From Jackson Hole to Yellowstone – the Southern Gateway for the perfect Yellowstone itinerary

Heading northbound on Wyoming’s Highway 191 we set ourselves up for a different kind of American dream. In among a series of Great American National Parks, a world away from grey suits and city smog, lies the crown jewel of the north-western states; Yellowstone National Park. We enter from the south, snow-topped Mount Sheridan ahead safeguarding the glorious Yellowstone Lake beyond. Trekking, wildlife watching and geyser hunting are all on the itinerary, before bedding down in Jackson Hole at a rustic lodge or one of the park’s popular camping spots. Day two will take us farther into Yellowstone, with opportunities for horseback riding, white-water rafting, fly fishing and more. Wondering what to see in Yellowstone and how to get there? Allow Mr Hudson to fill you in.

Tailor Made Journey

Tailor-Made US National Parks: Utah to Arizona

Experience the iconic landscapes of the American West, including Arches National Park, Sedona and Moab, taking in awe-inspiring views of the Grand Canyon, rafting the rock-carved path of the Colorado River and exploring majestic Monument Valley with a private Navajo guide, all while relaxing each evening amid superb natural beauty.

Yellowstone National Park | Photo: Austin Farrington

Jackson Hole to Yellowstone – Travel tips

We bring you a condensed rundown of the most essential things to think about when planning your Yellowstone National Park itinerary, but, if you’d like all the juice on eating, sleeping, directions and things to see and do in Yellowstone, visit the folks at the park’s official website.

Planning a trip to Yellowstone

World-famous for good reason, Yellowstone is a site that rewards the organized traveller. Yellowstone vacation packages sell out quickly so book your activities and accommodation well in advance – at least six months before, if possible, to ensure you have a range of lodging options closest to the park’s prettiest spots.

Choose a base camp

It’s up to you where you set up camp and if you’re driving then options abound. Consider Jackson, 60 miles from the Yellowstone south gate and a destination in its own right. One of the best-preserved historic western towns in the US, Jackson (AKA Jackson Hole) has a great many quaint lodges as well as countless opportunities to get up close with Wyoming’s abundant wildlife.

Photo: John Fornander

Yellowstone National Park | Photo: Tevin Trinh

How to get to Yellowstone

In addition to being the perfect location for a kip, Jackson Hole is also home to one of two airports that directly serve Yellowstone visitors. As beautiful as it is convenient, the small and local Jackson Hole Airport is backgrounded by the magnificent Grand Teton Mountains and boasts the title as the world’s only national park airport.

Make the most of Yellowstone’s wildlife

To catch sight of the park’s hairiest inhabitants, you’ll want to get over to the Northern Range (including Lamar Valley) where the greatest concentration of bighorn, bison, elk and wolves roam. You’ll also want to sync yourself with their schedule; these critters are most likely to be seen in action during the early morning and early evening. Join a guided wildlife tour at these times or channel your inner Attenborough and go it alone.

Don’t miss Jackson Hole!

You might think you know what Yellowstone is packing; it’s hiking and nature trails are all mapped out and the wildlife speaks for itself. But, with just a short drive to the region’s outer parks, other opportunities arise. Try white-water rafting down Snake River, fly-fishing, horseback riding and more in Jackson Hole, or brave the mountain trails of Grand Teton National Park for some even greater altitude. The Jackson Mountain Resort Tram is another lofty pursuit, elevating passengers up to 4,139 feet in twelve minutes to glimpse the region’s most spectacular views.

After all that fresh air, get world-class hospitality and dining at Jackson Hole’s selection of restaurants, bars or spas. The perfect reprieve after days of walking, Jackson can provide shopping boutiques, art galleries and regular live music events during summer months.

Jackson Hole | Photo: Aleesha Wood

Yellowstone Itinerary 3 days

Give Yellowstone just three days of your time and she’ll take you on a wilderness adventure to remember; through ancient pine forests, past breath-taking canyons and over crystalline rivers. While serene on the surface, the 3,500 square-mile site lies on an intense hotbed of geothermal activity, making Yellowstone home to the Earth’s most diverse collection of geysers, hot springs and bubbling mud pots.

Jackson Hole | Photo: Aubrey Rose Odom

Photo: Olia Nayda

Day 1

Our first day walking the Upper Geyser Basin has us witness this great concentration of thermal activity first hand. Completing the entire basin will take most of the morning, making a timely stop at ‘Old Faithful’ for an eruption before hiking onwards to the observation point. The two-mile trail at North Geyser Basin offers a more chilled (read: fewer people), but nonetheless impressive, experience, with its variety of geothermal sights including the world’s largest active geyser.

After breaking for lunch, those of us who’re not geyser-ed out continue north, stopping first at Biscuit Basin for a hike to Mystic Falls, then on to Grand Prismatic Spring; the largest hot spring in the US also remarkable for its vivid blue centre and yellow edging. This one gets busy so come early and don’t be afraid to climb upwards for a birds-eye-view. We unwind for the day with a lazy trip along Firehole Lake Scenic Drive, continuing on the Grand Loop Road to Gibbon Falls and the Norris Geyser Basin while the sun still shines.

For eruption schedules of some of the park’s bigger geysers, ask a ranger or check with a visitor’s centre before heading out. All this glorious nature can interfere with your cell reception, so try not to rely too much on it!

Yellowstone National Park | Photo: Nicolasintravel

Day 2

From hard rock to furry beasts, day two kits us out in camo to discover all the park’s many wildlife wonders. Hosting one of the largest conserved ecosystems in the states, Yellowstone is still home to all the same major mammals of two centuries ago, many of which roam freely around the park.

Set off bright and early (before sunrise if you want primetime animal action) to America’s version of the Serengeti; Lamar Valley. Drive slowly on the 30-mile road between Tower Junction and the northeast entrance; this is the area where thousands of bison, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, herds of antelope, wolves, grizzly and black bears call home, sharing with the occasional solitary moose. Some mammals are more sociable than others and in order to spot an elusive wolf or two, you should head stealthily up the road towards Slough Creek Campground.

Once you’ve honed your wildlife photography skills, consider driving to the park’s northernmost section on the Montana border to view the fascinating limestone formations at Mammoth Hot Springs or wade your lily whites in Boiling River Yellowstone. FYI, if you find these overcrowded, know that they are just two of fifty hot springs in the area!

Yellowstone National Park | Photo: David Mark

Mr. Hudson highlight image

Twenty miles long and around 150,000 years old, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was created through volcanic eruption and subsequent glacial activity over thousands of years

Day 3

Another early start on day three will reward you with some truly amazing views over the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Twenty miles long and around 150,000 years old, this canyon was created through volcanic eruption and subsequent glacial activity over thousands of years. Once a lake and now an epic passage for a set of thunderous waterfalls, this Grand Canyon is worth seeing at any angle.

Photo: Jakob Owens

Yellowstone National Park | Photo: Roman

For the most exclusive sight, however, aim to arrive at Artist Point by 9.30 AM. As spray from the falls above blows across the canyon, a seldom-seen rainbow will form before quickly disappearing again into the blue. Make a morning of your trip with a brisk hike toward Ribbon Lake, where more phenomenal views await. Upper Falls Point is a worthy stop for elevensies, with the added option to backtrack and take on the 328 steps down to the Lower Falls on the South Rim’s ‘Uncle Tom’s’ trail.

If the day is still young, move south by car through Hayden Valley – mind out for crossing wildlife – to Yellowstone Lake itself. To avoid more bipeds, veer off track with a detour to West Thumb Geyser Basin plus one last hike up the Lake Overlook Trail, for, you guessed it, more stunning views.

Photo: Frank Myrland

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Yellowstone National Park | Photo: David Mark

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