9 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone, According to a Yellowstone Safari Company Guide

February 13, 2023

While Yellowstone National Park is a wonderful place to visit, there are people who work daily, year-round. In essence, the world’s first national park is their office, and the wildlife? It’s just another occupational hazard. That said, obviously, one of the perks of working in Yellowstone is that you get to know the park quite well. You learn where the bear dens are, which days of the week have fewer visitors and perhaps most importantly, the location of the nearest restroom facilities. 

In fact, Nate Udd, a guide for Yellowstone Safari Company, spends more time in the park than he does at home. In his last few years of guiding, he’s helped hundreds of travelers maximize their time and get the most out of their visit. While he can’t reveal all of his trade secrets, or the code words that he and his coworkers use on their radios when they see wolves, he is happy to share a few things. Here are nine tips for visiting Yellowstone, according to a Yellowstone Safari Company guide.

Visiting Yellowstone? Here’s What an Expert Yellowstone Guide Says You Need to Know

1. Don’t try to see it all in one day

As the second largest national park in the Lower 48 states, Yellowstone National Park is massive. It’s bigger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware, combined! “Trying to see multiple geothermal features, an Old Faithful eruption, other popular scenic sights and lots of wildlife makes for a LONG day,” says Udd. “Add in mid-summer crowds, traffic and heat, and it becomes an even taller order.”

A thermal spring shows bright blue and yellow in the Black Sand Basin area of Yellowstone National Park.

2. Don’t have tunnel vision

Udd says one of the most common mistakes he sees visitors make is focusing solely on Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic. Instead of heading straight for these popular sights during peak hours, Udd recommends focusing on some of the smaller or less popular geyser basins and geothermal areas like Black Sand Basin, Roaring Mountain or West Thumb. “It provides a more relaxing and equally fascinating experience,” says Udd.

A group of people watch Old Faithful Geyser erupt during sunset in Yellowstone National Park.

3. Visit first thing, or last thing

Of course, you’re going to want to see Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic. But to avoid all the traffic – vehicular and on foot – Udd recommends visiting them early in the day or near closing time. 

A large male bison is blocking the road in Yellowstone National Park.

4. Be patient

The speed limit in most of the park is usually 45 miles per hour. However, once you add in traffic – both human and wildlife – you’ll probably find yourself lucky to be averaging 25 miles per hour. For this reason, Udd says one of the biggest mistakes visitors make is underestimating the time it takes to get from point A to point B. “Give yourself lots of time to get to each destination,” he recommends. And be prepared to stop along the way. “Expect lots of unexpected surprises!” 

Crowds of tourists gather to watch elk in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park.

5. For the least stressful experience, hire a guide

For logistics reasons alone, a trip to Yellowstone can be just as stressful as it is rewarding. That’s why Udd recommends going with an outfitter like Yellowstone Safari Company, especially if you’re pressed for time. “We help you seamlessly experience the places you want to see,” he explains. “Plus chances of seeing Yellowstone’s most elusive wildlife increases dramatically when traveling with a guide.” 

A young visitor looking toward Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. The river flows through several significant geyser basins in Yellowstone National Park.

6. Try to wait until the kids are at least 5

While Udd will gladly guide anyone of any age, he says that when it comes to kids, the best experiences are usually had by families with children old enough to appreciate the park and be comfortable following its rules. The magic age, in this case, is around five years old. And remember: regardless of age, young children should always be closely supervised in geothermal areas and around wildlife. 

7. Appeal to your teen’s sense of adventure, or love of Instagram

According to Udd, this is the best way to get older adolescents excited about visiting Yellowstone. “If they don’t want to do the classic version of an Old Faithful eruption, standing in a crowd, ask if they want to hike up to an overlook for a bird’s eye view.” He also recommends doing physical activities like kayaking and fly fishing. And don’t forget to play up all the photo ops within the park. “If someone in your family is missing cell service, tell them to just imagine all of the great pictures they can get for their social media.” 

Car driving in snowfall in winter thru the Yellowstone national park , USA

8. Make sure your vehicle is ready for Yellowstone roads

While most of Yellowstone’s roads are closed in the winter, there’s a 52-mile stretch passing through the northern part of the park that Udd drives almost daily. If you’re visiting in the colder months, he recommends having snow tires as conditions can be pretty brutal and downright unsafe if you don’t have the right tires. For some of the roads, it’s also smart to have four-wheel drive. (All of Yellowstone Safari Company’s guiding vehicles have these features.)

The Lamar Valley in Springtime with bison, green grass, and water flowing.

9. Consider visiting in spring 

While Udd loves every season in Yellowstone – it’s why he guides here year-round – his favorite season is spring. “I like mid-May to mid-June because the park is waking up from the long cold winter,” he explains. “Bears are back on the landscape, grass is getting green and the peaks are still covered with snow.” Of course, he also loves this less-crowded time of year because it’s when “there are baby animals all over the place.” 


KOA campgrounds in the Vicinity of Yellowstone National Park

Livingston / Paradise Valley KOA Holiday
Red Lodge KOA Journey
Cody KOA Holiday
Dubois / White River KOA Holiday
Yellowstone Park / Mountainside KOA Journey
Yellowstone Park / West Gate KOA

KOA Author Katie JacksonKatie Jackson is a writer and media specialist based in Montana’s Big Sky Country. Living and working everywhere from New York to Nicaragua, Katie is no stranger to adventure. When she’s not traveling the world (or writing about it!) she’s busy chasing after a Leonberger named Zeus. Follow Katie’s travels on Instagram @katietalkstravel.



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