We'll begin and end this itinerary in Jackson, Wyoming, assuming that you will be flying into Jackson and renting a car. This itinerary, however, can be modified in many ways if your travel plans require that you enter and exit the parks in other locations. The beauty of Yellowstone National Park is that it is surrounded by 5 different communities (West Yellowstone at the West Entrance, Gardiner and Bozeman at the North Entrance, Cooke City and Red Lodge at the Northeast Entrance, Cody at the East Entrance, and Grand Teton NP and Jackson at the South Entrance), all great places to make your base camp as you explore the parks.
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Itinerary in Summary
We'll enter Grand Teton from the South Entrance, near Jackson, Wyoming, spend a few days exploring the Tetons and then head north, cruising around a few different arms of Yellowstone, and then spend the last day returning to and enjoying a few activities in Jackson.
First things first, book your lodging now! If you want to stay in the park, make sure to call well in advance. Some campgrounds are first come first serve, but they fill up quickly. If you are a last minute planner or simply want to fly by the seat of your pants, there are many lodging options in surrounding towns as well (try West Yellowstone, Jackson, Gardiner -or Bozeman a little further up the road, Cody, Cooke City-or Red Lodge). You'll find info on reservations below.
While there are restaurants and a few grocery stores within the parks, you'll save a ton of money (not to mention time, as you drive through a bison herd wandering down the road trying to get to food) if you bring a small cooler and stock it full of snacks, lunch, drinks, and plenty of water.
Day 1: Into the Tetons
Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center
Stop by the visitor center in Moose, Wyoming (just before the south entrance of the park) and browse through interesting exhibits, pick up a couple maps, and ask a ranger for any additional information.
Inner Park Road to Jenny Lake
Go through the entrance gates ($25/vehicle – good for 7 days) and drive north to the South Jenny Lake Junction.
Jenny Lake Boat Trip
Take a Jenny Lake Boat across the lake ($).
Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, Cascade Canyon
Hike up to Hidden Falls (1.2 miles RT from boat dock) or continue on to Inspiration Point (2 miles RT from boat dock) or into Cascade Canyon (2 miles to 9.6 miles RT from boat dock – as an out and back, you can go as far as you want and turn around).
A less busy and equally beautiful hiking trail can be found up Paintbrush Canyon. Try Holly Lake (13 miles RT) for a strenuous hiking alternative.
Night 1 Lodging:
- Park Lodging: Jackson Lake Lodge – Reservations 307-543-3100
- Camping: Signal Mountain Campground – first come first serve
- Alternate Lodging: Jackson, Wyoming Lodging (1 hour South of Jackson Lake Lodge)
Day 2: Drive to Old Faithful
Book a morning horseback ride. If you stayed at Jackson Lake Lodge the previous night, they can book a ride for you (call 307-543-1061). Or find a local Horseback Riding Outfitter here.
Explore Old Faithful
You'll have all afternoon and evening to explore Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin, giving you ample time to watch ‘er blow and to see a few other nearby attractions like:
Geyser Hill Loop Trail (1.3 miles Easy) & Observation Point (1.1 miles Moderate)
Trail starts at the Old Faithful Boardwalk and passes a number of interesting geysers like Beehive and Anemone Geysers. Continue on up to Observation Point.
Rent a Bike and Ride to Black Sand Basin and Lone Star Geyser
If you didn't bring your own bike, rent one at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Head south to Lone Star Geyser and/or north to Black Sand Basin. Both of these attractions can be accessed by bike, with a short walk at the end.
Night 2 Lodging:
- Park Lodging: Old Faithful Lodge – Reservations 866-439-7375
- Camping: Madison Campgrounds – Reservations 866-439-7375
- Alternate: West Yellowstone, Montana Lodging (40 minutes West of Old Faithful)
Day 3: To Cooke City
Midway and Lower Geyser Basins
As you head north from Old Faithful, stop by for a short walk around the boardwalk at the Grand Prismatic Spring. Then follow the Firehole Lake Drive road to see the Great Fountain Geyser. Immediately thereafter, swing into the turnout for the Fountain Paint Pots.
Firehole Canyon Drive
This is a one-way road that takes an extra 30 minutes or so, but is well worth it. In the heat of the summer, there will be tons of cars parked along a warm swimming hole. This is definitely worth the stop if you have kids.
Norris Geyser Basin
Turn right at the Madison Junction and head towards Norris. Stop for a short 1 mile walk to the Artist Paint Pots. Then, stop at the Norris Parking Area and wander along the boardwalk to see a number of cool springs and geysers, the most impressive being the Steamboat Geyser.
Canyon Village Visitor Center
Continue towards Canyon Village, and take 30 minutes to explore the main Visitor Center. We'll come back through to stop at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone on Day 5.
As you make your way further north, make sure to turn out at stop to see the stunning 130 foot Tower Fall.
We'll spend more time here tomorrow morning, but Lamar Valley is one of Yellowstone's hidden gems, connecting the Tower Roosevelt area to the Northeast Entrance at Cooke City. If you time your drive through Lamar Valley during sunset, you won't be disappointed.
Night 3 Lodging
- Preferred Lodging: Cooke City Lodging
- Camping: Pebble Creek – first come first serve
- Alternate: Red Lodge, Montana Lodging (1.25 hours East of Cooke City)
Day 4: To Mammoth
Try to book a wildlife tour for the morning. See a list of nearby Wildlife Outfitters here.
Scenic Drive over Beartooth Highway
As an alternative to a wildlife tour, enjoy a scenic drive out and back Beartooth Highway, just east of Cooke City. It's hard to believe this scenic area is located outside of the park.
Mammoth Hot Springs
Make your way west towards Mammoth Hot Springs. You'll have the afternoon and evening to explore the boardwalks along the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces.
Sign up for Ranger Hike for Tomorrow Morning: Pop into the Mammoth Visitor Center and sign up for a free ranger led hike for tomorrow morning. Advance sign up is required and can be done at any park visitor center.
Night 4 Lodging
- Park Lodging: Mammoth Hot Springs Lodge - Reservations 866-439-7375
- Camping: Mammoth Hot Springs – first come first serve
- Alternative: Gardiner, Montana Lodging (10 minutes North of Mammoth Hot Springs)
Day 5: To Yellowstone Lake
Ranger Led Hike
There are a couple of ranger led hikes available in the Mammoth area, offering an informative and interesting way to see the area. Advance sign up is required.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
From Mammoth, head south and east to Canyon Village. There are two roads that offer great views into the canyon, one accessing Lower Falls and Inspiration Point while the other accesses Upper Falls at Artist Point. If you want to move the legs a bit, check out one of the nearby trails, either down into the canyon or along the canyon rim.
Head south to Yellowstone Lake, with a stop at Sulphur Caldron and Mud Volcano along the way.
You can bike or walk to nearby Natural Bridge (1 mile) or up Pelican Creek (1 mile).
Night 5 Lodging
- Park Lodging: Yellowstone Lake Lodge - Reservations 866-439-7375
- Camping: Bridge Bay or Grant Village - Reservations 866-439-7375
- Alternate: Cody, Wyoming Lodging (1.5 hours West of Yellowstone Lake)
Day 6: Drive south back into the Tetons
West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail
Stop for the 3/8 mile easy boardwalk trail around the West Thumb Geyser Basin.
Scenic Float Trip in Grand Teton National Park
Then head south back into Grand Teton National Park. Book a scenic float trip through the national park.
Find a Scenic Float Trip here
Advance Reservations Necessary
Lunch at Dornan's
Head to Dornan's Pizza & Pasta in Moose, Wyoming for lunch and a local beer on the rooftop deck at this popular restaurant. Great views of the Tetons!
Drive down Moose-Wilson Road
From Dornan's, drive down the Moose Wilson Road as an alternate route back into the town of Jackson. This road is great for viewing wildlife and offers access to a few trailheads.
Night 6 Lodging
- Preferred Lodging: Jackson, Wyoming Lodging
Day 7: Jackson
Explore Town Square
Downtown Jackson is filled with clothing boutiques, restaurants, souvenir shops, art galleries, and gear stores. Taking your photo under one of the square's antler arches is a must. If you are standing on the southwest corner of the square, call your friends and family back home and tell them to find you on the Town Square Webcam.
Ride a Scenic Chairlift up Snow King
Say goodbye to the valley by taking a scenic chairlift ride to the top of Snow King Mountain, overlooking town, the National Elk Refuge, and the Teton Mountain Range.
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