Yellowstone was always my dream to visit, so it was the spot I picked and worked our entire vacation around. Before deciding how many days you need in Yellowstone, keep in mind the park is huge! We stayed in Canyon Campground which was close to the center, but it could be an hour or more of a drive in different directions to get to where we were going. Added to this was construction which could close a road for 20-30 minutes at a time. Yellowstone may be huge, but its also incredibly crowded. Like Disney World crowded. We found that by starting early we could escape most of these crowds (and find a parking spot!) Bring your bear spray, we did see a few bears though luckily from a distance. Also be prepared for the weather! It often went in the 30s at night, we would start the day in hats and gloves and then change into shorts when daytime afternoon temperatures hit 80 degrees.
Canyon Campground is one of a few different campgrounds in Yellowstone run by the National Park. The sites in the park book up incredibly fast. We called 18 months in advance to book a site! The sites in the National Park do not have hookups. It is very cheap ($23/night). The max length with your camper AND car is 40 feet. Not all of the campgrounds have showers nearby. Canyon Campground did have showers in nearby Canyon Village (a short drive). 2 free showers a night were included with the stay, but they often didn’t count the kids and on the last night when we were 2 short on our punch card they let it go. Sometimes we would have to wait 10-15 minutes for a shower to open. The showers are in the same building as laundry and there were always plenty of machines. Canyon Village also had some shops, a food court (great grab and go food with lots of seating), and a sit down restaurant. You have to make reservations for the sit down restaurant, which we did one night. It was great to sit and be served after making a lot of our own food.
Old Faithful/Upper Geyser Basin
Since there was a short drive to Yellowstone, we decided to do some sightseeing on Day 1. About an hours drive from the Tetons (1/2 way to our campsite) was Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin. There is a large parking area here and we had no issues finding a spot with our pop up, especially because it was early.
Old Faithful goes off about every 90 minutes. At the visitor center they will post the next eruption time within about 10 minutes.
After viewing Old Faithful, continue walking the boardwalk loop. Its a 2.1 mile trail, mostly flat and easily accessible. We got lucky and saw Castle Geyser go off (this goes off every 14 hours), and Grand Geyser (this goes off every 6.5 hours)
Make sure you continue walking to the very end to see Morning Glory Pool (I loved this one!)
Grand Prismatic Springs
We got up and out early to see Grand Prismatic Springs, but it was foggy still so we couldn’t see much. There are some other cool thermal features along the boardwalk. We learned later in the day the best way to see Grand Prismatic.
Mystic Falls Trail
We started at Biscuit Basin Trail, which then turned into a 2.4 mile round trip hike to Mystic Falls. This was a beautiful hike, definitely recommend! Once you get on the longer hiking trails you lose most of the crowds.
Fairy Falls Trail
Next we decided to do the 5 mile round trip Fairy Falls Trail. About a mile into the hike you will come across the overlook for Grand Prismatic Springs. This is definitely the best way to view! The Falls are also beautiful, a huge drop in the middle of a canyon.
There are various different overlooks along the Canyon with viewpoints, some of them pretty steep.
South Rim Trail to Artist Point
We started from Uncle Toms Trailhead (which was closed at the time) and walked the 3 miles roundtrip along the South Rim Trail to Artist Point. This is a great trail. You can also park at Artists Point if you don’t want to do the relatively easy hike. Get up early for these trailheads as the parking lots fill fast.
Norris Geyser Basin
We visited in the afternoon and realized how nice getting up early and getting a good spot was. We had to park probably about a mile away from the actual Basin. Then it was 2.8 miles roundtrip around the boardwalk.
Mammoth Hot Springs
We visited Mammoth Hot Springs (also early and this lot fills fast) and walked around the boardwalk.
Town of Mammoth
Next we visited the town of Mammoth. This was awesome as elk roam all throughout the town. We had lunch at the cafeteria and visited the Mammoth visitor center.
This was probably my kids highlight of the trip. Its past the town of Mammoth and not well marked, but if you can find it its worth it. Its 1.7 miles past the town of Mammoth and the easiest way to find the small parking lots (one on each side of the road) is to track your mileage. Its about a 1/2 mile each way to the springs, where you can find the perfect spot where the cool water meets the hot water.
Mt. Washburn Hike
This was a difficult hike. Its 6.8 miles roundtrip, with 1393 feet of elevation gain. Some parts are very narrow and I would not recommend if you have a fear of heights. We saw goats along the trail and walked through wildflowers. The views at the top are amazing and there is a structure to protect you from the wind and give you an overview of what you are seeing.
Yellowstone Lake Hotel
We wanted to get a glimpse of Yellowstone Lake and randomly came across this hotel. Its a great place to sit in the lobby, have drinks, and enjoy the view! The drive from the campground to Yellowstone Lake had the most buffalo sightings we saw on our Yellowstone trip. We did not visit West Thumb Geyser Basin (my kids were pretty thermal featured out) but that is located near Yellowstone Lake.
Yellowstone is a beautiful park, and each area is unique and diverse. Give yourself enough time so see some of the different parts, and take into consideration driving times!