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A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Yellowstone

A First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Yellowstone

Written by: , November 30th, 2023
Categories: Plan

What to See and Do

Visiting Yellowstone for the first time? Here is a guide to help you discover all of the fun things to do, see, and eat within the Park. Our first-timer’s guides show you what to do, what to see, and some dos and don’ts for visiting Yellowstone.


At Yellowstone National Park, there’s no shortage of adventure to be had. Whether you sign up for a guided tour with a knowledgeable park professional or choose to experience Yellowstone on your own, there’s plenty to experience and discover! In fact, you may have a hard time choosing what to do during your visit. To help you out, we’re sharing five of our favorite “must-do” experiences.

1. Adventures on Water

Yellowstone Lake has 140 miles of shoreline to be explored. Rent a motorboat or charter a guide boat for fishing, exploring or take a scenic cruise aboard the Lake Queen II to spot eagles, ospreys, and shoreline wanderers.

View of rod fishing on Yellowstone Lake

2. Wake Up to Wildlife Excursion

Yellowstone is home to more free-roaming wildlife than almost anywhere else in the Continental U.S. and dawn is one of the best times to search out the wild animals.

Herd of Bison at sunrise in Lamar Valley

Herd of Bison at sunrise in Lamar Valley

3. Stargazing

Since the park focuses on minimizing light pollution, you won’t have to go too far from any developed area or lodge to find a truly dark location from which to enjoy “the show.” During the winter take our Steam, Stars, and Winter Soundscapes tour for a truly magical evening.

Castle Geyser night eruption with Milky Way

Castle Geyser erupts against the night sky.

4. Tour the Iconic Lodges of Yellowstone

Lake Yellowstone Hotel opened its doors for the first time in 1891, making it the oldest lodge in the oldest national park. The Old Faithful Inn is considered to be the iconic symbol of rustic architecture in national parks. Both offer free daily tours in the summer.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel in the evening

Lake Yellowstone Hotel at dusk

5. Stagecoach Adventure

Energize your pioneer spirit on a stagecoach ride. Feel the rumble of the replica Tally-ho coach. Hear about the history of the stagecoaches in Yellowstone.


For an upscale dining experience, visit: Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room


For iconic atmosphere, visit: Old Faithful Inn Dining Room

Old Faithful Inn - Dining Room


For the best view, visit: Grant Village Dining Room

Grant Village Dining Room Seating


For the best value, visit: Wylie’s Canteen at Lake Lodge

Wylies Canteen at Lake Lodge


For a Western Experience, reserve an: Old West Cookout

Dinner reservations are required for some restaurants.


Yellowstone is a big place. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to help you make the most of your visit!

  • Do bring your camera. Yellowstone is packed with stunning scenery, captivating wildlife, and tons of natural wonders.
  • Do hike in groups of three or more people.
  • Do be alert. Watch for wildlife, fresh tracks and scat.
  • Do carry bear spray when hiking.
  • Do give wildlife their  space. Stay a minimum 100 yards from bears and wolves and 25 yards for all other wildlife.
  • Do explore & have fun. Yellowstone is the world’s first national park and has over 2.2 million acres of park to be explored.
  • Don’t feed ANY animals. Even birds and squirrels.
  • Don’t forget to wake up early. Dawn is the best time for wildlife spotting.
  • Don’t take anything, including wildflowers, from its natural setting in the park.
  • Don’t speed. The park speed limit is 45 mph (73 kph), except where posted slower.
  • Don’t wander off boardwalks and designated trails. Water in geysers and hot springs can severely burn you. Keep hands and feet out.
  • Don’t run from bears. They have an instinct to chase.


At 2.2 million acres, it can be hard to know where to start when visiting Yellowstone. Here are our top five must-see destinations in Yellowstone National Park.

1. Old Faithful Area

The world’s largest concentration of active geysers is here. View Old Faithful Geyser, then walk past hundreds of active geysers and hot springs along the Firehole River.

Old Faithful Inn with geyser

2. Lamar Valley

One of the best places for spotting wildlife in Yellowstone. Its broad vistas provide great opportunities to spot wildlife grazing along the Lamar River and on the open hillsides.

Bison in Lamar Valley

3. Canyon Village

The Canyon Village area is a great basecamp for exploring the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, watching wildlife in Hayden Valley and hiking to the top of Mt. Washburn.

Washburn Summit Sign

The summit of Mt. Washburn

4. Norris Geyser Basin

It’s the hottest, oldest and most dynamic geyser basin in Yellowstone. Norris includes Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest geyser (300 to 400 feet).

Photographing a Steamboat Geyser eruption

5. Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake is the largest high-elevation lake (above 7,000 feet) in North America. It has 141 miles of shoreline and is more than 400 feet deep.

Lake Butte Overlook

For A World of Unforgettable Experiences® available from Xanterra Travel Collection® and our sister companies, visit

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Summer Lake Queen II at Yellowstone National Park

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Experience Yellowstone the way the first pioneers did with a selection of unique adventures. Travel by stagecoach or horseback and enjoy a traditional cookout dinner. An experience not to be missed!

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Dinner plate

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