Yellowstone National Park is enormous and to see it all in a day is not possible. However, this shouldn’t deter you from enjoying the park. We receive a lot of requests from our clients asking for suggestions on what to visit in the park so I thought it would be good to share here how our family does a day in the park. We have a few general routes that we take when we want to visit the park for a day.
For a fun one day trip into Yellowstone National Park, we recommend the following itinerary. The route takes us in the West Yellowstone entrance and we end the day in the city of Livingston, MT for dinner.
This is the route we recommend for a nice Yellowstone day trip in one of our Jeep Wrangler Car Rentals. We enter the park in West Yellowstone and exit through Gardiner.
We usually try to leave Bozeman around 7am and try to end the day in Gardiner, leaving the main entrance by 6pm and dinner in Livingston by 7:30ish. Your time may vary depending on interests and how long you stop. YNP is enormous, around 2.2 Million Acres. And sometimes there can be traffic. Either due to the number of people/cars in the park or if the animals decide to get on the road. For example, on several occasions, we have been stuck in bison traffic jams (or in the summer, automobile traffic!)
Get sunscreen, umbrella, hats or whatever you need to protect yourself from the weather. It changes fast and what looks like a clear day might have some rain or a rainy day can turn out to be nice and sunny. Also, you might want to grab some water or drinks for the road. This route takes you through to West Yellowstone. There are limited services between Big Sky and West Yellowstone.
Follow this route for a fun one-day trip into Yellowstone:
- Old Faithful
- A Waterfall
- A Ranger Museum
- Hot Springs are and Park Headquarters
- A river dunk if open and you want to soak in warm water
- The main entrance to the park
- Dinner in the town of Livingston (Montana Rib & Chop House)
The Gas Stations:
- 3 in 4-Corners (closest to starting point)
- 1 in Gallatin Gateway (get gas here if you forgot about it in 4Corners)
- A few in Big Sky (there is a 31 mile gap between Gallatin Gateway and Big Sky)
- No services between Big Sky and West Yellowstone (51 mile distance)
Initial Driving Time:
About 2 hours from Bozeman to West Yellowstone (West entrance to Yellowstone National Park)
Set out early from Bozeman and head out to 4Corners and go south on U.S. Highway 191. There are three gas stations in 4-Corners. You can get gas there.
We recommend a quick stop at the Coffee Pot Bakery to grab a cinnamon roll and coffee for the road trip to West Yellowstone.
Continue driving south on 191. You will get to Gallatin Gateway rather quickly. If you forgot gas in 4-Corners, you can get it there. Heading south, the gas station is on the left.
From Gallatin Gateway to Big Sky it is 31 miles (the next traffic light).
Continue on 191 through Big Sky for the next 51 miles to West Yellowstone.
When you arrive in West Yellowstone, make a left on Yellowstone Avenue. This will take you the West Entrance. When you pay to get in the park, make sure you get the map.
After going in the West Entrance, drive 14 miles to the first intersection (Madison) and make a right.
Drive 16 miles to the Old Faithful Visitors Center. We usually spend about 2 hours in this area watching Old Faithful erupt, checking out the Old Faithful Inn (one of the largest log structures in the world.) and doing some shopping.
When done, head out and drive back towards Madison (16 miles) and drive through Madison towards Norris. After passing Madison and before Norris, stop at Gibbon Falls and stretch out legs for about 30 minutes.
Head out from Gibbon Falls and continue driving north towards Norris. Make another stop on the way up at the Museum of the National Park Ranger. If you’re going to check if the Boiling River is open, skip this.
Leave the Park Ranger Museum and continue north to Mammoth Hot Springs. When you arrive at Mammoth, you can get out and view the hot spring terraces or head into the Fort Yellowstone area and visit the Visitors center/ museum. There is also a gas station here.
When finished in Mammoth, head back out towards the main entrance. If you feel like getting a little wet, you can stop at the Boiling River on the way out of the park. Boiling River is one of the few legal thermal soaking areas in Yellowstone. The Boiling River is closed in spring, early summer, and other times of hazardous high water. If it’s closed, you’ll know.
Passing the Boiling River, you’ll head out to the main entrance at the town of Gardiner. There you will see the Roosevelt Arch. The main structure associated with YNP.
When done, head out into Gardiner and take 89 to Livingston. (52 miles) If you plan on eating at the Rib & Chop House in Livingston, call now for reservations. There are a couple of restaurants in Gardiner if you are running late and want to eat there.
After you arrive in Livingston, drive under I-90 and into downtown Livingston. The Rib & Chop House will be on the left. One of the last buildings.
With full bellies and a day of adventure behind you, it’s time to head back to Bozeman. Just head south down main street in Livingston and take I-90 West to Bozeman. Exit on mainstreet and drive right through downtown. What a day!