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Coming from Grand Tetons/Jackson
So you’re in Jackson Hole and so close to Yellowstone here’s the ultimate one day yellowstone itinerary to make a day trip to Yellowstone National Park worth your while. Traveling from Jackson and spending some time in Grand Tetons National Park you’re so close to Yellowstone you’re practically doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least spend one day there. Jackson (or Jackson Hole) is only a little over an hour drive to the South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Once you’re in the park, it’s absolutely massive so we narrowed down what we wanted to see to some of the top sights on the south side of the park.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most visited National Parks in the United States. It was the first ever National Park established in 1872 so it is very well known. The park is mostly within Wyoming but some portions of it are also in Idaho & Montana. It would be impossible to see everything in a day but if you were like us and also exploring the Grand Tetons this was a great option to get a little sample of some great sights within Yellowstone. But of course, I definitely want to return to see even more. It was so amazing how different Yellowstone was in contrast to the Grand Teton National Park.
Let’s dive into our one day Yellowstone itinerary!
Road Trip Itinerary for one day in Yellowstone
Leave Jackson early
It’s best to leave well before the sun is coming up so you can maximize your time in the park once you arrive with less crowds. Depending on what time of year you’re visiting it will more than likely be busy but getting a jump start on the day by leaving around 6 AM is a good idea.
Stop 1 in Yellowstone: Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook
The first stop once we were in Yellowstone was the Overlook over the Grand Prismatic Spring. The overlook gives you a great birds eye view onto the spring and is a prime spot for some amazing photos! Park at the Fairy Falls Parking lot. If you arrived early enough you should have no problem finding a parking spot. Follow the signs on the trail to the overlook. Once you’re done oohing and ahhhing at the Grand Prismatic spring from above, backtrack on the trail from where you started. About halfway to the parking lot you will head toward Stop two in Yellowstone on your one day itinerary.
Stop 2 in Yellowstone: Fairy Falls Trail Hike
As you made your way to the Grand Prismatic Springs Overlook from the Fairy Falls Parking Lot, you would have seen where you veer off to hike on the Fairy Falls Trail. Make your way back here and be sure to enjoy your out and back hike to Fairy Falls at around 7 miles. This was a very easy hike, very little elevation gain and mostly flat. Once you reach the falls, this is a popular trail so there will be a considerable amount of people. But, there are no shortages of great photo spots as well as places where you can rest for a bit before turning around on the second half of your hike.
Quick tip: DO NOT set down backpacks or any of your gear and walk away to take pictures near the waterfall. Why? Well, when we were there some other hikers had done just that. Their backpacks were literally ransacked by a bunch of chipmunks! Don’t be those people! More on that in the things to consider section.
Stop 3 in Yellowstone: Grand Prismatic Spring Boardwalk
Even though you viewed the Grand Prismatic Spring from above, taking in another viewpoint along the boardwalk gives you a different perspective. The boardwalk wraps around in a winding circular fashion where everyone walks one way. (I’m not sure if it’s always been this way or if it was an adjustment due to the pandemic?) Seeing the vivid colors and feeling the steam up close was an experience not to be missed. This famous hot spring really is as vividly colored as photos you’ve seen. But, the science behind it is equally as interesting as the colors are caused by a heat loving bacteria.
Stop 4 in Yellowstone: Visitor Center & Old Faithful Geysir
This area of the park has a lot of services accessible. Because Yellowstone is so large, there are ten main visitor centers within Yellowstone National Park. For the sake of this one day Yellowstone itinerary, I would head to the Old Faithful Visitor Center. You originally entered the park via the south entrance, however this area is actually near the Yellowstone west entrance.
Near the Old Faithful visitor center, there are many restaurants, places to stay, a gas station, of course the visitor center and behind the visit center the most famous geysir, Old Faithful. There are pretty accurate predictions posted to keep visitors informed on when the next eruption is planned to happen. The crowds near Old Faithful will get quite busy during these times and there’s really no way around it.
Stop 5 in Yellowstone: West Thumb Geysir Basin
This is the last stop actually in Yellowstone as a part of your one day itinerary. Take your time to soak it all in. The vast differences of everything you’ve seen today as well as comparing it to the things you’ve seen in the Grand Tetons National Park. The different geysirs within this basin were not as colorful as Grand Prismatic but, I still found them very interesting. Definitely make sure you walk the full loop around the boardwalk here. (Even if you’re tired from walking and hiking all day!) I promise it will be worth it. Plus, this is the last stop before heading back to Jackson.
Drive back to Jackson and relax
At this point in the day, you’ve seen what you set out to on your one day Yellowstone itinerary and you’re tired! Gas up if you need to and head back on your way to Jackson after you’ve had a full and satisfying day. I can almost guarantee you’ll be intrigued and wanting to explore even more of Yellowstone National Park in the future.
Things to consider for your trip
Time of year (Yellowstone is seasonal) It’s usually busiest in June-August. Spring or fall both are a great time with the weather being a little cooler but there are usually less things open and less services available.
Yellowstone has decent options for food and drinks, however it’s always a good idea to plan ahead! We ensured everyone had full water bottles and packed a cooler full of additional drinks and snacks. Although not a road trip (more of a day trip) some of my top road trip tips definitely apply to this one day Yellowstone itinerary.
Before you head out, it’s a good idea to check your route and ensure there aren’t any temporary closures within Yellowstone that would effect your plans.
Have a paper map or download an offline map. You won’t always have access to great cell phone service. (Especially if you’re planning on hiking!)
Be sure to keep your distance from wildlife! This is not a zoo and too many people will treat it as such. Respect the animals and their natural habitat by giving them space both for their safety as well as your own.
Do not feed the animals! It’s dangerous for you but it creates a dependency from the animals on being fed. Depending on what you’re wanting to feed them it can also be bad for them. Just don’t do it!
Plan your activities and be prepared. If you’re hiking be sure to secure bear spray! Bear spray is incredibly toxic. (3x more toxic than mase.) And it dispels a lot farther as well. Given those facts, if you’re flying to Yellowstone you CANNOT bring bear spray with you. It isn’t even allowed in checked baggage. However, there are several places in Jackson where you can rent some and return it. The Grand Tetons & Yellowstone are known for having a bear population and it’s best to be prepared for the slight chance that you could cross paths with one.
If you’re road tripping, you definitely could purchase some in advance. But, it is expensive to buy and is a little cheaper just to rent unless you know you’ll have use for it multiple times. It definitely just depends on your specific situation.
Respect the Park
Follow all posted signs, stay on trails and boardwalks to preserve the natural ecosystem.
Leave no trace! If you pack it into the park, pack it out. The leave no trace principles are all about leaving the park or environment you’re visiting in the same condition as before you were there. As if there was no evidence or no trace of your presence.
Have a great time. Yellowstone is truly amazing! I was in awe both by the amount of sights you can pack into one day and how different and diverse the landscape is in Yellowstone National Park.
Places to stay in Yellowstone
While we enjoyed just a snippet of Yellowstone National Park in one day you definitely can make it a two or three day part of your trip or National Park vacation. There are even places to stay within Yellowstone National Park! (Most of them are seasonal.) But, it’s a great way to cover a lot more sights within the park by camping or staying there for a night or two.
More planning resources:
If you enjoyed this one day Yellowstone itinerary, be sure to pin it to refer back later!
An extended itinerary Things to do in Jackson Hole & The Grand Tetons National Park to add onto this one day Yellowstone itinerary.