Traveling to and Through Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park might feel remote, but it’s pretty easy to get here. And it’s pretty easy to get around while you’re here. There’s plenty to see and do just steps from your car, but there’s always a path off the beaten one or remote backcountry to get deep into as well.
Fly into the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, located just outside Belgrade, about 15 or 20 minutes from Bozeman proper, with direct flights to major hubs including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Seattle.
In the summer, Delta Connection connects flights from Salt Lake City to West Yellowstone. (True to form, there’s a campground at the airport.)
If you flew to Yellowstone, your best bet for getting to the park is booking your own rental car—even if you plan on using hotel and park shuttles. Both Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport or Yellowstone Airport are limited to book-in-advance taxis and airport shuttles for getting to town. Karst Stage operates service from Bozeman to West Yellowstone.
Yellowstone’s roads are either paved, or closed for winter, so all you really need is a comfortable sedan that can hit freeway speeds (75mph) if you’re coming from Bozeman. Look for a car that’s not too low clearance. While your average sedan is probably fine for 90% of your adventures in Yellowstone Country, if you plan to hike outside the park, look for one that’s at least higher clearance for bumpy trailheads. If you’re into something gear-heavy like camping, fishing or skiing, the hatchback on an SUV can be handy, but not a requirement.
Most of Yellowstone’s roads are closed for winter, as is the Beartooth Highway, which connects Red Lodge to the northeast entrance at Cooke City. Even so, you’ll need to get in and out of the park and you may want to cruise the Lamar Valley between Gardiner and Cooke City. Highways are generally well-plowed and with a bit of extra caution, winter driving is fairly safe.
If you can, bring or rent a car with snow tires, all-wheel-drive, or four-wheel drive. If you can’t, just drive cautiously: brake early, turn slowly. It is extremely rare for passenger cars to need chains, but assemble a basic safety kit with a shovel, road flares, extra coats or a sleeping bag, snacks and flashlights just in case.
From Bozeman, the north entrance at Gardiner is just over an hour and a half, and the west entrance at West Yellowstone is just under two hours. From Livingston, Gardiner is about an hour. In the summer, you can drive from Red Lodge to Cooke City over the Beartooth Highway, which technically should only take several hours, but given the distractions, merits at least a full day.
There are tours departing from larger Western cities that spend time in Yellowstone National Park, and the iconic yellow buses operated by the park lodges that whisk passengers onto daily tours of Yellowstone as well. One tip: if you have your heart set on riding on a vintage bus from the 1930s, be very clear when booking or you may end up on a more standard-style bus.
On Yellowstone Lake, shuttle boats take backcountry explorers to trailheads. In the winter, snowcoaches operate both as skier shuttles and as guided tours, taking passengers deeper into the park than cars can go.
Visit our general Getting Around Yellowstone Country page, or just let us know how we can make this page better.