Jackson Hole to Yellowstone: A Day Trip Guide

Take an unforgettable Yellowstone day trip from Jackson Hole, the perfect solution for those short on time but eager to experience this iconic national park. This article provides essential tips and insights to maximize your day, including a complete itinerary.

Key takeaways

  • Prioritize visiting the lower loop of Yellowstone for a manageable day trip.
  • Begin the day trip early, driving through Grand Teton National Park, and entering Yellowstone via the South Entrance. Please note that the South Entrance is closed from early November to mid-May.
  • Visit major attractions such as Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
  • Option: Leave the day trip planning to a professional guide and book a guided day trip tour from Jackson Hole.
Large and dark brown wooden sign that says Yellowstone National Park.
When taking a day trip to Yellowstone from Jackson, Wyoming, you’ll enter the park by the South Entrance. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

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Use the GuideAlong app to help you plan your Yellowstone day trip from Jackson

Yellowstone National Park is enormous, which can make planning a day trip there seem impossibly overwhelming. I recommend getting a park map at the entrance or Visitor Center. These maps highlight key spots and help me visually orient myself within the park, although they are limited in detail.

I recommend that people traveling to Yellowstone download the GuideAlong app and purchase the Yellowstone audio tour.

If you’re already planning to visit Grand Teton National Park, you can bundle the Yellowstone tour with the Grand Teton tour and get a discount.

I love using GuideAlong. It’s like having a professional tour guide riding beside me in my car as I tour the park. Learn about the park’s history, great ideas for where to stop, important natural and historical features of the park, and more.

PRO TIP: If you have flexible travel dates you need to check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). You get amazing flight deals sent straight to your inbox with instructions on how to book directly with the airlines. Check out Going here. Going is my favorite way to find great travel deals. 

Yellowstone day trip itinerary

Follow this itinerary for a Yellowstone day trip from Jackson Hole if you’re planning to road trip this one yourself rather than book a guided tour that includes transportation (I provide some options below).

Due to the park’s vast size, our focus will be on the lower loop of Yellowstone National Park. That’s the most realistic way to see a good selection of the most famous attractions at Yellowstone without staying for more than one full day.

You’ll miss sites like Mammoth Hot Springs, but still see Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone among other attractions.

TIP: Keep track of all the amazing sites you’re seeing in the park with this printable Yellowstone National Park bucket list.

Or turn your explorations into a game with the printable Yellowstone Scavenger Hunt.

On a quest to visit all 63 U.S. National Parks? Grab your own copy of the printable national parks tracker to check off your progress as you visit each park.

North Grand Teton National Park stops

To get started on your day trip to Yellowstone, you’ll want to get an early start and you’ll drive through Grand Teton National Park. You can explore a few spots north of Teton Park Road in the park’s northern area before you leave. There are some lovely scenic overlooks like Willow Flats and Jackson Lake Overlook.

view of the Teton mountains beyond willow trees and a wet meadow with Jackson Lake visible at the horizon
Willow Flats overlook in Grand Teton is on the way to Yellowstone from Jackson Hole. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Arriving at Yellowstone National Park

After you leave Grand Teton National Park, you’ll drive along the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, which connects Grand Teton to Yellowstone. The parkway is not long, and it leads to the Yellowstone National Park south entrance.

You’ll need to pay to enter Yellowstone or provide your America the Beautiful pass. It’s about another 20 miles from the South Entrance to the Grand Loop Road. You’ll first encounter the West Thumb area, which I would normally say is worth a stop.

But since your time is limited on this day trip, I suggest you pass West Thumb and save it for your journey back to Jackson Hole if you have the time and energy for more geothermal sites.

First stop: Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin

From the point where you join the Grand Loop Road, it will be about 17 miles to the Old Faithful area. The geyser’s next eruption time will be prominently posted at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center.

Just miss the eruption? Explore the Visitor Center and Upper Geyser Basin before returning to Old Faithful. Pick up a map of the Upper Geyser Basin at the Visitor Center. And if you wish, you could make a quick stop inside the Old Faithful Inn to see its impressive Old House lobby.

Large crowd lined up in front of Old Faithful as it erupts.
Crowd gathers at Old Faithful. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Grand Prismatic Spring and Midway Geyser Basin

Next, you won’t want to miss Grand Prismatic Spring at Midway Geyser Basin. It’s a favorite spot in Yellowstone. Take the boardwalk path out to the spring to see it up close. For the best view of the entire spring, you can take the Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail.

If you’re there on a cooler day in the morning, don’t be surprised to see the spring’s beautiful colors shrouded in a heavy haze because of the difference in temperature between the spring and the cool air.

If getting a great view of Grand Prismatic Spring is a top priority for you, consider doing this Yellowstone day trip itinerary in the opposite direction. You’ll get to Midway Geyser Basin later in the afternoon when the surface is much more likely to be free of haze.

OPTIONAL: Add in the Firehole Lake Drive in the Lower Geyser Basin area and stop to see the Great Fountain Geyser and/or do the Firehole Canyon Drive near Madison.

Artists’ Paintpots

Follow the Artists’ Painpots Trail short hike (about a 1-mile loop) to see the area’s mudpots, hot springs, and small geysers. If you’re short on time or have limited physical abilities, it’s okay to skip this one in favor of Norris Geyser Basin which is coming up next. But I did really enjoy this. After all the geysers I’d already seen, the mudpots were an interesting change.

View overlooking an area of steaming pool and bubbling mud pools. In the distance people walk along a boardwalk trail winding through the area.
Overlooking Artists’ Paintpots at Yellowstone. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Norris Geyser Basin

For me, Norris Geyser Basin was one of the highlights of all of Yellowstone National Park’s geothermal features.

I recommend that you focus your attention on the Porcelain Basin since you’ll have less time to explore the area with just one day on the Lower Loop. You’ll get a great view of the area from the Porcelain Basin Overlook.

Tourists on a paved path in a steaming area of geysers.
Norris Geyser Basin at Yellowstone. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

From Norris Geyser Basin, continue on the Grand Loop Road to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Here the Yellowstone River has carved a deep gorge that runs for about 20 miles.

During a Yellowstone day trip, I recommend that you focus your time on the two drives: the North Rim Drive and the South Rim Drive.

You can do both drives and all the stops along them to view the Grand Canyon waterfalls (the Upper Falls and Lower Falls) in about two hours. If you’re short on time, focus your time on the South Rim Drive ending at Artist Point. That’s the “money shot” of the Lower Falls.

On the North Rim Drive, stop at the Brink of the Lower Falls, plus check out Lookout Point for another great view of the Lower Falls. The North Rim Drive is one way and will take you back to the Canyon Village area.

High waterfall at the end of a long canyon with a river winding through it.
Artist Point, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Hayden Valley

After the Grand Canyon, your drive on the Lower Loop of the Grand Loop Road will take you through the lovely Hayden Valley. Hayden Valley can be a great place to do some wildlife viewing especially early in the morning or in the evening around sunset.

We had the good fortune to see a pack of hunting wolves and a grizzly bear with cubs plus several elk and bison (of course). If you can time your Yellowstone day trip from Jackson Hole so that you get to Hayden Valley in the evening to see wildlife that would be great, BUT that would also mean a long drive back to Jackson rather late.

Grassy valley with a river flowing through it. There are patches of white snow here and there.
Hayden Valley. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Another option would be to leave Jackson VERY early in the morning, do this itinerary in reverse, and get to the valley by sunrise. Most likely, you will just want to save the early morning or evening wildlife viewing for a time when you can stay in Yellowstone for a few days and explore Lamar Valley (near the park’s Northeast Entrance) as well.

Regardless of whether you do any wildlife viewing there, Hayden Valley is a lovely area to drive through and there are a few of the more minor geothermal features there as well.

Optional: West Thumb at Yellowstone Lake

If you have enough time and you haven’t experienced geothermal overload yet, think about stopping at West Thumb at Yellowstone Lake. This unique geyser basin, right on the lake’s edge, even has geysers in the water.

We really enjoyed strolling the boardwalks here and looking at the stunning features like Abyss Pool.

Large, oddly shaped bright turquoise hot pool with steam rising off it. In the background there is a wooden boardwalk with railings.
Black Pool at West Thumb Geyser Basin. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Variation: do this itinerary in the opposite direction

As I’ve already mentioned above a couple of times, you can also do this Yellowstone day trip itinerary in the opposite direction from the way I’ve written it. So, instead of heading toward Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin once you hit the Grand Loop Road, you could pass by Yellowstone Lake and head up through Hayden Valley to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, then do Norris Geyser Basin and so on.

One of the benefits of that would be getting to Grand Prismatic Spring later in the day when you’ll be much more likely to see it clearly in all its glory.

Driving distances and times

Below is a table to help you plan your day trip. Mileage was taken from Google Maps directions. Drive times are approximations and will vary based on the time of year and time of day. Keep in mind that animal activity and road improvement work can cause significant driving delays.

FromToDistance (miles)Estimated Travel Time
Jackson HoleOld Faithful1002 hours 15 min
Old FaithfulGrand Prismatic Spring715 min
Grand Prismatic SpringNorris Geyser Basin2745 min
Norris Geyser BasinGrand Canyon of the Yellowstone1225 min
Grand Canyon of the YellowstoneHayden Valley1020 min

Guided day trips to Yellowstone National from Jackson Hole

Put the planning and driving in the hands of knowledgeable guides to make things as easy for yourself as possible. All of these tours give you expert guides and the option to book now and pay later. They also offer pick-up in Jackson Hole.

1. Guided Yellowstone Tour from Jackson, Wyoming: Enjoy exploring top attractions at Yellowstone National Park (including Old Faithful and the lower falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone) with this guided day tour from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Includes hotel pick up and drop off.

2. Full-day Yellowstone Lower Loop Tour from Jackson, Wyoming: Enjoy top sites on the Lower Loop like Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, and more. Includes hotel pick-up in Jackson Hole, entrance fees, breakfast, and a picnic lunch.

3. VIP Yellowstone Private Tour from Jackson WY: Enjoy a VIP small group experience touring top sites in Yellowstone along with popular stops at Grand Teton National Park like Oxbow Bend. Snacks and water are included.

4. Best of Yellowstone Private National Park Safari Tour: Get a VIP tour of Yellowstone National Park and explore top sites like Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and more. Customize your private guided experience for your full-day trip that includes breakfast and lunch.

Where to stay in Jackson, Wyoming

At hotels in Jackson, Wyoming, you’ll find a lot of options for room types, amenities, and such. There is also a range of rates that will work within a lot of travelers’ budgets.

Jackson is also a great place to explore on foot and get a good meal or cup of coffee. And don’t miss the town square with its famous antler arches.

  • Cowboy Village Resort has western-themed cabins with kitchenettes. It’s located near the center of Jackson.
  • The Lexington at Jackson Hole is also located conveniently near the center of town. It’s less than five miles from Grand Teton National Park.
  • Wyoming Inn of Jackson Hole is located a little outside of the heart of Jackson. Guests love the comfortable beds and spacious rooms.
  • Flat Creek Inn is outside town between Jackson and Grand Teton Park, just across the road from the National Elk Refuge. We enjoyed our stay there and our spacious room with a full kitchen. We think the Flat Creek Inn is a great value.
  • Elk Refuge Inn gets good reviews from guests. It’s next door to the Flat Creek Inn, also across from the National Elk Refuge.