Headed out on a weekend getaway? Consider checking out Yellowstone National Park!
Yellowstone sprawls across almost 3500 square miles of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, so there’s a lot to see and do. If you’re only spending 3 days in Yellowstone, though, you’ll just want to hit the highlights.
With so much ground to cover it can be hard to figure out how to spend 3 days in Yellowstone. That’s why we’ve put together this itinerary that’s perfect for a long weekend in Yellowstone. Let’s get started!
How to Spend 3 Days in Yellowstone – An Itinerary
Please note – This post is partially sponsored by Hotels.com.
There are a lot of great hotel options in and around Yellowstone. You can choose to stay in the park itself for maximum convenience. If you do so make sure you book WAY in advance.
You can also find accommodation options nearby, such as in the small town of West Yellowstone. If you don’t mind being outside of the park this is the way to go, as your options will be cheaper, and frankly, better.
Yellowstone Day 1: Geysers and Springs
Yellowstone National Park is famous for its incredible and colorful natural wonders. This includes the many geysers and springs the park is home to.
If you’re staying in or around Canyon Village, or you’re approaching the park from the south, start with these. You’ll be doing a lot of driving around Yellowstone National Park, but the route is scenic.
It’s time to hit the road!
Old Faithful Geyser
This is one of the must-see sites for a visit to Yellowstone, and one of the park’s most famous attractions. This was the first geyser in the park to be named, and the name comes from it being super predictable!
Old Faithful erupts about every 75 minutes and can shoot up to almost 150 feet in the air. The eruptions can last anywhere from 1.5 to 5 minutes. You can track the eruptions on the Yellowstone app so you’ll know when it’s showtime.
As a fan favorite, this area gets crowded quickly, so you may want to arrive 10-15 minutes ahead of time. There are benches near the geyser where you can sit and wait in the meantime.
The area around Old Faithful is also worth exploring. Feel free to follow the boardwalks to check out the other geysers in the Upper Basin area.
If you’re curious about the science behind these incredible eruptions, check out the Visitor Center to learn more.
Old Faithful Inn
After you see the most famous geyser in the park, check out the historic building that’s named after it. The Old Faithful Inn opened its doors in 1903 and has been serving visitors to the national park ever since. This log and stone building has a long history and a nostalgic vibe.
It’s a great place to stop for a delicious meal or enjoy a coffee on the deck. Its 327 rooms are open to travelers from May to October. It’s one of the best lodging options in the park, so reserve early if you’re interested.
Even if you have accommodation elsewhere, Old Faithful Inn is worth a visit.
Norris Geyser Basin
Once you’ve covered the Old Faithful district, head to Norris Geyser Basin. The basin consists of two main loops: Porcelain Basin and Back Basin.
If you’re short on time and eager to get moving, stick to the Porcelain Basin. This loop covers three quarters of a mile and will take you past some amazing geothermal wonders.
Along the Porcelain Basin loop, you’ll find an outlook with impressive views, Black Growler Steam Vent, Congress Pool, and more.
If you’re looking for a longer hike and even more bubbling attractions, hike the 1.5-mile Back Basin loop.
The main thing to see in Norris Geyser Basin is Steamboat Geyser: the tallest active geyser on the planet. A major eruption can shoot up to 300 feet in the air and the water can be acidic. It’s a good idea to put a cover on your car just in case!
This geyser is pretty unpredictable, making it even more special when you’re lucky enough to catch an eruption. It erupts once every 3 to 35 days, so try your luck and pay Steamboat Geyser a visit!
Grand Prismatic Spring
A short drive from Norris Geyser Basin, the Grand Prismatic Spring is another must-see during your 3 days in Yellowstone. Known for its vibrant coloring, this wonder of nature looks just as good in person as it does in photos.
Located in the Midway Geyser Basin, the Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the country. With colors ranging from vivid blue to bright orange, yellow, and green around the edges, you won’t believe your eyes. These hues are caused by pigmented bacteria that feed on the minerals.
As one of the most visited locations in the park, it gets pretty crowded. Give yourself plenty of time to find parking.
You can check it out from ground level on the boardwalks. For a better view, you can also hike to the Grand Prismatic Overlook to see the kaleidoscopic spring from above.
To access the trail, park at the Fairy Falls trailhead. The trail to the overlook is just over half a mile long and is totally worth it. If you’re looking for a longer hike, follow the trail to Fairy Falls, which about 5.4 miles roundtrip.
Yellowstone Day 2: Nature and Wildlife
On day 1, you (figuratively) dipped your toes into some of the world’s most famous geysers and hot springs. On the second day of a long weekend in Yellowstone, it’s time to see some wildlife.
Start with Lamar Valley, one of the furthest spots in the national park. A 2-hour drive from West Yellowstone, this spot is worth a visit because of the wildlife that inhabits the area.
Once you’re there, grab your binoculars and keep your eyes peeled for bison, elk, bears, pronghorn antelope, moose, and more.
It’s best to get here early in the morning for the best chance of catching the wildlife. You may also want to bring lunch so you can spend the rest of the morning wandering through the valley.
Remember to take lots of photos and keep a safe distance from the animals!
On your way back from the valley, make a quick stop at Undine Falls. This 3-tiered waterfall rises 100 feet above Lava Creek and you can access the overlook easily from the roadside.
Snap a quick photo if you’d like and be on your way. You may also want to pay a visit to Tower Falls on the road back from Lamar Valley.
Mammoth Hot Springs
Located near Wyoming’s border with Montana, Mammoth Hot Springs is just an hour’s drive from Lamar Valley. Mammoth Hot Springs should be on everyone’s list for how to spend 3 days in Yellowstone.
Another one of the most popular sites in the park, try to avoid peak times so you can avoid crowds. The soft limestone, or travertine, formations here are like anything else you’ve ever seen. This unique natural landscape has often been described as a cave turned inside out.
The boardwalks will take you past over 50 springs and you can explore the upper or lower terraces – or both!
Just a 5-minute drive down the road from Mammoth Hot Springs you’ll find Boiling River. These springs are actually safe to swim in, so be sure to bring your swimsuit.
This is also usually less crowded than many other places in the park. Park in the lot near the river and soak in the naturally heated water for however long you’d like.
Another option for swimming is Firehole River if you’re looking for an alternative.
Yellowstone Day 3: Leisure
Unfortunately, this is the last of your 3 days in Yellowstone. Make it a good one!
There are still a few highlights left for you to see, so take full advantage of it. Start early to make sure you don’t miss anything on your list.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
This is another one of the must-see sites for 3 days in Yellowstone. The canyon stretches for 20 miles and is estimated to be between 140,000 and 160,000 years old.
Start your day off here for some great hiking. You can choose to spend just a few hours or even half the day here. Set out on the South Rim Trail for some incredible views of the canyon and the Upper Falls.
You should also check out Artist Point for a view of the Yellowstone Waterfall flowing into the canyon.
Inspiration Point and Lookout Point are a couple more spots you’ll want to check out before leaving this area. Lookout Point is ideal if you’re looking to get an even closer look at the waterfall from the North Rim.
These hikes may be challenging, but they’re worth it for the epic views and photo ops!
Yellowstone Lake is the largest high-elevation lake in the country, so it’s definitely worth a visit. The water stays pretty cold even in the summer, so you may not want to go swimming.
However, if you want a leisurely afternoon on the water, you can opt to rent kayaks on the shore. If you’re just making a quick stop, there are picnic tables available so you can enjoy the view during lunch.
And finally, the last stop of your long weekend in Yellowstone: Hayden Valley.
This beautiful landscape is known for its wolf population. Try to arrive between 5 and 7 in the evening for an even greater chance of seeing the wolves.
The valley is also home to bison and many other species, so take your time exploring the vistas. Once you’re done in Hayden Valley, it’s time to start heading home.
There you have it: a few ideas for how to spend 3 days in Yellowstone. Of course, there are many other things to see and do in the park if you’re looking for more options:
So you’ve got plenty to do during your 3 days in Yellowstone. After a long weekend in the park, you’ll want to keep coming back for more!
That about wraps up our Yellowstone itinerary. If you think we missed anything vital please leave a comment or contact us on Twitter.
As always happy travels, and we’ll see you on the road!
As travel today remains uncertain, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind at all times. If you are comfortable with traveling, please travel responsibly and within regulation as any travel is at your own risk.
If you do decide to travel at this time, here are our recommendations:
- Wear a face mask.
- Bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands on a regular basis.
- Check official websites before your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures and status of local businesses.
- Book a hotel with free cancellation in case you need to change your plans at the last minute.