Planning a Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park road trip? Here you will find all the details on the distance between Salt Lake City and Yellowstone National Park, things to see along the way, how many days you need for the trip, and so much more.
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Yellowstone National Park always seems to rank as one of the most-visited National Parks within the USA. And for good reason!
Yellowstone National Park sprawls across three states, has five entrances, and contains nearly 470 miles of scenic roadways. It is massive. A whopping 3,471 square miles to be exact.
As you plan your Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park road trip, I’m here to cover all the options – from what to see to driving route options to where to fly into, we’re gonna cover it all!
Planning a Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park Road Trip
As you begin to plan your road trip, it could look quite different depending on if you live in Salt Lake City or if you are visiting Salt Lake City as a tourist.
If you live in Salt Lake City, you luckily won’t have to rent a car. However, if you take your own, you also need to factor in the drive back.
If you are a tourist and have a rental car, you can rent in SLC and return the car closer to Yellowstone (though that does carry an additional fee, it may be worth it depending on your timeframe and budget.)
The Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park road trip distance is 321 miles, or 4.5 hours long. However, that is only one route option. Keep on reading so that you can choose the very best route for your trip!
I have personally driven across the country nine times, no joke, so I was in my own vehicle. But, let’s go over the driving and flying options for this trip.
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Closest Airports to Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone sprawls across Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. So, there are a lot of flight options to choose from. If you need to fly from elsewhere in the country, here are the closest airports to Yellowstone.
Note: If you choose to do the Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park road trip one way, you will likely be flying out of an airport closer to Yellowstone. Here are all of your options, marking exactly how far they are from the national park.
Airports in Montana:
- Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport to Yellowstone West entrance (91 miles, 1 hour 45 minutes.)
- Billings-Logan International Airport to Yellowstone North Entrance (172 miles, 2 hours 45 minutes)
- West Yellowstone Airport to Yellowstone West Entrance (3 miles, 6 minute drive. This is obviously the closest airport to the park.)
Airports in Wyoming:
- Cody Airport to Yellowstone East Entrance (55 miles, 1 hour)
- Jackson Hole Airport to Yellowstone South Entrance (49 miles, 1 hour)
Airports in Idaho:
- Idaho Falls Regional Airport to Yellowstone West Entrance (109 miles, 1 hour 45 minutes)
- Pocatello Regional Airport to Yellowstone West Entrance (163 miles, 2.5 hours)
Airports in Utah:
- Salt Lake City International Airport to Yellowstone West Entrance (over 300 miles, 4.5-6 hours)
So plan for a minimum of a one hour road trip, no matter which airport you choose – unless of course you arrive at West Yellowstone Airport.
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So Why fly into Salt Lake City to go to Yellowstone?
As you can clearly see, SLC International Airport is the farthest on the list from Yellowstone National Park. So why on earth should you fly into Salt Lake City to go to Yellowstone?
For me it comes down to two factors; cost and scenery.
Salt Lake City International Airport will often be the cheapest option from many cities across the US. Regional airports always seem to cost more, since they are smaller and serviced by fewer airports.
And, choosing SLC often means more direct flight options. So, less money and less connections are necessary – what’s not to like?
And, since I was already planning on hiking in Arches National Park and camping in Zion, Salt Lake City offered an easy access point for both of them. In fact, the city is strategically located close enough to visit Yellowstone, Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Canyonlands National Parks. That’s a lot of gorgeous landscapes, not to mention some of the best national parks in the area.
But, beyond that, there are so many other noteworthy stops on your Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park Road Trip, which we will get to below.
Route Options from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park
The West Entrance at Yellowstone is going to be your best bet timewise. It will take roughly 4.5 hours if you were to drive it straight. You can see that route here.
The South Entrance is the second closest entrance into the park from Salt Lake City. This drive will take roughly six hours. You can see that route here.
How to choose?
Yellowstone is going to be the star of the show either way, so in a way you can’t choose wrong. But I would advise that you ask yourself the following questions in order to make the best choice for yourself:
- Do you have the time to take the scenic route?
- Are flight prices affordable and reasonable?
- Does arriving into Salt Lake City from your airport save you money (as it definitely does from Los Angeles or Phoenix, for example)?
- Do you enjoy road trips in general?
- Do you want the chance to see both Yellowstone and Grand Teton in one trip?
If Yellowstone is your only goal, then you could probably take the faster route and be good. But, there is arguably a bit more to see if you choose the second option – the South Entrance Route. This is because you will pass right through Grand Teton National Park, another must see.
So let’s dive into some of the things to see along the way if you choose the scenic route!
Don’t want to make this drive yourself? Consider joining a tour!
This FOUR DAY YELLOWSTONE AND GRAND TETONS tour starts in Salt Lake City and can be booked as a small group tour or a private tour. It includes hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, and all park entry fees.
Is the drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park Pretty?
You bet it is! And that applies to either route mentioned above. Both a extremely pretty, but the drive to the South Entrance of Yellowstone is the most beautiful, in my opinion.
Depending on which route you choose, the highlights are easily the Salt Lake Valley Mountains, Idaho Falls, Bear Lake, the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, and Grand Teton National Park.
If you want the most scenic drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone, you should definitely take the detour through Jackson and Grand Teton National Park.
Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park Drive Time
It depends which route you take.
If you drive from SLC to the West Entrance, the drive will take roughly 4.5 hours one way. It would be about 9 hours round trip.
If you drive from SLC to the South Entrance, the drive will take more like 6 hours one way. It would be 12 hours round trip.
What is there to see between Salt Lake City and Yellowstone National Park?
There are lots of great things to see between Salt Lake City and Yellowstone! I will go into more detail in the itinerary below, but just to name a few examples:
- Salt Lake City
- Salt Lake Valley Mountains
- Idaho Falls
- Bear Lake
- Mesa Falls Scenic Byway
- Grand Teton National Park.
Which Yellowstone entrance is closest to Salt Lake City, Utah?
Yellowstone National Park’s West Entrance is the closest entrance to Salt Lake City. It is roughly 4.5 hours away. The second closest entrance is the South Entrance, which is six hours from Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park Map
Here is the map featuring the scenic route, heading from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone, with a stop in Grand Teton National Park.
How many days so you need in Yellowstone National Park?
I recommend spending two to three days visiting Yellowstone. In this time frame, you can reasonably see the highlights of the park without feeling rushed. If you want to take it slow and really appreciate the beauty here, you could even spend four to five days here.
What to pack for your road trip
- Sturdy Hiking Shoes in colder months or Trekking Sandals in summer months. Both of those are my favorites I have ever owned.
- A Lightweight Rain Jacket. Temperatures and precipitation can vary by elevation. That one folds down smaller than a baseball.
- A Sun Hat, Sunglasses and Sunscreen.
- A Water Bottle Filtration System.
- A Winter Jacket if you visit any season other than summer. And maybe even in summer if you will be in higher elevations.
- Binoculars to see the wildlife.
- Bear Spray.
The BEST driving route from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park: Your Itinerary
Day 1: Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City has a lot to explore in it’s own right. Here are some of the best things to do in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Take the Salt Lake City Guided Bus Tour. You’ll see some of the city’s best attractions, like Temple Square, Mormon Trail, Old Deseret Village, and sites from the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
- Ride along on a Salt Lake Trolley Tour. This tour takes you through the historical districts of Salt Lake City. It starts at Temple Square, and stops at Union Square and the Utah State Capitol Building, among other stops. I recommend only booking either the bus tour mentioned above or this trolley tour, not both.
- Visit the Red Butte Garden. This beautiful botanical garden is filled with roughly 100 acres of plants and flowers. You can explore nearly 5 miles of trails in various exhibitions on a self guided walk. Get more info here.
- Visit the Natural History Museum of Utah. This world-renowned museum showcases exhibitions and educational programs about the natural history of Utah. The museum is located on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Get more info here.
Where to Stay in Salt Lake City
Day 2: A Scenic Drive from Salt Lake City to Jackson Hole
The next morning, head out as early as possible toward Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Your destination today will ultimately be Grand Teton National Park, but there are lots of scenic stops along the way!
The first stop is Antelope Island State Park, which is a small island within the Great Salt Lake. It is named after the antelope that roam on the island, but if you’re lucky you will see bison, as well. It’s a nice photo stop for scenic views of the Great Salt Lake!
Continue up through the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway, which follows along the shoreline of Bear Lake. You’ll see tall, jagged limestone rock formations along the river within the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. If you’re visiting in the fall, you are in for a treat.
Keep a lookout for the Bear Lake Overlook, roughly two hours into the drive. This scenic viewpoint peers across the second-largest freshwater lake in Utah, which shines a vibrant blue color on a clear day.
Continuing along Highway 89 towards Jackson Hole, you’ll start to notice the Snake River flowing next to the highway as you head towards Jackson. There are loads of scenic photo stops along the way, so feel free to stop anywhere that grabs you!
If you were to drive straight, this stretch today would be a 4 hour and 45 minute drive. But it has likely taken much longer due to all of the stops. You’ll end your drive in Jackson, Wyoming; the home base for many Grand Teton National Park visitors.
Be sure to stretch your legs and take a stroll around downtown Jackson, where you can find a good dinner spot, too.
Things to do in Jackson:
While there are loads of things to do in this touristy town, don’t miss:
- Grand Teton Sunset Tour. If you have the energy after your drive, you could opt for a sunset tour of the whole reason we came here: Grand Teton National Park.
- See the Antler Arches in Jackson Town Square. These arches weigh more than 10,000 pounds each, so they are quite impressive! and are made up entirely of antlers naturally shed by local elk at the National Elk Refuge.
- Listen to Live Country Music. The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar knows how to put on a good show.
Where to Stay in Jackson, Wyoming
Day 3: Grand Teton National Park
Wake up as early as possible today so that you can begin exploring Grand Teton without the crowds. The earliest of risers will also have more luck viewing wildlife, who become more elusive once throngs of visitors flood in.
Here are some places you can’t miss in Grand Teton National Park:
- Snake River Overlook: This is the same river you drive by yesterday. The Overlook is one of the most beautiful views in the park. You may recognize it if you are familiar with Ansel Adams’ photographic works. Keep your eyes out for the overlook on the left hand side of the road.
- Drive the 42 Mile Scenic Loop. This scenic drive begins on Highway 191 and ends on Teton Park Road after winding you through 42 miles of scenic beauty. Take this drive at sunrise or sunset for the best views!
- Moulton Barns: These two barns on Mormon Row is a great spot to set up a tripod. Follow the dirt road at Antelope Flats to get a good shot – they are very well known so you’ll likely see other visitors here, too.
- Schwabacher Landing: This is one of my personal favorites! On a still day, you can catch a perfect reflection of the Teton mountains on the Snake River. Get here early in the morning for the best shot.
- Jenny Lake: If you have time for a day hike, this one starts at the base of the Teton mountains and gives a great introduction to the Grand Tetons.
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After you’ve worn yourself out for the day, you can spend one more night relaxing in Jackson before driving toward our final goal, Yellowstone National Park.
Day 4-6: Yellowstone National Park
I hope that so far, you have enjoyed your drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone, because today is bound to be the most exciting yet. Today we enter Yellowstone through the South Entrance – prepare to be impressed!
I suggest that you spend a minimum of two days exploring Yellowstone, though you could easily spend three days exploring if you have a full week.
If you plan for two days in the park, you should be strategic about what you want to see and do. This is particularly true if you visit during busy summer months. At any given time, road construction, traffic, and animals can cause big delays on the roads.
Things to see in Yellowstone:
- Visit the Old Faithful Geyser. Easily the most famous attraction in Yellowstone, this geyser erupts on a frequent and predictable schedule. It is easily accessible for visitors of all abilities. The eruptions lasts between two to five minutes on average, and explode with up to 8,000 gallons of boiling water.
- Explore the rest of the Upper Geyser Basin. This area is where Old Faithful lives, but you can also check out the other, less-famous geothermal features. It has the highest number of geysers in a small area of any in the world! The only other place I’ve personally seen this phenomena was in Iceland, so it is fairly rare.
- Check out West Thumb Geyser Basin. Located near the South Entrance, this is the perfect introduction to your time in Yellowstone. Make it a point to see the Abyss Pool, Black Pool, and Lakeshore Geyser.
- See Grand Prismatic Spring. This rainbow-colored hot spring is a must see. It is the third largest hot spring in the entire world and is best viewed from the Grand Prismatic Overlook.
- Explore the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. So, as someone who used to live in Arizona, no – I’m not crazy about the name, lol. But nevertheless, this iconic canyon is beautiful and dramatic. It was carved out by the Yellowstone River, multiple viewpoints and hiking trails.
- See wildlife in Lamar Valley. Yellowstone National Park is well-known for its incredible wildlife, like the bison herds and elk. The Lamar Valley in the northeast section of the park is perfect for spotting bison, bears, coyotes, and even wolves. in the northeast part of the park.
- See the Mammoth Hot Springs Travertine Terrace. Similar to Pamukkale in Turkey, the travertine terraces in Mammoth Hot Springs were formed by dissolving calcium carbonate. These are one of my favorite sights in the entire park. Be sure to check all of them off of your list!
Where to stay in Yellowstone
Additional Tips for your Salt Lake City to Yellowstone Drive
- Yellowstone is one of the most highly-visited parks in the country. Stay calm and relaxed even if you hit crowds. Know that summers are the most busy due to summer breaks from school and great weather.
- If you have some flexibility on your trip, visit Yellowstone on weekdays. You will run into fewer crowds if you visit Tuesday-Thursday instead of Friday-Sunday. Holiday weekends are probably the worst in terms of crowds.
- Purchase an America the Beautiful Pass. Since you are already visiting two national parks, even just one more park visit within the year will pay for the pass and then some. I purchase one every year.
- Book your accommodations as early as possible, particularly in the summer. I personally always use this site for my hotel bookings, so feel free to search for your own hotels if you are not a fan of any that I have linked above.
- Much like my experiences in Sequoia National Park, Yellowstone’s temperatures vary. Morning and afternoon can be drastically different, and lower elevations vs. higher elevations can be drastically different. This applies to summer as well. Make sure to pack plenty of layers, even in the summer.
- Download offline maps of the parks ahead of time due to cell service dead zones. Check out my post on the best travel apps to decide which apps are best for you.
Explore More National & State Parks in the Southwest!
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- One Day in Joshua Tree National Park
- The Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
- The Best Joshua Tree Sunrise Hikes and Locations
- The Best Joshua Tree National Park Photo Spots
- All About the Joshua Tree: A Mojave Desert Staple
- 10 Tips for Visiting Joshua Tree National Park
- Five Drawbacks of Visiting Joshua Tree National Park
- Red Rock Canyon State Park, CA: Desert Hiking and Camping
- A Complete Guide to Anza Borrego Desert State Park
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- The Mojave National Preserve: Things to Do and See
- A Complete Guide to Visiting Sequoia National Park
- Things to Do in Sequoia National Park
- Valley of Fire State Park Nevada: A Complete Guide
- Hiking the Fire Wave Trail
- National Parks Near Las Vegas
Other Park Resources:
I hope that this guide helps you to plan the absolute best road trip possible from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park! Every stop is visually stunning and the national parks themselves are some of the best.
If you have any questions, drop them below! Alternately, let’s connect on Instagram. I share loads of travel tips and inspiration over there, too.
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