The Ultimate Grand Teton & Yellowstone Itinerary by Car

November 16, 2020

This road trip itinerary will take you around Yellowstone as well as Grand Teton. Explore what could very well be North America’s most picturesque National Parks. Explore both parks with our insightful Yellowstone itinerary by car.

Before You Go

What is the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park?

This National Park is open all year long, and the best time to go to Yellowstone largely depends on what you would like to see in the park.

If you visit the park during the Summer (June-August), expect the hottest weather and hordes of tourists. You can catch a glimpse of the Summer’s weather when visiting during the shoulder season (right before June and directly after August).

The weather is milder during Spring and Fall, and there are fewer tourists around the park. Most of the seasonal attractions close down around the end of October.

Yellowstone is magical during the Winter. Do expect, however, that you will have to alter your itinerary as some of the attractions and roads will be inaccessible. What’s more, only the North and Northeast entrances operate during the winter.

On the other hand, you can enjoy seasonal activities such as snowshoeing or snowmobiling. Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins, and the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel are the only two lodges open during winter.

What is the closest airport to Yellowstone National Park?

If you’re flying in from within the United States, arrive at the Jackson Hole Airport, located only around an hour away from Yellowstone. As this is a small airport, international visitors can try flying into Salt Lake City in Utah. The drive is around 5 hours one-way.

Road Trip Extension to Utah

If you’re a fan of Yellowstone and national park itineraries in general, consider extending your trip further into Utah. You can see more of the country’s best National Parks, such as Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches.

Click here for our itinerary.

Without further ado, let’s dive into our Grand Teton and Yellowstone itinerary by car!

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton national park seen from Snake River. Beautiful summer day, tall trees and deep blue river, teton is covered by clouds.
Photo by Klaus Stebani

Welcome to one of the most spectacular parts of the United States! Your Yellowstone road trip begins in Grand Teton. Spend at least a day here before continuing on to Yellowstone, and feel free to extend the itinerary to spend some more time in this park.

Getting to Grand Teton

For maximum convenience, Rentalmoose recommends picking up your rental car directly from Jackson Hole Airport as you arrive. Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) is the nearest airport to Yellowstone, it is located within the Grand Teton National Park.

If you can’t find flights to Jackson Hole, try flying into Salt Lake City in Utah and driving over from there.  The drive from Salt Lake City to Grand Teton will take you below 5 hours.

Did you know that Jackson Hole Airport is the only airport located within a National Park?

Grand Teton National Park has an admission fee of $35 per vehicle. The entry is valid for 7 consecutive days. Consult the park’s website for information on current closures and safety alerts.

What are the best things to do in Grand Teton National Park?

The following attractions are the absolute must-see on your Yellowstone itinerary!

Jackson Hole Aerial Tram

Before diving into the heart of this National Park, drive over to the Teton Village right outside of the park. This resort is home to great eateries, lodging, and equipment rentals. During the winter season, grab a pair of skis and rush down the slopes.

No matter what time of the year you’re here, a trip up to Rendezvous Peak is an absolute must. Take the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram up to the peak, where you can admire panoramic views from what seems like the top of the world.  At the top, a portion of hot waffles served at Corbet’s Cabin is not to be missed, either.

Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center

Begin your tour of the Grand Teton National Park with a visit to the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Inside, you can pick up a pamphlet with the park’s trailheads, obtain a boating permit, or enjoy the screening of a video showcasing the park.

You can go on a program led by one of the park’s rangers, click here for details.

Note that the Center is closed between November and March.

Menor’s Ferry Historic District

Another must when in Grand Teton is a trip to Menor’s Ferry Historic District, just a few hundred yards north of Moose. Hike the .5 mile (800 meters) trailhead for an authentic look back at the early days of Jackson Hole, homesteading, and a replica of the ferry that crossed the Snake River back in the early 1900s.

Pay a visit to the Chapel of the Transfiguration, a wooden Chapel with the Grand Teton serving as its spectacular backdrop.

Check out more details on the Menor’s Ferry Historic District on the park’s official website.

Mormon Row Historic District

Before heading further north into the park, stop at the Mormon Row Historic District, just minutes away from Menor’s Ferry Historic District. This settlement dates back to the 1890s when Mormons established nearly 30 homesteads in the area.

Today,  the Moulton Barns, as well as the Chambers homestead, are adored by both tourists and photographers. Read more about their history here.

Wooden barn in Mormon Row Historic District, part of the attractions at Grand Teton national park. The barn is illuminated by the setting sun, grand tetons can be seen in the distance
Photo by Mike Goad

Taggart Lake Trailhead

The Taggart Lake Trailhead is a moderate, 3-mile (4.8km) hike to the shore of a crystal-clear alpine lake, with the Teton Range as a breathtaking backdrop.  The trail begins right by Teton Park Road. A convenient car park makes it hard to miss, too.

Hikers should dedicate between 1 and 2 hours to complete this trail.

This trailhead is open year-round.

Amphitheater Lake Trail

Anyone looking for a longer hike should definitely consider the 9-mile (14.5 kilometers) Amphitheater Lake Trail. At the end of the trail, you will be rewarded with the Amphitheater and Surprise Lakes.

If you still want to continue further, hike beyond the two lakes all the way up to Disappointment peak. Don’t be fooled by the name, the panoramic views from here are nothing short of amazing!

Jenny Lake

Continue along the Teton Park Road and turn left into the Jenny Lake complex.  Depending on the weather, guests can boat the lake’s crystal-clear waters, swim, and fish.

If you’re up for a long hike, consider the 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) Jenny Lake Trailhead that loops around the lake. That way, you’ll get unobstructed views of the Cascade Canyon, Storm Point, and Symmetry Spire. The hike is easy to complete, despite its length.

Hike up to Hidden Falls, the trailhead is around 2.5 miles round-trip (4 kilometers). Follow the Jenny Lake Trail and turn left into the Cascade Canyon Trailhead. Alternatively, you can use the seasonal boat shuttle. The departure dock is practically by the car park.

hiking trail next to Jenny Lake. Cloudy day in grand teton national park, the grand tetons can be seen in the distance behind a green hill.
Photo by Laserdad

Signal Mountain

If you’re a fan of scenic, chicane-filled driving roads, the road up to the peak of Signal Mountain is definitely the perfect pick for you. As you continue along Teton Park Road north of Jenny Lake, turn right into Signal Mountain Road. At the peak, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Tetons.

Signal Mountain Road remains closed during winter.

Where to stay at Grand Teton National Park?

Jackson Lake Lodge

If you want to stay in the heart of the Grand Teton National Park, consider booking a room or cabin at the upscale Jackson Lake Lodge. The property is located just 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Yellowstone National Park. Some of the local activities include horseback tours, rafting, and a heated outdoor pool.

Colter Bay Tent Village

Traveling on a tighter budget? Consider spending the night at the Tent Village inside Colter Bay. This property features rustic tent cabins at an affordable price.

Camping in Grand Teton National Park in 2021

It is finally say goodbye to the first come, first serve rule in campgrounds around Grand Teton!

Starting on the 26th of January 2021, you will be able to book campgrounds online via the recreation.gov website.

That way, travelers will have a guaranteed spot at the campground when visiting Grand Teton National Park in the 2021 season.

Online reservations will be available between the 26th of January up to the 26th of July, 2021. Afterward, the time frame will be updated for the next six months of the year.

Travelers will be able to book the following campgrounds online:

  • Signal Mountain
  • Gros Ventre
  • Colter Bay
  • Lizard Creek
  • Jenny Lake
 
 
 
 
 
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After a visit to Grnad Teton, it’s time to explore Yellowstone.

Next on your Yellowstone itinerary by car: Yellowstone National Park, 10 minutes

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Geothermal hot spring in magical blue, green, yellow and red colors. Sunny day in yellowstone national park in wyoming
Photo by Mike Goad

After spending at least a couple of days exploring the Tetons, it’s time to visit Yellowstone! This spectacular park is famous around the world, it is America’s first National Park and the most popular attraction in all of Wyoming.

You will drive into the park through the Yellowstone South Entrance.

The entry to Yellowstone, as of October 2020, is $35 per vehicle. The admission pass is valid for 7 consecutive days.

Click here to learn about current closures and safety alerts within Yellowstone.

What are the best things to do in Yellowstone?

Old Faithful

Old Faithful is undoubtedly the first thing many travelers have in mind when they think of Yellowstone. The spectacular geyser attracts countless tourists every year, and seeing its eruption is an absolute must on any Yellowstone trip.

How often does Old Faithful erupt?

Old Faithful Geyser erupting, spectators are observing on the wooden boardwalk. Trees in the background and overcast weather, cloudy day in yellowstone national park.
Photo by Mike Goad

This geyser erupts on a surprisingly predictable schedule. The Old Faithful erupts every 90 minutes, on average.  Each eruption typically lasts around 4 minutes. You can check when the next predicted eruption will take place right here.

To view the famous eruption, you can either sit down at the boardwalk near the geyser or hike up to the viewing area across the Firehole River. The elevated viewing area at the end of the Observation Point Trail tends to be less-visited by tourists than the accessible boardwalk, hike there if you wish to avoid the crowds.

Alternatively, you can walk inside Old Faithful Inn and wait for the eruption while enjoying a refreshing drink. You can spend the night at the cozy Old Faithful Inn if you wish. Click here for details on Old Faithful Lodge.

Upper Geyser Basin

Old Faithful may be the world’s most famous geyser, but the Upper Geyser Basin nearby deserves some credit, too! The area is made up of over 150 geothermal features, all of which can be seen from the wooden boardwalk. The stroll will take you up to two hours to complete. If you’re lucky, you might catch the Castle Geyser’s eruption. It only occurs up to two times per day!

Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook

After a stroll around the Upper Geyser Basin, drive North until you see the Fairy Falls parking lot to your left. Follow the Fairy Falls Trail until you reach the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook, and admire the unbeatable views of the hot springs. The round-trip hike will take you less than an hour to complete.

Fairy Falls

Once you’re at the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook, continue hiking the trail until you reach Fairy Falls, the largest waterfalls in Yellowstone. This moderate hike is around 5 and a half miles, or 8.9 kilometers, round trip.

Midway Geyser Basin

Leave Fairy Falls and turn into the Grand Prismatic Spring parking lot just a few hundred yards down the road. Drop your car off and continue on foot.

Explore the Midway Geyser Basin via the wooden boardwalk. Don’t miss the iconic Grand Prismatic Spring, this hot spring is an absolute highlight of Yellowstone. There are smaller hot springs worth taking a look at, too, such as the Opal Pool, the Turquoise Pool, and the Excelsior Geyser. The scenic hike will take you around an hour to complete.

Norris Geyser Basin

As you continue through Yellowstone National Park, be sure to stop by at the Norris Geyser Basin. This is yet another hotspot of geysers and hot springs. If you’re lucky, you might see the eruption of the unpredictable Steamboat Geyser. This is the world’s tallest active geyser, it can erupt over 300 feet (90 meters) in the air!

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs is another must-see during your Yellowstone road trip. The complex is located at the north tip of the park, in the town of Mammoth.

Stroll down the boardwalk and enjoy the viewpoints, or go for a longer hike along the Beaver Ponds Trail.

Mammoth hot springs, water dripping from the top and large mountains in the distance. beautiful spot in yellowstone national park in wyoming
Photo by Holtzter

Boiling River Hot Springs

The Boiling River Hot Springs is a popular swimming spot, located just north of Mammoth Hot Springs. The hot springs enter the river, giving the water a pleasant, enjoyable temperature. Go for a dip!

You can drop your car off at the roadside parking lot.

Lamar Valley

After a dip in the hot spring (if the weather allows it, that is), drive towards the northeast entrance. After roughly one hour behind the wheel, you will reach the large Lamar Valley. This seemingly endless valley is the best place to spot wildlife in the park, it simply has to make an appearance on your Yellowstone itinerary. The best time of day to visit Lamar Valley is directly after sunrise and right before sunset.

What kind of wildlife can you see in Lamar Valley? There are countless opportunities to see the following animals around the valley, get your camera ready!

  • bison
  • bear
  • coyotes
  • wolves
  • elk
  • pronghorn

If you have the time, drive down the valley all the way until the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone for the absolutely best views.

Dunraven Pass

As you make your way back towards Mammoth, turn right onto the scenic Dunraven Pass. This great driving road will open up to absolutely otherworldly views of Yellowstone. What’s more, there are lots of opportunities to stop and take in the view. Simply take a break at one of the many overlooks and admire the scenery.

Note that the Dunraven Pass remains closed during winter.

Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone

We’ve all heard of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but did you know that you can find a spectacular canyon in this National Park? It’s another must when visiting Yellowstone.

First, drive along the one-way North Rim Drive. There are great viewing points along this part of the canyon, including:

  • Brink of The Lower Falls
  • Lower Lookout Point
  • Lookout Point
  • Grand View
  • Inspiration Point

If you have the extra time, consider dropping your car off at the car park and hiking between each viewing point. Alternatively, you can get around the North Rim Drive by car. If you’re short on time, prioritize seeing the Brink of The Lower Falls, as it’s arguably the best point.

Next, make your way to the South Rim of the canyon. These are the viewpoints along South Rim Drive:

  • Upper Falls View
  • Uncle Tom’s Trail
  • Artist Point

If you’re short on time, be sure to at least visit Artist Point to get a great perspective on the Grand Canyon. Spend some more time by the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and spend the night in one of the lodges in the Canyon Village.

beautiful dramatic landscape at Grand Canyon of the yellowstone. Yellowstone river in the bottom, and tall canyon surrounding it. Sunny day in Wyoming
Photo by Skeeze

Hayden Valley

As you head towards Lake Yellowstone, stop by at the picturesque Hayden Valley. Much like Lamar Valley, Hayden Valley is the perfect place to encounter wildlife. Do keep in mind that Hayden Valley tends to be more crowded than Lamar Valley, as it’s closer to the center of the park.

Don’t be surprised if you get stuck in a traffic jam, bison love crossing the road and jamming it!

West Thumb Geyser Basin

The final must-see spot in Yellowstone National Park is the West Thumb Geyser Basin, located at the foot of Yellowstone Lake.  This complex of geysers is famous for its gorgeous backdrop: Lake Yellowstone. Any trip to Yellowstone wouldn’t possibly be complete without a visit here!

Stroll along the wooden boardwalk and admire the geothermal activity right next to the large lake.

Where to stay in Yellowstone?

There are a total of 9 different lodges within Yellowstone National Park. Continue reading to find out the best places to stay in Yellowstone National Park.

Old Faithful Inn

If you are willing to splash out on the best accommodation in Yellowstone, check-in at the Old Faithful Inn. It’s located right by the Old Faithful area and offers cozy rooms with private bathrooms. Click here for more details on this property.

Once you get hungry, you can head to the famous Old Faithful Inn Dining Room.

Wooden interior of the Old Faithful Inn. The beautiful lodge is expensive and has rooms that offer a view of old faithful geyser, here in yellowstone national park in wyoming
Photo by Steppinstars

WorldMark West Yellowstone

If you’re traveling on a tighter budget, consider staying outside of Yellowstone National Park. The pricing for accommodation within the park can get crazy, especially during peak season, and it is not always worth the hefty price tags. WorldMark West Yellowstone is a cozy property that features well-equipped rooms, an indoor pool, and various activities.

A car park is available free of charge.

Don’t have a car you can take on a road trip? No problem!

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