Salt Lake City to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park is a popular bucket list road trip route filled with natural beauty and unique landscapes. This is one of our favorite road trips and we can’t wait to help you plan the perfect Salt Lake City to Yellowstone vacation.
How many days do you need to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park from Salt Lake City?
We think 7 days is the perfect amount of time you need to see the best of both Grand Teton and Yellowstone from Salt Lake City. If you are tight on time you can do it in 5 or 6 days but it will be a rush. For a more relaxing experience you should plan for 8 or even 9 days.
Here’s what we will show you:
- Why start a Yellowstone road trip in SLC?
- Planning resources
- Key route information
- Summary of the 4 major places you will visit
- Where to stay each night
- Featured 7 days Salt Lake City to Yellowstone road trip itinerary
- Alternative 5, 6, 8 and 9 day itinerary suggestions
Let’s start planning your Salt Lake City to Yellowstone road trip!
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Our Salt Lake City To Yellowstone Road Trip Experience
Why trust us to help with planning your once in a lifetime trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone?
Well, we have personally driven this route ourselves, stopping to explore Salt Lake City, Jackson, Grand Teton and Yellowstone. We have visited Yellowstone on separate occasions and we have helped thousands of first time visitors plan trips to this region through our various Wyoming travel guides.
As part of our first 3 month US road trip, we actually drove from Mt Rushmore to Yellowstone before driving through Grand Teton to Salt Lake City and onto the Utah parks.
We have created this guide based on our extensive knowledge and experience in the region to help you plan the best possible trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
Why Start A Yellowstone Road Trip From Salt Lake City?
Driving through Yellowstone and Grand Teton is easily one of the best USA road trips, but first you have to get to northwest Wyoming.
You have several options to reach Yellowstone and Grand Teton, such as Bozeman which is close and convenient, South Dakota’s Black Hills which are stunning and often combined with the Wyoming parks or Denver Colorado which is another major city within driving distance.
But here’s why SLC is a great place to begin your road trip to Yellowstone:
- 1. SLC international airport conveniently serves both domestic and international travelers
- 2. Salt Lake City is less than 5 hours drive from Grand Teton National Park
- 3. It is a gateway to both Wyoming and incredibly popular Utah road trips
- 4. Salt Lake City itself is one of the best places to visit in Utah
Let’s take a closer look at each of these points.
1. Convenient Airport
Salt Lake City is the closest big city to Yellowstone and Grand Teton with a major international airport. All things considered we think SLC is the best airport to use for Yellowstone because it is the most convenient for long haul travel and offers low budget airlines for domestic US travel.
Americans can fly into SLC from almost all airports in the US, whereas only certain origin airports will fly direct into airports closer to Yellowstone, such as Bozeman MT. Plus, flights into SLC are likely to be cheaper because of higher airline competition.
There are several direct long haul flights into Salt Lake City from major cities around the world. This makes Grand Teton and Yellowstone accessible to millions of potential tourists.
2. Distance To Both Parks
Starting your road trip to Yellowstone from Salt Lake City means you can access both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park within 5 hours drive time.
Denver International Airport will be the best alternative for many, but the drive distance and drive time are around 40% longer to reach Grand Teton or Yellowstone.
3. Gateway To The US Southwest
You might only be planning to drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone and Grand Teton, but thousands each year use SLC as a hub to drive through Wyoming and Utah.
Salt Lake City is the natural stopping off point between visiting Glacier, Grand Teton and Yellowstone to the north, and the 5 Utah national parks to the south for those on longer US road trips.
4. The City
Lastly, Salt Lake City itself is well worth a visit if you have the time.
We met plenty of people who used SLC airport to start and end their road trip to Yellowstone but had no time for Downtown Salt Lake City, which is a lovely place to explore for a day.
Salt Lake City To Yellowstone Road Trip Planning Resources
Here are the most helpful travel planning resources you might need to drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park.
Tips to save on flights to SLC:
- Shop around and compare prices
- Use incognito or private browser to see if the price changes
- Use several devices such as your laptop and smartphone to see if you get different prices
- Read our guide on how to book cheap flights
We typically use Booking to book our hotels but park lodging inside Yellowstone is not available with Booking. You might be able to find a cheaper rate with Hotels compared to going direct so it is worth checking.
We will cover where to stay on the Salt Lake City to Yellowstone road trip in much greater depth later in the guide.
Tips for booking hotels:
- Book in advance, especially if planning this road trip in summer
- Sign up for free to one of the hotel search platforms like Booking or Hotels to save with membership rewards
- Start by booking your hotels around Yellowstone before working forwards or backwards around those hotels
- Try to arrive at Yellowstone during the week to avoid the busier and more expensive weekends
- Read our guide on how to book cheap hotels
3. Hire Car
If you are not driving your own car from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone, you will need to hire a car when you land at SLC International Airport.
They are our go to car hire platforms and we always choose whichever has the better vehicle at the right price point.
Tips for hiring a car:
- Booking in advance often means you have more flexibility over vehicle type
- You do not need a 4WD high clearance vehicle to visit Grand Teton or Yellowstone
- Smaller cars might actually be better for parking in tight spots around the parks
4. National Parks
It is important to stay up to date with live conditions such as roads, weather, hiking trails and lodging when you visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
This is particularly pertinent if you drive from Salt Lake City to Grand Teton and Yellowstone in the shoulder season month of April and October.
Key resources to use:
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SLC To Yellowstone Route Information
What do you need to know about the drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone?
Here are some questions to bear in mind:
What Is The Closest Entrance To Yellowstone From SLC?
The closest entrance into Yellowstone from Salt Lake City is west entrance, which is 320 miles drive and should take around 5 hours.
West entrance is close to Lower, Midway and Upper Geyser Basins where you will find Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful.
What Is The Best Route From Salt Lake City To Yellowstone?
The most attractive route from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone is to drive via Logan Canyon, Bear Lake, Afton, Jackson and Grand Teton before arriving at Yellowstone south entrance.
But if you are in a hurry and don’t have time for the scenic route, you can take I-15 and US-20 to the resort village of West Yellowstone, which also serves as the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
In our example itineraries we have you driving into Yellowstone via the prettier route and then back to SLC via the quicker freeways.
How Far Is Yellowstone From Salt Lake City International Airport?
Yellowstone’s west entrance is 323 miles from Salt Lake City International Airport, it is the closest entrance by distance and time from the airport and should take a little over 5 hours to reach.
The next closest is Yellowstone south entrance, which is 340 miles and would take around 6 hours and 10 minutes to drive.
Can You Use Public Transport?
There are no rail routes or train services to Yellowstone National Park and the closest Amtrak station is in Salt Lake City.
However, if you really don’t want to drive from Salt Lake City to Grand Teton, you can take the Salt Lake Express bus from SLC to Jackson.
You can then hire a car in Jackson so you only drive around Grand Teton and Yellowstone before taking the bus back to Salt Lake City from Jackson. Bear in mind this would mean you have to loop from Jackson through Teton and Yellowstone before returning to Jackson.
What Is There To See Between Salt Lake City And Yellowstone?
Most people planning a Salt Lake City to Yellowstone road trip have very limited timeframes, which means it is usually a straight-shot for Jackson, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
However, there are more places you can visit on the drive between Utah and Wyoming:
- Antelope Island State Park
- Lagoon Amusement Park
- Logan Canyon
- Bear Lake
- Snake River
- Idaho Falls
- Craters of the Moon
In truth, none are comparable with the beauty and uniqueness of the two national parks, so we definitely do not recommend prioritizing these places over the Tetons or Yellowstone.
But they might be worth a stop if you have enough time, which is why we have included several SLC to Yellowstone road trip itinerary ideas later in the guide.
Need help organizing your visit to Yellowstone? Our popular 60+ page Yellowstone Guidebook can help you with planning every aspect of your trip.
4 Major Road Trip Stops
There will be four major areas of interest on your Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park road trip:
- 1. Salt Lake City, Utah
- 2. Jackson, Wyoming
- 3. Grand Teton, Wyoming
- 4. Yellowstone, Wyoming
Depending on your time frame and travel preferences, you might want to see all four places or you might only have eyes for Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
Let’s look at a brief summary of each major stopping point along the road trip.
1. Salt Lake City, Utah
Surrounded by the Wasatch Mountains at over 4,000 ft high with incredible skiing opportunities and an array of national parks within a stones throw, Salt Lake City is an outdoor enthusiasts dream come true.
We think Salt Lake City is one of the best places to visit in the US and we have plans to spend more time in the city next time we head out west.
The mountain city is safe, clean, walkable and has a wonderful vibe. A booming culinary and brewing culture is emerging out of SLC, perfect for fueling up in between epic national park road trip loops.
Things To Do In Salt Lake City
- Walk around Temple Square
- Explore the Natural History Museum of Utah
- Visit the Red Butte Garden
- Ski or hike in Park City
- Shop at City Creek Center
- Visit Antelope Island State Park
- Hike in Millcreek Canyon
- Day trip to Bonneville Salt Flats
2. Jackson, Wyoming
Jackson is Wyoming’s incredibly popular and wealthy ski resort town located just 12 miles from Grand Teton National Park loop road. It is a quiet, relaxing wild west town with saloon-style bars and a great vibe.
You will likely be visiting Grand Teton and Yellowstone in late Spring, Summer or Fall, which means Jackson will be (mostly) free of snow and the enormous crowds of thrill seekers in the winter season.
One of our favorite parts about Jackson is how the small town has managed to retain its wild west feel, despite the obvious potential for commercialization.
We spent 2 nights in Jackson, which is undoubtably one of the most popular places to visit in Wyoming. It is the perfect base for exploring Grand Teton and enjoying the culinary scene after a long day in the park.
Nearby Teton Village nestled at the base of Jackson’s ski lifts is the main alternative to staying in Downtown Jackson.
Outside of Winter, the scenery around Teton village is spectacular and it is slightly closer to the national park. However, hotel prices here are much higher on average and there are fewer places to eat out.
Things To Do In Jackson, Wyoming
- Shop at outdoorsy gear stores
- Eat and drink your way through town
- Watch the Jackson Hole Rodeo
- Walk around Jackson Town Square
- Visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art
- See the National Elk Refuge
- Photograph one of the 4 antler arches in Jackson
3. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park is a nature and landscape photographers ideal arena and it one of our personal favorite places to visit in the US.
The smaller size of Teton allows you to really see and do everything in a day or two, depending on how long you spend taking photographs of the sheer beauty inside the park.
You can do a little bit of everything in Grand Teton, from hiking to wildlife spotting and from sunrise photography to swimming in lakes.
When planning your Salt Lake City to Yellowstone road trip, Grand Teton is the one place you simply have to include into your itinerary.
We’d go as far as saying if you only have 4 days for your trip, take one from Yellowstone and give it to Grand Teton.
Things To Do In Grand Teton
- Kayak or swim in Jenny Lake
- Hike Cascade Canyon (one of the best hikes in the US)
- Drive up Signal Mountain for amazing views
- See the Teton Range through Chapel Window
- Photograph Mormon Row at sunrise
- Watch sunrise at Schwabacher Landing
- Enjoy the view at Oxbow Bend
Want to know more about Grand Teton? Read our popular 2 days in Grand Teton itinerary which organizes the best things to do into two easy days.
4. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
At 2.2 million acres, with 5 entrances and over 4 million tourists each year, Yellowstone is one of the biggest and most popular USA national parks.
Gazing upon astonishing natural wonders like gushing geysers and vibrantly colored hot springs isn’t something you do every day. Add them to walking, waterfalls and wildlife in Yellowstone and you have the perfect focal point on your Salt Lake City to Wyoming road trip.
Yellowstone is an awe-inspiring and extraordinary landscape, but it requires careful planning to do it the right way without losing time driving back on yourself or missing out on top attractions.
We have visited Yellowstone in both April and October when crowds were at a minimum, but even then it was busy enough both times. In summer Yellowstone is like a theme park, so you have to be organized and book hotels way in advance.
Things To Do In Yellowstone
- Watch Old Faithful erupt
- See the iconic Grand Prismatic Spring
- Hike Mt Washburn
- Walk around remarkable geyser basins
- See the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
- Spot wildlife in Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley
Want to know more about Yellowstone? Read our guide on the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park which covers the top attractions, hikes and geyser basins.
Where To Stay On Your Salt Lake City To Yellowstone Road Trip
Figuring out the best places to stay in several places on consecutive nights can become challenging. In truth, booking your hotels will be the hardest part of planning your Salt Lake City to Yellowstone road trip.
But we have filtered through every lodging option at each stop you will make and have listed only the top rated hotels available.
In addition, we have noted which hotels we have personally stayed at and impressed us. We hope the long list of hotel options is helpful and not overwhelming!
Here are the top rated hotels in each place you will stay:
1. Salt Lake City Airport Hotels
Depending on your flight times into and out from SLC airport, you may need to book a night at a hotel airport either side of your road trip.
2. Downtown Salt Lake City Hotels
If you choose to spend a day in downtown SLC there are plenty of hotel options available.
- Budget: Holiday Inn Express
- Budget: Salt Lake Plaza Hotel Temple Square
- Mid-range: Homewood Suites
- Mid-range: Hyatt House
- Luxury: Grand America
- Luxury: Kimpton Hotel Monaco SLC
3. Jackson Hotels
Jackson has a wide range of hotel options spanning the budget and quality range to suit all travelers. Hotels are typically quite expensive in Jackson, particularly in the summer months.
- Budget: Elk Country Inn
- Budget: Cowboy Village Resort
- Mid-range: Wyoming Inn of Jackson Hole
- Mid-range: The Lexington at Jackson Hole
- Mid-range: Parkway Inn of Jackson Hole
- Luxury: Inn on the Creek
Want to learn more about hotels in Jackson? Here is our complete guide to the 8 best hotels in Jackson Wyoming on our sister site Best Hotels Anywhere.
4. Teton Village Hotels
Teton Village is a quieter and more upscale place to stay for visiting Grand Teton.
5. Hotels Between Grand Teton And Yellowstone
There are a handful of hotel options in between Grand Teton and Yellowstone which could work perfectly if you would prefer to spend more time in Yellowstone.
Instead of driving all the way from Jackson through Grand Teton to reach Yellowstone south entrance, you could instead leave from a hotel near Moran (the area north of Grand Teton) and drive straight to south entrance.
- Budget: Buffalo Ranch Valley
- Budget: Hatchet Resort
- Mid Range: Togwotee Mountain Lodge
- Mid Range: Colter Bay Village
- Mid Range: Headwaters Lodge Flagg Ranch
- Luxury: Jackson Lake Lodge
6. Yellowstone Hotels
Yellowstone is a different beast altogether when it comes to booking your accommodation.
The park is enormous and it is most efficient to spend each night at a different hotel. However, we know many visitors prefer to book one hotel and stay there for the duration. This is easier but it will also mean a lot more driving.
You can either stay at hotels, lodges and cabins inside the park boundaries or you can stay in resort villages right outside the park boundaries.
Where To Stay Inside Yellowstone
There are 6 places you can stay at park lodging inside Yellowstone:
- 1. Mammoth Hot Springs
- 2. Roosevelt
- 3. Canyon Village
- 4. Lake
- 5. Old Faithful
- 6. Grant Village
If you do choose just one place to stay inside Yellowstone, we recommend you pick a hotel either in Canyon Village or Old Faithful.
These two places have the better locations for accessing other parts of the park, and they have plenty of places to eat.
We have spent a night at both a Mammoth Hot Springs cabin and a Canyon Village hotel room. Both were great and worked perfectly for our itinerary.
Where To Stay Near Yellowstone
If you can’t find availability or prices are too high at cabins and lodges inside the park, you should consider staying at a hotel in either Gardiner or West Yellowstone.
We have written detailed guides on the top rated hotels in both Gardiner and West Yellowstone on our sister site Best Hotels Anywhere if you are looking for more comprehensive information about lodging.
Let’s take a brief look at both popular places to stay near Yellowstone.
Gardiner works better if you are entering or leaving Yellowstone to the north, say to visit Glacier National Park before or afterward. But it is also a great option for those who want easy access to Mammoth Hot Springs or Lamar Valley, the best place in Yellowstone for wildlife spotting.
All hotels are similarly priced but we can definitely recommend both Yellowstone Gateway Inn and Yellowstone Riverside Cottages from positive experiences.
Here are the best hotels in Gardiner MT:
- Mid Range: Yellowstone Gateway Inn
- Mid Range: Yellowstone Riverside Cottages
- Mid Range: Yellowstone Basin Inn
- Mid Range: Yellowstone Big Rock Inn
- Mid Range: Yellowstone Village Inn + Suites
West Yellowstone is the best place to stay outside Yellowstone boundaries because it is central to the park and has plenty of amenities.
Many visitors to Yellowstone choose to stay for 2, 3 or 4 nights exclusively in West Yellowstone. It works well enough but it also means a lot of driving to reach far away attractions in the park.
You also have a better range of hotel prices in West Yellowstone. We can vouch for Kelly Inn and Explorer Cabins, both of which were excellent stays.
Here are the best hotels in West Yellowstone MT:
- Budget: Al’s Westward Ho Motel
- Budget: Stage Coach Inn
- Mid Range: Crosswinds Inn
- Mid Range: Gray Wolf Inn
- Mid Range: Kelly Inn
- Luxury: Explorer Cabins
- Luxury: Yellowstone Park Hotel
Want to know more about where to stay in Yellowstone? Read our popular guide covering all of the best places to stay in Yellowstone which covers park run lodges and 6 areas outside the park to help you figure out the most challenging part of planning this road trip.
Salt Lake City To Yellowstone Road Trip Map
Do you prefer visuals to text when absorbing information?
If so, you might benefit greatly from taking a look at this interactive Google Map we created to show show the potential stops you can make each day for 7 days on our Salt Lake City to Yellowstone example itinerary, which is featured right after the map.
Click or touch the map to activate.
Scroll around, zoom in and out, look for clustering of colored icons representing each day on the road trip and see the corresponding day in the left column.
- Red – Day 1
- Blue – Day 2
- Green – Day 3
- Orange – Day 4
- Brown – Day 5
- Yellow – Day 6
- Grey – Day 7
Salt Lake City To Yellowstone Road Trip 7 Days Itinerary
Now you know the best things to do and places to stay in Salt Lake City, Jackson, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
It’s time to put it all together and create an unforgettable 7 day Salt Lake City to Yellowstone road trip itinerary!
We think 7 days offers the best balance between speed, cost and overall experience. However, we will also explain how to drive this road trip route in less and more time later in the guide.
Let’s assume you will arrive into Salt Lake City or SLC airport the night before we begin this itinerary on Day 1.
At the end of the 7 days, we will assume you have a late flight booked on the 7th day or an early flight on the 8th day.
Alternatively, you could continue onto the Utah parks straight after completing your Wyoming loop.
Adapt the itinerary below to suit your exact travel plans and please feel free to leave us a comment at the end if you need help planning for your specific vacation plans, such as hiking or photography focused.
Day 1 – Explore Salt Lake City
The first day can be action packed or easy going depending on your journey to reach SLC and how you prefer to travel.
Whether you decide to go to Park City, the Great Salt Lake, hiking or to a museum, we highly recommend you spend at least an hour walking around Temple Square in the center of town.
Don’t miss the Tabernacle right behind Salt Lake Temple. You can go inside with free entrance and might even strike it lucky with a choir performance.
Also be sure to check out City Creek Center, a popular covered shopping and dining complex with high end shops and fountains.
- Here’s more information about the Tabernacle Choir.
- If there’s a Utah Jazz basketball game on, buy tickets in advance.
Where To Eat + Stay On Day 1
Day 2 – Drive From Salt Lake City To Jackson
Get an early start in SLC, set your Google Maps for Idaho State Park North Beach and hit I-15 N.
Turn onto US-89 N and enjoy the winding scenic drive through Logan Canyon to the town of Garden City on Bear Lake. Follow the western shores of Bear Lake and cross into Idaho.
Take the right onto N Beach Road to enter Idaho’s North Beach State Park with $7 vehicle entry fee and don’t forget your swimsuit.
After you are done at Bear Lake, take Merkley Lake road to US-30 W and get back on US-89 N.
Follow US-89 as far as Afton, which is the largest town in Star Valley. Look for the world’s largest Elkhorn Arch as you enter town, it is hard to miss with over 3,000 intertwined elk antlers!
Also, keep an eye out for ultra-photogenic Star Valley Mormon Temple as you drive through Afton.
Continue North and drive through Alpine Junction, which marks the beginning of a scenic stretch of highway following the Snake River.
Pull over at the scenic route overlooks to admire the valley views. US-89 transitions into US-191 N and not long after you will arrive into Jackson, Wyoming.
Without stopping the drive should take around 5 hours, but you will be stopping so plan for more like 6-7 hours.
Where To Eat + Stay On Day 2
Spend the afternoon and evening exploring downtown Jackson, drop into a saloon-style bar for a beer and grab an awesome pizza at Hand Fire Pizza inside a converted theater.
Day 3 – Discover Stunning Grand Teton National Park
The third day is when your Salt Lake City to Yellowstone road trip bursts into life.
Grand Teton is incredibly picturesque and one of the best examples of staggering natural beauty in the United States.
Morning of Day 3
Check Grand Teton sunrise times the night before and plan to arrive at Mormon Row at the start of civil twilight with camera in hand.
Follow US-191 N from Jackson and turn right onto Antelope Flats Road. In winter or early spring, you will instead turn right onto Gros Venture Road at an earlier roundabout.
Mormon Row is incredibly beautiful at sunrise. You will find dozens of photographers snapping away as sunlight kisses the snow capped Teton range at first light.
Once you have seen enough, quickly drive over to Schwabacher Landing to catch the end of sunrise. Head back to US-191, turn right and not long after take a left on Schwabachers Landing road.
If you are lucky there will be wildlife drinking fresh water or playing in the river. We saw a moose and an otter playing on ice here. But the star of the show is crystal clear mountain reflections in the Snake River.
Continue north to Snake River Overlook and look for bison roaming on the flatlands. US-191 turns left and your next stop is Oxbow Bend for more stunning mountain reflections.
Take the left onto Teton Park road, cross Jackson Lake Dam and continue until you take a left turn up Signal Mountain Road.
Afternoon of Day 3
Drive the winding road to Signal Mountain summit for amazing views, descend and continue until you reach Jenny Lake road. Take the right turn, stop at String Lake and Jenny Lake Overlook for beautiful lake views.
Follow Teton park road as far as Chapel of the Transfiguration. Enter the chapel to take the iconic ‘mountains through the church window’ photograph.
Head back to Mormon Row for sunset, which is equally as spectacular as the sun set behind Teton mountains. Alternatively, stop in at the National Elk Refuge on the way back into Jackson Hole.
Where To Eat + Stay On Day 3
The night of Day 3 is the most open to your interpretation part of this Salt Lake City to Yellowstone road trip.
You could head back to Jackson, stay in the same hotel as the night before so it’s one less check out and check in process, grab a nice dinner and spend another sunrise in southern Grand Teton the next morning before driving to Yellowstone later in the day.
Alternatively, you could spend a night at Jackson Lake Lodge or another hotel near Moran. This would allow you to sleep right out in nature surrounded by the Tetons but you would have very few amenities nearby.
Day 4 – Grand Teton Sunrise And South Yellowstone
Splitting the fourth day between Grand Teton and Yellowstone is completely open to your interpretation.
Some may want to enjoy more of the Tetons but others will want to get right into Yellowstone. For the purposes of this example itinerary and our personal preference, we will split the day exactly in half.
Considering how close they are to one another, it is amazing how much Grand Teton and Yellowstone differ, not just in scenery but also in the overall experience.
Morning of Day 4
Assuming you stayed in Jackson on night 3, begin your fourth day with another sunrise but this time head straight to Schwabacher Landing to get there before the sun rises.
If you stayed near Moran, you might want to drive up Signal Mountain for sunrise or simply having a slower start at your rural lodging.
Use the morning to revisit any of the areas in Grand Teton you liked the most, such as Jenny Lake or Oxbow Bend.
Alternatively, if you are a hiker you should definitely spend the morning hiking to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point and eventually Cascade Canyon.
Take the ferry across Jenny Lake to cut out a long walk around the lake to Cascade Canyon trailhead. This is an amazing hike with serious wildlife spotting potential and we can’t recommend it highly enough.
Afternoon of Day 4
When you are ready, drive north and enter Yellowstone via south entrance.
Jenny Lake to West Thumb Geyser Basin in south Yellowstone is around 60 miles and will take approximately 1 hour 30 minutes without stops.
Lewis Lake is one of the best stops for kayaking in the park and you will pass it as you approach the south entrance to Yellowstone. If you are not interested in kayaking, continue until you reach West Thumb Geyser Basin.
Spend an hour walking around Abyss Pool, Black Pool, Big Cone Geyser, Fishing Cone and various other colorful hot springs located in West Thumb.
Next, follow the Yellowstone Loop Road until you reach Old Faithful. If you are staying at one of the three Old Faithful lodges you can check in now, before heading straight out to catch the next timely Old Faithful geyser eruption.
If you have time and energy before sunset, hike up to Old Faithful viewing area to see the eruption from an elevated position.
You may even get a colorful sunset as you gaze down at the world famous geyser and main attraction in Yellowstone.
Where To Eat + Stay On Day 4
This is where your accommodation challenges begin and why it really pays to be organized before you visit Yellowstone.
First choice here is a room at one of the Old Faithful lodges for convenience. The only downside if you stay at Old Faithful is being limited to eating in the restaurants or food courts on site.
West Yellowstone is the closest place to Old Faithful that you can stay outside the park. The good news is it has a wide range of places to grab dinner.
Day 5 – Geyser Basins And Yellowstone Falls
If you were able to get a room in Old Faithful, you can begin Day 5 right as you leave your lodge in Upper Geyser Basin where Old Faithful is located.
However, if you stayed in West Yellowstone, you will need to drive back to Old Faithful to begin Day 5.
Morning of Day 5
Spend around two hours walking through Upper Geyser Basin, the area with the highest concentration of geysers in Yellowstone.
Follow Firehole River as far as Morning Glory Pool, which is one of our favorite hot springs in the park.
Next, drive north and park at Fairy Falls Trail lot to hike 0.8 miles so you can enjoy Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. This is one of the most famous elevated views in the entire park and shouldn’t be missed.
Head back to the car and drive to Grand Prismatic Spring parking lot to explore Midway Geyser Basin. Excelsior Geyser will be billowing and hopefully you have a clear day to see vibrant colors inside Grand Prismatic Spring.
Both Opal Pool and Turquoise Pool are worthy of keeping the camera handy.
A little further north on the loop road take the right turn onto Firehole Lake Drive, stopping to look at the various pools and geysers. As a side note, this is one of the most popular sunset locations in Yellowstone.
Right out of Firehole drive park up at Fountain Paint Pot Trail, this is Lower Geyser Basin. Walk the loop trail before continuing up the loop road.
If you want to swim, turn into one way Firehole Canyon Road and drive the full loop to Firehole River swimming area. It is one of only 2 places you are permitted to swim in Yellowstone.
Afternoon of Day 5
Follow the loop road until you reach Gibbon Falls for a quick waterfall stop.
Next up is Artist’s Paintpots Trail, which we highly recommend. A short walk through forest ends with bubbling mud pots and colorful hot springs. This is one of our favorite hidden gem areas of Yellowstone.
It will be getting into mid afternoon by now. You might want to consider leaving the park via west entrance to eat a late lunch in West Yellowstone before re-entering the park to visit Norris Geyser Basin.
Alternatively, if you brought a packed lunch, head straight to Norris Geyser Basin to enjoy some of the most interesting geysers in the park. The one geyser you can’t miss at Norris is called Steamboat Geyser, which is the world’s tallest active geyser.
Next, drive through the center of Yellowstone Loop road to Canyon.
Check in at your Canyon hotel or lodge and head straight back to the car to drive south for just over a mile before turning left into North Rim Drive.
Stop at Lookout Point for amazing views into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Lower Falls crashing into the Yellowstone River.
Continue to both Grand View and Inspiration Point and if you arrive at the right time, you will be at Inspiration Point for sunset directly behind Lower Falls. It’s almost like you planned it!
Where To Eat + Stay On Day 5
The night of Day 5 is the one night we recommend you book into a hotel, lodge, cabin or even campground at Canyon Village. If not, you will have to drive another 31 miles back to your West Yellowstone hotel.
Canyon Village has a canteen style food court serving various cuisines and a huge seating hall centered around an open fireplace.
Of course, you could skip the last part of Day 5 and instead of driving to Canyon, drive back from Norris to West Yellowstone.
The next morning you can drive to Canyon and pick up the itinerary, but it would mean you miss sunset over Lower Falls and would add on a total of 62 miles of driving.
Travel Tip: If you have flexibility over your travel dates, we recommend planning your Salt Lake City to Yellowstone road trip itinerary around booking night 5 in a Canyon Village hotel or lodge. In spring and fall you should be able to book night 5 in Canyon quite easily, but for a summer visit you might run into issues with Canyon being fully booked.
Day 6 – Yellowstone Falls, Hayden Valley, Mt Washburn And Lamar Valley
This will be one of the best days on your Salt Lake City to Yellowstone road trip because many of Yellowstone’s top attractions are covered today.
Stunning waterfalls, an abundance of wildlife and the most popular hiking trail in Yellowstone will make this a memorable day.
Morning of Day 6
Wake up for another early start and arguably the most unmissable sunrise in Yellowstone.
Drive south from Canyon and this time turn left into South Rim Drive. You will cross a bridge but go slowly because we saw a bald eagle right on the bridge at sunrise, so keep your eyes peeled.
Continue to the end of North Rim Drive and walk out to Artist Point, which is our personal favorite viewpoint into Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
This is the perfect spot for extraordinary views of Lower Falls. If you get a good sunrise the waterfall, canyon and sky will light up with stunning browns, blues, greens, pinks and purples.
On the way back, stop at Upper Falls View and Uncle Tom’s Trail if it is open.
Drive further south into Hayden Valley for the first of your major Yellowstone wildlife spotting experiences. Park alongside the Yellowstone River and look carefully for bears, wolves, coyotes, bison, elk, eagles and dozens more species.
A little further south you will reach Mud Volcano and Mud Geyser. There are plenty of interesting and smelly geysers here but it is only a quick stop.
Afternoon of Day 6
You can continue south to Yellowstone Lake but in this 7 day itinerary you will head back towards Canyon and continue until you reach a parking lot at Dunraven Pass.
Hike to Mt Washburn summit for some of the best views in Yellowstone National Park. Next, head north until you reach a short trail leading to the impressive Tower Fall.
Take the right turn off loop road at Tower Junction to enter Lamar Valley. It will be mid afternoon or late afternoon depending on whether or not you hiked Mt Washburn.
Animal activity in Lamar Valley is greatest early in the morning and in the early evening. It is worth sticking around here until later in the day because this is regarded as the best place to see wildlife in Yellowstone.
Once you are done in the valley, drive to Mammoth Hot Springs and check out the unique terraces. There isn’t much to see between Tower and Mammoth.
Where To Eat + Stay On Day 6
You can choose between a lodge style hotel room or semi-detached cabin at Mammoth. We stayed in a cabin during our first visit to Yellowstone in October and it was great.
This night of the itinerary works just fine if Mammoth has no availability or the prices are too high for your budget because you can stay in the town of Gardiner, which is just 5 miles north of Mammoth.
Mammoth has a grand dining hall serving food all day and Gardiner has a varied selection of places to eat, although far fewer than in West Yellowstone.
Day 7 – Mammoth, Lamar Valley And Drive From Yellowstone To Salt Lake City
Your final day on this epic Salt Lake City to Yellowstone road trip begins back in Lamar Valley. Sunrise is when animals are most active in Yellowstone, so don’t miss this final opportunity.
You will want to stick around looking out for bears and wolves but you do have to get back to SLC today.
If you have a late flight or a next morning flight from SLC airport, spend this final day revisiting any of your favorite spots in Yellowstone. You can then drive back to SLC via Grand Teton and the scenic route.
But if you have an afternoon flight we recommend you drive south past Norris Geyser Basin before leaving the park via West Yellowstone.
Head south on US-20 W as far as Idaho Falls and join I-15 S all the way to Salt Lake City airport.
Where To Eat + Stay On Day 7
Eat breakfast at Mammoth or Gardiner, followed by lunch in West Yellowstone on the way out of the park. You can then grab dinner either back in SLC downtown or at the airport.
Salt Lake City to Yellowstone Road Trip Variations
There are so many different ways you could plan your itinerary for visiting Grand Teton and Yellowstone from Salt Lake City.
You might not be interested in spending a day in SLC, at which point you can spend an extra day in either Grand Teton or Yellowstone.
Maybe you would prefer to drive straight to the northern areas of Yellowstone and work down through the park, before exploring Grand Teton on the way back to SLC?
Some people may only want to day trip into each national park but spend more time in Salt Lake City.
That is what makes creating an example road trip itinerary so challenging. We try to incorporate each place with what we think is the right amount of time, but you may have entirely different goals.
And this all leads us to timeframes.
What if you have more or less time than 7 days?
Well, let’s take a summarized look at how you could adapt this itinerary to suit a shorter or longer trip:
5 Days Salt Lake City To Yellowstone Road Trip
If you have 5 days for this road trip you are going to have to compromise and cut out some of the ‘luxury’ stops, such as Salt Lake City and stopping on the way to Jackson.
Here’s how we might plan a 5 day road trip:
Day 1 – Drive straight from SLC airport to Jackson. Check into a hotel and then spend the afternoon exploring Grand Teton.
Day 2 – Spend the morning in Grand Teton before driving to West Thumb and eventually Old Faithful. Walk around Upper Geyser Basin in the late afternoon.
Day 3 – See Midway and Lower Geyser Basins, explore Norris Geyser Basin and drive over to Canyon so you can check in to a hotel. Watch sunset over Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Day 4 – Enjoy a sunrise over Lower Falls from Artists Point and explore Hayden Valley. Hike Mt Washburn and Tower Fall, before heading out into Lamar Valley around sunset.
Day 5 – Go back into Lamar Valley for sunrise and walk around Mammoth Hot Springs terraces. Revisit any of your favorite Yellowstone spots before heading back to SLC airport.
6 Days Salt Lake City To Yellowstone Road Trip
With 6 days you won’t have to compromise as much and you will still have enough time for both parks.
The easiest option would simply be to cut out the day in Salt Lake City and pick up the full itinerary above on Day 2.
Here’s how we might plan a 6 day itinerary:
Day 1 – Drive straight from SLC airport to Jackson. Check into a hotel and then spend the afternoon exploring Grand Teton.
Day 2 – Spend the full day hiking and taking photos in Grand Teton, before staying at a hotel near Moran.
Day 3 – Drive to Yellowstone and explore West Thumb, Old Faithful, Morning Glory Pool and Grand Prismatic Spring. Walk around Lower Geyser Basin and then drive to a hotel in West Yellowstone.
Day 4 – Walk around Artist’s Paintpots and Norris Geyser Basin, before driving over to Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Hayden Valley.
Day 5 – Hike Mt Washburn and Tower Fall, before venturing out into Lamar Valley. Drive over to Mammoth and explore the terraces.
Day 6 – Spend the morning revisiting any of your favorite Yellowstone spots before driving back to SLC airport.
8 Days Salt Lake City To Yellowstone Road Trip
Allowing for 8 days gives you more flexibility and a bit of breathing room to slow things down.
Remember, the extra night also means you need the budget for a hotel room, eating out and another day with a hire car.
Here’s how we might plan an 8 day itinerary:
Day 1 – Spend the day in Salt Lake City. Take things easy in town or head out for a hike.
Day 2 – Drive to Jackson and spend the late afternoon around Mormon Row.
Day 3 – Spend a full day ticking off the top sights in Grand Teton. Drive back to Jackson.
Day 4 – Revisit any favorite spots in the Tetons before driving to West Thumb and Old Faithful.
Day 5 – Slowly explore Upper, Midway and Lower geyser basins. Head over to Lower Falls.
Day 6 – See Hayden Valley, hike Mt Washburn, walk to Tower Fall and drive into Lamar Valley.
Day 7 – Explore Mammoth Hot Springs. Walk around Norris Geyser Basin and Artist’s Paintpots.
Day 8 – Spend the morning revisiting any of your favorite spots before driving back to SLC.
9 Days Salt Lake City To Yellowstone Road Trip
You can really slow things down with a 9 day itinerary for this route. This extra time gives you so much freedom and flexibility to add in time wherever you prefer.
Here’s how we might plan a 9 day itinerary:
Day 1 – Spend the day in Salt Lake City. Visit a museum or go for a hike.
Day 2 – Drive to Park City in the morning, before heading to Jackson later in the afternoon.
Day 3 – Spend a full day ticking off the top sights in Grand Teton. Drive back to Jackson.
Day 4 – Spend another full day enjoying the tranquility in Grand Teton. Sleep in Moran.
Day 5 – Explore West Thumb, Upper, Midway and Lower geyser basins. Stay in West Yellowstone.
Day 6 – Explore Norris Geyser Basin, then visit Lower Falls and Hayden Valley. Stay in Canyon.
Day 7 – Hike Mt Washburn, head into Lamar Valley and see Mammoth Hot Springs. Stay in Gardiner.
Day 8 – Spend the day revisiting any of your favorite spots in Yellowstone. Stay in West Yellowstone.
Day 9 – Set off early for SLC, but stop in Idaho Falls and Craters of the Moon on your way back.
What To Pack For Your Salt Lake City To Yellowstone Road Trip
Spending a few minutes considering what you need to pack for your SLC to Yellowstone road trip can save you time, money and energy later in your vacation.
After multiple long term US road trips we have learned a thing or two about how to best prepare for a successful adventure.
Here are our popular road trip resources for planning and packing:
Packing for Grand Teton and Yellowstone is fairly straightforward year round.
June, July and August are warm enough for light layers but you will need sunscreen, sunglasses and sun hats. In addition, don’t forget bug spray if you visit Yellowstone in summer.
In April, May, September and October the mornings and evenings will be cold so you need heavy layers, gloves, wooly hats and a winter coat in addition to your basic hiking or exploring gear.
Whether you are driving your own car or a hire car make sure you are carrying all of the following items:
- First aid kit
- Jumper cables
- Spare tire
- Fix a flat kit
- Empty gas can
- Plenty of motor oil, transmission fluid, windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid, etc.
- Insurance, license, registration, identification, roadside assistance and extra car keys.
The roads around Grand Teton and Yellowstone are flat and easy to drive.
You won’t have issues with potholes or extreme heat, but you might have to deal with extreme cold if you visit in April or October.
Don’t forget deicer and a scraper for your windshield if you do plan your trip for when snow and ice is possible.
Salt Lake City To Yellowstone Road Trip FAQ’s
Let’s take a quick look at some of the most asked questions about planning a Wyoming road trip from Salt Lake City to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
Four days is the perfect amount of time to see the highlights in Yellowstone National Park at a relaxed but efficient pace. With just 3 days you will be rushing to tick off attractions and we think 5 days is only necessary for visitors who wish to move slowly through the park.
The most scenic journey from Salt Lake City to Jackson Hole is via Logan Canyon, Bear Lake, the town of Afton, Alpine Junction and Snake River Canyon. This attractive route has the most picturesque views and spends less time on freeways or interstate roads.
Our Popular Yellowstone + Grand Teton Guides
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- Itinerary – Perfect 4 days Yellowstone itinerary
- Mormon Row – Mormon Row sunrise and sunset photography guide
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Want more Wyoming content? Head over to our Wyoming Travel Guides to explore Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and beyond.
We hope this helps you plan your Salt Lake City to Yellowstone and Grand Teton road trip itinerary!
Please let us know if you have any questions or need any help planning your road trip.
Mark and Kristen
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