Yellowstone National Park is best known for its thermal basins which feature hot springs and geysers.
This means that it can be a perfect day trip to Yellowstone by making it all about the thermal basins!
So, this Yellowstone itinerary of one day in Yellowstone will focus on seeing some of different types of natural thermal features that comes from being the Yellowstone supervolcano!
5 of the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park in one day from the west entrance as a day trip from West Yellowstone MT
1. Firehole Lake Drive
Firehole Lake Drive can be the first “stop” that you make when you are driving from West Yellowstone. This is a turn-off from the main road, and along Firehole Lake Drive you’ll find some hot springs and geysers.
Have a look at what to see in this Yellowstone thermal area:
2. Fountain Paint Pots Trail
Once you are at the end of Firehole Lake Drive, the Fountain Paint Pots trail parking lot is basically right in front of you.
You might even see a bubbling hot spring.
You can also see mudpots here.
And can also see a big fumarole if you are in Yellowstone in late summer or fall.
Have a look at what to see in this Yellowstone thermal area:
Seeing Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the “must-do” things to do in Yellowstone.
But you don’t want to go to Grand Prismatic Spring too early, because there may be more steam coming off of it than you’d like when there are cooler temperatures. So if you’re getting an early start to your one day in Yellowstone, then you may want to save this for later.
This is where you will find the trail to the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook, where you will get to see the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring from above.
See more about this Yellowstone activity: Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook
If you want to see the Grand Prismatic Spring from ground level, that is in another location, and you will look for the sign for the Midway Geyer Basin. It’s possible you may be parking along the side of the main road leading up to the parking lot.
4. West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail
And then another thermal basin where you can see hot springs and geysers.
The West Thumb geyser basin is also special because it also makes for a nice lakeside walk along Yellowstone Lake.
5. Old Faithful Geyser and the Upper Geyser Basin
Seeing the Old Faithful Geyser erupt is the other “must-do” things to do in Yellowstone.
The Old Faithful Geyser is the famous geyser that erupts regularly in Yellowstone National Park.
You’ll have passed the turn-off for Old Faithful as you’re driving from West Yellowstone to the West Thumb geyser basin.
But saving Old Faithful for last when you have just one day in Yellowstone so you’ll have a better judge of how much time you can spend at the Upper Geyser Basin!
There is only so much to do at the other geyser basins on this list. But the Old Faithful area is around the Upper Geyser basin, and this area is quite large.
There is a potential to see a few geysers erupting, not just Old Faithful. And the biggest thing is that unlike geysers in the other Yellowstone thermal basins, there are geyser eruption predictions given for several geysers in Upper Geyser Basin.
For the geyser eruption prediction timings, note the PLUS or MINUS number! The geyser prediction time can be plus or minus 10 minutes or it can be plus or minus 2 hours! (The Old Faithful geyser can generally be predicted plus or minus 10 minutes.)
So if you’re looking to go geyser eruption chasing, it’s quite possible to spend several hours in the Old Faithful area.
If you have brought along your bikes for your national park road trip, this is a good area to make use of them! There is a paved path where you can ride up and down past geysers. See the geyser biking route. You can also rent a bike at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
So once you arrive at the Old Faithful Geyser parking lot, you’ll want to head to the visitor center to see when the next geyser eruption is predicted.
The Old Faithful geyser prediction is posted on the National Park Service website, but you likely won’t have service when you are driving through Yellowstone in which case you won’t be able to refer to it then.
The most popular spot to watch the geyser is from the observation boardwalk that is right in front of the geyser.
You can also hike up to the Observation Point to see the geyser from above. You just want to make sure you give yourself enough time to get there before the next eruption!
See more about this Yellowstone activity: Old Faithful Observation Point
From the Observation Point Trail, you can also make it a hike to Solitary Geyser.
Then, if you find yourself with extra time, you can also head to more nearby thermal basins that are around the Upper Geyser Basin.
At the Black Sand Basin you have the chance to see the Cliff Geyser erupting alongside a creek. It had frequent eruptions while I was there.
I also saw a buffalo walking near the start of the Black Sand basin trail!
Have a look at what to see in this Yellowstone thermal area: Black Sand Basin
Have a look at what to see in this Yellowstone thermal area: Biscuit Basin
Driving from Yellowstone to Grand Teton
The above is listed in order as you may consider doing it as a round trip from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park, which is where you would enter if you are staying in West Yellowstone MT.
You may also consider entering from the Yellowstone west entrance if you’re driving from Bozeman MT. Or, when driving from Bozeman to Yellowstone, you may also consider entering from the north entrance of Yellowstone with a stop at the Mammoth Hot Springs. (map)
If you will be driving one way from Yellowstone to Grand Teton, then this may not be the order you want to do it in.
The order you may want to do it if you when driving from Yellowstone to Grand Teton in one day if you won’t be making it a return trip:
- Firehole Lake Drive
- Fountain Paint Pots Trail
- Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook Trail
- Biscuit Basin
- Black Sand Basin
- Old Faithful Geyser overlook
- West Thumb Geyser Basin trail
If you will be driving in the opposite direction from Jackson WY or from Grand Teton to Yellowstone, then do this list from the bottom up!
Also see about more for planning your trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton:
MAP: Driving along the main road with many Yellowstone thermal basins
Explore the map.
Buffalo in Yellowstone
The driving route that this Yellowstone day trip follows doesn’t go to spots that are considered the BEST places to see buffalo in Yellowstone. (That’s would be Hayden Valley or Lamar Valley.)
But still, buffalo do roam this area too, just maybe not in the numbers you may see if you make the drive out to Hayden Valley or Lamar Valley. So keep your eyes open no matter where you’ll be driving through Yellowstone!
Weather in Yellowstone National Park
The weather can make a difference in your experience at Yellowstone National Park!
More specifically, the air temperature can make a difference.
My trip to Yellowstone National Park was at the end of September and beginning of October. It was in the 50s for most of my visit. So the pictures that you see are what it’s like when the temperatures are in the 50s in Yellowstone.
The cooler it is, the more steam you’ll see coming off the hot springs and geysers.
You may see this as a good thing or a bad thing!
Cooler temperatures that produce the steam can give a sort of look as you can see steam all across the geyser basin!
But, if there is a ton of steam, it also makes it so you may not be able to see the vibrant colors of some of the hot springs too!
Cost of visiting Yellowstone National Park
In 2021, the cost of a Yellowstone National Park 7-day pass was $35 per car. There is no one-day pass.
Generally speaking, If you will be visiting 3 national parks within a year, then it will be worth it to get the annual national park pass.
This is especially true if the 3 national parks that you plan on visiting are the popular national parks.
As long as the Yellowstone National Park entry booth is staffed, you can buy this when you arrive at Yellowstone.
👆 Cost of Yellowstone National Park entry fees in 2021.
The boring safety message!
In short, stay on the trail when you’re walking around the thermal basins in Yellowstone!
Part of what makes Yellowstone National Park so famous and popular is all of the thermal activity so you can see geysers erupting and hot springs letting off steam!
And it is THERMAL activity. This means that the ground can be HOT in places where you don’t expect it.
One of the main reasons for the boardwalks you see in all of the Yellowstone thermal basins is so we can all have a safe viewing area of this thermal activity all around us.
The ground just off the trail may look like the firm and steady ground you’re used to, but looks can be deceiving.
It’s possible that if you step off the trail, your foot could unexpectedly sink into the ground and you could get severely burned, for example.
On a related note of things not to do in Yellowstone National Park, the hot springs aren’t meant to be wishing wells so don’t throw coins into them!
It is said that coins (and other foreign objects that make their way in there) can contaminate the hot springs.
And that’s a bit about making it a day trip to Yellowstone!
Plan more of your Wyoming road trip:
- One day in Grand Teton National Park
- Driving the Grand Teton scenic loop road
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial to Wyoming
- Yellowstone to Craters of the Moon National Monument
- Snowy Range Scenic Byway
- Best of hiking in Wyoming
HAPPY DRIVING THROUGH YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK IN ONE DAY!
See Yellowstone thermal areas in action on youtube!
- Geysers and hot springs: Yellowstone National Park videos