Best time to travel to Yellowstone National Park

Touring the Grand Loop in Yellowstone National Park

Enjoy a scenic drive and explore some of the main highlights of the park during a one-day trip along the loop

Best time: May–October

Touring the Grand Loop
Touring the Grand Loop
Touring the Grand Loop
Touring the Grand Loop

One of the best ways to explore Yellowstone Park is to drive around the Grand Loop. This 143 mi (230 km) long road curves around creating a figure eight that goes through the main attractions of the park. It includes two scenic drives—the Lower Loop and the Upper Loop.

The Lower Loop features the Upper Geyser Basin and its famous Old Faithful Geyser, also Lower Geyser Basin, Gibbon River and Falls, Firehole River, Monument Geyser Basin, Lower and Upper Falls, Yellowstone River, the Mud Volcano, and West Thumb Geyser Basin. Along the Upper Loop, you can see the Mammoth Hot Springs, the Norris Geyser Basin, the Petrified Tree, Blacktail Plateau Drive, Roosevelt Lodge, Undine Falls, Tower Fall, and the Lower and Upper Falls. One of these two is a perfect choice for those with only one day to see the entire park.

Along the road, you will find lots of visitor centres, museums, and boardwalks. Every stop has well-maintained boardwalks and hiking trails that take visitors close to the most breathtaking attractions.

You can also enjoy scenic views throughout the whole trip. The total journey of the Grand Loop can take around 4-7 hours of driving. During the summer season, the traffic can create a much slower trip. Thus, spring and fall are better seasons to drive without constant stops. Winter months bring road closures to simple vehicles, thus it's possible to reach certain areas on snowmobiles only. The average speed limit is around 43 mi (70 km) per hour, although you shouldn't forget about wildlife, which usually appears in the morning or in the evening. Bears, bison, and elk don't care much about the traffic laws, thus if you see any wildlife around it is better to stop.

If you start the route at Canyon Village, take a day to explore the Upper Loop—head north-east, then north-west and south until you arrive at Norris Geyser Basin. Proceed to the south-west on the following day along the popular western part of the Lower Loop through to Old Faithful. Another day will suffice to cover the last section of the Grand Loop.

Practical info

What is the recommended time for visiting Yellowstone National Park to do a Grand Loop tour?

The ideal time to visit Yellowstone National Park to enjoy a Grand Loop tour is between May and October, when the weather is mild, and all roads are open, allowing visitors to explore the park comfortably. Summer months can be crowded that might slow down the trip. However, spring and fall seasons have fewer tourists and better driving weather, making it a more relaxed experience. Show more

What is the starting and ending point of the Grand Loop, and which scenic drives it consists of?

West Thumb Geyser Basin is both the starting and ending point of the Grand Loop, which encompasses a 143 miles (230 km) route across the most sought-after park attractions. The Upper Loop and Lower Loop are two scenic drives that constitute the Grand Loop, offering visitors a chance to witness scenic vistas of the park's main attractions. Show more

Which geysers are included in the highlights of the Upper Loop of the Grand Loop?

The Upper Loop is an indispensable part of the Grand Loop, and it features many prominent geysers such as Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin, the Petrified Tree, Blacktail Plateau Drive, Roosevelt Lodge, Undine Falls, Tower Fall, and Lower and Upper Falls. These attractions are situated at the northeastern, northwestern, and southwestern part of the park, making it an excellent choice for one-day tours. Show more

What is the average time required to complete the Grand Loop, and is it feasible to cover it in one day?

A typical completion time for the Grand Loop drive is between 4-7 hours, depending on traffic and the number of stops made along the way. Although it is possible to complete the drive in one day, it might not be possible to cover all the attractions if visitors stop to explore hiking trails and boardwalks. A more leisurely and comprehensive experience can be obtained by breaking the tour into three sections and exploring each of the Upper Loop, western Lower Loop, and eastern Lower Loop on separate days. Show more

What are some of the essential precautions that drivers must take on the Grand Loop, particularly with respect to encountering wildlife?

When driving through the Grand Loop, visitors must exercise caution, particularly while approaching wild animals like bears, bison, and elk, that come close to the road, especially during mornings and evenings. Visitors must slow down, keep a safe distance, and only stop at designated stopping areas. It is illegal to come close to, harass or feed the animals, and visitors must never exit their vehicles to get a better view. The park has over 1000 miles of hiking trails where visitors can get closer to wildlife while maintaining a safe distance. Show more

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