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The Ultimate 3 Day Yellowstone Itinerary

The Ultimate 3 Day Yellowstone Itinerary

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As America’s oldest and perhaps most unique National Park, Yellowstone has been mesmerizing visitors for years. If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, the thought of covering over 3,500 square miles in just 3 days can be overwhelming.

Don’t worry though, we have you covered in this post. With a little planning and our 3-day Yellowstone Itinerary, you will be ready to hit the road in no time!

Now, I don’t want to mislead you. You won’t be able to see everything with only a 3-day itinerary, but you will definitely get to see the major sites.

During our three days in Yellowstone, we were able to fit in a little hiking and a lot of awesome geological features.

I’m talking cool geysers, awesome hot springs, several waterfalls, and even took in some scenic drives. We even went back to the lodge during the busiest part of the day to escape some of the crowds!

Honestly, exploring Yellowstone in 3 days was the perfect amount of time for us as we were just coming off of two months of travel! During these two months, we visited Chicago, San Francisco, Ruidoso, White Sands National Park, , Roswell, Carlsbad Caverns, and then Yellowstone! Needless to say, we were a little tired!

Of course to accomplish all of this great travel, we have learned how to save money for travel! This ensure our travels never end!

Enough about us, let’s get busy and plan your Yellowstone trip!

*This post contains affiliate links.  By purchasing through these links, we get a small commission at no additional cost to you. That Texas Couple is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.  As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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    About This 3 Day Yellowstone Itinerary

    Geyser in Yellowstone National Park

    Our 3 day Yellowstone trip is designed for the summer months (mid-May through October). This is the time when all of the roads in Yellowstone National Park are open, meaning that you can easily navigate to all of the major sites.

    While you can visit Yellowstone in the winter, several of the roads are closed during this season. This makes navigating the park becomes much more difficult.

    Now, I know that the summer months are the peak months in Yellowstone, but in order to see all of the major sites on our 3-day itinerary for Yellowstone, we will have to put up with the larger crowds.

    Yellowstone is one of the top 5 most visited National Parks in the United States. It attracted almost 4 million visitors to it in 2020 according to the National Parks website.

    Don’t worry though, we are going to give you some tips on this itinerary to help you navigate the crowds during your summer trip to Yellowstone.

    When to Visit Yellowstone

    sunsetting over a river and trees
    Sunset at Midway Basin

    Any time I write about the best time to visit someplace, I cringe a little. This is honestly so subjective.

    It so often depends on the preferences of the person.

    To help you make the best decision for your trip, we wrote a detailed post on the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park. This post outlines the pros and cons of all of the seasons and gives tips for things to do depending on the time of year.

    Take note that the summer months of July and August are the peak season. That means they are the most crowded and the most expensive.

    I think there are a lot of people that road trip to this area with their campers during the summer as well. We saw a lot of them with license plates from everywhere!

    Random note: The picture you see above was the gorgeous sunsets we were capturing in Yellowstone. It inspired me to write a post containing loads of great sunshine captions that I could pair with these pics!

    How to Get to Yellowstone National Park

    If you are reading this three-day Yellowstone itinerary, then you probably don’t live close enough to Yellowstone National Park to drive there.

    That being said, you are either doing a road trip to visit Yellowstone or you are going to fly into an airport near Yellowstone and rent a car.

    No matter what, you need a car to explore this 3-day itinerary.

    Nearby Airports

    We have summarized each of the nearby airports for you below. we go into more detail about the airports near Yellowstone in this post.

    Yellowstone Airport (WYS) is the closest airport to Yellowstone. Located just 3 miles from the west entrance, flying into this airport will definitely make visiting Yellowstone an easy drive.

    However, flights to this small airport can be expensive. In addition, rental cars are often hard to come by, so this might not be a viable option for your trip.

    Yellowstone Regional Airport (COD) is located near the east entrance in Cody, Wyoming, and is the second closest airport to Yellowstone. As this is another small airport, flights here are limited and expensive.

    Bozeman Airport (BZN) is located in Bozeman, Montana, and is relatively close to both the north entrance and the west entrance. The drive to each entry point is just over 1.5 hours.

    Jackson Hole (JAC) is another of the airports near Yellowstone. Located in Wyoming, Jackson Hole Airport is approximately a 1-hour drive from the south entrance of Yellowstone.

    Many people choose to stay in Jackson Hole and make it their home base for exploring Yellowstone. You will definitely find cheaper accommodations here.

    Staying in Jackson Hole will allow you to easily add Grand Teton National Park to your Yellowstone trip. Note that you will need to plan extra drive time on your itinerary if you will be staying in Jackson Hole.

    Billings Airport (BIL) is in Billings, Montana, and is about 1.5 hours from the North entrance (well, the northeast entrance) to the park.

    Salt Lake City Airport (SLC) is located much farther from Yellowstone National Park than the other airports on our list, but it is a convenient major airport that you might consider using.

    We flew into and out of Salt Lake City for our visit to Yellowstone. SLC was the cheapest from Dallas and the only place we could find a rental car!

    If Salt Lake City is your choice, be prepared for a road trip. It is a 4 hour and 45-minute drive to the west entrance or a 6 hour and 15-minute drive to the south entrance.

    Many people plan on taking an even longer road trip to the South entrance. This is so that they can include Grand Teton National Park on their Yellowstone itinerary.

    While I wish we could have visited Grand Teton National Park during our visit, we could only manage a Yellowstone 3 day itinerary.

    Because of that, we opted for the West Yellowstone entrance to save time.

    Where to Stay in Yellowstone National Park

    front view of Canyon Lodge-where to stay in Yellowstone
    The lodge we stayed at in Canyon Village

    We definitely recommend staying inside the park if at all possible. This will greatly reduce your drive time.

    If you are staying 3 days or longer, then I would recommend planning your trip with a couple of different lodging options. (We give suggestions below.)

    Again, Yellowstone National Park is a huge park and the attractions are spread out. Being strategic about choosing where to stay will help you save valuable time on your trip to Yellowstone.

    We booked our trip last minute (literally the day before we left) and we were lucky to find that they had cancellations inside the park!

    We stayed in Canyon Village during our time in Yellowstone. Canyon Village has newly built lodges with nice rooms and full bathrooms.

    The main reason we chose to stay at Canyon Village was its central location inside Yellowstone.

    Check out all of the cabin rentals near Yellowstone National Park as well. This is a great option for sure!

    We know that many people stay in West Yellowstone just outside of the west entrance when visiting Yellowstone. We did drive through West Yellowstone and stopped for gas on our way to the west entrance on day 1.

    The town of West Yellowstone was super cute. West Yellowstone offers many different accommodation options, several restaurant choices, and shopping.

    Honestly, West Yellowstone looked like a fun little mountain town. It literally sits at the west entrance, similar to Estes Park sitting at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Just keep in mind that you will have extra drive time entering and exiting the park each day if you choose to stay in West Yellowstone.

    How Many Days Do You Need in Yellowstone National Park?

    couple dip kissing in sunset of field

    You really need a minimum of three full days in Yellowstone. A Yellowstone 3-day itinerary will allow you enough time to see all of the major attractions but you will be on the go a lot with this itinerary.

    If the pace is too much, you can scale down the itinerary to meet your needs.

    With that in mind, if you can do 4 days in Yellowstone National Park or longer, that would be even better.

    Four days or longer would allow you to see the top sites of Yellowstone at a slower pace. This means you can add more hiking and leisure time to your Yellowstone itinerary.

    Tips For Planning Your Trip To Yellowstone National Park

    Man and woman standing by the Continental Divide sign in Yellowstone National Park
    Us at the Continental Divide

    Book in advance

    The lodging options inside Yellowstone fill up months in advance. To ensure you get your first choice(s) and the best price, be sure to book in advance.

    As I said above, we got lucky when we booked our trip last minute, as there were cancellations at Canyon Village. I wouldn’t advise counting on this.

    Don’t risk it. Some lodging options fill up as far as 9 months in advance!

    Entrance Fee

    At the time of publication, the entrance fee to Yellowstone was $35 per vehicle. This is good for 7 days.

    If you are visiting several National Parks, then consider buying an annual park pass instead. The annual pass is $80 and allows you entry into all of the National Parks in the United States.

    You are able to purchase both options at the park entrance ticket booths.

    Limited Cell and Wifi Service

    There is limited or no cell service within Yellowstone. The only place we had cell service was Mammoth Village.

    Our lodge at Canyon Village offered wifi, but it was only accessible in the lobby of the main lodge. We chose not to purchase the wifi since we were staying in a different lodge in Canyon Village.

    Because of this, download offline maps and/or have paper maps available to use.

    Plan Extra Time For Travel

    Once inside Yellowstone National Park, be sure to allow for extra time for travel. You will find that the attractions are spread out far away from one another.

    Also, it is not uncommon for you to be caught in a traffic jam within the park.

    These traffic jams are often caused by wildlife being in the roadway, especially bison. Other times people cause traffic jams when they stop in the middle of the road to take photos.

    Don’t do this! If there is something you want to take a picture of, pull over into one of the many pull-offs.

    Interacting With Wildlife

    One of the highlights of visiting Yellowstone National Park is that you get to see so much incredible wildlife. Just remember that these are wild animals.

    You should always obey the rules and laws associated with interacting with wild animals.

    Always keep your distance and never approach a wild animal.

    buffalo
    Buffalo outside of our lodge at Canyon Village

    3 Days in Yellowstone

    Day 1: Geysers and Hot Springs

    Morning: Old Faithful Geyser and Upper Geyser Basin: Grand Geyser, Castle Geyser, Daisy Geyser, Morning Glory Pool

    Midday: Biscuit Basin, Midway Geyser Basin: Grand Prismatic Spring, and Grand Prismatic Overlook from Fairy Falls Trail

    Afternoon: Firehole Lake Scenic Drive (stop at Gibbons Falls), Norris Geyser Basin

    Stay in: Canyon Village, West Yellowstone, or Old Faithful Inn

    buffalo in front of Old Fairthful-3 day Yellowstone itinerary
    Buffalo in front of Old Faithful Geyser

    Yellowstone National Park is home to the world’s largest concentration of hydrothermal features (over 10,000), making this one amazing park.

    Seeing these hydrothermal features is the best way to start your trip to Yellowstone. Might as well jump right in with the most unique features in the park, the geysers, and the colorful pools.

    Now, on our route today, we are going to start out by heading south and then work our way back to the north. This route works well from the west or south entrance.

    Since all of the major attractions in Yellowstone are on the Grand Loop Road, it is easy to reverse the route if that order better suits your direction of travel.

    Pro Tip:

    Be sure to download offline maps to help you plan your trip and stick to your itinerary! You can also download the Yellowstone National Park app to learn more about the park and the sights you are going to see.

    Old Faithful Village and Geyser

    Old Faithful Geyser has to be part of your 3 days in Yellowstone
    Old Faithful Geyser

    Begin your day bright and early and head to the iconic Yellowstone Park Old Faithful Geyser before the crowds.

    I feel like the Old Faithful Geyser doesn’t really need any introduction. People have been flocking to this geyser for years.

    Old Faithful “faithfully” erupts about 20 times a day at intervals between 60 and 110 minutes.

    The eruption from the Old Faithful Geyser can last anywhere from 1.5 to 5 minutes. Once it starts, it averages about 130-140 feet in height.

    Since cell service is limited, you can try to time your visit to the Old Faithful Geyser just right or you can ask a park ranger for estimated eruption times.

    If you have wifi and have downloaded the Yellowstone National Park App, you can check the Old Faithful eruption time there also.

    Plan to arrive at the Old Faithful Geyser 15-20 minutes early. This will give you time to park and walk to Old Faithful.

    If possible, try to park down by the drive-up entrance to Old Faithful Inn. Take the first left turn after taking the exit from the main park road.

    There is a parking lot between Old Faithful Inn and Old Faithful Basin Grill Store (just follow Old Faithful Inn Road). This lot isn’t as well known, so it is an easy entry and exit point to explore the Old Faithful area.

    After parking, head immediately to Old Faithful. I would hate for you to miss Old Faithful erupting because you became interested in another attraction.

    Of course, if there is a lot of time before the next eruption, then you can explore the area. There is the Old Faithful Visitor Center, the historic Old Faithful Inn, gift shops, and restaurants all in the village.

    The Old Faithful Inn is a great place to grab a drink and watch Old Faithful erupt from the balcony.

    We were super lucky and timed our visit just right, only waiting about 5 minutes.

    Old Faithful definitely puts on a show and is a great introduction to the amazing features of Yellowstone National Park.

    I must admit, it made me giggle when people clapped at the end. Who were they clapping for? Mother Nature maybe? I don’t know, but it made me smile regardless!

    Upper Geyser Basin: Grand Geyser, Castle Geyser

    Don’t plan your Yellowstone itinerary just to see Old Faithful and then leave. If you do, you will be missing out on some incredible hydrothermal features of the park.

    And, honestly, one of the geysers that we thought was way better than Old Faithful!

    The Upper Geyser Basin is home to some of Yellowstone’s most predictable geysers and some incredible hot springs.

    Grand Geyser and Castle Geyser

    If you make it to Old Faithful and have some time to kill, check the schedule for the other geysers in this area including the Grand Geyser which erupts approximately every six hours, and our personal favorite geyser, Castle Geyser.

    Again, we timed this walk perfectly. As soon as when we approached Castle Geyser, it started erupting.

    Castle Geyser was amazing. The large cone pushed water almost 90-feet high as it trickled down the side of the cone looking like a beautiful fountain.

    It is incredible! The water eruption lasts for about 20 minutes and then is followed by noisy steam for about 30 minutes.

    Castle geyser erupting
    Castle Geyser beginning to erupt

    Morning Glory Pool

    The Upper Geyser Basin is home to many other geysers and several springs. One of the hot springs that has to be on your itinerary is the Morning Glory Pool.

    The Morning Glory Pool reminded me of a smaller version of the Grand Prismatic Spring. The colors were beautiful.

    Be sure to follow all of the safety protocols when visiting the hydrothermal areas. Stay on the pathways and don’t ever throw objects into the geysers or the hot springs, not even rocks.

    Biscuit Basin

    thermal pools at Biscuit Basin

    After leaving Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin, our next stop is going to be Biscuit Basin.

    Biscuit Basin is a great addition to your Yellowstone itinerary. This easy-to-walk boardwalk area includes several thermal features like small geysers and small pools.

    The Jewel Geyser is found here and is easy to see as it erupts every five to ten minutes with water shooting anywhere from 10- to 30-feet.

    Another popular feature here is the Sapphire Pool.

    This pool has a gorgeous blue color and up until 1968 was know for violent eruptions. Today, it is a gorgeous blue-hued pool that remains relatively quiet.

    Midway Geyser Basin: Grand Prismatic Spring

    hot water flowing into river at Midway Basin

    Next on your itinerary is to make your way to Midway Geyser Basin: Grand Prismatic Spring.

    The Midway Geyser Basin is a relatively small geothermal area, but don’t skip it as it has one of the best hot springs in Yellowstone, the Grand Prismatic Spring.

    After parking by the gorgeous Firehole River, follow the boardwalk around the other geothermal features at Midway Geyser Basin like the gorgeous blue Turquoise Pool and the colorful Opal Pool.

    orange colored pool with sunset reflecting
    Opal Pool at Sunset
    Turquoise Pool

    While those are great, they are not why we are here.

    We are here to see the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third-largest in the World, the Grand Prismatic Spring.

    Known for its incredible colors that are caused by the microbial mats around the edge of the water, this attraction is truly breathtaking.

    Grand Prismatic
    Grand Prismatic

    Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook

    While the Grand Prismatic Spring looks great from the ground, it looks even better from above. So, the next stop on your 3-day itinerary is the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook.

    You can access the trail from the Fairy Falls Trailhead.

    After parking, follow the path over the Firehole River and walk on the gravel trail until yet arrive at the first split in the trail.

    Here, take a left and start heading up the hill until you arrive at the Grand Prismatic Spring viewing platform.

    There really is nothing better than seeing the Grand Prismatic Spring from above. The view of the hot spring and the basin are breathtaking.

    Unfortunately for us, the steam from Grand Prismatic was intense during our visit, so we did not get an opportunity to see the full extent of the gorgeous colors.

    Regardless, the view was spectacular and well worth the time on our itinerary.

    Grand Prismatic pool from the overlook with steam coming off of it
    Grand Prismatic from the Overlook

    Fairy Falls

    If you have extra time or want to skip something else on the itinerary, then you can continue your hike to Fairy Falls. The round-trip hike from the parking lot to Fairy Falls is 5 miles.

    After you leave the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook area, continue the hike until you reach Fairy Falls and are rewarded with the view of the 197-foot waterfall.

    Fountain Paint Pots (optional)

    The Fountain Paint Pot Trail is in this area also. If you want to see see the pools that look like boiling mud, then you are in the right place.

    This .5 mile loop trail will take you past several of the fountain paint pots. They are named this because when the mud bubbles, it looks like a pot of bubbling paint.

    There are also several pretty pools in this area (as seen below).

    Silex Spring at Fountain Paint Pot Trail

    Firehole Lake Loop Scenic Drive

    The 3-mile Firehole Lake Loop might seem like something you can skip, but trust me when I tell you that this short loop is well worth your time.

    There are a number of geysers along this short stretch of road. The Great Fountain Geyser is one of the first that you will see and you are very lucky if you are here when it is erupting.

    The Great Fountain Geyser is very unpredictable as it can erupt as little as 2 hours apart or as many as 13 hours!

    Once it does start erupting, it continues for about 45 minutes, so that’s a positive at least.

    Firehole Lake Loop also has the White Dome Geyser and a great boardwalk area around Firehole Lake.

    There are also two streams that flow through this area of the basin. We visited at sunset and were able to catch some gorgeous photos.

    dome geyser with sun setting in the background
    White Dome Geyser

    Gibbon Falls

    Continue along the Grand Loop Road through Yellowstone Nation Park to reach the next attraction on your itinerary, Gibbon Falls.

    Be careful when entering. This area can get very busy during peak hours so proceed with caution into the parking lot.

    After parking, follow the pathway all the way down to the bottom viewpoint for the best views of Gibbon Falls.

    Waterfall at Yellowstone is part of your 3 day Yellowstone itinerary

    Norris Geyser Basin

    Itinerary day 1’s final stop is at the incredible Norris Geyser Basin, one of the fastest-changing geyser basins in Yellowstone.

    North Geyser Basin is made up of two different basins: Porcelain Basin and Back Basin.

    Porcelain Basin

    geyser basin with blue water and steam vents in Yellowstone

    When you plan your Yellowstone itinerary, decide if you want to see both of the basins at Norris Geyser Basin, or just one.

    Our main reason for stopping at Norris Geyser Basin was to see Porcelain Basin, but we did explore a little bit of Back Basin also.

    The Norris Geyser Basin makes you feel as though you are up close and personal with the changing landscape of Yellowstone.

    As you walk the boardwalks of Norris Geyser Basin and look around, you can see the “life” of the basin surrounding you.

    The North Geyser Basin basically just envelopes you in thermal features, sparking all of your senses at once. You can see the steam coming from the vents, and you can hear the water bubbling all while you see and smell the geysers erupting.

    Norris Geyser Basin really is an incredible place.

    small pools surrounded by trees

    Back Basin

    The Back Basin area is best known for the world’s largest geyser, Steamboat Geyser.

    While eruptions are rare, if you do get to see one, you are in for a treat.

    Steamboat Geyser can reach heights up to 400-feet and gives visitors a “warning” before erupting when it lets out a strong rumble.

    This eruption is so big that there are even warnings in the parking lot saying that minerals from the Steamboat eruption can erode the paint on your car!

    Emerald Spring (pictured below) is also in the Back Basin area. Be sure to check it out, it’s beautiful!

    turquoise blue spring
    Emerald Spring

    Day 2: Grand Canyon and Animals

    Morning: West Thumb Geyser Basin

    Midday: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: Artist Point, Uncle Tom’s Trail, Lower Falls, Inspiration Point)

    Afternoon: Hayden Valley

    Stay in: Canyon Village, or West Yellowstone

    West Thumb Geyser Basin

    Your Yellowstone Day 2 itinerary begins in the West Thumb Geyser Basin.

    Now, if you would like to skip this and go to Hayden Valley early in the morning to catch the animals, you can reverse the itinerary.

    The West Thumb Geyser Basin has several unique geothermal features that you will only see in this area, so I definitely wouldn’t skip it.

    The West Thumb Geyser Basin is the largest geyser basin that shares a border with Lake Yellowstone.

    This means that you not only see the hydrothermal features surrounding the lake, you will also see them in the lake during your visit to West Thumb Geyser Basin!

    Follow the nature walk around the West Thumb Geyser Basin to see the colorful Seismograph Pool before coming to the water’s edge.

    Once at the edge of Lake Yellowstone, take note of the cones that are in the water also. One of my personal favorites was the Fishing Cone.

    This cone-shaped geyser was named after the fishermen who would visit this area in the 1800s. It is said that they would catch their fish and then boil them right in the vent.

    I loved this story!

    cone in the water of Yellowstone Lake
    Fishing Cone

    Another popular attraction in the West Thumb Geyser Basin is the Abyss Pool, a gorgeous hot spring named for its depth. The Abyss Pool is the deepest in the park at over 53-feet deep.

    Our favorite in this area was the Black Pool. The colors and the runoff from this pool were gorgeous.

    The boardwalk trail makes this area easy to explore.

    If you are getting hungry or need any gas, Grant Village is close by.

    Grant Village has a visitor center, food, gas, and lodging. Grant Village is also a great place to grab a quick snack, or picnic supplies for lunch on the road.

    Abyss Pool
    turquoise blue pool with Lake Yellowstone in the background
    The Black Pool

    Yellowstone Lake (optional)

    While in the area, you might want to spend some time exploring Yellowstone Lake.

    Yellowstone Lake is the largest lake in Yellowstone, encompassing approximately 132 square miles.

    While Yellowstone Lake completely freezes over in the winter, the summer months allow for great fishing and boating opportunities.

    Since Yellowstone Lake has an average water temperature of 41 degrees, it is not recommended that you swim in the lake any time of the year. So don’t plan on doing that during your 3 day Yellowstone trip.

    Yellowstone Lake is a great place to spend some time kayaking, boating, or fishing.

    Just note that with your 3-day itinerary, this will probably mean that you need to remove a site or two.

    Your days in Yellowstone are valuable, so choose wisely!

    elk buck grazing by Yellowstone Lake on your 3 day Yellowstone itinerary

    Mud Volcano (optional)

    Your drive to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone will take you past the Mud Volcano and the Dragon’s Mouth Spring. I wanted to add the Mud Volcano to your itinerary as an optional stop to give you some choices.

    The Mud Volcano gets you close to one of the resurgent domes of the volcano, the area of active ground deformation in the park.

    This means that this area caused the ground to change (move up or down) with the fluctuation of the magma chamber below.

    The landscape is quite interesting with a black swirl throughout. This is also an area where many earthquakes occur, so scientists are constantly monitoring it.

    It is also here that you will find the Dragon’s Mouth Spring and the Sulphur Caldron.

    If visiting, be prepared for the pungent smell of sulfur all around you!

    Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

    Every Yellowstone itinerary includes the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

    The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a 24-mile-long canyon that averages around 1,000 feet deep.

    This dramatic landscape surrounding the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone includes incredible rock cliffsides, amazing waterfalls, and fabulous vistas to view all of this from.

    South Rim Drive: Uncle Tom’s Trail and Artist Point

    We started our exploration of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on South Rim Drive.

    Driving along, take in the gorgeous views of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone before parking at the Artist Point parking lot.

    Follow the walkway down a few stairs and then take a look to your left.

    Here, you are suddenly treated with fantastic views as the canyon opens up in front of you and reveals the spectacular lower falls spilling through the canyon walls.

    The spray from the falls creates a beautiful foggy haze around the blue river that is in sharp contrast to the creamy-white and brown colors of the canyon.

    You immediately understand why this spot is called Artist Point.

    Take time to visit all of the vista points along the walkway as each offers a different perspective and equally incredible views.

    This part of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was one of my favorite places on our Yellowstone trip and definitely has to be on your Yellowstone itinerary.

    There is also a trail in this area called “Uncle Tom’s Trail.” This trail is really about 500 stairs that take you down the side of the canyon and close to the base of the lower falls.

    Unfortunately, this trail is closed for safety concerns.

    waterfall and river running through canyon
    view from Artist Poing

    North Rim Drive and the Brink of the Lower Falls

    Another fabulous addition to your 3-day itinerary for Yellowstone is to visit the North Rim Drive and the Brink of the Lower Falls along the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

    North Rim Drive begins 1.2 miles south of Canyon Junction. This one-way street takes you to four different viewpoints of the canyon.

    Our favorite stop during this drive and something that we feel should definitely be on your Yellowstone itinerary is the hike down to the edge of the falls.

    The edge of a waterall
    The Brink of the Lower Falls

    The Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are the falls that you were viewing from Artist Point.

    Thanks to this hike, you are about to get up close and personal with the falls.

    Follow the trail down the switchback path until you reach the viewing area for the falls. Here you get to see the river spill over the cliffside before continuing down through the canyon.

    Although the hike back up was not easy for this Texas couple, the time we spent overlooking the falls was well worth it.

    After leaving the Brink of the Falls, continue your drive along North Rim Drive. You can stop at Inspiration Point to see another view of the canyon if you would like.

    Canyon Village is close by if you would like to grab something for dinner.

    View of waterfall crashing into the river below
    Brink of the Lower Falls

    Hayden Valley

    Try to time your visit to Hayden Valley Yellowstone to be there just before sunset.

    This is the perfect time and place to see some of the amazing wildlife in Yellowstone.

    We were excited when we arrived at one of the parking lots in Hayden Valley and saw the elk grazing in the meadow nearby and then we were even more excited when we spotted the two white wolves that were also in the area.

    We sat in this area of Hayden Valley and watched the wolves and elk for over an hour. It was an incredible experience to see them in the wild.

    We were told that Hayden Valley is one of the best places to spot wolves and I think that we were extremely lucky to be able to see them.

    We actually visited Hayden Valley two other times during our visit but did not see the wolves again.

    Hayden Valley is also a popular place to see bison so don’t skip adding it to your Yellowstone itinerary!

    white wolf in the field at Hayden Valley
    White wolf at Hayden Valley

    Day 3: Mammoth Hot Springs

    Morning/Midday: Undine Falls, Mammoth Village, and Mammoth Hot Springs

    Afternoon: Lamar Valley and/or Boiling River (optional)

    Stay in: Mammoth Hot Springs Village

    For today’s itinerary, you can choose to go to Lamar Valley twice if you don’t mind doubling back on your route.

    This would allow you to visit Lamar Valley first thing in the morning (dawn) and again in the evening (dusk) when the animals are most active.

    Of course, this is entirely up to you.

    Undine Falls

    Day 3 of your Yellowstone itinerary is going to take you to the north loop of Yellowstone.

    Today, since you are going to be staying in Mammoth Hot Springs, so, you can get a little bit of a later start if you would like.

    When ready, start making your way to the north end of the park for our first stop, Undine Falls. Now, you have a decision to make for your visit to Undine Falls.

    You can easily view the falls from the road (which is what we did), or you can hike the 8.5-mile round-trip hike up Lava Creek Trail to get up close and personal with the falls.

    Mammoth Village

    elk in front of house in Mammoth Village
    Elk in a yard in Mammoth Village

    Our next stop is Mammoth Village.

    Located near the north entrance of the park, Mammoth Village is a great place to spend the final day of your Yellowstone itinerary.

    Mammoth Village feels as though you are visiting a small town. This little community in Yellowstone National Park welcomes visitors year-round.

    Take time to visit the Albright Visitor Center to learn more about the history of Mammoth Hot Spring and Fort Yellowstone.

    The Visitor Center also has a lot of information about the wild animals that can be found throughout Yellowstone.

    Mammoth Village also offers restaurants, gas stations, a general store, and hotels. Visit the Terrace Grill for a casual meal like a cheeseburger or sandwich and don’t forget to grab an ice cream while in the area also!

    Mammoth Hot Springs

    pools at Mammoth Hot Springs

    As you are already aware, Yellowstone National Park is located above a huge magma chamber. The rainwater seeps into the rocks and once heated rises to the surface.

    Instead of being expelled into the air as it is in the Norris Geyser Basin, the water at Mammoth Hot Springs cross the rocks and in the process deposit limestone sediment.

    The waters flow slowly and deposit the limestone along the way creating the incredible terraces that you see at Mammoth Hot Springs today.

    The Mammoth Hot Springs includes 3 terraces, the Upper and Lower Terraces and the Main Terrace.

    There are boardwalks connecting the terraces so that visitors can easily move from one amazing geological feature to the next.

    linestone terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs
    Mammoth Hot Springs

    Be sure to view the beautiful Palette Spring, the Terraces of the Main Spring, and Canary Spring (my personal favorite).

    Keep your eyes peeled while in this area as you can often see wildlife here. We saw a deer and a lot of elk during our visit to Mammoth Hot Springs.

    Mammoth Hot Springs will be a highlight of your Yellowstone itinerary for sure.

    terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs
    Canary Spring at Mammoth Hot Springs

    Lamar Valley

    If you are like most people, then seeing wildlife during your time in Yellowstone tops your list. Let’s spend this evening in Lamar Valley to see if we can accomplish just that.

    The road through Lamar Valley Yellowstone is open year-round making it easy to add this to your Yellowstone list any time of year.

    Lamar Valley is located between Tower Junction and the northeast entrance to Yellowstone.

    Lamar Valley was created when it was carved out by a glacier over 10,000 years ago, making Lamar Valley the perfect spot to see wildlife in Yellowstone today.

    Plan to be at Lamar Valley about 1.5 hours or so before sunset. This is a great time to spot the wildlife.

    Lamar Valley is home to many animals so you definitely want to bring your binoculars with you on this Yellowstone excursion.

    Animals in Lamar Valley include wolves, bison, elk, coyotes, moose, deer, and eagles.

    It was in Lamar Valley that I saw a bear during our time in Yellowstone!

    We were driving through Lamar Valley Yellowstone when I looked over and saw a huge bear walking toward the tree line.

    There are several pullouts along Lamar Valley so we quickly turned around, but the bear had already disappeared into the tree line.

    Regardless of whether you see a bear or not, you are very likely to see wildlife during your time in Lamar Valley.

    Boiling River (optional)

    With all of this water surrounding you, it is hard to resist getting into some of it.

    Well, you will be happy to know that there are certain places in Yellowstone that you are allowed to get into the water.

    One such spot is Boiling River.

    Boiling River is open seasonally when the water levels permit. Take note that the park does close Boiling River in spring and early summer as the snowmelt makes the water levels too high to be safe.

    Here, the cold water from the Gardner River mixes with the hot water from the Boiling River and creates the perfect soaking area.

    Final Thoughts on 3 Day Itinerary for Yellowstone

    Yellowstone National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list. This park is packed full of incredible sites that you cannot see on this scale in any other area.

    While I absolutely loved our time in Yellowstone, I do wish that we had an extra couple of days so that we could have explored Grand Teton as well.

    I guess we will just have to take another trip back to check Grand Teton off of our list.

    What would you add to our Yellowstone itinerary? Comment below and let us know.

    While You’re Here, Check Out These Posts:

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    Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

    Book Your Flight:

    We love using CheapOAir, Kayak, and Kiwi to search for the best prices on flights. We love using these search engines because they search the web for airlines all over the world to ensure you get the best deal! In addition to flights, you can also find great hotel prices on Kayak and Kiwi.

    Book Your Vacation Package:

    If you want to book an entire vacation package, then we suggest using Expedia. We love how easy Expedia is to use and we always find good deals on entire vacation packages on their site.

    Another great site for vacation packages is BookVIP. BookVIP offers super cheap vacation packages to incredible destinations. You are sure to save money using their site!

    For full guided vacations including hotels, some meals, transportation, and guides, then we book with Trafalgar. Trafalgar is a trusted tour company that will meet all of your needs while ensuring that you have a great experience.

    Trip.com allows you to book flights, hotels, train tickets, rental cars, airport transfers, tours, and more all on one site. Owned by the parent company that also owns Skyscanner, this is a trusted resource for travel booking and a great “one-stop-shop.”

    Book Your Accommodations:

    We always begin our search by checking out the honest review on hotels at TripAdvisor. This allows us to narrow our search for specific properties once we are ready to book. Of course, you can also book directly on the TripAdvisor site as well!

    There are several accommodation sites that we like to use. One of our favorites is Booking.com because it gives you a wide variety of hotels and guesthouses at a good price.

    Another “go-to” hotel booking site for us is Hotels.com. We love their loyalty program that allows you to earn free nights, and their “secret prices” for members are fabulous deals!

    HotelsCombined is another cool site. They allow you to compare all of the top travel sites with one search to ensure you are finding the best deal out there. Kayak works in this way as well.

    If you are looking for a luxurious all-inclusive vacation, then consider checking out the Sandals/Beaches properties. Sandals properties are for couples only and Beaches are for families. We have visited Sandals in the past and absolutely love the attention to detail and the service they provide.

    Tour Companies We Trust:

    We love taking guided tours when visiting new places. Our go-to tour companies are Viator.com and Get Your Guide. Both of these companies have been in business for years and provide excellent customer service. You can trust booking tours from their sites for sure!

    For a guided city tour, check out City Sightseeing and BigBus Tours. These bus tours are so much fun and easy to hop on and hop off at top attractions in cities around the world.

    CityPass is a great way to save money when visiting large cities. CityPass allows you to get free admission to major attractions once you buy their pass. The savings add up quickly with this pass, often saving 50% with combined admissions.

    Another great pass to save money in larger cities is the Sightseeing Pass. This pass allows you to save valuable time and money by combining admissions to major attractions. They also have a handy app that keeps everything you need at your fingertips.

    Looking to Save Time and Money?

    Check out our resource page for all of our favorite vendors. These companies help us to save time and money on our travels!

    Michelle Snell founder of That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel

    About The Author

    Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blogs, That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel.  Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region.  She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.

    Please Share To Social Media

    Jordan

    Tuesday 26th of October 2021

    I was only able to visit for one day so I will definitely be saving this for when I am able to return for longer. Such a perfect itinerary!

    thattexascouple

    Friday 29th of October 2021

    Thank you so much, Jordan!! Yellowstone really is a magnificent park!

    Michelle

    Monday 25th of October 2021

    I haven’t been to Yellowstone since I was a kid. I would love to go back and explore the amazing places you recommend!

    Ashlee Fechino

    Sunday 24th of October 2021

    This is truly the Ultimate 3 Day Yellow Itinerary! Ya'll captured everything. We can't wait to visit again as adults - I haven't been there since I was a little kid.

    thattexascouple

    Friday 29th of October 2021

    Thank you so much, Ashlee! I definitely recommend returning as an adult. It's a whole different experience.

    Intan

    Sunday 24th of October 2021

    Wow, such beautiful pictures! Hopefully I'll get the opportunity to head there someday!

    thattexascouple

    Friday 29th of October 2021

    Thank you, Intan!

    Caroline @ PackTheSuitcases

    Sunday 24th of October 2021

    Great tips as ever, Michelle! I hope I can visit the USA again one day - Yellowstone sounds fantastic

    thattexascouple

    Friday 29th of October 2021

    Thank you, Caroline. I hope you make it to Yellowstone one day also. It's a fabulous National Park.