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Davelyn

Yellowstone In 24 Hours | What To See & Do

yellowstone travel guide
So you want to visit Yellowstone, but only have 24 hours to cover the 3,468 mile wilderness? No problem! I spent a week there recently and explored from dawn till dusk, so I know exactly where you should go!

There are five entrances to Yellowstone. Since I do not know by which entrance you will be entering or leaving the park, I am just going to tell you all of the best places to visit near each entrance. Sound good? Great! Lets get started!

 What To See & Do:

mammoth hot springs IMG_5543-for-the-web

North & North East Entrances:

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs is a large complex of hot springs that lays atop a hill of travertine, an absolute must-see when visiting Yellowstone. This attraction is so fascinating and unique – the terraces are multi-colored, smell of sulfur, and are forever changing. What you see one year will most likely vary from what you see the next because springs are constantly popping up in new places, drying up in others, and even resuming activity in old spots that have been lifeless for years. These changes in thermal activity also cause a change in the color of the land. Spots that are full of activity will typically become bright white, orange, and/or blue.

The majority of tourists just view Mammoth Hot Springs from the front access since that is where the majority of the parking is, and it is the parking closest to the hotel and restaurant. You can actually drive to the top, though, and view more hot springs from up there. For the last couple years, the top right (accessed on the wooden walkway) has been the most active – it literally looks like you are walking on the moon. Thus, when you visit, take a look up there as well. Hopefully, it will be just as active when you go!

Mammoth Hot Springs has been a popular attraction since the 1800s and is definitely worth a visit. So make sure you check it out!

Lamar Valley

You cannot visit Yellowstone without exploring the Lamar Valley. This land is home to so much wildlife and is one of the best places to see bear and wolves which you can see pictures of in my post The Ultimate Guide To Spotting Wildlife In Yellowstone. It is also a great place to see herds of bison, elk, and pronghorn. These animals can been seen everywhere in the park, but the largest amounts of them will usually be spotted grazing in the valleys, so Lamar Valley is a great place to photograph them running, grazing, and nursing their young, etc.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is an awe-inspiring sight. It is 20 miles long, up to 4,000 feet wide, and is as deep as 1,200 feet in certain places. Mineral stains of red, white, pink, and yellow decorate the walls, a  beautiful result from the effect the hot springs and steam vents in the canyon walls have had on them over the years. From different lookouts, you can watch Upper Falls tumbling into the canyon at 109 feet and Lower Falls plunging into it at a height of 308 feet. This landmark is sure to impress!

old faithful and beyond castle geyserWest Entrance:

The Upper Geyser Basin

If you are interested in seeing lots of different kinds of thermal activity, then the Upper Geyser Basin is the place to visit. This piece of land (approximately 2 square miles) is filled with extraordinary geysers, springs, and pools, and is home to Old Faithful, the most celebrated and famous geyser in the world. Old Faithful shoots water up to heights of over 100 feet and is very impressive; my personal favorite geysers to look at, however, are actually Beehive Geyser and Castle Geyser (featured above).

If you are visiting on a nice day, then I would definitely mark the Upper Geyser Basin attractions off your list. However, if you only have 24 hours and it is very windy outside, I would actually skip this destination. When it is windy, the Geysers do not shoot very high, but instead blow like mist to the side. Thus, if this is going to be the case, I would spend more time at less crowded sites.

(Side note: Do not eat at the Old Faithful Inn. Their food is horrible and extremely over-priced. Trust me. Disney World, which can be pricey gives you more for your money, so that says a lot).

Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin is the oldest and hottest of Yellowstone’s thermal areas. It is home to many different hot springs, thermal pools, and geysers, and I actually prefer it to the Upper Geyser Basin. Its land, in my opinion, has a prettier landscape, and there is a lot less traffic in comparison.

That said, if you have to choose between the two and have your heart set on seeing Old Faithful, then definitely go to the Upper Geyser Basin. It is a pretty place, and you’ll love it. If you have to choose between the two, do not care about Old Faithful in particular, and just want to see cool geysers, though, I would visit Norris. This place is amazing and a lot less crowded as previously mentioned!

lewis-lakeblack poolSouth Entrance:

Lewis River, Lake, & Falls

The Lewis River, Lewis Lake, and Lewis Falls are all spectacular sights which I absolutely insist you stop to enjoy. There is such an abundance of vibrant blues and greens to be seen here that you really could not spend too much time at this place. This is also a great place to look for Moose (read more here).

The road to and from the South Entrance cuts across the Lewis River, so you can get straight to the heart of this beautiful landscape, enjoying the waterfall and lake on one side and the windy stretch of river on the other. This was one of my favorite places, so make sure you visit!

West Thumb Geyser Basin 

If you only have time to choose one thermal pool area to look at, then I would insist that you visit West Thumb for three reasons. One, it has the Black Pool (featured above) which is my absolute favorite thermal pool of the entire park – it is large, extremely vibrant, and has an amazing rim of white and black that really makes it stand out. Two, West Thumb Geyser Basin has an amazing backdrop as it is located at the edge of Yellowstone lake. Three, animals love to walk around the Black Pool area. When I visited, baby elk were playing adjacent to it and swallows flew in and out of their nest at the side of the walk-way (see a picture of them here). Hence, I really think you should mark this spot on your map!

West-ThumbEast Entrance:

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake is absolutely beautiful and should be on your itinerary no matter which entrance you are staying near. It is closest to the East entrance, but it is easily accessible from the South Entrance as well. This 136 square mile body of water is home to many animals, is a fun place to get your feet wet (in certain spots), and is one of the best places to watch the sun rise and set.

A great spot to visit the lake, whether you are visiting the geysers or not, is actually at West Thumb. The West Thumb lake point (featured above) is just up the road from the West Thumb Geyser Basin and is a fantastic place to look for grizzlies. I did not, unfortunately, spot one there. However, there have been many sightings of them sitting on the grassy area, pictured in my photo, in the early morning or fishing in the stream. And even if you don’t see a grizzly, just look at that view! Such a pretty spot to enjoy the lake.

Hayden Valley

Just like the Lamar Valley, Hayden Valley is home to a large portion of Yellowstone’s wildlife. I saw so many elk and bison here, and it was in this part of the park that I watched a grizzly bear feasting on a kill. No visit to Yellowstone is complete without a drive through this breathtaking landscape!

driving in yellowstone

Have you ever been to Yellowstone? If so, what was your favorite spot? Also, what is your favorite place that you have ever vacationed? Let me know in the comments!

xo, mikéla

Yellowstone In 24 Hours | What To See & Do

yellowstone travel guide
So you want to visit Yellowstone, but only have 24 hours to cover the 3,468 mile wilderness? No problem! I spent a week there recently and explored from dawn till dusk, so I know exactly where you should go!

There are five entrances to Yellowstone. Since I do not know by which entrance you will be entering or leaving the park, I am just going to tell you all of the best places to visit near each entrance. Sound good? Great! Lets get started!

 What To See & Do:

mammoth hot springs IMG_5543-for-the-web

North & North East Entrances:

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs is a large complex of hot springs that lays atop a hill of travertine, an absolute must-see when visiting Yellowstone. This attraction is so fascinating and unique – the terraces are multi-colored, smell of sulfur, and are forever changing. What you see one year will most likely vary from what you see the next because springs are constantly popping up in new places, drying up in others, and even resuming activity in old spots that have been lifeless for years. These changes in thermal activity also cause a change in the color of the land. Spots that are full of activity will typically become bright white, orange, and/or blue.

The majority of tourists just view Mammoth Hot Springs from the front access since that is where the majority of the parking is, and it is the parking closest to the hotel and restaurant. You can actually drive to the top, though, and view more hot springs from up there. For the last couple years, the top right (accessed on the wooden walkway) has been the most active – it literally looks like you are walking on the moon. Thus, when you visit, take a look up there as well. Hopefully, it will be just as active when you go!

Mammoth Hot Springs has been a popular attraction since the 1800s and is definitely worth a visit. So make sure you check it out!

Lamar Valley

You cannot visit Yellowstone without exploring the Lamar Valley. This land is home to so much wildlife and is one of the best places to see bear and wolves which you can see pictures of in my post The Ultimate Guide To Spotting Wildlife In Yellowstone. It is also a great place to see herds of bison, elk, and pronghorn. These animals can been seen everywhere in the park, but the largest amounts of them will usually be spotted grazing in the valleys, so Lamar Valley is a great place to photograph them running, grazing, and nursing their young, etc.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is an awe-inspiring sight. It is 20 miles long, up to 4,000 feet wide, and is as deep as 1,200 feet in certain places. Mineral stains of red, white, pink, and yellow decorate the walls, a  beautiful result from the effect the hot springs and steam vents in the canyon walls have had on them over the years. From different lookouts, you can watch Upper Falls tumbling into the canyon at 109 feet and Lower Falls plunging into it at a height of 308 feet. This landmark is sure to impress!

old faithful and beyond castle geyserWest Entrance:

The Upper Geyser Basin

If you are interested in seeing lots of different kinds of thermal activity, then the Upper Geyser Basin is the place to visit. This piece of land (approximately 2 square miles) is filled with extraordinary geysers, springs, and pools, and is home to Old Faithful, the most celebrated and famous geyser in the world. Old Faithful shoots water up to heights of over 100 feet and is very impressive; my personal favorite geysers to look at, however, are actually Beehive Geyser and Castle Geyser (featured above).

If you are visiting on a nice day, then I would definitely mark the Upper Geyser Basin attractions off your list. However, if you only have 24 hours and it is very windy outside, I would actually skip this destination. When it is windy, the Geysers do not shoot very high, but instead blow like mist to the side. Thus, if this is going to be the case, I would spend more time at less crowded sites.

(Side note: Do not eat at the Old Faithful Inn. Their food is horrible and extremely over-priced. Trust me. Disney World, which can be pricey gives you more for your money, so that says a lot).

Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin is the oldest and hottest of Yellowstone’s thermal areas. It is home to many different hot springs, thermal pools, and geysers, and I actually prefer it to the Upper Geyser Basin. Its land, in my opinion, has a prettier landscape, and there is a lot less traffic in comparison.

That said, if you have to choose between the two and have your heart set on seeing Old Faithful, then definitely go to the Upper Geyser Basin. It is a pretty place, and you’ll love it. If you have to choose between the two, do not care about Old Faithful in particular, and just want to see cool geysers, though, I would visit Norris. This place is amazing and a lot less crowded as previously mentioned!

lewis-lakeblack poolSouth Entrance:

Lewis River, Lake, & Falls

The Lewis River, Lewis Lake, and Lewis Falls are all spectacular sights which I absolutely insist you stop to enjoy. There is such an abundance of vibrant blues and greens to be seen here that you really could not spend too much time at this place. This is also a great place to look for Moose (read more here).

The road to and from the South Entrance cuts across the Lewis River, so you can get straight to the heart of this beautiful landscape, enjoying the waterfall and lake on one side and the windy stretch of river on the other. This was one of my favorite places, so make sure you visit!

West Thumb Geyser Basin 

If you only have time to choose one thermal pool area to look at, then I would insist that you visit West Thumb for three reasons. One, it has the Black Pool (featured above) which is my absolute favorite thermal pool of the entire park – it is large, extremely vibrant, and has an amazing rim of white and black that really makes it stand out. Two, West Thumb Geyser Basin has an amazing backdrop as it is located at the edge of Yellowstone lake. Three, animals love to walk around the Black Pool area. When I visited, baby elk were playing adjacent to it and swallows flew in and out of their nest at the side of the walk-way (see a picture of them here). Hence, I really think you should mark this spot on your map!

West-ThumbEast Entrance:

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake is absolutely beautiful and should be on your itinerary no matter which entrance you are staying near. It is closest to the East entrance, but it is easily accessible from the South Entrance as well. This 136 square mile body of water is home to many animals, is a fun place to get your feet wet (in certain spots), and is one of the best places to watch the sun rise and set.

A great spot to visit the lake, whether you are visiting the geysers or not, is actually at West Thumb. The West Thumb lake point (featured above) is just up the road from the West Thumb Geyser Basin and is a fantastic place to look for grizzlies. I did not, unfortunately, spot one there. However, there have been many sightings of them sitting on the grassy area, pictured in my photo, in the early morning or fishing in the stream. And even if you don’t see a grizzly, just look at that view! Such a pretty spot to enjoy the lake.

Hayden Valley

Just like the Lamar Valley, Hayden Valley is home to a large portion of Yellowstone’s wildlife. I saw so many elk and bison here, and it was in this part of the park that I watched a grizzly bear feasting on a kill. No visit to Yellowstone is complete without a drive through this breathtaking landscape!

driving in yellowstone

Have you ever been to Yellowstone? If so, what was your favorite spot? Also, what is your favorite place that you have ever vacationed? Let me know in the comments!

xo, mikéla

  1. Renee

    July 19th, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Wow, I so need to go there!! Its just beautiful!

    Renee | Life After Lux

  2. Davelyn

    July 22nd, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Isn’t it?! I just love yellowstone!

  3. Akino

    July 19th, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Everything about this makes me want to get up and visit ASAP. Gorgeous photography and post <3

    Akino | akinokiki.blogspot.ca

  4. Davelyn

    July 22nd, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Thank you so much!

  5. Michelle Joseph

    July 20th, 2016 at 5:55 am

    Great post and pictures.

    Mich x
    michjosephblog.wordpress.com

  6. Davelyn

    July 22nd, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Thanks dear! xox

  7. Alexandra Consolver

    July 20th, 2016 at 6:14 am

    Oooh great guide! Saving this for later! 🙂 XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  8. Davelyn

    July 22nd, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks Alexandra!

  9. Marette Flora (@maretteflora)

    July 20th, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    I’m going to pin this! I want to go to Yellowstone this year!

    Floradise: http://www.maretteflora.com

  10. Davelyn

    July 22nd, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks! I hope you get to! 🙂

  11. Arianne

    July 20th, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Your photos really captured the beauty of Yellowstone. Well done! I have never been there. At one time, I wanted to go, but now that I know more about it, I’m worried about the animals in there?

    http://ariannecruz07.blogspot.com

  12. Davelyn

    July 22nd, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Oh don’t worry! So long as you listen to the signs, you’ll have no problems. The only people who get hurt are the ones who disobey the warnings and try to get close to the animals for photos. 🙂

  13. Laura Mitbrodt

    July 20th, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    These photos are amazing, I went there when I was a kid
    xo
    http://www.laurajaneatelier.com

  14. Davelyn

    July 22nd, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Thank you!

  15. Aleksandra

    July 20th, 2016 at 11:33 pm

    I am seriously in love, can I just teleport there!

  16. Davelyn

    July 22nd, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Oh I wish 😉

  17. Carrie Webb

    July 21st, 2016 at 12:24 am

    Amazing photos!

  18. Davelyn

    July 28th, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Thank you!

  19. Cara

    July 21st, 2016 at 1:50 am

    AH Yellowstone looks beautiful, I hope I get to visit one day! x
    http://www.britishmermaid.com

  20. Davelyn

    July 22nd, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    I hope so too! xx

  21. Rach

    July 21st, 2016 at 3:51 am

    I’ve never been to Yellowstone, so this travel guide is helpful! There’s a lot to see. I probably will need more than 24 hours haha!

    http://www.rdsobsessions.com

  22. Davelyn

    July 22nd, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Oh for sure! I definitely would recommend taking at least a couple days; it is just too pretty not to!

  23. Paula (@Paulaa13t)

    July 25th, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Definitely saving this post for the future reference. This is so helpful!

    Paula
    Thirteen Thoughts

  24. Davelyn

    July 28th, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Oh I’m so glad 🙂

  25. Alina Bostan

    July 25th, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    Wow another fantastic travel post, your photos are seriously beautiful and these views in real life must be breath taking. Ireland and UK seem brining compared to the places you visit x

    Beauty with charm

  26. Davelyn

    July 28th, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Thanks so much Alina! xox

  27. Shannon Jenkins

    July 28th, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Yellowstone is such a dream! I want to go back and take my husband so bad! So gorgeous!

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeat Soles

  28. Davelyn

    July 29th, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Hope you get to soon!

  29. Lacey

    July 29th, 2016 at 7:46 am

    I have never been, but I’m dying to visit!! I’ll have to bookmark this page!

    xo Lacey
    http://www.myboringcloset.com

  30. Davelyn

    July 29th, 2016 at 9:58 am

    You’ll love it! xx

  31. Amy Arnold

    July 29th, 2016 at 10:27 am

    I’ve always wanted to go to Yellowstone! Such gorgeous photos and thanks for sharing the info.

    Amy Ann
    Straight A Style

  32. Davelyn

    July 29th, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Thank you!

  33. carmitive

    July 29th, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Aaw I was in the Yellowstone National Park two years ago and I still can’t forget about these amazing impressions! The landscape is just unique and so amazing! Thank you so much for sharing these pictures 🙂
    xx, Carmen – http://www.carmitive.com

  34. Davelyn

    July 29th, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    It really is! Definitely a bucket list attraction 🙂

  35. kelseybang

    July 29th, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    beautiful photography! You took awesome shots and the angles are fantastic!

    kelseybang.com

  36. Davelyn

    July 29th, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks so much!

  37. The Style Contour

    July 29th, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Wow, such a wonderful post, so helpful and the photography is just amazing! It looks like I’d want to head straight to the south entrance, look at that water! Thanks so much for sharing and I hope you have a great weekend ahead!

    XO,

    Jalisa
    http://www.thestylecontour.com

  38. Davelyn

    July 29th, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Thank you Jalisa! The south entrance might be my favorite part too 🙂 Hope you have a great weekend as well! xo

  39. Josune

    July 29th, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Hi! I haven’t been there (yet!) but just by scrolling down your photos I can see how unique this place is, very complete and well explained guide btw, the pictures are beyond beautiful as well 🙂

    Have a great weekend!
    ♥ Josune @ Your Beauty Script

    http://yourbeautyscript.com

  40. Davelyn

    July 30th, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Thank you Josune! ♥︎ ♥︎

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