First of all, if you haven’t been, you should go.
Yellowstone is basically a big figure 8 so you can take in the entire park over a few days. The park is completely magical, with an incredible amount of variation in the landscape at every turn.
We flew into Bozeman, MT and drove down through West Yellowstone. Below is a map of our route through the park; Day 1 = Red; Day 2 = Purple; Day 3; Orange. We originally planned to skip Canyon to Norris to Mammoth Hot Springs, but due to an accident, we ended up doing some backtracking on Day 3. Turns out the route from Norris to Mammoth is the least popular which worked in our favor since we loved the scenery and seclusion on our stops.
What to See & Do
Sunrise over Lamar Valley. The amount of wildlife waking up and cruising around at that time was unlike anything. It was silent, pitch black and honestly a little scary driving over there from Roosevelt Lodge, especially since we woke up an extra hour early because the waitress thought the sun rose earlier than it did. Once we finally started to see a little bit of pale blue light rippling across the valley, we were amazed by the enormity and beauty. Not only that, but we heard and partially saw a bear just down by the river. By partially, I mean it was still dark so we saw a big hunched over animal that were assumed was a bison until we heard the sound it made.
Tower Falls. Two words. Truly EPIC.
Wraith Falls. This was a much more secluded waterfall which we liked a lot! It was raining when we walked up the trail and bright and sunny coming down. You never know what you’re gonna get!
Roosevelt to Canyon. This drive was a trip! We went from a hot and sunny hike at Tower Falls to wind & snow at 10,000 ft near Mt. Washburn.
Tons of wildlife. Over the course of our 3 days in the park, we saw turkeys, elk, antelope, wolves (well, Matt saw 2 but I didn’t get a glimpse), a bear, and seriously hundreds of bison.
Where to Eat
Lake Lodge. We came here for dinner but I would definitely recommend going during the day for lake front views. It’s “fancy” for Yellowstone and there was a wait, so make sure to reserve your table or come early.
Old Faithful Lodge. Matt’s dad instructed us to drink a beer at the bar. We got mixed up and went to the other Old Faithful hotel across the way which wasn’t that exciting, so I recommend taking him up on his suggestion.
Roosevelt Lodge. There’s only one place to eat here so you don’t have a choice but I would recommend it if you’re staying there or not. I am now addicted to smoked trout, which I didn’t know was a thing. They also have the best huckleberry pancakes.
Where to Stay
There are lodges and cabins around the park that are very affordable ($75-$100 per night), but you have to book ahead.A lot of people stay in the town just outside of Mammoth Hot Springs and commute in, but we absolutely loved being able to spend each night in the park.
Lake Cabins. We loved waking up in the morning and walking out of our cabin and straight over to Yellowstone Lake. The lodge has a camp style breakfast and amazing views of the lake as well.
Roosevelt Lodge. We may or may not have smoked out our cabin with our wood burning stove but this place was so peaceful to stay at. My favorite part was watching a herd of bison trek their way in a single file line at sunset while we sipped on beer in rocking chairs on the front porch of the main lodge. I mean, what else can you ask for?
Mammoth Hot Springs. By far the most upgraded cabin we stayed in, our cabin was in the semi-large and busy town of Mammoth Hot Springs. There are a few places to eat here as well as hiking trails and of course, the hot springs within walking distance.
Bison cruising around the valleyGrand Prismatic SpringSomewhere along Morris to MammothEn route to Wraith FallsMammoth Hot SpringsAnother view of Yellowstone River
Next time we go back, we plan to check out Grand Teton National Park and leave Yellowstone through Beartooth Highway and back up to Bozeman. We can’t wait to come back!