Yellowstone Vacations

How to See Yellowstone From the Best Entrance — the North Gate

Plan the ultimate vacation with our sample Yellowstone trip itinerary

Yellowstone Vacations

Stay in Gardiner, Montana to maximize your time in Yellowstone, cut your drive times, and see the hottest attractions in the park more easily

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Big drive times are an unfortunate reality for anyone who wants to experience a Yellowstone vacation. But Gardiner and the North Entrance can cut your drive time significantly to see the most iconic stops in Yellowstone.

Check out the sample itinerary below and this map of Yellowstone to see how long it will take you to travel to Yellowstone’s most popular destinations from Gardiner and other gateway communities.

Then book now to make this magical trip happen.

A Five-Day Yellowstone Vacation Itinerary from Yellowstone’s North Gate

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DAY 01

Mammoth Hot Springs is a national treasure, and the area around it is underexplored and underappreciated partly because it’s out of the way from many park attractions. On day 1, stay close to Gardiner for some stellar sights, warm-river swimming, and your choice of a hike that will put you at the heart of Yellowstone country.

Yellowstone Vacations
Sunrise photography walk at Mammoth Hot Springs:

Wake up early to see the unique terraced travertine pools of Mammoth Hot Springs reflect the sky.

Take a cascading-river walk or mountain hike:

Follow Lava Creek past the 60-foot Undine Falls, take a suspension bridge over the Yellowstone River, trek past picturesque beaver ponds, or get ambitious and summit Bunsen Peak or Sepulcher Mountain. Hikes (see map and trail descriptions here) vary in length from 4.2 miles to 11 miles.

Yellowstone Vacations
Yellowstone Vacations
Take a restorative swim in the Boiling River:

At the junction of a 100-degree hot spring and the Gardner River, you’ll find water that’s suitable for swimming year-round. After a mild half-mile walk, you’ll be able to soothe your hiking muscles in blended water that’s as hot or cool as you want, depending on how far you stray from the hot springs into the river.

Total round-trip drive time:

< 1 hour from Gardiner via North Entrance

6.5 hours from Cody via East Entrance

7.3 hours from Jackson Hole via South Entrance

3.5 hours from West Yellowstone via West Entrance

DAY 02

Run with the ‘Geyser Gazers’

Few people come to Yellowstone without planning to see some geysers and thermal features. The North Entrance is a great place to start for a day filled with scenic driving and pleasant walks around Yellowstone’s colorful and exciting natural wonders.

Yellowstone Vacations
Spend some time at Norris Geyser Basin:

At Norris Geyser Basin, you’ll discover the spinning Whirligig Geyser, see numerous colorful pools and thermal features, or perhaps catch an eruption from the park’s tallest geyser, Steamboat Geyser. Plan two hours.

Get colorful at Grand Prismatic Spring:

Midway Geyser Basin is home to Grand Prismatic Spring, an impressive spring known for its vivid colors and massive size. A raised boardwalk lets you get up close and personal.

Yellowstone Vacations
Yellowstone Vacations
Do the thing you have to do (Old Faithful):

With reliable eruptions roughly every 90 minutes, most park visitors have a hard time passing up the most iconic geyser in Yellowstone. While waiting, take the time to walk the boardwalks around Upper Geyser Basin.

Total round-trip drive time:

3.5 hours from Gardiner via North Entrance

6 hours from Cody via East Entrance

6 hours from Jackson Hole via South Entrance

2.5 hours from West Yellowstone via West Entrance

DAY 03

Take a wildlife tour (with some detours)

Gardiner is one of the closest towns to what’s widely known as one of the best places to see wolves, grizzlies, and the other Western wildlife that’s helped make Yellowstone famous. Make it your basecamp for a fantastic day (or more) of wildlife watching and more.

Yellowstone Vacations
Take a one-way wildlife drive at dawn:

Gardiner is an ideal jump-off point to hit Blacktail Plateau Drive, which is known for its many wildlife sightings including elusive wolves and black bears. (Best at dawn or dusk.)

See a petrified redwood tree:

Peer back in time to Yellowstone’s subtropical past at this quick stop just past the exit from Blacktail Plateau Drive.

Yellowstone Vacations
Yellowstone Vacations
Watch wildlife in Lamar Valley:

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Or  other wildlife watchers. Get chummy in Lamar Valley to easily find the best wildlife sightings. Grizzlies, wolves, bison, black bears, pronghorn, and more blanket the pristine area.

End your day right at Wraith Falls:

Take a quick detour to end your wildlife day by hiking the short trail past seasonal wildflowers to Wraith Falls. Less than a half mile each way.

Yellowstone Vacations

Total round-trip drive time:

3.5 hours from Gardiner via North Entrance

8 hours from Cody via East Entrance

9.5 hours from Jackson Hole via South Entrance

6 hours from West Yellowstone via West Entrance

DAY 04

Take ‘The Most Beautiful Drive in America’

Newscaster Charles Kuralt called the Beartooth Pass Highway “The Most Beautiful Dive in America” for a reason. This winding road takes you to nearly 11,000 feet past backcountry lakes, wildlife like mountain goats, and some of the most pristine views you’re likely to find anywhere. This 68-mile byway opens for a few short months per year because of snow, but it’s well worth the drive.

Yellowstone Vacations
Hike Gardner Lake:

Expect to be a little short of breath on this picturesque ¾ mile trail starting above 10,500 feet.

Summit Beartooth Pass (Elevation 10,947 feet):

From Vista Point and nearby, get a lay of the land above timberline. Stop nearby to see some high mountain lakes from above, and quite possibly meet some curious mountain goats.

Yellowstone Vacations
Yellowstone Vacations
Stroll to Rock Creek Vista:

A short walk takes you to a stunning viewpoint overlooking nearby Red Lodge, Montana.

Meander through Red Lodge, Montana:

Visit the cozy mountain town of Red Lodge for a hefty dose of quirky Western fun on Main. Then take the same route back to Gardiner or loop around through Livingston to stop at Chico Hot Springs, see new country, and shave off a little drive time.

Yellowstone Vacations

Total round-trip drive time:

6 to 6.5 hours from Gardiner via North Entrance

4 hours from Cody via East Entrance (only traveling over Beartooth Pass one-way)

11.5 hours from Jackson Hole via South Entrance

8 hours from West Yellowstone via West Entrance

DAY 05

See the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and spectacular waterfalls

End your North Entrance Yellowstone trip with a bang by saving some of the most spectacular scenery and massive churning waterfalls for last.

Yellowstone Vacations
Watch Tower Fall tumble 132 feet:

The unique geography at Tower Fall makes this waterfall a must-see destination. And the short walk down to the Yellowstone River offers a picturesque view as well.

See Upper and Lower Falls, Artist Point, and more:

Canyon Village is the landing zone for some of the largest, most awe-inspiring waterfalls in Yellowstone. Hike to the top of the thundering Lower Falls, visit Artist Point for awe-inspiring views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, or plan more time for the best fishing you may ever experience deep in Yellowstone Canyon.

Yellowstone Vacations
Yellowstone Vacations
Hayden Valley, Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb Geyser Basin, Etc.:

Stop for the greenery and stay for the wildlife in pristine Hayden Valley. See the historic Lake Hotel or take a scenic boat ride on Yellowstone Lake. And take a leg-resting stop at West Thumb Geyser Basin for wonderful thermal features along the lake’s shore.

Total round-trip drive time:

4.5 hours from Gardiner via North Entrance

6.25 hours from Cody via East Entrance (only traveling over Beartooth Pass one-way)

6.5 hours from Jackson Hole via South Entrance

4.25 hours from West Yellowstone via West Entrance

Yellowstone
Resources

Road Conditions and Closures

Don’t waste time driving where the roads are closed

Check the resources below to ensure the roads you wish to travel are open

See a live map of Yellowstone road closures
Check weather and conditions with Yellowstone webcams
See if Beartooth Pass Highway is drivable or snowed in

Opening Times

When can I drive through Yellowstone? Snowmobile?

During the summer, all the parks road open, but in the winter, the North Entrance may be your best bet to get a fix of Yellowstone as Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City through Lamar Valley remains open all year.

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Feel at home with an upscale home away from home minutes from the North Entrance of Yellowstone — the only park entrance open year-round.

Enjoy a full kitchen, real living space so you can spread out and get comfortable, and unbeatable service at a small, customer-oriented operation.