1 Day in Yellowstone National Park (South Loop)

Yellowstone National Park in northwestern Wyoming is a very large park. It’s larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. While it’s most ideal to spend a few days in the park if you can, sometimes you only have one day. That’s about all Teddy and I had on our visit to the park this time.

In August/September of 2022, Teddy and I did a 13-day road trip through Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming. We spent the morning of day 3 in the Tetons before heading about an hour or so north into Yellowstone National Park. We stayed overnight and then headed out toward the Big Horns the next day.

When we visited, some areas of the park were still closed due to the flooding earlier in the year. Because of that, we stuck to the southern loop and didn’t get to explore much in the north, including the Lamar Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs, or the Beartooth Highway just outside the park’s northeast side. We will on our next visit for sure, but the southern loop is more than enough for one day in the park.

If you also only have one day here are our best recommendations of what to do if you plan to explore the south loop.

Grand Prismatic Overlook ( + Fairy Falls)

One of the best things we did in our one day was hiking to the Grand Prismatic Overlook. This trail gets you up above the prismatic pool which gives you an incredible view of the spring. It climbs just over 100 feet in a bit over a half mile. If you continue on, you can hike to Fairy Falls. We had every intention to hike here but a storm started to roll in so we decided to skip that part of the hike this round. We plan to do it next time we visit though.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

This can be as short or as long of a stop as you’d like. There are upper and lower fall overlooks as well as some short paths you can take to see various parts of the canyon. It is surely beautiful and worth a stop.

Hayden Valley

We came to Hayden Valley twice during our visit. We stopped here at both sunset and sunrise. The area is known for bison which we saw plenty of, as well as the potential for wolves and bears. We were able to see a black bear on our drive from Canyon Village down to Hayden Valley. It was right along the stream in the woods. We heard that an hour or so earlier there was also a grizzly in the area.

West Yellowstone

West Yellowstone was a great stop along our way for dinner. We stopped at the Buffalo Bar for dinner and had such an enjoyable dinner. We split the bison queso, had a huckleberry margarita, a bison burger, and country fried steak. Everything was so great and we loved the stop here. It’s also a great spot for overnight accommodations as well. We talked to a couple who stayed at Under Canvas in West Yellowstone who really loved their experience there.

Gibbon Falls

This is a quick stop along the loop. You can walk the path along the ledge and get a great view of the falls.

Canyon Village

While staying inside a National Park can be a bit more expensive depending where you stay, for a park that is large or more secluded, we think it’s worth the extra splurge. We stayed at Canyon Village and this gave us a prime spot to explore inside the park both later in the evening and early in the morning before the crowds came in.

Other Stops

Below are some additional stops along the southern loop. Some we each had been to before so we didn’t stop this time and others we just didn’t have time to do but would in the future.

  • See Old Faithful
  • View Firehole Falls
  • Visit the Mud Volcano
  • Look for wildlife in Pelican Valley
  • Walk to the Natural Bridge
  • Hike Mount Wasburn
  • Stroll through Norris Geyser Basin

If you’re looking for other things to do after your trip to Yellowstone, check out places like southern Idaho, Grand Teton National Park, or Big Horn National Forest.

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