There’s a meme that says I don’t want to marry into a family that hikes and runs marathons on holidays. Newsflash: The Wright family is that family! We packed our bags, took our twin toddlers, and headed from Bozeman, Montana to Yellowstone National Park with a 2-day, fun-filled itinerary to celebrate my husband’s birthday.
Bozeman, Montana is considered to be the gateway to Yellowstone National Park.
How to get to Yellowstone National Park from Bozeman
The easiest and most popular way to get to Yellowstone National Park from Bozeman is by car. Now I understand some may not want to drive themselves and prefer to take a tour. In fact, we utilized a tour company instead of driving on our family trip from Sedona, Arizona to The Grand Canyon when our twins were a little over 1 year old.
To ensure you know all your options, explore all the best ways to get to Yellowstone National Park.
✔️ Click here to learn about tour options from Bozeman to Yellowstone National Park ✔️
Bozeman to Yellowstone 2022: Distance
If you’re anything like me, one of the first things you googled when planning your drive from Bozeman to Yellowstone is “Bozeman to Yellowstone distance”. Because in all honesty, before hitting the road, especially with toddlers in tow, you have to know what you’re getting into.
Bozeman is north of Yellowstone National Park; thus, making the North and West Entrances the closest to Bozeman.
Bozeman to Yellowstone North Entrance (1 hr 20 min | 80 Miles)
Bozeman to Yellowstone North Entrance is the quickest way to conquer this journey with this entrance in Gardiner, Montana. This is the only Yellowstone National Park entrance that is opened all year round.
The drive from Bozeman, Montana to Yellowstone using the North Entrance is fairly simple as you take I-90 E to 89 S. Upon arrival, you’ll be about 5 miles away from Mammoth Hot Springs.
Bozeman to Yellowstone West Entrance (1 hr 45 min | 90 Miles)
Bozeman to Yellowstone West Entrance is the perfect journey for those who want to see geysers as several await you soon after arrival. But be aware, that Yellowstone West Entrance is the busiest entrance. Similarly, it’s only opened from the 3rd Friday in April at 8 AM to the 1st Monday in November at 9 PM, unless weather conditions don’t permit.
The scenic drive from Bozeman to Yellowstone West Entrance is accessed via US 191 S. It’s an easy drive accompanied by a mountainous backdrop and beautiful emerald-hued flowing streams.
How to get to Bozeman, Montana?
If you’re taking a road trip to Bozeman, it’s fairly easy to get to as Bozeman is located along Interstate 90, and just a few miles east of Interstate 15. Or you can take the option that we did, flying into Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN), a small, quaint airport.
Where to Stay When Driving from Bozeman to Yellowstone
When you’re driving from Bozeman to Yellowstone, it’s important to think about where you’re going to stay as the drive can take up to almost 2 hours, especially if you enter the Yellowstone West Entrance, which we did.
Thus, despite our flight landing around midnight, we chose to stay in Big Sky, which is 1 hour from Bozeman and Yellowstone National Park. This worked perfectly with our Bozeman and Yellowstone itinerary, which included 1 day in Bozeman and the other day in Yellowstone.
Plus with our Marriott Bonvoy credit card, we had enough points for a free stay at one of their Big Sky properties.
✔️ Click here to earn FREE nights with the Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card ✔️
Upon arriving at The Wilson/Residence Inn, which is a huge hotel in the middle of Big Sky Town Center, we immediately knew this was not your average Residence Inn.
The rooms are all suites with amazing views and a large heated pool, hot tub, spa, and playground. There are several restaurants, grocery stores, and boutiques within the complex the hotel is located in; therefore, you really don’t have to go far for any of your needs.
Day 1: Exploring Big Sky and Bozeman
Despite visiting in August, there were so many things to do in Big Sky. Honestly, we could’ve spent an entire day in Big Sky and reserved another full day for Bozeman.
Unfortunately, our Bozeman to Yellowstone 2022 itinerary did not have enough time allotted to have a full day in both destinations so we had to choose one or two attractions in each destination.
Things to do in Big Sky, Montana
Lone Peak Expedition
The first activity on our Bozeman to Yellowstone itinerary was Big Sky Resort which is the biggest ski resort in the US. It’s situated in the center of Lone Peak, which is a mountain peak that is over 11,100 ft. Big Sky also offers the highest elevation of 7,218 ft in the area.
✔️ Click here to learn about the various hotels located within Big Sky Mountain Village ✔️
The ride from our hotel to Big Sky Resort, the home of Lone Peak Expedition, took approximately ten minutes. Upon entering the resort’s compound, you’ll see the beautiful lake where people are kayaking, canoeing, and having an overall good time. The joy on everyone’s faces made us even more excited to reach the top of Lone Peak.
To kick the adventure off, we took the open-air truck halfway up the mountain, which was a 30-minute drive. Then we took a tram the rest of the way up. It was so cool to be suspended in the air going up thousands of feet within a few minutes.
When we arrived, we had a mini climb to get to the ultimate elevation of 11,100 feet. There was a sudden feeling of peace as the beauty of the mountains enveloped everyone.
Big Sky Resort
After our Lone Expedition adventure, we explored the resort area of Big Sky, which was a welcomed Big Sky activity for the kids. It is filled with lots of kid-friendly activities such as trampolines, mini-golf, a playground area, and an uncovered museum. The museum is basically a wooden contraption filled with flowing water, sand, and gems. Kiddos played with delight on their faces as they used the sifter to discover the hidden gems.
Before our next adventure, we decided to eat. We had hot dogs from Yeti Dogs, a place known for its legendary hot dogs. I’m not the biggest hot dog fan, but I must admit they were pretty tasty!
Things to Do in Bozeman, Montana
After lunch, we drove an hour to Bozeman to go to the Museum of the Rockies. The Museum of the Rockies has a huge collection of dinosaur fossils. It is also home to a planetarium, and a 4K Digital Theater.
Personally, I thought it was going to be a bit cooler based on the fossil displays they had at the airport, but the boys seemed to have had fun and learned a ton.
Afterward, we explored downtown Bozeman, which was super cute. Main Street is lined with lots of shops and restaurants, but we were on a mission to find food. When you’re in Montana, the rule is you eat bison, so we had our minds made up for some yummy bison.
We ate at Ted’s Montana Grill, which is inside The Baxter Hotel, located on Main Street historic district of Bozeman. Ted’s has one of the largest selections of bison dishes in the world.
The bison was delicious. The boys had Bison meatloaf; I decided on a Bison burger and my husband had Bison short ribs. Unfortunately, we all were so hungry that I didn’t get a chance to get a picture of the food.
Additional Things to Do in Bozeman
Of course in one-half-day, we barely scratched the surface of all the things to do in Bozeman. Below are a few additional things to do in Bozeman:
1) Madison River Guided Kayak Excursion– Kayak down the Madison River on a six-capacity guided tour. Take in the stunning views of Bozeman while seeing wildlife and learning about its history
2) Alpaca and Llama Farm Tour- I mean, does this need any explanation? If you love animals or are traveling from Bozeman to Yellowstone with kiddos, this is the PERFECT thing to do in Bozeman.
3) Hot Springs– There are multiple hot springs in and around Bozeman. Two of the most popular ones are Bozeman Hot Springs which has a variety of outdoor pools with different temperatures and Norris Hot Springs, which has more of a local vibe and fresh, local food.
4) Lewis and Clark State Caverns– Limestone caverns, hiking trails, a campground, and so much more! Guided hikes and tours are available. It is recommended to make reservations in advance.
5) Hiking “the M”– This is one of the most well-known things to do in Bozeman as you literally hike in the shape of a giant letter M, along the hillside. And the view is phenomenal!
6) Farmer’s Market– Yes, a farmer’s market made the things to do in Bozeman list. This market is held on Saturday mornings in the summer at the Pavillion at the County Fairgrounds. Here you can find local homegrown and handmade products from food to jewelry, pottery, and so much more!
Day 2: Big Sky to Yellowstone
Before we left, Jaime, my husband, spoke to someone that said the round-trip Big Sky to Yellowstone drive, with stops to the key attractions was a 12-hour activity. If you follow my Bozeman to Yellowstone itinerary, it will be about the same for you. We left the hotel at 10 a.m. and returned at 10 p.m.
So prepare for the long shift; it’s worth EVERY MINUTE!
The drive from Big Sky to Yellowstone West Entrance is an hour’s drive. If you tend to sleep on road trips, the scenic drive from Big Sky to Yellowstone alone may keep you awake.
Once you get close to Yellowstone West Entrance, you feel like you have been teleported into a Western film. Many of the buildings are outfitted with wood paneling and painted warm neutral colors like browns and yellows.
It could be a cool experience staying in lodging near the Yellowstone West Entrance if you would prefer to have a minimum drive or plan to go to Yellowstone for multiple days.
✔️ Click here to learn about the various hotels near West Yellowstone ✔️
Entering Yellowstone National Park West Entrance
Entrance tickets to the National Park are $35 per car and are valid for 7 days. As previously mentioned, Yellowstone West Entrance is the busiest, so be prepared for a long line. It took us about 20 – 30 mins to actually enter the Yellowstone West Entrance.
If you prefer not to wait as long, you can purchase your tickets in advance online. This will allow you to be in an expedited lane.
Best Things to Do from Yellowstone National Park West Entrance
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
North Rim Trail
When we finally got inside, we drove straight to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which is about an hour’s drive from the west entrance. When you park, you’ll be in Canyon Village.
Upon walking the trail, you’ll have an option between the Lower Falls Brink and North Rim Trail. We opted for the latter. From the North Rim Trail, we walked to the upper basin which took us about 45 minutes to an hour, roundtrip.
I was super nervous about seeing bears because there are grizzly bears in Yellowstone. Bear spray is recommended by most experts, but at $50 a can; we passed and opted to sing at the top of our lungs so the bears wouldn’t get scared if they were around. Most bear attacks happen because you frighten them.
If you’re not much of a hiker, you can park at the upper basin and make your journey shorter. However, we went through the trail, up to the upper basin.
✔️ Click here to get hiking with kids tips ✔️
Man, was it beautiful! To see that amount of clear, beautiful water rushing down was amazing. The sound by itself was something to witness.
Lower Falls Brink
As we were about to exit the trail and return to our car, another hiker encouraged us to do the Lower Falls Brink Trail as it’s even more beautiful than the upper basin.
We heeded their suggestion and continued down the Lower Falls Brink which is known as a switchback hike because it follows a zig-zag pattern. Instead of climbing directly down the slope, you go sharply from one direction to the other. This hike requires more endurance as it’s steep, dropping 300ft within ten minutes.
Going down took us 30 to 45 minutes. But as our fellow hiker stated, we were not disappointed. This vantage point solidified why it is named the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
The Yellowstone River cascades down 308 feet into the canyon, making it the tallest waterfall in the Rockies. A breathtaking view, indeed.
Now the walk back up is not for the faint of heart, especially with twin toddlers in tow. Luckily there are benches throughout the trail for those of us who need a break.
We took the boys to the actual Grand Canyon in Arizona when they were one, click here to learn all about it.
After that adventure, we drove 15 minutes to Hayden Valley to see the bison. Let me tell you, bison were everywhere!
The goal is to keep driving as they’re all lined up in the valley, on both sides. Luckily, as we entered the valley traffic was low enough for us to pull to the side of the road, allowing me the opportunity to get out of the car and follow a lone bison doing his own thing, at a very, very safe distance.
This most definitely was a highlight of the trip! I expected to see other animals such as elks, but we didn’t. Either way, it was worth the visit.
Geysers, Basins, and Hot Springs
Bozeman to Old Faithful
The next stop was Old Faithful Geyser, which was an hour’s drive from Hayden Valley. A geyser is a hot spring that spouts jets of steam and hot water. Old Faithful Geyser has its name due to its frequent and somewhat predictable eruptions which number more than a million since 1872.
When we arrived, it had just erupted, which meant we would have to wait another 90 minutes for it to go off again. Luckily, the area that Old Faithful is in includes a historic hotel, gift shops, and two different restaurants.
One restaurant was cafeteria-style, and the other wasn’t. It was fast food with outdoor seating.
There are other geysers in the area, but they erupt at different times. Old Faithful is the biggest one, the water shoots up high and it lasts about ten minutes. It was a pretty cool experience, but the boys didn’t seem too impressed, lol.
Grand Prismatic Springs
After we witnessed Old Faithful’s eruption, we headed to Midway Geyser Basin, which is fifteen minutes away and also includes the Grand Prismatic Springs.
What I found interesting about Midway Geyser Basin is the water was hot because it’s a basin but it was still cold because the sun was setting and it was 50 degrees outside. We experienced different complexities of temperatures at the same time. As we kept walking, we saw the different colors of the Prismatic Springs.
It was so beautiful seeing the spectrum of colors from the Prismatic Springs with the background of the sky changing colors with the sunset.
Fun Fact: The different colors of the Prismatic Springs are caused by bacteria and thermophiles? Each color is specific to a particular temperature range.
What a day! After an activity-filled day driving from Big Sky to Yellowstone, we headed back to the resort, which was another hour and a half drive from the Midway Geyser Basin. Needless to say, after 16K steps in one day, we slept like babies.
Additional Yellowstone West Entrance Stops
Even with 12 hours, we had to leave out some beautiful stops along the Big Sky to Yellowstone itinerary. If time permits, consider including The Mud Pots and Lamar Valley, which attract the biggest land species in the park.
Tips for Visiting Yellowstone with Kids
- Have an Attraction Wishlist– As mentioned, Yellowstone National Park is HUGE. Therefore you want to have an idea of the top Yellowstone attractions you want to see. Be sure to look up the distance between each attraction because some can be an hour or more apart.
- Pro Tip- Plan your bathroom stops and meals around the distance between attractions. Also, there are bathrooms at each major attraction.
- Bring ALL the Snacks– The Bozeman to Yellowstone itinerary includes a lot of car time. So be prepared with snacks and water for you and the kiddos.
- Download the Yellowstone Park Map in Advanced– There is little to no cellular reception in Yellowstone. So if you rely on Google Maps or the likes, download the map in advance.
- Download your Kid’s Favorite Shows and Songs– As mentioned before, there’s little to no cellular reception. Don’t get caught without an option to entertain your kids.
Bozeman to Yellowstone 2022 Itinerary: So Much to Do in 2 Days!
Of course, there are so many wonderful stops on the drive from Bozeman to Yellowstone. In fact, one could spend an entire week, if not more exploring both.
If your Bozeman to Yellowstone itinerary includes a significant amount of time, you may want to continue through Yellowstone National Park to the Grand Tetons. Seriously, bucket list worthy!