Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is conveniently located between both Yellowstone and Grand Teton, allowing outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to explore two of the nation’s most stunning national parks in one trip. The larger of the two nearby national parks, Yellowstone National Park — the first national park in the United States — offers an impressive 3,500 square miles of forests, grasslands and mountains to explore.
The majority of Yellowstone’s roads are open to visitors from April through September, with only a few roads remaining open during the winter months.
Top Things to See in Yellowstone National Park
Mountains, rivers, wildlife and plenty of geothermal activity — here are a few of our top picks for things to see while exploring Yellowstone National Park. Most of these attractions are accessible via the main, 140-mile Grand Loop Road, which offers scenic views for all those traveling by car or by bicycle.
1. Old Faithful
Known for its spectacular eruptions, which send anywhere from 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water to heights of 106 to 185 feet about every 90 minutes, Old Faithful was the first geyser in Yellowstone National Park to receive a name, from the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition in 1870. Since then, this natural wonder has become one of the most iconic landmarks in National Park history and is now synonymous with Yellowstone, establishing it as a “must-visit” during any expedition in the park.
Beyond witnessing an eruption there are other rewarding attractions in the Old Faithful recreation area including the historic Old Faithful Inn, a log hotel built in the early 1900s. Look for the winding staircases on the third floor of the inn that lead to the Crow’s Nest, which is a sort of treehouse built on the roof of the building. The Crow’s Nest is no longer accessible to the public, but the architecture is still a marvel to see. For more information about visiting Old Faithful and the nearby Upper and Lower Geyser Basins, check out the National Park Service’s website.
2. Grand Prismatic Spring
Just a few miles from Old Faithful, in the Midway Geyser Basin, the Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest and one of the most photographed hot springs in the park due to its magnificent rainbow colors. For the best views, head to the Fairy Falls Trailhead for an 0.6-mile overlook hike that offers an incredible view from above.
3. Norris Geyser Basin
While Old Faithful is no doubt Yellowstone’s most well-known geyser, approximately 60 miles north is the park’s oldest and hottest geothermal spot, dating back some 115,000 years and reaching temperatures in excess of 450 degrees Fahrenheit. It is here where visitors can also encounter the tallest geyser in Yellowstone National Park, the Steamboat Geyser, which launches piping hot water upwards of 300 feet into the air. Though the geysers rarely erupt, the basin itself presents visitors with an ethereal, alien-like terrain unlike anything else in the park. While in the area, don’t miss the two nearby museums, the Norris Geyser Basin Museum and the Museum of the National Park Ranger.
4. Hayden Valley & Lamar Valley
Flanking Mount Washburn just north of Yellowstone Lake, two distinct scenic valleys offer beautiful views and plenty of opportunity for wildlife sightings. We recommend driving and stopping in each of these locations. Hayden Valley is one of the best places to watch bison, and Lamar Valley is a top spot for watching wolves. You may also see black bears, grizzly bears, elk, bald eagles and more in these beautiful valleys. For more information about safely viewing park wildlife, read this helpful guide.
5. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
This 20-mile canyon runs from Upper Falls to Tower Falls and offers plenty of scenic views and hiking opportunities. Artists Point is a must-see that offers a gorgeous view of the Lower Yellowstone River Falls. We recommend exploring the overlooks and trails on both sides of the Grand Canyon. Keep your eyes open for Osprey, which tend to migrate through the area in spring and nest on the pinnacles and rocky outcroppings. Learn more about all the most dazzling waterfalls throughout the Jackson Hole area.
6. Mount Washburn
Adventurous explorers looking for a challenging, yet visually rewarding hike in Yellowstone should scale Mount Washburn. Two formidable trails — one 5 miles and another just over 6 miles — with steep elevation gains will lead you to a summit over 10,000 feet above sea level. Once at the peak, enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, with visibility so impressive that hikers have reported being able to view the Grand Tetons of Grand Teton National Park — approximately 80 miles away — off in the distance. It is worth noting that the National Park Service has recommended against those with heart or respiratory problems attempting the climb.
7. Trout Lake Trail
The Trout Lake Trail is located 30 miles northeast of Mount Washburn and, with level terrain, well-kept paths and an achievable loop just over a mile long, is a perfect option for families traveling with young adventurers looking for an easy hike. The trail’s namesake body of water presents some of Yellowstone’s most gorgeous vistas, often reflecting the surrounding landscape rich in Douglas firs in its calm, crystalline waters.
8. Mammoth Hot Springs
Close to the north entrance to the park, the Mammoth Hot Springs formed within limestone, which resulted in strange-looking rock formations and beautiful colors. It takes about one hour to circle around the hot springs on the boardwalk trails. Expect amazing views and tons of photo opportunities.
9. Yellowstone Lake
Sitting at more than 7,000 feet above sea level and offering 141 miles of shoreline and a surface area of 132 square miles, this is one of the largest high elevation lakes in North America. While the water is too cold for swimming, boat tours, kayaking, and canoeing are popular activities for exploring the water. We recommend a guided kayaking tour with an experienced guide who will teach you kayaking techniques and show you up-close views of geysers from the water.
10. Biscuit Basin & the Mystic Falls Trail
One of Yellowstone’s most popular trails due to its rather short length (only 2.4 miles round trip) and close proximity to Old Faithful, the Mystic Falls Trail originates at Biscuit Basin — a geothermal zone with hot springs such as Sapphire Pool and a tiny, yet quite active Jewel Geyser that erupts every 10 minutes. The conifer-lined trail weaves alongside a creek, eventually reaching the beautiful Mystic Falls, carrying the Little Firehole River down 70 feet from the Madison Plateau. Continue your hike beyond the falls to reach an overlook and enjoy sweeping views of the Upper Geyser Basin.
Start planing your Yellowstone Trip today!
Let Jackson Hole, WY, serve as the base camp for your next Yellowstone adventure, with a nearby airport, endless outdoor activities, and ample lodging and dining opportunities found around most beautiful and well-preserved historic western towns in the nation. For more information on visiting Yellowstone National Park, click here, and for help deciding between Grand Teton or Yellowstone for your next outdoor adventure, click here.
Ready to book your Jackson Hole vacation or have some additional questions? Contact one of our local travel experts at (888) 838-6606.