The Ultimate Yellowstone to Grand Teton Itinerary

Are you looking for an exciting road trip that will take you on a journey through two of America’s most majestic National Parks? I’ve got you covered with this Yellowstone to Grand Teton itinerary. We start this road trip in Bozeman, Montana, and end in Jackson, Wyoming, hitting up two national parks, countless epic views and plenty of outdoor activities along the way.

This is the perfect road trip for adventurers who want to explore all that these amazing parks have to offer. This itinerary has it all: natural wonders like geysers, waterfalls, wild animal sightings and more. Yellowstone and Grand Teton can be overwhelming to navigate so we’ve broken it down into easy day-by-day steps with driving tips, restaurant recommendation and links to our favorite hotels along the way.

There’s so much to see in this tri-state area where Wyoming, Idaho and Montana converge into some of the most beautiful scenery in all the world. Thanks to the unpredictable nature of wild animals, every day when you’re road tripping through Yellowstone and Grand Teton is an adventure. You just never know what you’re going to experience, no matter how detailed your itinerary is.

One Week Yellowstone to Grand Teton Itinerary

This itinerary has got you covered with practical information and the top must-do activities. Get ready to experience the best of two of the most magical National Parks in the USA! 

Yellowstone and Grand Teton Itinerary Highlights

This trip marks my second to Yellowstone National Park, so I had a better idea of what I wanted to see and do and how best to map it out. For sure, this itinerary is go-go-go and action packed. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t classify this as a vacation so much as I would a trip. Next time, I think we’ll rent an RV and stay in one or two campgrounds instead of driving all around and moving every night or two. But this trip was all about seeing as much as possible with just four days in Yellowstone and three in Grand Teton. So let’s get going!

Scavenger Hunt

Download an image of the Animals of Yellowstone to your phone and have a wildlife scavenger hunt! If you’ve got kiddos, you can print these out and they can check them off as you go.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around The National Parks?

We rented a car from Hertz at the airport in Bozeman (*I’ve got Hertz Gold Plus something or other status which is supposed to get you to bypass the long line at the counter. They didn’t have that at this location, and they didn’t upgrade us but you can’t win ’em all.) Even though there were only two of us, we paid for a larger 4×4 vehicle (Ford Edge) and it was really nice to have. The best part of our upgrade was the enormous sunroof that came in super handy for wildlife viewing and stargazing in safety and warmth. 

I’ll be super honest: I don’t love driving on hills or in mountainous areas at all. It makes me uneasy to be around edges and cliffs. Blame my flat Florida upbringing! And if I’m not driving, I get carsick on windy roads. I’m such a fun road trip partner – ha! 

The good news is that most of Yellowstone and Grand Teton were easy enough drives that didn’t cause me too much stress. There are some stickier spots than others – some of the mountain passes feel dicey, but overall, it’s not that bad. The slower speed limit helps because you don’t feel like people are trying to rush past you. (I mean… you shouldn’t feel like that. But there are bad drivers everywhere and boy, did we encounter them!)

If driving is not for you and you’d rather do the whole itinerary with a guide, check out multi-day Yellowsone tours:

Enough background info for ya? Let’s get down to our Bozeman to Jackson 7-day road trip itinerary. 

When to Visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park 

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are both stunning in their own right, but finding the best time to visit them can be tricky. While both parks are open year-round, certain times of the year can offer more comfortable weather conditions and better chances of spotting wildlife. The best time to visit Yellowstone is from late spring to early fall, as roads and hiking trails are open, the weather is mild, and the animals are active. However, if you want to avoid the crowds, visiting in September or October is ideal. Meanwhile, Grand Teton National Park shines during the summer months when the wildflowers are in full bloom and the lakes are perfect for water sports. Overall, the best time to visit these national treasures depends on what you’re seeking, but no matter when you go, you’re in for an unforgettable experience.

Summer Travel

We went on our Yellowstone road trip during the first week of August, the 2nd busiest month at the parks. Shoulder season (late fall / early spring / winter) will have a whole other set of things to consider. The parks are open, but driving conditions and animal activity will be completely different. 

What’s the Weather like in Yellowstone?

The weather conditions in Yellowstone National Park vary, and it is important to be prepared for both warm sunshine and wintry conditions. The conditions range from a comfortable, sunny day to heavy rain, snow, gusty winds, and even hail all over the course of the day, depending on what time of the year you visit.

The summer season from June to August is when most visitors arrive, so yes, you get the best weather and also the worst crowds. Daytime temperatures range from 70-80 degrees, and nighttime temperatures can drop to as low as 30. The summer months come with fewer stormy days, and you are more likely to experience clear and sunny skies –  so pack sunscreen! However, the weather can change rapidly, so it is crucial to carry a light jacket, sunscreen, and a hat regardless of the warm temperatures.

The fall season from September to November is an excellent time to visit Yellowstone National Park. The crowds are thinning out, and temps range from 30-50 degrees

Spring is a lovely time to visit, with temperatures ranging from 30-50 degrees. The snow melt brings the wildflowers to life, and with the warm weather conditions, the wildlife becomes more active.

In the winter, the park receives a heavy snowfall and weather conditions drop to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. But on the flipside, park visitors become scarce. With the reduced crowd, you have more time and space to explore the trails and come in closer contact with wildlife like bison, elk and the elusive wolves. Please note that many of the park’s main roads and entrances are closed from November – April, so check the Yellowstone website before making any plans to drive around.

Bear Spray

Get bear spray when you arrive, not before! You are not supposed to fly with it. You can buy it all over – at the airport gift shop, gas stations, fishing shops, etc. There are also bear spray rentals.

PSA: Please note that bear spray is not like bug spray. You do not spray it on you to repel bears. It’s more like pepper spray.

National Park Summer: Our 7-night, 8-day Yellowstone/Grand Teton Itinerary

Day 1 – Bozeman to Big Sky

Land in Bozeman (BZN) and pick up your rental car. If you have a night flight, book an overnight at The Lark in Downtown Bozeman. We arrived around noon so it was perfect timing to grab lunch at Mama Mac’s, pick up a copy of The Drake at The River’s Edge fly fishing shop, grab an iced coffee from Mo Java and make the hour drive to Big Sky down Highway 191.

There are several pullouts on the road from Bozeman to Big Sky so you’ll be tempted to hop out and start exploring. We certainly were! But remember, you’ve got a whole week ahead of you so stick to the itinerary! (Can you hear my voice saying this to Rick? Because that’s pretty much how it went down as he did that thing he does where he just wanders into the woods…) 

Once we got to the resort town of Big Sky, we went straight up to Big Sky Resort. Since this is a summertime itinerary, all the warm weather activities were in full swing – mountain biking trails galore. I’ve not yet had the chance to stay here but we really want to come back in the winter and maybe watch other people ski.

Rick and I hopped onto two of the three running ski lifts to ascend the mountain and that was such a surprising treat! Anytime I can get on the express lane to the top of a mountain is a good day, but it was also clear and we could see the top of Lone Mountain. When Rae and Ben visited a few years ago, the mountain was covered in clouds so they didn’t get to see it. 

If you can snag a reservation at Horn and Cantle at Lone Mountain Ranch (we haven’t stayed there yet but it’s on the list!), it’s worth visiting. They’ve got a thoughtful, locally sourced menu and there’s a rustic bar with live music. Like an über ritzy Cracker Barrel where you might just rub elbows with celebrities and billionaires, and you don’t have to be staying at the ranch to eat there.

That night, we stayed at The Wilson, a beautiful hotel in a walkable little district with food, shops and a whole lot of realtors. (The building boom here is no joke.) The Wilson is in a perfect location to explore / ski at Big Sky Resort, which is maybe 5 minutes up the road. We love The Wilson because the location is ideal for visiting Yellowstone or just exploring Big Sky.

If you want to splash out on this trip, check out The Montage Big Sky. A bit too rich for my budget on this trip, but we saw the property from the top of the mountain and it looks gorgeous.

Optional activity: viewing the Perseid Meteor Shower 

Every summer, stargazing enthusiasts anticipate the arrival of the Perseid meteor shower. This cosmic display, also known as the Perseids, occurs annually from mid-July to late August. We were lucky to have an almost moonless sky  – it makes a big difference in visibility. Plus this area of the US is renowned for its limited light pollution, so you just can’t do better! They don’t call it Big Sky for nothing!

We scoped out a parking lot away from Big Sky town center so we would know where to go at o’dark thirty and not be driving around in the woods scaring the bears and such. We saw dozens of meteors and with our wide sunroof, were able to watch from the comfort of the heated vehicle. It was magical!

2024 Perseids

The peak of the shooting star spectacle is expected to fall around the night of August 12 and before dawn on August 13, 2024. While the moon will be partially illuminated at the time, it will set before midnight, letting dark skies prevail until dawn.  If you happen to be in Montana or Wyoming during August, definitely make a plan to see the Perseids.

Day 2: Big Sky to West Yellowstone 

Technically, Day 2 started at 3:30 a.m. when I dragged sleepy Rick out of our cozy bed at The Wilson to stargaze… but after the sun came up we did go back to snooze for a bit and then we got the day started with the yummy breakfast buffet at the hotel. 

We checked out and went back to that very same parking lot, which turns out was the trailhead for Ousel Falls hike. It was a pretty easy hike (and I am a giant baby when it comes to hiking. Again, blame flat Florida.) that took us about 90 minutes at a very chill pace. 

Grab lunch to go from one of the local spots and hop in the car for the next drive, about an hour to the town of West Yellowstone. You go from Montana to Wyoming to Montana again in this drive, and actually drive into Yellowstone National Park for a moment on US Hwy 191. 

Once in West Yellowstone, spend some time exploring the historic town on the doorstep of America’s first national park. Restaurants and shops line the walkable streets, offering everything from burgers and fries to wild game to handmade jewelry. The Visitor Center is a nice stop if you’ve got the time to spare.

We had some time to kill before checking into our next hotel, and we weren’t ready to drive into the park just yet, so we went to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a non-profit animal sanctuary at the edge of town. There are a couple wolf packs in different enclosures, an adorable den of ground squirrels, some otters and a variety of others. But the grizzlies really were fascinating to watch. The bears who live at the sanctuary were all either fed by humans or had become so used to humans that they were getting too close. And they would all have been euthanized if not for the Discovery Center taking them in. It’s really cool to see them rummaging around their enclosure looking for snacks and you really get an idea of WHY it’s so important to follow the safety guidelines in bear country. These jokers are HUGE and they are not messing around.

The coolest part is that the grizzlies here are official “bear box” testers. When a company creates a bear-proof box or cooler, these bears put them to the test. If they can’t get into them within a couple hours, the box is considered bear-proof. Based on the obliterated boxes and coolers at the exit, I’m surprised any of them ever pass!

It’s check-in time, so we drove 10 minutes out to Under Canvas West Yellowstone, our big accommodation splurge of the trip. It’s down a rocky dirt road, set in a sprawling valley along the South Fork Madison River and so close to the border with Idaho you could hit it with a rock. Accommodations are large canvas tents. Some have ensuite bathrooms and some don’t, so there are common bathhouses for those. 

There are common areas for games, coffee, s’mores roasting and bonfires, and a restaurant set in a large log cabin toward the front of the property. 

We loved the big cozy bed, the wood burning stove and our little front porch. There’s no WiFi, limited cell service and no electricity in the tents, so keep that in mind when booking. Also, it was close to 90 degrees during the day and warm inside the tent, but it got downright freezing at night. I planned to get up at 4 a.m. again to stargaze and no sooner did I put my feet on the cold floor did I decide that I’d seen enough meteors.

Tours and Excursions from West Yellowstone:

Annual National Park Pass

I can’t recommend the annual National Park pass enough. It’s $80 and gets you into all national park sites and federal recreation sites. Just flash it at the Yellowstone gates and get right in. It’ll usually save you time in long lines, but getting up super early helps with that, too.

Note that there are passes for Military, Seniors and 4th Graders, too! We ordered ours in advance here.

Day 3: West Yellowstone to Old Faithful (RT) 

The Yellowstone Grand Loop Road is one of the most iconic roads in the world. This 142-mile-long, figure-8 with side roads that exit the park takes visitors on a journey through some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the United States. In order to see as much of Yellowstone as possible without backtracking too much, I’ve divided the whole park into 4 full days.

  • 1 – West Yellowstone to Craig Pass (RT)
  • 2 – West Yellowstone to Mammoth Hot Springs or Gardiner, Montana
  • 3 – Gardiner to Lamar Valley to Lake Village 
  • 4 – Lake Village to South Entrance (Or East Entrance, if you’d rather go that way)

This itinerary hits most hotspots, offers a night or two inside the park and a night or two in towns just outside the park and allows you to see Yellowstone at a reasonable pace, hike along the way or even stop for a picnic or a swim (in a designated spot!). 

This first day in Yellowstone is all about geology. We’re off to explore Yellowstone’s most famous geological features, including the Old Faithful Geyser, the Grand Prismatic Spring and the various geyser basins. You’re likely to see animals, sure – we saw a lonely bison, one bald eagle and a hidden elk at the forest edge on the way in, but the main point of this day is checking off the most recognizable geological features. 

Offline Maps

Signage is not great in the park, so sometimes the turnoff to a geyser basin sneaks up on you. It’s super helpful to have a passenger navigating with a hard copy map, which you can get from a ranger at the entrance.

It’s about a 15-20 minute drive from Under Canvas West Yellowstone to Yellowstone National Park’s gates, so we got up around 6 a.m., grabbed some coffee and breakfast sandwiches in town and headed for the gates.

Recommended stops for today: 

Morning: Head straight for the various geyser basins. We did Grand Prismatic overlook, Fountain Paint Pot trail, Firehole Canyon Drive and Biscuit Basin. Depending on how much walking you want to do, there are plenty of lengthier trails or just big roundtrip boardwalks around the highlights.

Lunch: The one spot you HAVE to visit is Old Faithful, one of Yellowstone’s 500 extraordinary geysers. This remarkable natural phenomenon is one of only six that park rangers are able to predict. 

Cell Service

The NPS app updates geyser prediction times for Old Faithful and a handful of other springs. Be sure to refresh that before you enter the park in case you don’t have service. (You likely won’t.) 

There are lots of dining options around Old Faithful so it’s a perfect midday stop for lunch. There’s a little balcony with rocking chairs off to the right. It’s the perfect spot to watch an eruption a little bit behind the huge crowds and to cool off in the heat of the day. There are also numerous trails that surround Old Faithful, so you can watch from a different vantage point than most visitors who just stand in front and leave.

Afternoon: Head toward the Continental Divide (left on Grand Loop Road out of Old Faithful complex).

If you missed Grand Prismatic in the morning (sometimes the parking lot is out of control), it’s actually even better to see in the afternoon once the steam has evaporated. 

Afternoon is a great time to stop along the Madison River to rest, hike or fly fish. 

Once you get to the Continental Divide, snap a photo with the Elevation 8391 sign, you can head back toward West Yellowstone. If you’re staying at a nifty place like Under Canvas, you’ll want to go back early enough to enjoy your tent and the property before the sun sets. Tomorrow is going to be another early morning!

Day 4: West Yellowstone to Gardiner, Montana

We checked out of Under Canvas to start our journey at the park’s west entrance today. Instead of heading south on 191 like we did yesterday, we’ll turn left onto 89 and head north toward our ultimate destination – the north entrance. Today’s itinerary is more geysers, more basins and more geothermal features, so if you’re already over that, you can skip some of the smaller ones like Terrace Spring, Iron Springs, Flying Pan Spring or Bijah Spring.

Norris Geyser Basin stands out as one of the most fascinating and dynamic thermal areas. Unlike many other geothermal sites within the park, most of the waters at Norris are acidic, which is incredibly rare. Within the basin, you’ll find two distinct sections: Porcelain Basin and the Back Basin. While Porcelain Basin is treeless and offers a sensory experience through its colorful and aromatic landscape, Back Basin is more wooded and has a multitude of features spread throughout. Don’t miss Steamboat Geyser, the tallest geyser in the world at 300-400 feet. If you have space in your heart for one more basin, this is the one. With a 1.5-mile boardwalk trail to navigate Back Basin and a 3/4-mile trail for Porcelain Basin, there’s plenty to see and explore in this incredible part of the park. I will say that while the boardwalk around the springs and hot spots is pretty easy to navigate, if it’s a hot, cloudless day, plan ahead! It gets very hot and there’s not much shade. 

Along the way today:

  • Gibbon Falls, an easy walk to view a sprawling 84 ft. waterfall over the remnants of the caldera
  • Artist  Paintpots 
  • Chocolate Pot Springs
  • Gibbon Meadows
  • Roaring Mountain
  • Museum of the National Park Ranger
  • Grizzly Lake Trailhead 
  • Obsidian Cliff

You can spend hours exploring each of these spots, so it definitely helps to research each one in advance so you know what you’re getting into and what you’re up for. 

Once you’ve had your fill of geothermal features in the caldera, head toward Mammoth Hot Springs. Upper Terrace Drive is a short one-mile loop, but it’s an easy drive to see some excellent sites: the magnificent travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. The drive also offers a chance to catch a glimpse of historic Fort Yellowstone and the picturesque Gardner River. But perhaps the most exciting feature of Upper Terrace Drive is the chance to see hydrothermal wonders up close, including the colorful Orange Spring Mound. From jaw-dropping vistas to unique natural wonders, Upper Terrace Drive is a must-see when visiting Yellowstone.

If you stay in Mammoth Hot Springs, you will miss one super cool feature: the Roosevelt Arch at the north entrance to the park. This enormous stone archway was designed by Robert Reamer, a famous architect who crafted this stunning entrance for coaches. It’s not just the impressive size that makes this arch special, however. President Theodore Roosevelt, the ultimate champion of national parks, actually visited at the time of its construction and placed the cornerstone himself. That’s why you’ll see his name atop the arch, along with the famous motto “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” It’s a fitting message that shows just how important America’s national parks are for all of us to appreciate and enjoy.

It’s not a far drive to get there if you’d like to check it out, but it is pretty windy in spots. Watch for pronghorn – they’re all over! Back in Mammoth Hot Springs, you can stay at the park’s hotel or if you’re staying in Gardiner like we did, you’ll pass the arch on your way out of the park. We stayed at the aptly named Roosevelt Hotel, a clean, quiet spot just over the bridge. We also considered staying at the colorful, fun Dreamcatcher Tipis, but because we had limited time in Gardiner, decided not to splurge. If you’re more of a vacation rental person, check out this rustic cabin outside of Gardiner. My sister stayed there on her last visit and loved it!

We grabbed dinner at the Wonderland Cafe which usually has a long wait, but we were seated at the bar right away. If you do nothing else in this town, do this: eat the wild game chili. I have not stopped thinking about it since that night. It was spicy, sweet and probably the best chili I’ve ever had in my life. 

Gardiner is a small town, but it has everything you need, so it’s good to get gas, stock up the cooler and buy any supplies you might need from outside the park. We’ll be spending the next few days within the park boundaries!

If you have an extra day to spare, I recommend spending it in Gardiner so you can add one of these tours to the itinerary:

Day 5: Gardiner (or Mammoth Hot Springs) to Lamar Valley to Lake Village 

Today is a long day with the most driving of the whole trip. But it’s also the most jam-packed animal day. And the earlier you get started, the more likely you are to see wolves, bears and moose. If you happened to stay an extra day in Gardiner and you already did a wildlife tour, you can skip Lamar Valley and head straight for Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Set an alarm for as early as you can manage. We had breakfast and coffee drinks in the cooler so we didn’t have to stop on the way out. (Most Gardiner restaurants opened after 7 a.m., and we didn’t want to be held up.) Get going in the dark and enjoy how the landscape changes color minute-by-minute as the sun comes up. 

Head back toward Mammoth Hot Springs and take a left on Grand Loop Road and when you get to Tower Junction, get on 212 and make for the Lamar Valley. 

Valley Accessibility

Hayden Valley is accessible spring through fall, when the park roads are open. Lamar Valley is accessible all year.

Today’s Highlights

Lamar Valley 

When you see the National Geographic documentaries set in Yellowstone, they’re often filmed here in the northeastern corner of the park at Lamar Valley. It’s easily the best destination for those seeking an encounter with some of North America’s most fascinating creatures. Known as America’s Serengeti, it’s home to multiple wolf packs, herds bison. andbears galore. Visitors often gather with spotting scopes hoping to catch a glimpse of these impressive creatures in action. Other animals you can spot in the Lamar Valley include deer, elk, pronghorn, badgers and bald eagles. You definitely need one skilled wildlife spotter in the passenger seat and one skilled driver keeping eyes on the road. Rick and I are a perfect team in this regard! 

We spent most of the morning traversing Lamar Valley. Rick did some fly fishing, I hiked a bit, we dodged a wayward bison or two, saw a wolf, some pronghorn and a black bear about 200 yards in the distance. By around 11 a.m. it was too hot for the animals so we took a little side trip on the way back toward Tower Junction to the Slough Creek Trailhead.

We stopped here to look around and wouldn’t you know, Rick hooked his first freshwater fish on a fly. Woohoo! It’s apparently very highly trafficked by grizzlies but we didn’t run into any.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone 

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the first major canyon on the Yellowstone River, located downstream from Yellowstone Falls in Yellowstone National Park. The canyon spans about 24 miles, with depths ranging from 800 to 1,200 feet. If you have the time to spare, it’s worth it to hike to the various upper and lower viewpoints. 

Hayden Valley

While much of the park is covered in Lodgepole pine forest, Hayden Valley stands out with its expansive grassland filled with wildlife. This meadow, situated at around 8,000 feet, has rolling hills, pockets of trees and notable thermal areas. The Yellowstone River flows calmly through the valley, attracting huge herds of animals. We ran into an hour long traffic jam here as the bison decided they were absolutely not getting out of the road, no matter how hard the rangers tried to encourage them to. Here’s the video.

Where the BISON Roam

Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of making a lighthearted video about your trip to Yellowstone and calling the bison a buffalo. People will come for you! Angry people. People with nothing else to do during the day. Trust me – it’s been an absolute nightmare going viral, getting thousands of new followers and monetizing a video that took me 12 seconds to make.  

Yellowstone Lake 

With an elevation of 7,732 feet, Yellowstone Lake is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America, with crystal-clear waters so cold that swimming is not recommended. The lake was formed over 640,000 years ago during a powerful volcanic eruption that shaped the landscape around it. It’s enormous – about 130 square miles – and up to 400 feet deep in spots. If you’re so inclined, you can book a boat cruise or fishing excursion here for the evening or tomorrow morning. 

Yellowstone Wildlife Spotting Tips

Buffalo Bison Tatanka

Wild animals are everywhere in Yellowstone, but some are harder to spot than others. Sure, you can see hundreds of 🦬 at any time of day in Lamar and Hayden Valley (and you can get into a fistfight about whether it’s ok to call them buffalo), but wolves, bears, moose and bighorn sheep can be tougher to come by. Here are some tips for wildlife spotting! 

⏰ Go early! Many animals feed at dawn. Binoculars and or a spotting scope are a must. 

👀 Look where everyone else is looking. If there’s a crowd gathered, there’s usually a critter in the distance.

🚙 Spotting a bear or elk doesn’t cancel out all rules of safe driving. Slamming on the brakes, stopping in the middle of the road or driving atop some endangered foliage is not the vibe. Find somewhere safe to pull over/park. There are pullout areas all along the way so you can safely observe animals from a distance. 

🫎 If you have limited time in the park, book a wildlife viewing tour. The guides are incredible and they have equipment to make seeing those hard-to-spot wolves, bears and bighorns so much easier. Here are some great ones:

Tonight, stay at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel or in the cabins, or if you’d like to soldier on one more hour, head to Grant Village which is just south of West Thumb. It’s also on the lake, and often has more availability. Plus it makes tomorrow’s drive shorter. At either national park hotel/campsite, there are some great dining options. The fancier ones require reservations so be sure to make those before you set out on your trip.

Day 6: Lake Yellowstone/Grant Village to Grand Teton National Park

Since yesterday was such a long day, this is a good day to have a lie-in, catch up on sleep and get a late start. There’s a great general store in Grant Village with all the Yellowstone souvenirs you could need, so stock up because today we leave YNP behind.

But first! The road winds along the Lewis River and then the Snake. There are two more waterfalls to check out along the way – Lewis Falls and Moose Falls. There are also several trailheads if you want to squeeze in one last hike. And that’s a wrap on Yellowstone! Feels like we’ve been here forever but then again, it’s only been a few days. Here at the south entrance is your last chance to get a photo with the iconic Yellowstone National Park sign. Don’t miss it!

It’s only 31 miles on the John D. Rockefeller, Jr Memorial Parkway between the geothermal wonderlands of Yellowstone to the jagged, snow-capped mountain peaks of Grand Teton National Park. This was my first time to the Tetons and I was instantly amazed at how it absolutely feels so different. No wonder they’re each their own separate entity!

This magnificent park is located in Wyoming and is famed for its stunning scenery, abundant wildlife, and endless outdoor activities. We based ourselves at Colter Bay Village for our two nights at Grand Teton. It’s a smaller and more manageable park than Yellowstone, so you can have one home base and not feel like you have to backtrack too much. We checked into one of the historic cabins at Colter Bay Village, but there are also campsites. If you really want to splash out, look into Jenny Lake Lodge or some of the ranches just outside park boundaries.

When to Visit Grand Teton National Park 

The best time to visit Grand Teton National Park is from May to September when the weather is warm, and most of the park’s facilities and services are open. If you want to avoid crowds, try visiting early June or late September. You might take advantage of shoulder season rates for accommodations and tours.

Day 7: Explore Grand Teton National Park 

There are a zillion ways to spend one free day in Grand Teton, and we did just about all of them. I love a good schedule-free day to just go where the road takes you. It’s our favorite way to see a new place!

Some suggestions:

  • Wake up early to scope out moose in the shallow rivers
  • Hike a trail
  • Drive the scenic one-way loop at Jenny Lake
  • Book a guided tour 
  • Swim in a lake 
  • Take a dinner cruise out to Elk Island

We booked the dinner cruise to Elk Island through the activities desk at Colter Bay Village, a super easy process. It was the only major excursion we booked for the week, and it was nice to have this celebratory end-of-vacation dinner out on the island. The steak and trout buffet was served up in a canoe, and the whole adventure was picturesque and relaxing. Would definitely recommend it. 

Rick and I got into so many shenanigans this week but Grand Teton was truly the icing on the cake. We had some experiences that park rangers told us NO ONE ever has. I’m going to have to make a video for y’all because it’s way too much to write here in this already-way-too-long national park itinerary.

I’ll say this: watch for bears! Rick and I were driving back from the swimming beach at Colter Bay when, not 5 feet away in the woods, we saw a mama bear and two very large cubs heading toward the beach that was just full of dogs and kids. I slammed the car in reverse and Rick jumped out to warn everyone. WHEW!

Day 8 – Grand Teton to Jackson, Wyoming 

On the very last day of our 7-night, 8-day itinerary from Bozeman to Jackson: let me tell you: we were tired! But we hadn’t yet seen a moose yet and I really, really wanted to. So we got up before sunrise, checked out of our Colter Bay cabin and went to all the spots we knew moose had been seen lately in the direction of Jackson and the airport – along the Snake River at Oxbow Bend and Willow Flats. No luck.

So we kept on the road toward Jackson, stopping at all the turnouts along the Snake River for a peek. The sun was coming up and casting the most gorgeous pink glow on the mountains. We stopped at Mormon Row for some photos and history and had just about given up our dream of spotting a moose when right before we got to Jackson, we turned left on Gros Ventre Road to check out some of the turnouts overlooking the Gros Ventre River. And we saw moose – two in fact! A big mama and a baby bull. Mission accomplished! And only miles from downtown Jackson. 

If you’ve got an extra day to spare, Jackson, Wyoming, is the most charming western outpost and well worth a visit in its own right. I wish we weren’t booked on a flight that afternoon! But we actually decided to do the Bozeman to Jackson route instead of the reverse so we didn’t have to have an overnight in Jackson Hole. It’s EXPENSIVE.

We had brunch at The Bunnery, coffee at Cowboy Coffee Co. and snacks at the local farmer’s market in the Jackson Town Square (the one with the famous antler arches) that meets on Saturdays. Check out some recommended hotels in Jackson Hole.

Tours From Jackson Hole, Wyoming

The Hertz rental facility is quite far from the airport, but they have a complimentary shuttle and were very friendly and easy to work with so we didn’t mind driving a bit out of the way to return the car. Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) is on the small side but there are great food and souvenir options inside, not to mention cozy leather chairs, fireplaces and lots of plugs for charging electronics before the flight. 

And that’s our 8-day Bozeman to Jackson road trip. We’ve seen beaver, otters, elk, moose, black bears, bison, ground squirrels, a wolf, a garter snake, bald eagles and so much more. We’ve explored the best of Yellowstone and Grand Teton, eaten tasty meals in Gardiner and West Yellowstone, slept in a glamping tent, took a boat ride and I even got my Junior Park Ranger Badge at Grand Teton. Is it weird that I can’t stop thinking about going back? 

WHEW! As you can tell, this is a jam-packed Yellowstone to Grand Teton itinerary covering some 500 miles of wilderness, designed to get the most out of just a week in the area. If you have a bit more time, slow down, add another night or two in the parks, and really soak it in. Or consider pairing this 7-day itinerary with our Glacier to Yellowstone itinerary if you have another week.

Are you planning a trip to Yellowstone or Grand Teton soon? What do you think of this itinerary? If you’ve done this route, share your favorite stops in the comments!

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