The Ultimate 7-day Teton and Yellowstone Road Trip Itinerary

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The Ultimate Teton and Yellowstone Road Trip Itinerary

Last winter, I went up to Jackson for an awesome winter weekend at the Triangle X Ranch just outside of Teton National Park. We did some cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, and ever since I’ve been itching to get back for some summer adventures. But with so much to do up there, planning a trip to the region can be overwhelming. That’s why I was so excited when Bearfoot reader Kim Vawter offered to share her 7-day road trip itinerary that took her through both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Below she shares her favorite spots, photos, and best travel tips for maximizing your time in the area. Sounds like an incredible week on the road if you ask me, and with the information, she provides, planning a trip up to these two incredible parks is going to be a cinch.

Check out my Ultimate Road Trip Planning Guide

Ever since reading about Bryce Thatcher’s 1983 record for climbing & descending the 13,770 foot Grand Teton I have had a passion to visit the region. With Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park being just 31 miles apart, the two parks make for an incredible weeklong road trip. By following this Teton and Yellowstone road trip itinerary, you’ll hit up a large number of the best sites in the Park in just 7 days without spending too much time in the car.

— Getting There —

There are a couple of options for starting your road trip, depending on where you are coming from.

If you are flying, you can fly into Salt Lake City and enjoy a 5-hour drive to Grand Teton National Park. Or you can fly into the much more expensive, yet scenic Jackson Hole airport.

If you chose the budget friendly version, there are two routes from SLC to Grand Teton National Park which make for a great loop. On your way up to Teton National Park, take I-15 North through Swan Valley and Victor, ID. This route provides a glimpse of the backside of Grand Teton, building anticipation for what’s ahead.

Then for your return home, take US-89 S/I-80 W which follows the Snake River and makes for a nice change of scenery on the way back to Salt Lake.

Be aware that many of the roads close in both parks during the winter season (typically November through early May), including the southern entrance of Yellowstone. For seasonal road closure information, see these pages on the Grand Teton and Yellowstone websites.

— Grand Teton National Park Map —

Grand Teton National Park Mapclick on the map for a larger version

Day 1

Get an early start and begin your day at the brand new Grand Teton Visitor Center near the South Entrance. The park video gives you a great intro to the park and after the video make sure to stay seated as they open the blinds to reveal a floor to ceiling window which showcases the Grand Teton. Next head over to explore southeast corner of the park on foot. Start at the Death Canyon Trailhead and hike just over a mile to a gorgeous overlook that peers down 700 feet into Phelps Lake. This section of the trail is easy, gaining just about 200 feet.  After taking in the views, continue from the overlook down the switchbacks that drop you into the entrance of Death Canyon—it is neat to see the large canyon walls now loom above you! From here you can stay and hang out at the lake or venture further down into the canyon. Bears also frequent the lake so be on the lookout for a neighbor! Check out this link for a note on bear safety.

** New to Hiking? Read Back to the Basics: Hiking 101 Tips **

Post hike head on over to camp at Jenny Lake for the evening. NOTE: In the summer the campsites fill up quickly, sometimes as early as 8am, so it is vital that you plan to first thing in the morning for a site. While slightly out of the way from Death Canyon, if you are traveling during the busy summer season, it’s probably worth going up to Jenny Lake first thing to snag a spot before heading out for the day to explore. If the campground is full or you’d prefer not to camp, here is a list of alternative lodging in Grand Teton National Park.

Day 2

Get on one of the first boats across Jenny Lake to the trailheads on the other side of the lake. You’ll find short and simple trails leading you to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Escape the crowds by continuing on past Inspiration Point to Lake Solitude. From the boat landing, Lake Solitude is around 14 miles round trip with 2,400 feet of elevation gain. It makes for a longer day, but traveling below the jagged peaks of Cascade Canyon provides very different scenery from the prior day in Death Canyon. For more information on this trail, see this trail guide. (*We just got word that the segment between Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point has been closed for 2015 trail renovations. However, Cascade Canyon is still accessible via a reroute. Get the latest updates here.)

7 Day Road Trip Itinerary through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park - this is from day 2 at Hidden Falls. Hidden Falls
The ultimate road trip itinerary through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. This shot is from day 2 in Cascade Canyon.Cascade Canyon
7 Day Road Trip Itinerary through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park - This is from day 2 at Lake SolitudeLake Solitude

When you return from your hike, reward yourself with huckleberry margaritas and nachos at the Signal Mountain Lodge—it is a local favorite among all the park staff and a delightful post hike treat! Afterwards drive up the Signal Mountain Road for an incredible aerial view that is sure to impress. For a change of campsite scenery, relocate your tent on night 2 to the Colter Bay Campground which will have you waking up a bit closer the next day to the road that heads up to Yellowstone.

7 Day Road Trip Itinerary through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park - Huckleberry Margaritas at Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park

— Yellowstone National Park —

Yellowstone National Park Map

click on the map for a larger version

Day 3

Yellowstone or bust! Be prepared to travel a short distance and see an entirely different world. My friend commonly referred to Yellowstone as “extraterrestrial” or “something from another planet.”  On your way into the park, swing by the Grant Village Visitors Center to see the video about the famous 1988 Yellowstone fire that burned a third of Yellowstone—it will help explain the devastation Yellowstone faced and why it had such a rough appearance in areas.

One of the best parts of Yellowstone is that the main road is a loop so you basically just keep working yourself around the circle. I recommend on your first day heading clockwise to Old Faithful and getting this tourist-packed attraction checked off the list. The visitor center alongside it is equally impressive and very informative. The geyser erupts about every 90 minutes and there are signs everywhere once you are in the area informing you of the next eruption. There is lots of room to watch it so you only need to be there about 15 minutes early to grab a spot. Don’t miss the Old Faithful Inn tour, SERIOUSLY. You might think, “I came to a national park to explore the great outdoors, not a building…” but just wait until you walk into the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn. The tour is free and provides so much history about not only the hotel but the park itself and its first visitors. Then once you’ve seen Old Faithful erupt, follow the boardwalk around to explore the Upper Geyser Basin which has the largest concentration of colorful hot pools in the world.

7 Day Road Trip Itinerary through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park - Upper Geyser BasinUpper Geyser Basin

As the sun sets head on over to the small town of West Yellowstone for a night at a local motel. This town also has a great little family owned grocery store so you can restock on food (you will get really sick of the park food really quickly—it is the same between both parks and at all stores in the parks).

Day 4

First things first. Pop into the Woodside Bakery and grab a breakfast sandwich and huckleberry scone to fuel your morning before heading back into the park early to beat the rush. Then head north towards Mammoth. On the way to Mammoth a quick stop at the Park Ranger Museum provides some history on the National Park Service, and if you aren’t totally “geysered-out” stop at the Norris Geyser Basin for a short walk to stretch the legs and get your morning dose.

If you think you’ve seen it all after driving by all the geyser turn-offs just wait…Mammoth Hot Springs is the definition of unique in Yellowstone and very different from everything you’ve seen so far. The water that pours over the hot springs has been in the ground for over 1,000 years and is responsible for all of the formations in the area as it cascades down. Take a peek into the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and check out the map room—it features a map of the United States made from several different kinds of wood. The Mammoth Hot Springs visitor center is also worthy of a stop in.

7 Day Road Trip Itinerary through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park - Day 4 at Mammoth Hot SpringsMammoth Hot Springs

Next, head to the Tower-Roosevelt area and down to Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. While a busy area of the Park, this drive is unbelievably beautiful, especially if it’s during wildflower season. Take your time and enjoy the scenery, especially the areas on this side of the park that were not hit by the 1988 fire. The power of the Yellowstone River and the upper and lower falls which carve the canyon is astounding. Camp at Canyon Village for the night.

Day 5

Kick start your morning with a hike starting at the Wapiti trailhead through a meadow to Clear Lake and then on through geothermal areas to Lily Pond Lake. This hike will end at the beautiful Artists Point, which was a really neat way to come in and see the canyon from the south side. If you go all the way to Artists Point, it is 4 relatively-flat miles roundtrip, but don’t dally too long as you still have the Yellowstone Lake area to explore.

7 Day Road Trip Itinerary through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park - Day 5 at Yellowstone's Grand CanyonYellowstone’s Grand Canyon

Alternatively you could hike up Mt. Washburn – a 6.4 mile roundtrip hike that offers one of the best views in the entire park. We didn’t have time to do this, and if I could go back, this is the one thing I would add to my itinerary.

As you head south there will be a turn on your left near Fishing Bridge towards the Visitor Center. Take this road to the Lake Butte lookout which will give you an incredible view and understanding of just how large the lake is. I will admit the ice cream served at the little market across the street from the visitor center is heavenly, and in our opinion this gift shop was the best in Yellowstone.

7 Day Road Trip Itinerary through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park - Day 5 at Yellowstone LakeLake Yellowstone

Back on the main road, farther south, the West Thumb Geyser Basin trail is a must. Don’t miss the fishing hole geyser, which has some really unique history. This walk is along the lakeshore on the opposite side of the lookout. I recommend camping in Grant Village for your last night in the park.

— Back to Jackson —

Day 6

One of the great things about having a full day left to start heading home is if you missed anything in the Tetons you now have the opportunity to check it out! I recommend heading to Jackson, Wyoming for a lunch stop and afternoon walk-about. It is a tourist town but definitely has a unique tempo to it and lots of individual mom and pop stores. Lotus Café is a super hippy-trendy healthy spot for lunch that is recommended by the locals and won’t disappoint in uniqueness nor flavor. Don’t miss stopping in at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar too. It has so much history and is a neat spot to get a drink. Then as you are heading out of Jackson in the evening, grab dinner at The Bird which is just south of town. They have a beautiful outdoor porch perfect for watching the sunset and toasting the end of your vacation.

— Departing Salt Lake City —

DAY 7

Travel back to Salt Lake City and fly home! If you get to SLC and have a few hours to burn I highly recommend you check out Park City (famous for incredible winter skiing and hosting the Sundance Film Festival) or if you really want to indulge (won’t lie, we did) then check out the Kura Door Spa…their prices are reasonable and all services include access to relaxation rooms, sauna, steam room and yummy treats & tea. For food and drinks near downtown, check out Whiskey Street (21+), Red Iguana (killer classic margs and amazing mole), or Spitz (delicious donor kabobs).

If you have a full day, Kristen has also written posts about some cool outdoor spots near Salt Lake, such as Diamond Fork Hot Springs and Red Pine Lake.

WHAT SPOTS DID WE MISS? LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, TWEET ME, OR WRITE ME A POST ON FACEBOOK

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There are 48 comments on this post.

About the author

Kim is a former principal who quit her job to solo hike all 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. In other words…she’s a badass. She currently lives in Santa Barbara where she is practicing yoga, whipping up some tasty vegetarian food, and working as a guide leading kayaking, hiking, and biking. At Bearfoot Theory, she runs our editorial calendar, and helps us deliver top-notch goods. Follow Kim on Instagram.

48 Comments on “The Ultimate 7-day Teton and Yellowstone Road Trip Itinerary

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  1. Great itinerary! I do want to point out that for the Lake Solitude hike, it will likely be at least 15 miles like the external link says (it was 20 miles roundtrip for us without using the boat). There is a multi-year trail maintenance project in progress for the trail system at Jenny lake, and the detours may extend the route. I just thought I’d mention it because 10 is quite a bit less than 15-20 when it comes to hiking and it’s always good to be prepared. It’s definitely worth seeing though!

      Thanks for clarifying Emily! I went ahead and updated the post to reflect the trail maintenance that’s going on up there.

    I lived in the area near Jackson for 2 years and had some of my most memorable fishing moments there! This place is worth visiting, great itinerary.

      I was just up there last week and got to spend some time on the Snake and Gros Ventre Rivers. Sooooo pretty! Jealous you got to live up there. Seems like a super fun place to spend some time in.

    Could someone please let me know when the best time to visit the above parks would be? Would love to visit in 2016!! Great itinerary!!

      The Tetons and Yellowstone will be best in June-October. The fall if you want to avoid the crowds.

    I worked at Signal Mountain Lodge for 8 years and served many a plate of nachos so it was fun to see you mention it. This is a great itinerary. I would just add white water rafting in Jackson as a don’t miss.

      Great addition Donna! Thanks for checking out the post and glad you liked it.

    Yellow Stone is one of the next places on my traveling list. It looks super cool, I have always wanted to go!

      Hopefully this post inspires you to plan that trip you’ve been dreaming about!

    Planning a trip there now! Your post was so very helpful! I cannot wait to get there! Hope you get to the Great Smoky Mountains- awesome hiking there too!

    Hey Kristin and Kim! Thanks so much for this awesome itinerary. Currently using it as inspiration for planning my own week-long adventure!

      Annnnd sorry for COMPLETELY misspelling your name Kristen!

    Hey Kristen! This is super helpful in trying to plan an upcoming trip sometime in July, so thank you. Can I ask what your thoughts are on solo hiking and travel through Grand Teton/Yellowstone?

      I think you’d be fine, especially if you stick to popular trails. They do recommended bear spray in the Tetons, so i would definitely plan on carrying that with you when you are hiking. I also use a SPOT transponder when I hike alone: https://bearfoottheory.com/spot-gen3-review/

    Kristen. Great info. – we are going late August into the beginning of September but we are staying in Jackson Hole and Bozeman not camping any suggestions?

      I don’t have any suggestions for hotels, but I’d suggest you try Airbnb. I bet you can find some cool places.If you haven’t ever used Airbnb, you can get $30 off your first stay by signing up at my link: http://www.airbnb.com/c/kbor

    Hi Kristen,

    We did our Grand Teton and Yellowstone trip based on your itinerary and had a blast! Thank you!

      Do you have your hotel/lodging by each day you used with this itinerary?

        I believe the author camped at the campgrounds described in the post.

    I visited Teton / Yellowstone from Aug 13 to 20th with my family and followed this itinerary with little alteration. For instance, as we were not camping, we just stayed in hotels along the way.

    As we moved through itinerary, it became obvious that we should not alter our path much from what was suggested as most of it seemed to have purpose. For instance, being able to compare Death Canyon with Cascade Canyon or visiting Signal Mountain Lodge (we stayed there) for awesome views, nachos and blackberry margaritas (no huckleberry while we were there).

    In Yellowstone, besides the great sight recommendations, we also stuck with the little things such as Woodside bakery stop, Park Ranger Museum and map room in Mammoth. These were the type of things that were off the beaten path but well worth it. The suggestion to hike the Wapiti trailhead to see the Yellowstone Grand Canyon from the south side was also spectacular as was the suggestion to visit Lake Butte lookout (we almost didn’t do it, but reminded ourselves that Kim had not steered us wrong to this point).

    Here is the only minor alterations we made:
    – We added a trip to Jackson to look around and go white water rafting down the Snake River between day 1 and 2 instead of waiting until day 6
    – We detoured in Mammoth to visit the boiling river which was a hoot (total time about 2 hours)

    All in all, this is one of the best itineraries I found anywhere and it was a huge help in planning our trip. Many thanks to Kristen for posting and Kim for writing.

    Wow! Those pictures are incredible. I hope to be able to visit the Tetons soon. Thanks for sharing your trip!

    Would you say March a bad time to visit?

      Many of the roads will still be closed in March due to snow. This itinerary is a summer itinerary

    This looks great! I know this is an old post, but if you see this – I’m trying to put together an itinerary for a large family trip to Jackson and Yellowstone. Not everyone in our party will be up for a 15 mile hike(small children and grandparents). Any thoughts on what we could cut out and what stays?

      Bourbon thanks so much for your message! There are some great short paths that are excellent for children and grandparents alike, especially in Yellowstone! A majority of the major sights in Yellowstone are under 0.5 mile paths. There is a Jackson Hole Children’s Museum so make sure to check that out for the kiddos!

    Just found your blog and it will be put to use! Thanks!

    My husband and I are interested in a one week vacation from 5/27 to 6/3/17. We are in mid-50s and fairly active. We would be flying into Bozeman MT and check out a bit of Montana, we well as visit Yellowstone np and Grand Tetons. Can this be done in this short timeframe? Your recommendations for how to approach trip? We live on the east coast, so checking out the beauty and the uniqueness of the west is our goal.

      Hey Barbara – If you are flying into Bozeman, I think your best bet would be to drive down through Big Sky and enter through West Yellowstone. Then go south on the loop once you reach Yellowstone and then exit back to Bozeman at the north end of the lake. You might be pressed to also visit Teton National Park too, but it depends how much hiking and exploring you want to do vs driving.

    Hi Kristen, this is the best itenerary I’ve seen for the area, thanks for sharing! Would love your thoughts on how to approach if we are driving in from the east (coming from Wi). Trying to decide if we should start south in grand Tetons, or come in from the north and work our way down. But how to do the loop then? We would also like to add in rafting in Jackson (or elsewhere?) and possibly the rodeo in Cody? We can do 9 days, but just lost on how best to route everything out. Would love to hear your thoughts!!

      Hi Stacie! Thanks for your support. I was super excited to share my itinerary for the Tetons & Yellowstone on Bearfoot Theory! That is so awesome to hear you are road tripping out west from Wisconsin. Are you visiting both the Tetons & Yellowstone? If so, I would do the Cody rodeo on your way in then do Yellowstone first, starting North at Mammoth Hot Springs and drive down to Old Faithful Inn then around to Canyon Village and then back down towards the Tetons and Jackson. You could also maybe make a game time decision based on the best weather for whitewater rafting! Feel free to drop me a person email if you want to discuss more options or even hop on the phone and discuss what you potentially could drop off the trip. The best part of your adventure though is then your drive back home from the Tetons will be a little bit different to stop! Sounds great! Can’t wait to hear about it!

      Would love to hear how this goes- I am looking to plan a road trip from MN- with kids ranging in age from 4-16.

    Just one tiny correction. The river that flows over the 2 falls and forms the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (I like it better than the other Grand Canyon), that river is the Yellowstone, The Snake is further south in Grand Teton. Really enjoyed the itinerary. Have been to Yellowstone and the Tetons multiple times, but discovered a new trail that we will try in October.

    Thanks

      Thanks Mick for the correction! Great to hear you enjoy the parks! Happy adventuring!

    This is great! We just got back from a trip to Yellowstone/Grand Teton and loved it. Unfortunately we didn’t have 7 days but still managed to see a ton.

    Hi! Thanks so much for all the great info! I have been attempting to plan this trip forever, but have been overwhelmed with too many options! Ha! One question, how limited would we be if we had our dog with us? We really want to bring her, but know it can limit what you can do. Thanks!!!

      Hey, Natalie! Great question–Kristen actually just hit Yellowstone for 5 days in her Sprinter with her dog, Charlie, so it is definitely possible! We are working on a post right now about traveling with your dog so make sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you know when the post is live. Pets are not allowed on boardwalks, trails, or in the backcountry so it definitely does limit your experience in the park. There are numerous boarding and doggy day care places though in the small towns surrounding the park. Lots of options to consider to make the most of your trip for you AND your four-legged friend.

    Hiya!

    We are doing a LONG road trip next month: Glacier (Sunday-Tuesday)–> Yellowstone (Chico HS: Tuesday-Friday) –>Teton –> Jackson–> SLC (fly out Monday)

    Do you have suggestions for coming “down” from Yellowstone and making our way to SLC? We don’t have anything nailed down once we leave Chico on Friday…

    Thanks in Advance!
    Lindsay

      Hello Lindsay, thanks for reaching out. Not sure if you are speaking in terms of things to do or places to stay. In terms of things to do honestly, if you are leaving Yellowstone on Friday and heading through the Tetons & Jackson Hole to be in Salt Lake City by Monday you’ll be totally fine. You can easily spend a full day in the Tetons and another full day in Jackson Hole. Once in Salt Lake City if you have any extra time there are great hikes near Alta or you can also check out Park City, Utah. In terms of places to stay, I don’t have any stand out favorites but there are tons of options along that route. You could even look into a cute AirBnB.

    Thank you so much for great info. Esp. like the idea of coming thru Victor Idaho, then returning difft route to SLC, where we would first arrive. Not BIG hikers, but my husband and i certainly could do the short route on Death Canyon Trailhead. You do not mention how to get back UP if we decide to go down to Lake. UT OH.Might catch us by surprise, and we cannot do an extensive trek.
    Good to know where to get margueritas, plus great view at Signal Mt. Lodge.
    Just starting to plan for trip in 2018. Thanks again for good details.

    Have you personally taken the I80/89 route? I have been the other route in 2016. Both take you close to Bear Lake

      Hi Melanie, this is Kim and I took the I80/89 route in 2015 when I visited the parks for the first time. I loved it.

    Great itinerary! I’d add a soak in the Boiling River when you are at Mammoth. It’s the only hot spring in the front country where you are allowed to soak. You can also get into the Firehole River in one spot, but it’s bathtub temperature not hot :).
    As an FYI, it’s the Yellowstone River that flows through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, not the Snake River. That’s down in GTNP.

    I agree that the Fishing Bridge store is the best one in the park!

      Thanks, Mel! We love these soaking spot recommendations! Will definitely check them out on our next trip through the park.

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