We put some time and thought into our Yellowstone itinerary to try to maximize what we could see in 3-4 days without back-tracking too much through the 2.1 million acre park.
For our planning we used the Travel Brains’ Yellowstone Expedition Guide, which we found to be perfect with its maps, guides, and travel CDs.
We scoured the internet for travel stories and we bought another book (Moon’s guide to Yellowstone & Grand Tetons) which helped us refine what we wanted to see and do.
Once we listed the must see attractions, we mapped them out into a plan that looked like this…
The above was our plan and for the most part we stuck to it…
However, we did end up making some revisions based on circumstances and it all worked out great. These changes included bumping up the Hayden Valley stop to before the scenic lake cruise on Day 1 because we had time and no-where to go.
We also ended up skipping the Lake Hotel dinner (fancy) and opting for a more casual and delicious home-style meal (and more economical) at the Lake Lodge.
We applied some of the savings for some ice cream cones at the Lake General Store :-).
That evening after wildlife viewing and seeing a grizzly bear and a swimming elk or moose (still a debate), we went back to the Lake Yellowstone Hotel where there was some great music being played in the lobby.
We sat there for a few hours and talked to other families, wrote post cards, and just relaxed. Unplanned…but a vacation highlight that we all enjoyed.
On day 2, we had some time between dinner and the next Old Faithful eruption, so the boys and I climbed up to an observation point through a nice little trail.
We ended up seeing a marmot with baby on the trail, and got a great view when we were up top of the geyser, the lodge, and the whole surrounding area! Looking back, I would not have wanted to miss this little impromptu excursion.
Another change to the above Yellowstone itinerary: After the cowboy dinner on Day 3, we had an hour until sunset so we drove out to Lamar Valley to see some wildlife.
At dusk, there was an amazing Buffalo stampede that shook the earth as several hundred of these enormous animals crossed the road in front of us. Seeing the cloud of dust rise over the hill and watching them gallop through our group of stopped cars was adrenaline-pumping fun!
No matter what you plan to see, make your itinerary somewhat flexible as you never know what viewing opportunities you may encounter around the each corner (literally)!
Just keep a list of the must-see attractions and keep your eyes out for all the wonderment in between.