There is way to much to see and you will never have enough time to see it all. Use our guide as an outline towards planning.
The best way to plan a trip to the Yellowstone National Park area is as follows:
General Plan- Decide what you and any fellow travelers consider to be priorities on your journey. We have provided several top ten lists and sample itineraries to help in making your decisions.
Reservations- Once you have decided the sites you want to see and the types of activities you want to participate in, and where those are, begin booking your reservations. Distances can be far in the park, it can easily take 2 plus hours to drive 60 miles. We recommend planning for a maximum of 30 miles per hour in the park and major tourist areas (like the beartooth highway,) plus time to stop and see sites whether big or small. Traffic is frequently heavy and there are many great sites to see as you drive these area.
When booking your reservations for the park, begin early. Do NOT plan on coming to the area in the summer without hotel reservations, if you want to avoid paying top dollar and the frustration of driving from one full accommodation to another and never getting the best rooms. If you want to stay in one of the hotels or other accommodations in the park, book very early. Major hotels like the historic Inn at Old Faithful can fill up 6 months in advance. We recommend finding a few areas to stay in, and use as bases for day trips, etc. while on your journey, as opposed to moving each night. Our sample itineraries reflect that.
Specific Plans- Once you have your reservations, you can now begin making specific plans for each day of your trip. Most items can be planned without advanced reservations, but some items, especially where the park service limits daily volume will need advance bookings. The same thing should be said about reservations for food. The historic restaurants at Lake Hotel and the Inn at Old Faithful can be nearly impossible to get into without an advance reservation. Even in the towns surrounding the park, we recommend reservations for food and activities, especially the ones you really want to take part in and especially on weekends and holidays.
One last note- While the gateway cities around Yellowstone are extremely busy during the summer season, there is also a unique opportunity to participate in one of there many festivals. These towns host fabulous music, art, food, sports, automobile, outdoor, and many other types of festivals. For example, Red Lodge Mt. has an incredible festival and Wyoming has a beautiful art festival. Check out the calendars for these towns, as these are an amazing opportunity. Also, be aware that during these festivals these towns can be booked solid from accommodations to their quality restaurants, plan accordingly.