’s animals are wild and potentially dangerous if they feel threatened. Never pursue, block, or chase wildlife by foot or in a vehicle. Never feed any park wildlife.
When photographing or observing wildlife, you are legally required to stay 100 yards (92 m) from bears and 25 yards (23 m) from any other animal. Use binoculars or telephoto lenses to view or photograph the wildlife close up. Avoid loud talking, door slamming, and running.
The broad valleys around the park will often contain large numbers of grazing animals. You will probably see large numbers of bison, elk, and pronghorn. Moose are more solitary and prefer low lying swampy or marshy areas, or areas with willow trees, as that is what they eat. Bighorn sheep are less common and prefer mountainous areas. The wolf has been re-introduced to the park. There is good chance of observing wolf in the Lamar Valley near Roosevelt. The high valleys north of Yellowstone Lake are considered prime grizzly bear habitat. If you want to hike in bear country, traveling in a group is advised. In areas that are not open, make enough noise so bears know you are present and have a chance to retreat. Check with park rangers for any possible trail closures due to high bear activity.
What Makes Yellowstone, Yellowstone?
Yellowstone is unique because it sits on top of one of the world’s largest volcanoes. Learn how that volcano affects Yellowstone’s habitats & inhabitants. Duration: 1 minute 55 seconds
Learning what foods are available at certain times of the year can help you avoid confrontations. Duration:2 minutes, 24 seconds
Want to see bears? Yellowstone’s visitors have held a fascination for park bears throughout the history of the Yellowstone. Duration: 2 minute 15 seconds
You will never forget the first time you see a bison in the wild. They seem to conjure up some deep rooted emotions from our past. Duration: 2 minutes, 12 seconds
Bugle of the Elk
Follow Yellowstone’s most abundant large mammal through the seasons. Duration: 2 minutes, 15 seconds
Backpacking and Backcountry Permits
Yellowstone National Park is extremely popular with backpackers due to the spectacular and unspoiled nature of the backcountry. Permits are required for all backcountry camping and generally require that you stay in designated backcountry campsites. All designated sites are equipped with a food-storage pole to hang food and other attractants out of the reach of bears. Each backcountry campsite has varying restrictions on group size, stock use, boating access, campfires, and length of stay. The permits are available on a reservation system, and reservations are strongly recommended, especially for popular areas during the summer. Reservations can only be made by mail or in person. Fees are charged for permits and reservations. See the NPS’s Yellowstone National Park Backcountry Camping & Hiking web page for more information or to make a reservation. (Only a portion of the backcountry campsites are reservable in advance. If you prefer, you may wait until you arrive in the park to reserve your backcountry campsite(s).)
The park has nine lodging facilities open during the summer and two during the winter. Accommodations vary from rustic cabins to modern motel-style rooms with private bathroom. Reservations can be made by phone or online through the park concessionaire. Reservations are strongly advised well in advance of any planned trip. Please see our Lodging in and around Yellowstone National Park page for more details.
Brochures and Other Publications
The park service offers many brochures and publications online (in Adobe PDF format) including the official park map, the current park brochure, current and recent newspapers, and backcountry camping information. Also, includes guides to various recreational activities and other topics of interest.