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  • Writer's pictureChasingBuffaloesandBeyond

Yellowstone National Park's Top Attractions in 3 Days

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Looking for a quick visit to Yellowstone National Park? This is a great itinerary that will hit up some of our favorite sites and provide an introduction to Yellowstone by visiting a lot of the top attractions in just three days.

Orange and blue colors of the Grand Prismatic
Our favorite place in Yellowstone - the Grand Prismatic


DAY 1:

Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway

Pahaska Tepee

East Entrance of Yellowstone

Fishing Bridge Visitor Center & LeHardy Rapids

Mud Volcano Area

Hayden Valley

Canyon Village Campground

Day 2:

Canyon Village & Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Fishing on the Gibbon River

Norris Geyser Basin

Day 3:

Midway Geyser Basin

Grand Prismatic Overlook

Old Faithful & the Upper Geyser Basin

Lewis Falls & Moose Fall



Fisherman along the Shoshone River near the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway
Fishing along the Shoshone River

Day 1: For this trip, we arrived to Yellowstone via the East Entrance. Leaving from Cody, Wyoming drive along the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway which follows the Shoshone River thru the Shoshone National Forest. This was a beautiful drive and if you are a fisherman, this area provided some great locations to stop and fish the North Fork of the Shoshone River. We also lucked out and saw quite a few bighorn sheep as we spent time fishing along the Shoshone River.

Mountain Whitefish that was caught on the Shoshone River
Beautiful Mountain Whitefish on the Shoshone River!
Two Bighorn Sheep near the Shoshone River
Bighorn Sheep along the Shoshone River on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway


Pahaska Tepee sign
Just outside the East Entrance to Yellowstone

A great stop along the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway is the Pahaska Tepee, which was Buffalo Bill's original hunting lodge built in 1904, just outside the East Entrance of Yellowstone. The original lodge has been preserved on the National Historic Register and is a great place to wander thru a bit of history. The resort itself offers a variety of cabins accommodations and looks to be a great place to stay just outside the East Entrance of Yellowstone.

Cabin and bear wood carving at Pahaska Tepee
Cabins at the historic Pahaska Tepee


Family of three at the East Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Arriving at the East Entrance of Yellowstone
View of driving along the road at Sylvan Pass
Beautiful views while driving thru Sylvan Pass

Upon reaching the East Entrance, we spent the rest of the day exploring the areas around Fishing Bridge and Canyon Village junctions. After driving thru Sylvan Pass at 8530 feet in elevation, we stopped at Sylvan Lake to have a picnic lunch. We then stopped at a number of great viewpoints as we headed towards Fishing Bridge Junction, including driving the short side road to the Lake Butte Rd Overlook which provides a view of Lake Yellowstone and on a clear day, you can even see the Tetons from here.

View of Lake Yellowstone from Lake Butte Rd Overlook
View of Lake Yellowstone from Lake Butte Rd Overlook
Little boy standing along the shoreline of Lake Yellowstone throwing rocks
Throwing rocks along shoreline of Lake Yellowstone

Following the road towards Fishing Bridge, you will drive along the shoreline of Lake Yellowstone, there are some great spots to pull over and enjoy the lake. We spent some time throwing rocks here and even saw our first buffalo of the trip. We then stopped for a quick walk at the Pelican Creek Nature Trail (1 mile roundtrip) and enjoyed walking along the northern shoreline of Yellowstone Lake.

Single buffalo in open meadow in Yellowstone National Park
Our first buffalo of the trip - first of MANY!


Mom and son near the Fishing Bridge Museum & Visitor Center
Fishing Bridge Museum & Visitor Center

We then headed to the Fishing Bridge Museum & Visitor Center and spent some time enjoying the exhibits about the area. As we headed north from Fishing Bridge towards Canyon Village we made a couple more stops at LeHardy Rapids, Mud Volcano Area and the Hayden Valley. LeHardy's Rapids is a great stop along the Yellowstone River where the river drops a bit and creates the rapids. A short set of stairs connects to a boardwalk along the river providing views of the rapids.

Beautiful views of the LeHardy Rapids on the Yellowstone River
Gorgeous view looking down the Yellowstone River at LeHardy's Rapids


 Mud pots at Mud Volcano area in Yellowstone
Bubbling mud at Mud Volcano

Our next stop of the day was the Mud Volcano Area, a thermal area that includes features such as bubbling mud pots and a hot springs named Dragon Mouth Springs along a quick 0.6 mile trail. Across the street is the Sulfur Cauldron that can be seen from a quick roadside stop - these areas are a bit smelly, but worth the stop to see these unique features.

Vents in the dried out mud at Grizzly Fumarole in the Mud Volcano area of Yellowstone
Grizzly Fumarole - dry in this picture, but can turn into bubbling mud with rain
Steaming cave entrance of Dragon's Mouth Spring in the Mud Volcano Area of Yellowstone
Dragon's Mouth Spring - emits strange noises hence the name 'Dragon's Mouth'
Overlooking the bubbling, steaming Mud Geyser in the Mud Volcano Area of Yellowstone
Mud Geyser - used to erupt up to 50 feet high. Now it's just a sizzling giant mud pot.


Looking at the buffalo herds in the Hayden Valley
Looking out across the Hayden Valley

We then continued our drive north towards Canyon Village to the Canyon Village Campground. Along the way you drive thru the beautiful Hayden Valley which is known for it's wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities. This open vast meadow is one of the best spots to stop and enjoy watching the buffalo - iconic Yellowstone! After enjoying the buffalo for awhile, we continued towards our campsite at Canyon Village Campground.

A dozen or so buffalo in Yellowstone's Hayden Valley
We loved watching the Buffalo!


Canyon Village Campground lies at 7,900 feet in elevation among a Lodgepole Pine forest. Even in the summer months, the evenings can still be quite cold at this elevation, so make sure and bring some warm clothes! This is one of the more popular campgrounds in Yellowstone and it is highly recommended to get your reservations early - you can book up to 1 year in advance.

 Campsite with tent, firepit, picnic table and gear at Canyon Village Campground
All set up at our campsite at Canyon Village Campground


Father and son standing in front of the Canyon Village Visitor Center
Visiting the Canyon Village Visitor Center

Day 2: Spend the day exploring Canyon Village Area. First stop of the day was at the Canyon Visitor Center before heading off to hike along the North Rim of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. One of our favorite things to visit in Yellowstone is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, with canyons up to 4000 feet wide and 1200 feet deep, it is simply breath-taking. Having been to Yellowstone before, the North Rim Trail was at the top of our list upon returning to Yellowstone.

Father and son at the start of the North Rim Trail in Yellowstone
At the start of the North Rim Trail
Looking down into the Yellowstone Grand Canyon from the North Rim Trail
Amazing views along the North Rim Trail

We began at Inspiration Point, heading towards Grandview (1 mile), then we headed to Lookout Point (0.3 miles). At Lookout Point you get your first great view of Lower Falls. Lower Falls is an astounding 308 feet tall which is twice the height of Niagara Falls. Also from Lookout Point, there is a wonderful side spur trail to Red Rock Point (0.3 miles) along a steep path that drops about 500 feet to our favorite view of the Lower Falls - absolutely breathtaking!

Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River
View from Lookout Point of Lower Falls - beautiful!
Family of three with Upper Falls in the background from Red Rock Point
Enjoying the view of Lower Falls from Red Rock Point
Lower Falls with the yellow rock cliff sides and beautiful forests of Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone at it's best - stunning Lower Falls

By this point, we we decided it was time to turn around and head back, giving us a total of 3.2 miles roundtrip that we hiked along the North Rim Trail. With a baby on our backs, that seemed to be plenty for the day. To hike the entire North Rim Trail, continue onto the Brink of the Lower Falls and Brink of the Upper Falls before the trail ends near the Chittenden Bridge making the total distance of the North Rim Trail about 6.4 miles roundtrip.



A woman fishing on the Gibbon River with a tiny caught fish
My giant catch on the Gibbon River

After letting Brecken have a quick nap in the car, we headed towards the Norris Junction to the Gibbon River to try our hands at some fishing. There is almost nothing in the world that is better than teaching your child to fish while in Yellowstone National Park! We even caught a few, all quite small, but it was fun nevertheless!

Father and son fishing on the Gibbon River
Learning to fish with Daddy on the Gibbon River


Colorful steaming hillsides of the Norris Geyser Basin
Overlooking the Norris Geyser Basin

With a bit of time left in our day, our last stop of the day was the Norris Geyser Basin. Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest, most unstable basin found in Yellowstone and contains a wonderful variety of geothermal features. Due to how active the area is, new features appear almost yearly and other simply disappear. There are two main areas - the Back Basin (1.5 mile boardwalk) and the Porcelain Basin (0.75 mile boardwalk). With time running a bit short, we opted to walk the Porcelain Basin.

Overlooking the Porcelain Basin which is full of fumaroles and colorful hot springs
Steaming hillside along the Porcelain Basin


Colors of the rainbow at the Grand Prismatic Spring
View of the Grand Prismatic Spring from boardwalk

Day 3: Geysers & Hot Springs: We began our morning by heading to the Midway Geyser Basin where the Grand Prismatic Spring is located. The Grand Prismatic is the 3rd largest hot spring in the world and the largest in Yellowstone and features a stunning palette of colors that makes it the most photographed thermal feature in the park. Due to it's popularity, it is highly recommended to arrive early in the morning to the Midway Geyser Basin as parking is limited and wait times are common by mid-morning. The Midway Geyser Basin is a smaller area that includes a 0.8 mile boardwalk and includes other wonderful thermal features such as Excelsior Geyser, Opal Pool & Turquoise Pool - but the definite highlight is the Grand Prismatic.

Amazingly bright colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring at the Midway Geyser Basin
Brilliant colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring
Bright blue and turquoise waters of the Turquoise Pool at the Midway Geyser Basin
Turquoise Pool at the Midway Geyser Basin
Crowds standing along the boardwalk looking at the steaming waters of Excelsior Geyser
The now dormant Excelsior Geyser that used to erupt up to 300 feet in the air


  Father and son standing along a bridge at the start of the Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail
Hiking to the Grand Prismatic Overlook

The Grand Prismatic is our absolute favorite thing to visit in Yellowstone, and we were super excited to find out a new hike had been created to an overlook to view the Grand Prismatic from above. The Grand Prismatic Overlook hike (1.2 miles roundtrip) allows for an elevated view over the spring - it was fantastic! To get to this location, drive about 5 minutes south of the Midway Geyser Basin parking lot to the Fairy Falls parking lot. Seeing the Grand Prismatic from above is truly breathtaking!

The red, orange, yellow, green and blue colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring from the Overlook
View from the Grand Prismatic Overlook of the Midway Geyser Basin
Little boy standing on a fence looking at Grand Prismatic Spring
Enjoying the amazing view!


 Old Faithful geyser mound with the Old Faithful Inn in the background
View of Old Faithful prior to eruption

After enjoying this wonderful area, we drove over to Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin - a trip to Yellowstone wouldn't be complete with stopping to see Old Faithful! Of the nearly 500 geysers in Yellowstone, only about six are predicable and Old Faithful erupts on intervals of 35 minutes to 2 hours. Getting to enjoy this iconic feature with our 1 1/2 year old son was a true treat and he even learned to say 'geyser' as we explored the Upper Geyser Basin after watching Old Faithful erupt.

Eruption of Old Faithful Geyser shooting water high into the air
Old Faithful eruption - Old Faithful can shoot water up to 180 feet high

While the Upper Geyser Basin is famous for hosting Old Faithful, there is a ton to see in this area. The Upper Geyser Basin actually is home to the largest concentration of geysers in the world. The boardwalk here runs out 1.5 miles to Morning Glory Pool but there are also side spur trails to reach other features of interest - plan on an average of 2 hours each way if you are trying to see everything. And if you spend time waiting at certain areas for geysers to erupt, viewing this area can turn into an all day adventure. As we were exploring with a baby, we decided to focus on exploring Old Faithful and the nearby Geyser Hill portion of the trail.

The bubbling waters of Aurum Geyser
Aurum Geyser - bubbles with water when not erupting. Can shoot up to 30 feet int the air during eruptions
Family of three watching the Lion Geyser shoot water into the air
We loved watching the geysers!

Geyser Hill itself has over 40 geysers, as well as vents and pools. The largest geysers in this group are the Beehive and Giantess Geysers which erupt twice daily. Another quite active geyser is a group called the Lion Group Geysers and it consists of Little Cub, Lioness, Big Cub and Lion Geyser, we happened to get lucky and see Lion Geyser erupt as we were passing by! As these geysers erupt it is accompanied by a roaring sound, hence the name Lion Geyser.

Shooting waters of the Lion Geyser
Watching the Lion Geyser erupt!
Brilliant clear blue colors of Blue Star Spring
Beautiful Blue Star Spring
East Chinaman Spring bubbling with water
Bubbly East Chinaman Spring


With our time in Yellowstone coming to an end, we continued south thru the South Entrance as we headed to Grand Teton National Park. Along the way we did make a couple stops at Lewis Falls and Moose Falls before leaving Yellowstone National Park. Easily seen from the road, Lewis Falls is a 30 foot high waterfall that is worth a quick stop. At also 30 feet tall, Moose Falls is a quick 0.2 miles roundtrip walk to view the falls.

Beautiful waters of Moose Creek Waterfall
30 foot Moose Falls on Crawfish Creek

Interested in planning your own trip to Yellowstone National Park? Below is our summarized itinerary for you to follow or adjust to your own preferences. ENJOY!

Day 1: Drive to Yellowstone, Drive Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway through Shoshone National Forest, Fish North Fork of the Shoshone River, Pahaska Tepee, East Entrance to Yellowstone, Sylvan Pass, Sylvan Lake, Teton Point Turnout, Teton Overlook, Lake Butte Rd Overlook, Steamboat Point, Holmes Point, Pelican Creek Nature Trail (1 mile loop), Fishing Bridge Visitor Center, Fishing Bridge, Hayden Valley wildlife viewing, LeHardy Rapids, Mud Volcano Area

Day 2: Yellowstone: Canyon Visitor Center, Hike the North Rim of Yellowstone Grand Canyon (Inspiration Point to Red Rock Point 3.2 miles roundtrip), Fish along the Gibbon River near the Norris Junction, then explore the Norris Geyser Basin, for a shorter walk do the Porcelain Basin, if more time, explore both the Back Basin and Porcelain Basin (about 1.1 miles total).

Day 3: Yellowstone: Midway Geyser Basin, then Grand Prismatic Hike (1.2 miles roundtrip), Old Faithful/Upper Geyser Basin. *If continuing onto Grand Teton National Park - stop along the south entrance of Yellowstone at Lewis Falls and Moose Falls (both just off side of road, with parking).


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