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Yellowstone Vacation Mistakes – What Not To Do In Yellowstone

yellowstone mistakes - what not to do in yellowstone
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Yellowstone vacation mistakes (what not to do in Yellowstone) are easy to make. We want to share with you what not to do in Yellowstone National Park on your vacation. As one of the most popular national parks in the USA, Yellowstone attracts millions of visitors from the USA and from abroad. You will want to avoid these mistakes for a great experience at one of the great parks in the USA.

Staying In The Wrong Place

Yellowstone National Park is a HUGE park! Most visitors don’t understand that it can take up to 8 hours or more to traverse from one end to the other, depending on your route. If you choose the wrong place to stay or camp, you will be stuck driving for hours each day to see what you want to see. We highly recommend staying in West Yellowstone, Montana. This town exists mainly for those coming in to use the west entrance to the park. There are plenty of amenities in this town from campgrounds, grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and souvenir shops. You will also find one of the visitors centers in West Yellowstone.

yellowstone mistakes - what not to do in yellowstone
Camping in Yellowstone is so much fun

Going In Summer

Summertime is the most active time in the park. This is when most families will be visiting the park thus making it the worst time to visit. Nobody likes to be in big crowds, one way to avoid the summer crowds is to visit in the off season. There are still plenty of things to do and see. The main attractions are still open, Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic to name a couple. The tourism board has stopped promoting visiting Yellowstone in the summer and are focusing on winter and fall.

Not Keeping An Eye On The Weather

Yellowstone rests in Montana and Wyoming. Both states are known for the ever changing weather. Before entering the park, be sure to check the weather reports and plan accordingly. Once in the park you may not have access to cell service and there is little to no WiFi. You will want to be prepared with the right gear as described below. The weather can go from freezing to very warm in a matter of hours. You will need to have your vehicle prepared in the event of snow or any other weather changes that may affect your driving while in the park.

yellowstone mistakes - what not to do in yellowstone
The beauty of Yellowstone on display

Not Bringing The Right Gear

On your visit to Yellowstone you will need to make sure you have plenty of gear with you. What do I mean when I say gear? Here is what you will need with you on your visit. You will want gear to enjoy the wildlife at the park. The wildlife is just that, wild life. They are animals in their natural habitat and homes. You will want to have binoculars to observe from a safe distance as well as photography equipment to get some great photos. You will also need gear to protect your body. The weather in Yellowstone changes everyday as well as throughout the day. You will want to have layers with you. It’s usually very cool in the mornings then warms up a bit by the afternoon and by the evening it is very cool again. Bring the proper gear and your trip will already be better.

Not Making A Plan

This is one of the top Yellowstone mistakes (what not to do in Yellowstone) you can make. Yellowstone National Park is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined! That’s a lot of ground to cover. If you don’t make a plan you will miss out on some great features this great park has to offer. You won’t be able to see it all in one visit but if you make a plan you will get to see most of what you want to see. Be flexible. Be ready to change plans or to keep some things on the list for your return trip. Don’t worry, no one gets to see it all in one visit.

Skipping Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley is one of the biggest Yellowstone vacation mistakes (what not to do in Yellowstone). Most people go to Hayden Valley. While Hayden Valley is fine, it’s also more popular and will be more crowded. Traffic will be heavier in Hayden Valley, especially during sunset when the animals are out and about and all the cars are jockeying for position to see them. Lamar Valley is a bit further but is completely worth the drive. As we drove into the valley a herd of buffalo/bison came running down the hill and crossed right in front of us to get to the river just as the sun was setting. It is a scene I will never forget. You can watch the video of our experience on our YouTube channel.

Trying To See The Park From Your Car

There are several national parks where we recommend seeing it from the car via scenic drive but Yellowstone is not one of those parks. Make sure to get out of your car and see some of these natural wonders up close and personal. If you plan too much on your trip you will more inclined to stay in the car or only drive past attractions, which is a huge mistake. This park is best up close and personal. You want to feel the heat of the pools and see the geysers from up close as they threaten to come bursting out. Many of the trails are either boardwalks or concrete paths. They are accessible to almost anyone. There is even an accessible ramp at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Big smiles after our hike to Morning Glory

Trying To See It All In One Visit

It is said that more than 70% of the visitors to Yellowstone are return visitors. Do you want to know why? It’s because you can’t see it all in one visit. The average visitor is in Yellowstone for a week or less. There is no possible way to do this park justice in that amount of time. Be realistic and be ready to make adjustments with your plan as mentioned above. You will have weather, animal migration and other visitors to contend with on your visit. You will leave disappointed if you try to do too much, because you won’t succeed. This is certainly one of the top Yellowstone mistakes.

Waiting on Old Faithful Geyser

Yellowstone Vacation Mistakes – What Not To Do In Yellowstone

A few other tips to keep in mind that are worth bringing up. Yellowstone is bear country but the likelihood of running into one is not high, however, many carry bear spray with them. You would only need this if you are going to be hiking deep into the park. The next thing to keep in mind is that you are entering the animals home. This is where they live and we should not try to treat them as pets. They are in fact, wild animals. We don’t know how they will react and we can’t approach them. Admire them from a safe distance and move on. The last tip is to make sure to protect yourself and the animals by not leaving anything behind. If you bring it in, take it back out with you. Be smart and you will have an enjoyable trip. If you avoid the common Yellowstone vacation mistakes, you should have a great vacation.

Allie Marmion
Allie is married to Rob and has been traveling with him across the world for the last two years. She is an accomplished personal trainer, speaker and author.