A Locals Top 10 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone

I have visited Yellowstone National Park more times than I can count. I was born and raised in Island Park, Idaho and still live here now with my husband and our 2 year old little boy. We live about 20 minutes outside of the west entrance of the park and we enjoy exploring in the park and the surrounding areas. That’s why I’m here to help you by sharing a few things that I have learned over the years visiting Yellowstone.

1. Be Aware of Animals & Keep a Safe Distance

Many people come to Yellowstone thinking that because it is a “park” that the animals are tame and friendly. That could not be further from the truth. The animals in the park are in fact very wild and many can be very temperamental. They are not pets and if you make them mad you will find out the hard way that they are not the nicest creatures. I have seen way too many videos of people in the park either getting charged by bears or getting tossed in the air by buffalo and suffering severe injuries. Another thing to note is even when viewing animals make sure to keep a safe distance. When you enter Yellowstone you will be handed a safe distance guide on one of the papers that they give to you so you know how far away to stay from animals.

2. Bring Bear Spray

Remember that you are now in Bear Country and it is better to be prepared than not. Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas are very heavily populated with grizzly bears and they are not afraid to kill. They are very aggressive and protective bears. I would suggest to just always have your bear spray on you. Many of these bears are very comfortable with people so that means that it is very likely that they will be walking on the same hiking trail as you. I don’t tell you these things to scare you but to educate you on the reality of this area. So be sure to bring bear spray and if you have a large group have a couple people bring bear spray. Just remember that bear spray does not get sprayed on you to deter the bears. You have to deploy the spray and try to spray it directly into the bears eyes if the bear is charging you. Some cases bears may not try to attack or charge you so it definitely depends on the situation. Just please use your best judgement and common sense. Watch this video below so that you know how to use your bear spray if it comes down to it.

3. Dress in Layers

The weather in Yellowstone and the surrounding areas can change in an instant so just make sure that you bring different options of clothing. I always bring a sweater with me anywhere I go as the weather here does tend to be on the cooler side. Many times days in the summer start out really warm and sunny and by the early evening to late afternoon we will have lots of rain and thunderstorms. So if you are visiting in the summer months like June-August bring umbrellas, ponchos, and extra shoes so if the forecast is looking a little rainy you can still get around without getting completely wet. If you are visiting in the spring or fall like April, May, September, October, November you will want to bring warm clothes like hats, gloves, coat, thick socks, and boots. There is a higher chance of the weather being pretty cold in those months and there’s also a pretty good chance it might snow so just be prepared with warm clothes so you can more fully enjoy your time.

Photo of girl dressed in warm clothing

4. Bring Binoculars

Some of the animals you may see are far off in the distance and can only be seen well with a pair binoculars or a scope. If you are visiting Yellowstone with a large family I would suggest having a few pairs of binoculars so that when you do see an animal a couple people can be looking at it at the same time. It will be more enjoyable that way so there’s not as much fighting over the binoculars. It might increase your chances of finding an animal to0 because multiple people can be looking as you’re driving. Personally I think many people drive by a lot of animals because they are just a little to0 far to see with the naked eye.

Photo of an elk in a river in Yellowstone National Park

5. Make an Itinerary

Before you go into the park try to make a tentative plan for what places you would like to see that day so that when you get into the park you know where you are trying to go. It can be a little frustrating if you go into the park without some sort of plan. I have done it many times and trying to make a decision in a split second of where to turn always puts me in a bad mood. So that being said it always works out a bit better if you have a few places that you have in mind when you go into the park. For example you can have a plan to drive the whole lower loop in one day and make stops at Norris Geyser Basin, Canyon Village, West Thumb Geyser, and Old Faithful. This would be a very full day of exploring just FYI so that is just an example.

Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

6. Bring Water & Snacks

It is very important for me to bring plenty of water and snacks when we go into Yellowstone. It is much more convenient for me to not have to worry about where to find water and my favorite snacks when going into the park. There are a lot of long roads where there isn’t much where you can stop and buy things. I also would suggest possibly bringing in some lunch items depending on where you plan on going that day. Sometimes it is much more convenient to have lunch with you so you don’t  have to worry about finding somewhere to eat that is far away from where you are exploring.

7.  Get into the Park Early to Avoid Some of the Crowds

Yellowstone can become very busy and crowded in the summer months so getting there early in the morning can help you get a head start. I would suggest being there before 7:00 A.M. to avoid waiting in line to get into the park. In the summer months June-August the park is very busy so getting a head start could help you to see a few more things before having to wait in long lines etc. If you prefer going to the park with a lesser amount of people I would suggest visiting in April, May, September, or October. These are my favorite months to go into park personally, but the summer months are great because the weather is more likely to better.

8. Download the Yellowstone National Park App

I just barely learned about the Yellowstone National Park App and it sounds like such a helpful thing to have! You can view estimated geyser eruption predictions, maps, activities, self guided tours, and news/events. You can even download things so that when you don’t have service in the park you can still view anything that you need to. I would highly recommend downloading content as the service in the park is very spotty. I usually barely even have one bar throughout most of the park. Seriously though I cannot wait to use the features on this app!

9. Read and Pay Attention to Signs Throughout the Park

There are many signs around Yellowstone warning of the dangers that you may encounter. Many of those signs include not touching the hot pots and not leaving the designated walking areas. Those signs are there for your own good and the hot pots are in fact very hot that some will literally melt skin off of your body. It is definitely something that can be avoided if the rules are followed.

10. Stay Outside of the Park

The accommodations inside the park are very cool but can get pretty spendy and you usually have to book a year in advance to secure your place to stay. I am obviously biased in saying that you should stay in an airbnb in Island Park for your Yellowstone vacation, but I think it is a great option. Depending on the place that you book you can be anywhere from about 15-60 minutes outside the west entrance if you stay in Island Park. If you stay in Island Park the drive is beautiful from West Yellowstone through Island Park plus you get a bit of a different experience and get to see and experience more during your trip. Plus there are so many Airbnb options to choose from in Island Park.

I hope this list helped you be a little bit more prepared to visit Yellowstone. It may take a lot of planning to have a great trip to Yellowstone National Park, but it is so worth it! It is very unique and pretty and you will already be trying to plan your next trip before you even leave.

Related Articles

Sadie Johnson

yellowstone vacation source

Hi I’m Sadie! I am married to Jake Johnson and we have one little boy who loves being outside and we live in Island Park, Idaho. I am the one who runs this blog and I’m here to help give as much information as I possibly can to help you plan your Yellowstone Vacation. As we explore our town and take our son on adventures in the area we will share as much information that we learn as possible!

Sadie Johnson