How to spend 3 days in Yellowstone National Park
We spent 3 days in Yellowstone National Park during the height of summer and we want to share our plan and advice with those who intend on spending the same amount of time at one of the most famous national parks in the world. 3 days was enough to see all of Yellowstone’s highlights and we also got to experience camping in a couple of the Yellowstone campgrounds and in the wilderness!
Here’s how we did it:
Plan a route with these easy steps
Entering and leaving via the same road is a great idea as this will give you the option to drive the full park loop.
Hotels in Yellowstone
There are six locations in Yellowstone National Park that offer lodging.
The official Yellowstone National Park’s website lists all available hotels/lodges along with availability status.
Camping with Facilities
There are many camp grounds that sell out fast in peak season. If you only have 3 days in Yellowstone, be sure to get to your chosen campground early to reserve a spot as they are all first come, first serve.
There are camp sites outside of the park but time will be wasted driving in and out.
If all spaces are taken in the camp sites with facilities, do what we did and go Backcountry Camping in Yellowstone.
You will need to visit a Ranger Station where you will have to obtain a permit.
You will be given useful and potentially life saving information by the rangers and an official permit to stick onto your car/tent.
You must be follow the rules on how to store your bag, food and waste while in the Yellowstone wilderness.
The Northern Loop
Mammoth Hot Springs
Spend one of your 3 days in Yellowstone exploring the Northern Loop. Mammoth Hot Springs is one of the most visited sites of Yellowstone.
Deer and birds gather by the center of Mammoth in the summer putting on a wonderfully unique display for tourusts!
The Liberty Cap is a dormant hot spring cone that can be seen when entering Mammoth Hot Springs. The 37-foot high cone is a site not to be missed during your 3 days in Yellowstone National Park.
Golden Gate Canyon
One of the greatest parts of the Yellowstone National Park road trip is the scenic Golden Gate Canyon. The northern portion of the Grand Loop Road (the figure 8) runs right through the canyon offering plenty of stop over points to enjoy the picturesque views.
Glen Creek and Bunsen Peak
Glen Creek flows north through the Golden Gate Canyon en route to the Gardner River descending from 7,400 feet (2,300 m) at Kingman Pass to just under 6,000 feet (1,800 m) in less than 3 miles (4.8 km).
Named after Robert Bunsen, a chemist who founded the Bunsen burner and worked on volcanic geyser theories, Bunsen Peak is 8,564 feet (2,610 m) making it a perfect spot to hike right by the East flank of the Kingman Pass. The Bunsen Peak Trail starts a little South of Mammoth and is a steep 2.1 miles to the summit.
The Petrified Tree
Part of Yellowstone’s ‘Petrified Forest’, the landmark Petrified tree was said to have been part of a flourishing group of tall trees that were buried by persistent volcanic eruptions.
If you’re wondering where to see bears in Yellowstone, look no further than Rainy Lake. Be prepared to be caught in traffic as visitors park up their vehicles anywhere and everywhere when a bear is spotted in the notorious Black Bear Ally. Yellowstone’s Tower region and Rainy Lake is notorious hot spot for bear spotting. June or July are the best months to see bears in Yellowstone, we spotted this beautiful baby taking a bath in Rainy Lake in the middle of July.
Norris Geyser Basin
Often overlooked by visitors, Norris Geyser Basin is one of the most fascinating areas of the park. Norris is the hottest and most changeable geothermal area in Yellowstone. covering 2.6 miles of walking trails.
Norris Museum can be found at the start of the Norris Basin site. Take some time to explore the exhibits of the geothermal features found within the basin then enter one of the two trails from here.
Norris Geyser Basin is home to the largest active geyser in the world, Steamboat Geyser. Be sure to allow time here and be prepared to see (and smell) some of the most incredible features of the park.
Roaring Mountain is 5 miles North of Norris Geyser Basin and is named after the number of fumaroles on the peak that could once be heard for several miles.
In the Middle
The Firehole River runs right by the Western side of the Grand Loop Road. What 3 days in Yellowstone National Park would be complete without a swim in some of the most natural waters of the world? Swin in Yellowstone’s Firehole River Swimming Area right by the falls, be sure to ask a Ranger of the location and current safety condition.
While in the middle of the figure 8 loop of Yellowstone National Park, pop by Fountain Flat Drive, hike a little into the Sentinel Meadows Trail to see a spectacular phenomena of the hot spring waters sizzling into the river. Always ask a ranger of the current safety conditions if swimming in any of the park’s waters.
If you’re looking to swim in Yellowstone, there is a perfect spot right by the bridge where the waters are delicately warmed by the nearby hot springs.
Located at the Eastern center part of Yellowstone National Park, Canyon Village has many features and viewpoints that you shouldn’t miss.
Artist’s Point and Inspiration Point
Yellowstone has it’s own Grand Canyon which is roughly 20 miles long and was formed by the Yellowstone river running through less resistant rock.
The View from Artist’s Point will give the best photo opportunity of the Gran Canyon as well as Lower Falls that make up the same Canyon area.
There are many viewpoints and trails in the Canyon Village area, the Upper Falls can be seen from the Uncle Tom’s trail.
The Southern Loop
The Old Faithful Geyser is one of the most known Yellowstone highlights. The Old Faithful is a cone geyser found in the Southern area of the park. Old Faithful was named in 1870 and was the first geyser in the park to receive a name.
The geyser attracts many tourists and subsequently the park have built a nearby Old Faithful Inn hotel and restaurant and the Old Faithful Museum which is part of the Old Faithful Historic District.
Eruptions can shoot 3,700 to 8,400 US gallons of boiling water to a height of 106 to 185 feet (32 to 56 m) lasting from 1 1⁄2 to 5 minutes.
As well as all of the wonderful geological features, Yellowstone is also home to an enormous lake. Yellowstone Lake takes up 136 square miles of the park with 110 miles of shoreline.
Fountain Paint Pots
The Fountain Paint Pot is a must see highlight of Yellowstone. The name derives from the colourful mud in the area ranging from reds and yellows to browns and greys.
Some of the pots bubble depending on the season, in summer the mud is thicker making the pots look like their full of bubbling paint.
Morning Glory Pool
The name of the Morning Glory Pool came form the word “Convolutus”, which is Latin for the morning glory flower. The colorful hot spring is said to represent the flower.
The distinct colors of the pool, like most colorful features in Yellowstone, is due to microorganisms that inhabit the water.
Park Rangers have erected a sign by the Morning Glory Pool discussing the damage caused by the vandalism and assigning a new name to the pool ‘The Faded Glory’.
Grand Prismatic Spring
Of course, Yellowstone National Park is home to the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world. One of the best things to see in Yellowstone is the Grand Prismatic Spring located at the Midway Geyser Basin.
Right beside the Grand Prismatic Spring is the Excelsior Geyer Crater which is also a grand feature of the park simmering in a light blue color.
The Turquoise Pool also makes up the Midway Geyser Basin.
The whole area of the Midway Geyser Basin is unmissable, be sure to stick to the boardwalks at all times and note that this is one of the most touristic features so be careful when passing others.
The Sulphur Cauldron
The Sulphur Calderon is a smelly and acidic collection of hot springs that can be admired from an high viewpoint. The greeny yellow waters gave the site the name ‘cauldron’ as it resembles a witch’s brew.
Sometimes herds of bison gather around the Sulphur Cauldron hot springs to warm up and relax while tourists snap pictures.
In 1870, visitors stood in awe as the Mud Volcano spewed mud into the air, sludging to the ground with each eruption. Two years later, it became a pool of bubbling muddy water after the Mud Volcano had blown itself apart.
Dragon’s Mouth Spring
An unknown park visitor named this features around 1912, perhaps due to the water that frequently surged from the cave like the lashing of a dragon’s tongue.
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You’ll never see everything the park has to offer if you spend 3 days in Yellowstone, the wilderness away from the Grand Loop road offers way more geological features, wildlife, trails and camping areas. Or guide is designed to help you make the most of your trip as easily as possible.