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Welcome back to The Abroad Blog! If you’ve been following along on here and Instagram, you would know I visited my 50th state in June 2022. It took me 24 years to complete my #50stateschallenge, with the majority of my domestic travel taking place in the last 3 years. I’ve documented my experiences in all 50 states on Instagram and am now creating a travel guide for each state here on my blog! Consider this blog your one stop shop for America. Today’s post is going to cover a week in Wyoming itinerary, including a 3 day Yellowstone itinerary. I drove from Jackson, Wyoming to Yellowstone with my family a few years ago and will always remember this trip as being one of my favorite family vacations to date. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your own Yellowstone 3 day itinerary and trip to the Grand Tetons.
Best time to visit Wyoming
The Wild West state of Wyoming experiences its peak tourist season during the summer months. From June – August, the mountain trails are ideal for hiking and the campgrounds are buzzing. This is also the time of year for guaranteed snow-free hiking and backpacking, along with cultural festivals in Jackson. This is also peak rodeo season!
Since the national parks, campgrounds, and hotels are busiest during this time of year, you’ll want to reserve your accommodation far in advance. This “peak season” will also bring forward Jackson’s peak prices — so be aware of that when it comes to budgeting for your Wyoming itinerary.
September is a fantastic time for hiking in Grand Tetons National Park and for roadtripping from Jackson, Wyoming to Yellowstone. While the weather is still comfortable, you’ll find cheaper accommodation rates more availability, and crowd-free trails.
The winter in Wyoming can be quite harsh, but if you’re well-equipped with your wardrobe and looking for an adventure, consider a trip here during the snowy months! The Greater Jackson area offers a huge range of outdoor activities with incredible backdrops. There’s Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and winter wildlife watching within Yellowstone National Park. And of course the real gemstone of the area — Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for world-class downhill skiing. I’ve only been to a few ski resorts in New England, so this is definitely still on the list!
How to get to Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole Airport is located 9 miles from Jackson town square and 20 miles from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, making it one of the most accessible airports in the west. It’s also the only commercial airport in the US within national park boundaries!
There are 13 major cities that offer nonstop flights into Jackson Hole. You can fly on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, or United.
Once you arrive at the Jackson Hole airport, I recommend renting a car so you can easily explore the national parks and surrounding area during your trip. The rental car companies on-site are Alamo, Enterprise, Avis / Budget, and National.
Things to do in Jackson, Wyoming
First things first: Jackson Hole is the valley in this area that stretches 80 miles long and 15 miles wide. Jackson is a major town within the valley. The valley is home to 3 ski areas: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Mountain Resort, and Grand Targhee Resort. North of the city are the peaks of Grand Teton National Park, as well as the vast Yellowstone National Park.
Jackson has a historic city center and a plethora of hotels to stay in. I recommend basing yourself here to visit the main attractions in the area on this Wyoming itinerary. I believe my family stayed in Jackson for about 3-4 days for the below activities. Keep reading for the 3 day itinerary for Yellowstone, which will make the perfect week-long trip to America’s least populated state.
Jackson Town Square
The Jackson Town Square, the heart and soul of the old Western town, features arches made of shed antlers from the nearby National Elk Refuge. Formally named George Washington Memorial Park, this peaceful green space is located right in the middle of all of the shops, restaurants, and businesses that make the town unique.
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar
There’s only one place to go in Jackson to party like a cowboy — the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. This place is open seven days a week and is truly quintessential Wild Wild West. There’s usually live country music here, dancing, and food in the steakhouse downstairs.
National Museum of Wildlife Art
The National Museum of Wildlife Art offers paintings to photographs to statues for visitors to enjoy in their walkable outdoor space. The museum has works by Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keeffe, along with stunning views of the National Elk Refuge.
Jackson Hole Rodeo
Catching the Jackson Hole Rodeo should be a MUST on any Wyoming itinerary! This sport has to be one of the most truly American things in existence, plus rodeos hold a special place in the history of Wyoming. The rodeo here is world-class and features calf roping, barrel racing, bull riding, and more.
Pro-tip: Want to experience the rodeo up close and personal? You can pay for a “Behind the Chutes” VIP experience to meet the animals, riders, and all the thrills that come along with this iconic Jackson activity.
Things to do in Greater Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Now that we covered sightseeing within the “city” of Jackson, here are some other adventures to sprinkle into your Wyoming itinerary — before we dive into hiking in Grand Tetons National Park and road tripping from Jackson, Wyoming to Yellowstone. I did visit Wyoming in August, so most of these activities are for the non-winter months! Skiing at Jackson Hole is still on my bucket list.
Horseback Riding Trails
Horseback riding is a fantastic family activity to do during your time in Jackson Hole! There are dozens of miles of trails within the valley, and is a great way to see more scenery. My family and I booked a guided horseback riding tour during our trip that lasted 1-2 hours during an afternoon and was a memorable adventure! There are several tour companies to book with.
Whitewater Rafting on the Snake River
If you have older children or are traveling with your spouse / friends, I’d recommend white water rafting! The Snake River is one of the premier rivers in the US for rafting, so you will surely be led by an expert guide.
At 1,078 miles long, the Snake River is the largest tributary of the Columbia River, and is the largest North American river that empties into the Pacific Ocean. Since it is so vast, there are 4-6 day rafting trips available that leave from the Jackson area. If you are less experienced, I’d recommend just booking an afternoon tour!
The rafting tours only run during the summer months, from May – September, and will costs about $100 per person. The pro? They are typically about 3 hours long and will give you a whole new perspective of the area. You’ll see about 8 miles of beautiful scenery and whitewater thrills.
During normal water flows, you can expect class II and class III rapids down the Snake. However, the Big Kahuna section can get up to class IV. Plan to get a little wet, and to have a lot of fun.
Hot Air Balloon Ride over the Valley
My last recommendation for an epic activity in Jackson Hole (NOT during the ski season!), is to do a hot air balloon ride over the Jackson Hole valley. My mom and I woke up at sunrise one morning to do this together and it is definitely a core memory. I thought this would be a scary experience and sure, if you’re afraid of heights maybe it will be, but I found it to be so peaceful. You will lift up above the fog and cruise amongst the clouds, spotting roaming packs of wildlife down below. Your Wyoming Balloon experience will end with morning mimosas.
Yellowstone 3 Day Itinerary: Fun Facts + Can’t Miss Sights
Now for the most exciting part of this Wyoming itinerary…. YELLOWSTONE! Let’s start with 3 fun facts about Yellowstone, shall we?
Fact #1: Did you know that Yellowstone became the country’s first national park in 1872?
It’s unsurprising this area needed to be protected so early on — the colorful hot springs and geysers are truly otherworldly. Where else in the world do you have super active volcanoes right beneath your feet, herds of bison that stop traffic, and every so often — water that shoots hundreds of feet into the sky? Welcome to Wyoming.
Fact #2: Encompassing a whopping 3,500 square miles Yellowstone National Park spans three states — Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
Although, the most famous sites are located within the WY portion (sights below).
Fact #3: The park is home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states (even Wyoming has nothing on Alaska!).
It’s estimated that 67 different mammals call the park home — including grizzly bears, bison, wolves, elk, and moose.
And now for the can’t miss sites to include on your 3 day Yellowstone itinerary. Be sure to have a rental car and an America the Beautiful Parks Pass so you can easily visit these spots!
Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone’s largest hot spring and is one of the most famous sites within the park. Therefore, it MUST be included on your 3 day Yellowstone itinerary.
The hot spring is 200-330 feet in diameter and is more than 121 feet deep. It’s known for its rainbow appearance and is home to thousands of microorganisms.
The hot spring is located near the Midway Geyser Basin. Beware of limited parking, especially during the peak hours of 10 am – 6 pm.
Old Faithful Geyser
Old Faithful is probably the most iconic site located within Yellowstone National Park, and is well-known world-wide, so naturally it made this list!
The geyser got its name because it faithfully erupts around 20 times a day. Eruptions last anywhere from 1.5 to 5 minutes and usually occur in intervals that range from 60-110 minutes. The average height of the eruptions is about 130 feet.
The Old Faithful Geyser is located in Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin in the southwest section of the park. The geyser viewing area and visitor’s center here is extremely accessible as there’s bench seating a giant parking lot nearby. I recommend checking out the visitor’s center at the start of your visit as it tracks the time, height, and length of the eruptions.
Upper Geyser Basin & Morning Glory Pool
The majority of the world’s active geysers are located in the Upper Geyser Basin, including Old Faithful.
The Morning Glory Pool is another famous hot spring in the area. The heat for the hydrothermal features comes from Yellowstone’s volcano, in which magma can be found as close as 3-8 miles underground.
Pro-tip: Yellowstone is extremely family-friendly, but be sure to remain safely on the boardwalks during your visit.
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Another MUST on your Yellowstone 3 day itinerary is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. See my photos below… fitting name isn’t it? It’s almost as impressive as the Grand Canyon in Arizona — which you must visit on a southwest road trip itinerary!
Scientists think the oldest Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone formed in rock and sediments about 160,000 to 140,000 years ago. Since the founding of the park in the late 1800s, millions of visitors have enjoyed the views of the cascading waterfalls through the canyon from various view points.
There are two drives you can to do to enjoy various accessible view points of the canyon:
North Rim Drive begins 1.2 miles south of Canyon Junction. This one-way road takes you to four accessible views of the canyon, each featuring a different aspect of the canyon’s power, color, and geology. At Brink of Lower Falls, glimpse Lower Falls and Upper Falls from paved accessible trails at the top or descend the steep Brink Trail to witness the Lower Falls’ power. View Lower Falls again from Lookout, and see it again from a distance at Inspiration Point. Grand View offers spectacular views of the canyon and river.
South Rim Drive begins 2.3 miles south of Canyon Junction and leads you to views of Upper Falls at Upper Falls Viewpoints and of Lower Falls and the canyon at Artist Point. I definitely remember going to Artist Point and would recommend a pitstop here during your Jackson, Wyoming to Yellowstone road trip.
Set aside about 4 hours of your time on your 3 day Yellowstone itinerary to hike Mount Washburn! The most popular trail is the Dunraven Pass Trailhead, which will provide spectacular views as you ascend to the summit of the 10,000 foot elevation mountain. At the top, enjoy the view and interpretive exhibits from inside the shelter at the base of the fire lookout.
The trail starts at the parking lot at Dunraven Pass, 4.5 miles north of Canyon Junction.
Pro-tip: Be sure to pack water for this hike and be aware of wildlife. Grizzly bears do frequent the area, so bear spray is highly recommended. I would avoid this trail during September and October when bear sightings are more common.
Where to Stay in Yellowstone: Lake Yellowstone + Hotel
There are several lodging options within the park itself, if camping isn’t your thing. One of the nicest and most famous accommodation options is the Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins. My family stayed here for a few nights during our 3 day Yellowstone itinerary.
The hotel is a national historic landmark and is open during the summer months from May – October each year. The rooms here range from Presidential Suites to cabins with no TV or A/C.
As for dining options, there is a deli and a more elegant dining hall at the hotel. The hotel also has several excursion options, including hiking trails that surround the chilly, refreshing Lake Yellowstone.
Whether you choose to stay here or not, be sure to see the lake and the historic hotel during your time in Yellowstone!
Hiking in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park contains the Teton Range located within the Rocky Mountains. Hiking in Grand Teton National Park is probably the most popular activity in the area, with Grand Teton coming in at 13,775 feet high. It’s the tallest point of the Teton Range and the second highest peak in Wyoming after Gannett Peak. Grand Teton became the national park it’s known as today in 1950, so much later than Yellowstone!
When visiting Wyoming, I would definitely set aside time for a 3 day Yellowstone itinerary and just a day or two for the Grand Tetons, unless you’re doing an intense backpacking / hiking trek. Here are the highlights of the park for you and yours to enjoy:
There aer several large and pristine lakes located within the national park, but Jenny Lake is the most popular due to the mirror-like reflection it offers of the Teton Mountains on the horizon. This place has always been a top spot for photographers for decade. In fact, the Jenny Lake Visitor Center is located within a photography studio from the 1920s!
There are numerous ways to explore Jenny Lake — you can venture out on a kayak or stand up paddle board, join a boat tour, relax along the shore, or explore one of the surrounding trails (listed below).
Jenny Lake Lodge
Ready for a lunch break? Head to Jenny Lake Lodge. The Jenny Lake Lodge was once known as the Danny Ranch. There are cabins here for guests to stay at and popular amenities include horseback riding and biking. The main lodge is rustic yet elegant, and has a restaurant for visitors to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Hidden Falls + Inspiration Point
There are dozens of trails located around Jenny Lake, but the ones that lead to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point are the most popular for the panoramic views they offer. The Hidden Falls trail is a 4.9 mile round trip route from Jenny Lake that eventually leads to a beautiful 100-foot waterfall.
Pro-tip: There is also a shuttle available if you’re looking to shorten the hike by several miles.
If you continue another half mile along the trail from Hidden Falls you’ll reach Inspiration Point, where you can find sweeping views of the lake below, mountains in the distance, and entire Jackson Hole Valley on the horizon. I remember loving this hike when my family and I did it!
That brings us to the end of this all encompassing guide for a week in Wyoming. I hope this post encourages you to plan your own 3 day Yellowstone itinerary and trip to the Wild Wild West.
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