There are 5 entrances to Yellowstone National Park. Which entrance is the best?
Let’s first take a look at each of these entrances:
Now, before you dive in an start plotting your route, you need to fully grasp how HUGE Yellowstone was. It’s larger than the state of Rhode Island! On top of that, how far apart all the roads to the different entrances were.
And each entrance takes you through completely different terrain with different views. Once into the park, each entrance gets you closer to different attractions. So how do you decide?
One of our biggest concerns was the roads to get to the entrances. Yellowstone sits at an average elevation of 6500ft, which means you’re going to be driving through mountains.
For example, the Northeast entrance comes thru the Beartooth Mountains which we have heard AMAZING things about. Unfortunately, there are grades and switchbacks that a 35” fifth wheel shouldn’t be taken on lightly.
Notes about the entrance roads:
As previously mentioned, Yellowstone is HUGE. It’s 30 miles from the East Entrance to the intersection at Fishing Bridge. From Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful is 51 miles. If you want to see Old Faithful, probably best to choose an entrance closer rather than further away.
Driving in the park is notorious for wildlife traffic jams – caused by both wildlife blocking the road and people stopping in the middle of the road to take pictures.
Obviously, where you are coming from and heading to make a difference. The entrances aren’t close together, so if you’re coming from the east and want to enter from the west, you have to drive ALL THE WAY AROUND THE PARK via the available roads, which would take a long time. It would be faster to get to the West Entrance driving thru the park.
We were coming from the northeast in Billings, so the North, Northeast, or East Entrances made the most sense. The Northeast entrance, as aforementioned, was too steep and windy for us in our 35ft fifth-wheel. After Yellowstone we wanted to go out the south entrance to Grand Teton, and we did not want to pull the fifth wheel all the way through the park from the North Entrance.
Since we were looking for some water to stay on, we zoomed in on our map to the big blue blob of water just west of Cody, Wyoming en route to the East Entrance.
It turned out to be a huge reservoir called the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and there was a first-come-first-serve state park right on its shores. We got lucky and got a spot for a few days right by the water!
It was the perfect way to beat the heat of the summer, and a perfect launch pad for Yellowstone East.
While a lot of factors may go into your decision for choosing the best entrance into Yellowstone for you, don’t worry. Each entrance is near some pretty cool things to see and do inside the park.
Yellowstone is so large, it is unrealistic to think you’ll see it all in one trip. And when you come back, you can pick another entrance to change things up!
Want some more tips on your Yellowstone trip? Check out this video with the Top 10 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
Check out these other Blog Posts about our visit:
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