There are endless ways to explore Yellowstone National Park‘s 2 million acres. Here are seven suggestions to help you start planning your own adventure in this iconic and stunning landscape.
1. Drive around the Grand Loop
While the roadless areas of Yellowstone are incredibly vast, nearly all of the park’s most famous natural wonders are close to the path of the Grand Loop, the 140-mile, figure-eight-shaped main drag. Making lodging or camping plans ahead of time and planning to spend at least a few days (a week or longer would be ideal) traveling the route will allow you plenty of time to explore Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Falls, Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and other places along the way.
2. Pick a trail for a day hike
Venturing away from the roads for a hike into the serenity of park — whether it’s one mile or 10 — is a great way to experience Yellowstone’s peaceful grandeur. The National Park Service has great maps, descriptions and difficulty-level and safety tips for day hikes organized by location here.
3. Explore the backcountry on an overnight excursion
There are few areas of wilderness as vast and as beautiful as Yellowstone, and a backcountry adventure here promises to be unforgettable. Remember that camping in the backcountry requires a permit, and campsites can be reserved in advance. Find a backcountry trip planner here.
4. Go on a guided horseback ride
Equestrians and families often choose to see the park on horseback (it’s a great option for those who can’t hike far). One- and two-hour guided rides are offered at Mammoth, Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon. At Roosevelt Corral, visitors can take a horseback or wagon ride to a cookout site for a steak dinner.
5. Take a guided fishing trip
For more than a century, the prospect of world-class fishing — especially for prized native cutthroat trout — has attracted visitors to Yellowstone. While fly fishing in rivers is popular, you can also take a guided tour on a boat. Go here for more information about fishing in Yellowstone.
6. Climb aboard a historic yellow bus
2007 marked the return of Yellowstone’s historic yellow buses, originally used in the first half of the 20th century to take passengers on scenic drives throughout the park. Now, Xanterra Parks & Resorts offers full-day, partial-day and evening tours aboard the refurbished, retro buses.
7. Cruise around Yellowstone Lake
One of the largest high-altitude lakes in the country, Yellowstone Lake is surrounded by 110 miles of picturesque shoreline. Get started on your boating adventure at Bay Bridge Marina, which rents rowboats and motorboats on a first-come, first-served basis. Guided scenic cruises also leave from there regularly in the summer. Find information about permits, boat rentals and park boating rules here.