We have seen some amazing things on our #MyDogLikes America road trips, and Yellowstone is definitely near the top of the list. If you are traveling with dogs and considering a stop, keep reading to find out how to make the most of your time in the park!
Yellowstone National Park – The Basics
When you think about National Parks, Yellowstone is likely the first that comes to mind. It was, after all, the first National Park in the United States (established in 1872), and it covers a massive area of nearly 3,500 square miles!
There is almost nowhere on Earth with such a diversity of landscapes. Within Yellowstone you will find mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes and canyons. The area also sits atop one of the most geo-thermally active areas in the world, and the park is packed with geysers, fumaroles, hot springs and more.
Herd of Buffalo in the Hayden Valley
Last but not least is the wildlife! More than 60 different mammals make their home in the park including:
- Black Bear
- Grizzly Bear
- Bighorn Sheep
Where is Yellowstone National Park?
The bulk of Yellowstone lies in Northwestern Wyoming, though the park extends into Idaho and Montana as well. Yellowstone is directly adjacent to Grand Teton, making the 2 parks ideal for a combined visit.
Dogs in Yellowstone National Park
If you are wondering, “Are dogs allowed in Yellowstone?”, the answer is yes, but with many restrictions. They must be leashed at all times, remain within 100 feet of park roads and are not allowed on any boardwalks or trails.
Get used to seeing the following sign when you step out of the car…
In case you are wondering whether it is still worth a visit if you are traveling with dogs, our answer is an absolute YES!
Due to Yellowstone’s vast area, you will be spending a lot of time in the car regardless, and you can still see tons of amazing geology and wildlife straight from the road and overlooks.
Harley and Charlie riding through Yellowstone
Single vehicle admission to the park is $30 and the pass is good for 7 days. If you plan on visiting Grand Teton on this same trip, you can purchase a dual park pass for $50. If you forget to do this up front (like we did!) you can still save the money by showing your pass from the first park at the entrance to the second one!
Travel Tip – Another option, which is great if you are in the midst of a larger trip, is purchasing an America the Beautiful National Park Pass. For $80, this pass will give you access to thousands of places including: national parks, forests and recreation areas, for 365 days!
What to Do at Yellowstone
We knew going in that there was not too much the dogs could do during our visit, so we prepped for a long day in the car. Yellowstone covers an enormous geographical area, but most of the major attractions are accessible from whats known as the Grand Loop.
Driving the Yellowstone Loop
Be warned – trying to tackle this loop in one day is kind of crazy. You are looking at 10-12 hours of driving (with stops) and skipping tons of things that are no doubt worth seeing! Nevertheless, that is all the time we had on our crazy road trip, so that is exactly what we did!
We will be describing some of the highlights on our journey clockwise from the Jackson entrance at the south of the park all the way around to the East entrance along Yellowstone Lake.
After learning that dogs are not allowed on any boardwalk, we had honestly expected that we would have to miss Yellowstone’s most famous landmark.
However, as we saw the sign for Old Faithful, we figured that at least one of us should see it while the other sat in the car with the pups. Rachael ran ahead to scope things out and to my surprise returned a couple of minutes later to let us know that we could join her!
As it turns out, the visitors center is surrounded by a large stone area with benches and even shaded grass. Old Faithful is clearly visible only 100 or so yards away! In fact, the dogs are allowed all the way up to this point (note the steam rising in the background)…
Old Faithful erupts roughly every 75 minutes, so we relaxed on a bench for a bit while the dogs drew plenty of attention from tourists missing their pups at home!
Lower Geyser Basin
Not far down the road you will encounter the first of many large geyser basins. This is a very dangerous spot, so the dogs will need to stay in the car, but we took turns venturing out along the boardwalk to see the bubbling springs up close and personal. Definitely worth a stop as the boardwalks are only a few hundred yards long and you can explore the area in just a few minutes.
Please heed the warning of not bringing your dogs out of the car here. Even ground that looks solid is often only a thin shell covering scalding water. Many animals (and humans) have died from falling into these areas!
One of the next stops along our route was Roaring Mountain – which can ve viewed from a small parking area right off the road. This peak got its name from the several steam emitting fumaroles on the hillside – which used to be audible from several miles away!
Nowadays the mountain makes more of a hissing sound, but the stop is fascinating nonetheless – and it was still more than enough to grab the dogs attention!
Gallatin and Washburn Mountains
Get ready for some winding mountain roads as you conintue North on the Grand Loop. The top half of this figure 8 roadway runs through the Gallatin and Washburn Mountain ranges.
Yellowstone contains more than 70 peaks higher than 8,000 feet, and during this portion of the drive you will be seeing lots of them. You will also stumble across some gorgeous mountain grasslands and alpine lakes.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Along the halfway point of the Eastern side of the Grand Loop lies the 24 mile long Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This breathtaking feature has a depth between 800-1200 feet and a width of up to 4,000 feet!
For the past 160,000 years, the Yellowstone River has been eroding this canyon and its power is further demonstrated with 2 impressive waterfalls.
The Lower Falls, shown below, is over 300 feet tall – more than twice the height of Niagara Falls!
Between the Canyon and Yellowstone Lake, the road passes through Hayden Valley – which is an amazing place to view wildlife in the park.
Here we saw a TON of buffalo, and since we were visiting in late June, also lots of calves! Be careful as you drive through this region since the bison don’t obey the rules of the road and are often found just strolling along the roadway. 🙂
In this same area we saw lots of elk and even stumbled across a black bear feasting on a carcass. Things got even crazier when a grizzly bear approached and chased the black bear away to take over the meal!
By the time we reached the Eastern entrance of the park to get on our way it was unfortunately too dark to get any good photos. This path follows the edge of Yellowstone Lake which is truly remarkable in size. At 136 square miles it is the largest high elevation freshwater lake in North America. On the other side of the road you will see some woods that have been heavily damaged by forest fire.
From here it is just about an hours drive to Cody on a winding road through the Absaroka Mountain Range. It should be noted that this route is actually closed from early November to mid-May!
Why MyDogLikes Yellowstone National Park
These are landscapes that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime, and it is definitely worth a visit even if you are traveling with dogs. Though you won’t be able to get as intimate an experience with the park, you will still have a great time, and be able to see the majority of the landmarks from the road
We would recommend breaking your visit up into a couple of days, so your pups aren’t stuck in the car all day. There are hundreds of pull-offs for them to stretch their legs, but driving the entire loop at once makes for a very long day!
Tips and Other Important Things to Know
- Pick up a map when you enter! There is no cell service whatsoever for large stretches of the park, so you won’t be able to count on your phone for information.
- Enter the park with a FULL TANK of gas! You will be doing a ton of driving and there are only a few stations inside the park. Even though they are a bit pricey, take advantage of filling up when you see one. This is not a place where you want to run out of gas and get stranded!
- Bring binoculars! There is an abundance of wildlife in the park and you never know what you may run into. We would have loved to get a better look at the grizzly bear we mentioned above!
- Exercise your dogs the day BEFORE! Since they are very restricted inside of Yellowstone, you may want to check out some of the dog friendly hiking available nearby to get your dogs nice and worn out before your visit!
Have you ever been to Yellowstone?
Let us know about your visit or ask any questions below!