Van Life Guide: Yellowstone National Park

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van life guide yellowstone
van life guide yellowstone

Driving through Yellowstone during the fall season is probably the biggest highlight of being on the road thus far. The landscape was absolutely incredible and the colors were like nothing I’ve ever seen! Even just typing this makes me want to go back so bad. I always had so many other parks in mind that Yellowstone wasn’t high up in my list. As soon as I got there, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made it more of a priority in the past. This is everything I learned while I was there!

FREE CAMPSITES NEARBY

Walmart Supercenter

321 Yellowstone Ave

Before or after heading into Yellowstone, this Walmart is a great stop to fill up on anything you need! There are lots of campers here and it’s in a beautiful area. Perfect place to stay for a night in Cody (just east of the park).

Jackson Hole Grand Teton

GPS: 43.763874, -110.556709

This was one of my favorite campsites to date! Pulled in super late and woke up to the best view. This site is actually closer to Grand Teton but I know a lot of us go from park to the other. So I stopped here after Yellowstone before Grand Teton! Here’s a full description with pictures.

National Forest road 3243

GPS: 45.070611, -110.680043

This campsite is North of the park if you are coming in/leaving that way. It’s basically just a bunch of pull- offs but has some beautiful views that are definitely wroth it. For exact directions and pictures, check out this full description.

MY FAVORITE TRAILS

Uncle Tom’s Trail

This is a great day hike and it’s pretty short at less than a mile long. It’s not so much of a trail as it is a staircase. There are about 300 stairs but you get an up close view of the Lower Falls which will blow your mind. I loved this one because it didn’t take too long which means Ella (my dog) could wait in the car for me! It was super nice to get out though and see the falls like this.

Trailhead Location: Canyon Area – South Rim

Trailhead coordinates: 44.71522, -110.496203

Fairy Falls Trail

https://nps.gov

Fairy Falls is about a 5 mile hike that will bring you to one of Yellowstone’s most famous waterfalls. You’ll also pass the overlook for Prismatic Springs which is beautiful. After seeing Fairy Falls, you can actually continue on a little ways towards Imperial Geyser which I highly recommend! Imperial Geyser is one of the most unique things I’ve ever seen. Beautiful blue pools and steam everywhere. See image above for reference. This was one of the top things on my list to see while there and it did not disappoint.

Trailhead Location: North of Old Faithful

Either park at the end of Fountain Flat Drive or park 1 mile south of Midway Geyser Basin at the Fairy Falls Parking Lot.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grant Ordelheide

This is just an absolute you- have- to- freaking- see- it landmark! It’s the largest hot spring America and third largest in the world. The colors around this thing are just crazy with bright yellow, orange, and green bands. Also random fun fact, it runs deeper than a 10 story building! There’s a lot to see around this hot spring as well so it’s a nice place to stop and plan on staying for a bit.

Trailhead Coordinates: 44.5250489, -110.83819

There are many ways you can get here and see the springs so just pick the easiest route for where you already are and it won’t be hard to find.

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Dog Friendly Areas

Like most national parks, Yellowstone doesn’t have any backcountry options for dogs. That being said, I brought Ella and we had an amazing time in all of the places she was allowed. Dogs can be at any overlooks, in all parking lots, or along any main roads. They also can be 100 ft (30 meters) from any of those places as well. So I took Ella to all of the overlooks and we go on short walks around them before getting back in the car. Although dogs can’t be on the trails, I definitely still felt like I could see a good amount of the park from the places I could take her. If you want to leave your dog in the van/car on a warm day, please take any precautions to make sure they are safe. I always leave water in the bowl and turn on our vent fan.

Best Time To Go

If it’s possible for you, I highly recommend going in the fall. I was here in late September and it blew mind how many colors were everywhere. Fall season in Yellowstone will forever be one of my favorite experiences and I already can’t wait to visit again next year. I’m sure it’s gorgeous all year long if you can’t make it in the fall. But if you can, try September or October and be ready for all the colors!

Other Things To Do

Grand Teton is an equally amazing park directly south of Yellowstone. It’s a super quick drive and if you go to one, you have to go to the other. The mountains in Grand Teton are perfectly snowcapped and had me pulling over 5 seconds after entering the park. I was ready to drive a little further in but immediately had to stop when I saw what I was getting myself in to. If you want to see mountains, this is where you go.

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