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Nestled amidst the rugged beauty of the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone is just waiting for your exploration. However, before you embark on your journey to Yellowstone, there is a pivotal decision to be made: which Yellowstone entrance is the best gateway for your adventure?
With a grand total of 5 entrances to Yellowstone to choose from, each offering its unique set of advantages and considerations, the task of selection might seem a tad overwhelming.
Here, we present your comprehensive guide to Yellowstone’s 5 entrances, complete with insights on the optimal routes to reach each entrance, the nearest attractions to explore, and the best lodging options.
- 1. Yellowstone National Park At-A-Glance
- 2. 5 Gateways to Yellowstone National Park
- 3. Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Yellowstone Gateway
- 4. West Entrance
- 4.1. How to Get to Yellowstone's West Entrance
- 4.2. Where to Stay Near the West Entrance
- 4.3. Top Attractions Near the West Entrance
- 4.4. The Pros and Cons of Staying Near the West Entrance
- 5. North Entrance
- 5.1. How to Get to Yellowstone's North Entrance
- 5.2. Where to Stay Near the North Entrance
- 5.3. Top Attractions Near the North Entrance
- 5.4. The Pros and Cons of Staying Near the North Entrance
- 6. Northeast Entrance
- 6.1. How to Get to Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance
- 6.2. Where to Stay Near the Northeast Entrance
- 6.3. Top Attractions Near the Northeast Entrance
- 6.4. The Pros and Cons of Staying Near the Northeast Entrance
- 7. East Entrance
- 7.1. How to Get to Yellowstone's East Entrance
- 7.2. Where to Stay Near the East Entrance
- 7.3. Top Attractions Near the East Entrance
- 7.4. The Pros and Cons of Staying Near the East Entrance
- 8. South Entrance
- 8.1. How to Get to Yellowstone's South Entrance
- 8.2. Where to Stay Near the South Entrance
- 8.3. Top Attractions Near the South Entrance
- 8.4. The Pros and Cons of Staying Near the South Entrance
- 9. Intrepid Scout's Tips for Choosing One of the Best Entrances to Yellowstone
5 Gateways to Yellowstone National Park
There are 5 distinct entrances to Yellowstone, each offering a unique portal to the park’s treasures:
1. West Entrance: The West Entrance, situated in West Yellowstone, Montana, is in close proximity to the famous Old Faithful and the vibrant Grand Prismatic Spring. This entrance is typically open from late spring to fall.
2. North Entrance: The North Entrance awaits in Gardiner, Montana, welcoming visitors year-round. From here, you can venture to iconic destinations like Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar Valley, renowned for its wildlife sightings.
Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance to the Park / Entrances to Yellowstone: Which One is the Best Gateway to the Park
3. Northeast Entrance: Situated in Cooke City, Montana, the Northeast Entrance opens up the stunning Beartooth Highway and the Absaroka Mountains. It is a seasonal entrance, typically accessible from late spring to fall.
4. East Entrance: Cody, Wyoming, is home to the East Entrance. From here, you can access the breathtaking Sylvan Pass and gaze upon the vast expanse of Yellowstone Lake. However, keep in mind that this entrance is seasonally open, with winter road closures.
5. South Entrance: Located near the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, the South Entrance grants access to the renowned Yellowstone Lake and the mesmerizing Upper Geyser Basin. It’s generally open from late spring to fall.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Yellowstone Gateway
When it comes to planning your Yellowstone adventure, the choice of entrance holds significant importance, influencing your overall experience.
Here are key factors to consider:
- Proximity to Your Starting Point:
When deciding on your Yellowstone entrance, the first factor to consider is how close it is to your current location. The distance between your starting point and each entrance can significantly impact your travel time and convenience.
- Seasonal Variations:
Yellowstone’s seasons play a crucial role in determining entrance accessibility and the overall experience. Some entrances are closed during the winter due to heavy snowfall, while others remain open year-round.
It is a good idea to check the current status and road conditions for each entrance based on your travel dates.
- Attractions and Interests:
Identify the specific attractions and activities that align with your interests within the park. Whether you are drawn to geothermal wonders, wildlife encounters, or scenic drives, each entrance offers unique access to different parts of Yellowstone.
Morning Glory Pool in Upper Geyser Basin / Entrances to Yellowstone: Which One is the Best Gateway to the Park
- Crowd Dynamics:
Understanding crowd levels can significantly impact your Yellowstone experience. Some entrances are more popular and tend to be way more busier than others, especially during peak tourist seasons.
Think about your preference for a tranquil, serene environment versus a livelier, bustling atmosphere when selecting an entrance that suits your crowd comfort level.
Bison in Yellowstone National Park / Entrances to Yellowstone: Which One is the Best Gateway to the Park
- Lodging and Amenities:
Evaluate the lodging options available near each entrance, which can include campgrounds, lodges, and hotels. The proximity of accommodations to your chosen entrance can influence your stay.
Additionally, consider the availability of amenities, such as dining options, visitor centers, and refueling stations, to ensure a comfortable visit.
- Scenic Routes and Drives:
For those who appreciate scenic drives and picturesque routes, investigate the roadways leading to and from each entrance. Some entrances offer captivating drives through Yellowstone’s stunning landscapes and provide excellent opportunities for sightseeing.
Here are two posts worth checking out:
Yellowstone Golden Gate Viaduct / Entrances to Yellowstone: Which One is the Best Gateway to the Park
The West Entrance is situated right next to the charming town of West Yellowstone, Montana, serving as a primary access point to Yellowstone National Park.
This entrance offers proximity to some of the park’s most famous features, making it a popular choice for travelers.
How to Get to Yellowstone's West Entrance
- If You Are Driving:
The West Entrance is easily accessible by car. If you are coming from the west, you can reach it via U.S. Route 20.
If you are arriving from the north or south, the entrance is accessible from U.S. Route 191.
- If You Are Flying:
The closest airports to the West Entrance are the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (approximately 90 miles away) and the Idaho Falls Regional Airport (approximately 110 miles away). Both airports offer rental car services for convenient transportation to West Yellowstone.
I typically choose West Yellowstone Airport as my arrival point. This small regional airport is conveniently situated a mere 2 miles from West Yellowstone town. While it offers limited commercial service, it serves as a practical option for those seeking direct access to West Yellowstone. Rental cars are available through Avis.
Where to Stay Near the West Entrance
The town of West Yellowstone is the primary hub near the West Entrance. It offers a range of various lodging options, including hotels, lodges, and cabins. There are plenty of dining options to choose from as well.
Here are my top 2 go to places to stay whenever I am visiting Yellowstone:
- Explorer Cabins
When it comes to planning your Yellowstone adventure, let me share a personal favorite: Explorer Cabins near the West Entrance. I cannot recommend them enough.
These cabins, nestled just a stone’s throw from the park, offer that perfect mix of modern comfort and rustic charm. Imagine being only 0.6 miles away from Yellowstone’s wonders, all while enjoying the convenience of a kitchenette, a snug fireplace, and your very own private entrance.
The beds are comfortable, and the roomy bathroom is a nice touch to a wilderness retreat. Having the kitchenette is a game-changer, giving you the freedom to whip up your favorite meals whenever you please.
Also, you will have your outdoor fire pit which is perfect for those evenings spent making s’mores under the starry Yellowstone sky.
Explorer Cabins Near Yellowstone’s West Entrance
- 1872 Inn
If you are seeking a luxurious, adults-only getaway near Yellowstone’s West Entrance, let me share a personal favorite: the 1872 Inn in West Yellowstone.
From the moment you step into this charming inn, you will appreciate the thoughtful amenities. Each room offers free WiFi, a cozy gas fireplace, a flat-screen TV, a coffee machine, and complimentary toiletries.
But the perks do not stop there. You can indulge in relaxation in the sauna, and keep active in the fitness center. Plus, they go the extra mile to make your stay exceptional, with a daily continental breakfast to kickstart your day and a warm welcome featuring complimentary snacks and water upon check-in. It’s all about ensuring your stay is nothing short of extraordinary.
Top Attractions Near the West Entrance
- Old Faithful: A mere 55-minute drive from West Yellowstone will have you marveling at the world-famous Old Faithful geyser, which erupts with remarkable regularity. This iconic geyser spouts scalding water high into the air, providing an awe-inspiring natural spectacle. Surrounding the geyser are boardwalks and viewing areas, allowing you to get up close and witness this geological wonder in action.
- Grand Prismatic Spring: Located just 40 minutes away, this mesmerizing spring showcases Yellowstone’s vivid geothermal wonders. The Grand Prismatic Spring is renowned for its stunning colors, with vibrant shades of blue, green, and orange caused by heat-loving microorganisms. A short hike to the Grand Prismatic Overlook offers breathtaking panoramic views of this natural marvel, allowing you to fully appreciate its beauty. The surrounding Midway Geyser Basin is also home to other captivating hot springs and geysers waiting to be explored.
Grand Prismatic Spring
- Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: Within 1 hour and 10 minutes, you can explore the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, complete with its thundering waterfalls. This remarkable canyon features dramatic orange and yellow-colored cliffs carved by the Yellowstone River. Two of its most famous waterfalls, Lower Falls and Upper Falls, offer breathtaking vistas from multiple viewpoints. Trails in the area provide opportunities for hiking and enjoying the stunning vistas from various angles.
- Mammoth Hot Springs: In just 1 hour and 25 minutes, you can reach the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. These unique terraces are formed by the flow of hot water laden with minerals, creating intricate and otherworldly formations. Explore the boardwalks that wind through this geothermal wonderland, allowing you to get close to the terraces and marvel at the ever-changing landscape.
Mammoth Hot Springs
- Norris Geyser Basin: A 45-minute drive from West Yellowstone will take you to the dynamic Norris Geyser Basin, one of Yellowstone’s hottest and most active thermal areas. Here, you can witness a variety of geothermal features, including geysers, fumaroles, and colorful hot springs. The basin’s centerpiece, Steamboat Geyser, is the world’s tallest active geyser and erupts sporadically, providing a rare and impressive sight. Explore the well-maintained boardwalks and trails to experience the otherworldly landscapes of Norris Geyser Basin.
- Lamar Valley: In approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, you can find yourself in the picturesque Lamar Valley, often referred to as the “Serengeti of North America.” This valley is a prime location for wildlife viewing, with opportunities to spot bison herds, elk, wolves, and grizzly bears. The open landscapes provide unobstructed views of wildlife in their natural habitat, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and photographers.
The Pros and Cons of Staying Near the West Entrance
Pros of Staying Near the West Entrance to Yellowstone:
- Convenient access to iconic attractions:
The West Yellowstone Entrance provides easy and relatively quick access to some of Yellowstone’s most renowned attractions. Within a short drive, you can witness the regular eruptions of Old Faithful and explore the vivid colors of Grand Prismatic Spring, making it an excellent choice for visitors eager to see these natural wonders.
- Abundant lodging, dining, and shopping options in West Yellowstone:
The town of West Yellowstone, located near the entrance, offers a wide range of accommodations, from hotels to lodges and cabins. You will also find a diverse selection of dining establishments serving various cuisines, as well as shops for souvenirs and outdoor gear. This convenience allows you to stock up on essentials and enjoy a comfortable stay before or after your park adventures.
- Close proximity to West Yellowstone Airport for regional flights:
For those seeking direct regional flights, West Yellowstone Airport is incredibly close to the West Entrance, just 2 miles away. While it offers limited commercial service, it is a convenient option for travelers looking for a straightforward route into the park.
Cons of Staying Near the West Entrance to Yellowstone:
- Can get crowded during peak tourist seasons:
Due to its popularity and easy accessibility, the West Yellowstone Entrance can become quite crowded during the peak summer months. The high volume of visitors can lead to congestion at attractions, parking lots, and lodging options. Planning your visit during the shoulder seasons or weekdays can help mitigate this.
- Limited commercial flights into West Yellowstone Airport:
While West Yellowstone Airport offers convenience, it has limited commercial flight options. Travelers often need to connect through larger airports, which can add travel time and complexity to their journey. Exploring flight options in advance is advisable to ensure a smooth arrival.
- Weather-related road closures may affect accessibility, especially in winter:
The region surrounding the West Entrance experiences harsh winters with heavy snowfall. As a result, certain roads and entrances may be closed during the winter months, affecting accessibility. It is important to check road conditions and park alerts if you plan to visit during the colder season and to be prepared for changing weather conditions.
The North Entrance will welcome you near the town of Gardiner, Montana, marking the gateway to Yellowstone National Park’s northern reaches.
This entrance provides access to some of the park’s iconic attractions!
How to Get to Yellowstone's North Entrance
- If You Are Driving:
You can reach the North Entrance via U.S. Route 89, which connects Gardiner to other major roads. It’s a convenient route for travelers arriving from the north or south.
- If You Are Flying:
The nearest major airport to the North Entrance is Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, located approximately 85 miles away. From there, you can rent a car for the scenic drive to Gardiner.
Where to Stay Near the North Entrance
Gardiner, Montana, is the primary town near the North Entrance. It offers services, accommodations, and a welcoming atmosphere, making it an ideal base for exploring the northern sections of Yellowstone.
Here are a couple of places that I found just right:
- Yellowstone Gateway Inn
If you’re seeking a warm and welcoming bed and breakfast experience, Yellowstone Gateway Inn is a fantastic choice.
The hosts here are known for their genuine Montana hospitality! They will not only make you feel at home but also provide invaluable tips for making the most of your Yellowstone adventure.
Wake up to the delightful aroma of a hearty Montana breakfast before setting out for a day of exploration.
- Absoroka Lodge
Absaroka Lodge offers cozy rooms with a touch of modern comfort, and some even have kitchenettes for added convenience.
What sets it apart is its scenic riverside location. Imagine relaxing by the Yellowstone River, soaking in the tranquility of the surroundings!
It is the perfect spot to unwind after a day of park adventures, and it is just a short drive from the historic Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone’s North Entrance.
Top Attractions Near the North Entrance
- Mammoth Hot Springs: Located about 5 miles from the North Entrance, Mammoth Hot Springs is a surreal geothermal wonder with terraces of colorful travertine formations. The constantly changing thermal activity creates intricate mineral deposits that resemble cascading waterfalls. Explore the boardwalks to witness this unique geological phenomenon up close.
- Lamar Valley: Lamar Valley located immediately upon entering the park from the North Entrance is often referred to as the “Serengeti of North America” due to its incredible wildlife diversity. Bison herds, elk, wolves, grizzly bears, and numerous bird species can be spotted here. It’s a prime location for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers.
- Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: Located approximately 20 miles from the entrance is a geological wonder carved by the Yellowstone River. It is known for its stunning yellow, orange, and red-hued canyon walls, as well as its two iconic waterfalls, Upper Falls and Lower Falls. You can admire these powerful cascades from viewpoints along the canyon’s rim, including Artist Point.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone / Entrances to Yellowstone; Which One Is the Best Gateway to the Park
The Pros and Cons of Staying Near the North Entrance
Pros of Staying Near the North Entrance:
- Close Proximity to Iconic Attractions: The North Entrance offers excellent access to Yellowstone’s iconic attractions, including Mammoth Hot Springs and Lamar Valley. Mammoth Hot Springs showcases stunning terraces of colorful travertine formations, while Lamar Valley is renowned for its wildlife, including bison, elk, wolves, and grizzly bears.
- Access to Wildlife Viewing Opportunities: Lamar Valley, accessible from the North Entrance, is often referred to as the “Serengeti of North America.” It’s a prime location for wildlife viewing, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and photographers.
- Welcoming Town of Gardiner: The town of Gardiner, located at the North Entrance, offers a range of lodging and dining options. It is a charming gateway to the park with amenities for visitors, including restaurants, shops, and accommodations.
- Convenient Driving Access from Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport: Travelers arriving at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport will find the North Entrance conveniently accessible. This airport provides regional and national flight options for those planning to explore Yellowstone.
Brink of the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Cons of Staying Near the North Entrance:
- Peak Tourist Seasons Can Be Busy: Like many park entrances, the North Entrance can experience high visitor numbers during peak tourist seasons, particularly in the summer. This can lead to crowded attractions and longer wait times.
- Potential Winter Road Closures Due to Snow: The North Entrance is subject to winter weather conditions, which may lead to road closures and limited accessibility during the winter months. Travelers should check road conditions and plan accordingly if visiting in winter.
- Slightly Longer Drive to Southern Sections: If your itinerary includes exploring the southern sections of the park, be prepared for a slightly longer drive from the North Entrance. Attractions like Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are further south within the park.
The Northeast Entrance welcomes travelers coming from the town of Cooke City, Montana.
The Northeast Entrance provides access to the picturesque and less-visited eastern regions of Yellowstone National Park.
How to Get to Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance
- If You Are Driving:
The Northeast Entrance is reachable via the Beartooth Highway (U.S. Route 212), a renowned scenic byway that winds through stunning mountain landscapes. This route offers breathtaking views and a unique journey to the park.
- If You Are Flying:
While there are no major airports in close proximity to the Northeast Entrance, the nearest significant airport is Billings Logan International Airport, located approximately 140 miles away. From Billings, you can embark on a scenic drive to Cooke City.
Where to Stay Near the Northeast Entrance
The town of Cooke City offers a range of accommodations, including motels, cabins, and lodges. Many lodging options provide a rustic and cozy atmosphere in close proximity to the entrance.
- Alpine Motel
Alpine Motel in Cooke City is probably your best choice. It is conveniently located near Yellowstone’s northeastern entrance, providing easy access to Lamar Valley and the park’s wildlife.
It offers a range of room types, including standard rooms and suites, catering to various group sizes and preferences.
Top Attractions Near the Northeast Entrance
- Beartooth Highway: This renowned scenic route offers breathtaking views as it winds through the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. It’s a highlight in itself and provides access to various hiking trails and viewpoints.
View from Beartooth Highway / Entrances to Yellowstone: Which Entrance Should you Choose
- Soda Butte: A distinctive thermal feature near the Northeast Entrance, known for its bubbling springs and colorful mineral deposits.
- Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River: This river offers opportunities for fishing, rafting, and scenic drives along its banks.
- Pilot and Index Peaks: These peaks provide hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities, with the chance to spot bighorn sheep and other mountain fauna.
Flyfishing in Yellowstone / Entrances to Yellowstone: Which Entrance Should You Choose
The Pros and Cons of Staying Near the Northeast Entrance
Pros of Staying Near the Northeast Entrance:
- Access to the Scenic Beartooth Highway and Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness:
The Northeast Entrance is the gateway to the Beartooth Highway, one of the most scenic drives in the United States. This highway takes you through the rugged Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, offering jaw-dropping mountain vistas, alpine lakes, and pristine wilderness. It is a dream for those seeking outdoor adventures and breathtaking landscapes.
- Quieter and Less Crowded:
Compared to some of the park’s more popular entrances, the Northeast Entrance tends to be quieter and less crowded, providing a more serene and tranquil experience. It is an excellent choice for visitors who prefer a more peaceful exploration of Yellowstone.
- Unique Thermal Features like Soda Butte:
The Northeast Entrance area features unique thermal features, including the captivating Soda Butte. This cone-shaped hot spring cone is known for its striking colors and intriguing geothermal activity, making it a fascinating stop for park enthusiasts.
Cons of the Northeast Entrance:
- Limited Commercial Airport Options, Longer Drive from Billings:
Travelers flying to the Yellowstone region may find limited commercial airport options near the Northeast Entrance. Billings, Montana, is the closest major airport, but it requires a longer drive to reach the entrance. This can add to travel time for those arriving by air.
- Seasonal Access Due to Beartooth Highway Closures in Winter:
Beartooth Highway, while stunning, is subject to seasonal closures in winter due to heavy snowfall and challenging road conditions. This means the Northeast Entrance may not be accessible during the winter months.
- More Remote Compared to Some Other Entrances:
The Northeast Entrance is relatively remote compared to some other entrances, requiring more extensive travel to reach various park attractions in other sections of Yellowstone. You should be prepared for longer drives if they plan to explore the central and southern parts of the park.
The East Entrance is situated near Cody, Wyoming, offering access to the scenic eastern sections of Yellowstone National Park, including Yellowstone Lake and the Absaroka Mountains.
How to Get to Yellowstone's East Entrance
- If You Are Driving: The East Entrance is accessible via the Cody-Yellowstone Scenic Byway (U.S. Route 14/16/20).
This picturesque route takes you through the Shoshone National Forest and provides a beautiful drive to the park.
- Flying: The closest airport to the East Entrance is Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody, Wyoming, located approximately 55 miles away.
This airport offers commercial service, making it a convenient option for travelers.
Where to Stay Near the East Entrance
The town of Cody offers a range of accommodations, including hotels, motels, and lodges, allowing you to enjoy the town’s attractions while having easy access to the park.
Here are a couple of places that you will find just right for your stay:
- Cody Hotel
Nestled in the heart of Cody, Wyoming, Cody Hotel is a modern gem that I personally recommend for a comfortable and convenient stay. During my visit, I was impressed by the contemporary design and cozy ambiance of the hotel.
The indoor pool and hot tub were a welcome respite after a day of exploring, and the proximity to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West added a cultural dimension to my trip.
- Cody Cowboy Village
If you are yearning for an authentic Western experience during your visit to Cody, Wyoming, I cannot recommend Cody Cowboy Village enough.
This charming retreat offers cozy log cabins that truly capture the spirit of the Old West. During my stay, I was enchanted by the rustic charm of the cabins, which provided a unique and comfortable lodging experience.
Top Attractions Near the East Entrance
- Sylvan Pass and Sylvan Lake: Sylvan Pass is a mountainous area known for its spectacular scenery and, in the winter, challenging road conditions. During the summer, visitors can access Sylvan Lake, a serene alpine lake surrounded by rugged peaks. The area is great for hiking, picnicking, and taking in the stunning views.
- Lake Butte Overlook: Lake Butte Overlook provides breathtaking panoramic views of Yellowstone Lake, the largest high-altitude lake in North America. It’s a great spot for photography and to appreciate the vastness and beauty of the lake and its surroundings.
- Hayden Valley: Hayden Valley is a prime location for wildlife watching. It’s often frequented by bison, elk, grizzly bears, and other wildlife. The vast grassy plains and meandering Yellowstone River create an ideal habitat for observing these magnificent animals in their natural environment.
Hayden Valley / Entrances to Yellowstone: Which Entrance Should You Choose
- Fishing Bridge Visitor Center: The Fishing Bridge Visitor Center offers informative exhibits and educational programs about Yellowstone’s diverse ecosystems and the park’s natural history. It’s a valuable stop for visitors looking to deepen their understanding of the park’s unique features.
- Mary Bay and Yellowstone Lake: Mary Bay, on the shores of Yellowstone Lake, offers a peaceful setting for relaxation and wildlife viewing. Visitors can enjoy the serene atmosphere, watch for waterfowl and other wildlife, or simply soak in the beauty of the lake’s crystal-clear waters.
Yellowstone Lake / Entrances to Yellowstone: Which Entrance Should You Choose
The Pros and Cons of Staying Near the East Entrance
Pros of the East Entrance:
- Access to the Beautiful Yellowstone Lake and its Recreational Opportunities:
The East Entrance provides convenient access to the stunning Yellowstone Lake, the largest high-altitude lake in North America. Visitors can enjoy a range of recreational activities here, including boating, fishing, and lakeside picnics, amidst the scenic splendor of the lake.
- Convenient Access from Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody:
Travelers arriving at Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody, Wyoming, will find the East Entrance conveniently accessible. This regional airport offers flights that connect visitors to the entrance, making it a suitable choice for those arriving by air.
- Proximity to the Historic Town of Cody with its Museums and Western Culture:
The East Entrance is close to the town of Cody, renowned for its rich Western culture and history. Cody offers attractions like the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, which houses several museums, and the Cody Nite Rodeo, providing visitors with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the Old West heritage.
- Less Crowded Compared to Some Other Entrances, Providing a Quieter Park Experience:
One of the advantages of the East Entrance is its relatively lower visitor traffic, especially when compared to some of the park’s more popular entrances. This means a quieter and more tranquil park experience for those seeking a peaceful visit.
Cons of the East Entrance:
- Potential Seasonal Road Closures Due to High-Elevation Mountain Passes:
The East Entrance, particularly the Sylvan Pass area, is subject to seasonal road closures in winter due to heavy snowfall and challenging road conditions. Travelers should check road conditions and plan their visits accordingly, as the entrance may not be accessible during the winter months.
- Longer Drive to Reach the Central and Western Sections of the Park:
If your itinerary includes exploring the central and western sections of Yellowstone, be prepared for a longer drive from the East Entrance. Attractions like Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are further west within the park.
- Limited Dining and Lodging Options Within the Park Itself Near the East Entrance:
While Cody offers dining and lodging options, the immediate area near the East Entrance within the park has fewer dining and accommodation choices compared to some other entrances. Travelers should plan their meals and lodging accordingly.
The South Entrance is located in the southern part of Yellowstone National Park, close to the border of Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
If you are visiting both parks, then the South Entrance will be your perfect gateway to Yellowstone National Park.
How to Get to Yellowstone's South Entrance
- If You Are Driving:
The South Entrance is easily accessible by car via the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, which connects it to Grand Teton National Park to the south. It is a convenient route for those arriving from the Jackson Hole area in Wyoming.
- If You Are Flying:
The nearest major airport to the South Entrance is Jackson Hole Airport in Jackson, Wyoming, located approximately 58 miles away. This airport offers commercial service and rental car options.
Where to Stay Near the South Entrance
Here are my top 3 places that I stayed at located close to the South Entrance.
PRO TIP: Just keep in mind that you need to make reservations way in advance to secure your lodging (about 1 year in advance)!
- Headwaters Cabins
Headwaters Cabins are located within Grand Teton National Park, 2.4 miles near the South Entrance of Yellowstone making it an ideal base for exploring both parks.
Headwater Cabins are comfortable and cozy. Each room has a private bath, coffee maker, and front porch with rocking chairs. Deluxe and Premium cabins also include a mini-refrigerator and microwave.
- Colter Bay Cabins
Colter Bay Cabins are situated in Grand Teton National Park, about 18 miles from the South Entrance of Yellowstone making it a convenient option for exploring both national parks.
Colter Bay Cabins are basic yet comfortable. All Cabins include linens, towels, and coffee makers. Cabins do not include televisions, microwaves, or mini-fridges.
Colter Bay in Grand Teton / Entrances to Yellowstone: Which Entrance Should You Choose
- Jackson Lake Lodge and Cabins
Jackson Lake Lodge is also located within Grand Teton National Park, approximately 23 miles from the South Entrance of Yellowstone offering convenient access to both national parks.
The Lodge features 385 rooms including stunning suites, main lodge hotel rooms, and quiet cottages.
Top Attractions Near the South Entrance
- West Thumb Geyser Basin: Located along the shores of Yellowstone Lake, approximately 17 miles from the South Entrance features colorful hot springs, geysers, and geothermal pools. The unique aspect of this basin is its proximity to the lake, offering stunning views of geothermal features against the backdrop of the lake’s pristine waters.
- Yellowstone Lake: The largest high-altitude lake in North America, offering opportunities for boating, fishing, and lakeside relaxation.
- Upper Geyser Basin: The Upper Geyser Basin is located approximately 28 miles from the South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It is often considered the crown jewel of Yellowstone’s geothermal wonders. It is home to a stunning array of geysers, hot springs, and thermal pools, making it one of the most iconic and visited areas within the park.
Upper Geyser Basin / Entrances to Yellowstone: Which Entrance Should You Choose
Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in the world, is the star attraction of the Upper Geyser Basin. Visitors gather around the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center to witness its regular eruptions, which occur approximately every 90 minutes. The eruptions shoot scalding water high into the air, providing a spectacular natural display.
Another notable geyser in the basin, Castle Geyser, is known for its impressive cone structure and periodic eruptions. While not as predictable as Old Faithful, its eruptions are a sight to behold.
Grand Geyser is the tallest predictable geyser in the world and can erupt up to 200 feet in the air. Visitors who time their visit right can witness its spectacular eruptions.
Riverside Geyser is known for its picturesque location along the Firehole River. It erupts in a graceful arch, creating a stunning natural scene.
Just a short walk from the Upper Geyser Basin, Biscuit Basin features a colorful collection of thermal features, including Sapphire Pool and Jewel Geyser.
The Morning Glory Pool is a short hike away. It is famous for its vibrant blue colors and unique appearance.
- Grand Teton National Park: Just south of Yellowstone, this park offers stunning mountain scenery, hiking, and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Grand Teton (Jackson Lake with Mount Moran in the Distance)
The Pros and Cons of Staying Near the South Entrance
The Pros of Staying Near the South Entrance:
- Access to Iconic Yellowstone Lake and West Thumb Geyser Basin:
Staying near the South Entrance provides convenient access to Yellowstone Lake, the largest high-altitude lake in North America. The lake’s pristine waters offer opportunities for boating, fishing, and lakeside relaxation.
Nearby is the West Thumb Geyser Basin, known for its colorful hot springs and geothermal features. It’s an excellent place to witness the juxtaposition of geothermal activity and the natural beauty of the lake.
- Convenient Access from Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming:
Travelers flying into Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming will find it conveniently located for accessing the South Entrance of Yellowstone. This airport offers regional and national flights, making it a practical choice for those flying into the area.
- Proximity to the Vibrant Town of Jackson with Dining and Entertainment Options:
The town of Jackson, Wyoming, is within reasonable driving distance from the South Entrance. This lively town offers a wide range of dining, shopping, and entertainment options, including art galleries, live music, and cultural events.
- Nearby Access to Grand Teton National Park for Additional Exploration:
Staying near the South Entrance allows easy access to Grand Teton National Park, located just to the south of Yellowstone. Grand Teton offers stunning mountain vistas, hiking trails, and abundant wildlife, making it an ideal complement to your Yellowstone adventure.
The Cons of Staying Near the South Entrance:
- Can Be Busy During Peak Tourist Seasons:
Like many popular park entrances, the South Entrance can become crowded during the peak tourist seasons, particularly in the summer months. This can lead to congestion at popular attractions, limited parking availability, and longer wait times.
- Longer Drive to Reach the Central and Northern Sections of the Park:
Staying near the South Entrance means a longer drive to reach the central and northern sections of Yellowstone, including attractions like Mammoth Hot Springs, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and Lamar Valley.
- Potential Road Closures Due to Weather, Especially in the Winter Months:
The region around the South Entrance can experience heavy snowfall and harsh winter conditions, leading to road closures and limited accessibility, especially in the winter months. You should check road conditions and park alerts when planning a winter visit.