beautiful silhouttes with geothermal activity in Yellowstone national park

Salt Lake City to Yellowstone Road Trip Itinerary

Salt Lake City in Utah is close enough to Yellowstone to be super convenient but also far enough away that there are a ton of things to see and explore during the drive!

If you’re trying to plan a road trip from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone, then you’ve come to the right place. This guide will give you all the details you need for the trip and a run-down of the best stops to make along the way.

The incredible landscape of the western United States is waiting to welcome you on this scenic drive!

Distance from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone

The most direct route from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone is about 325 miles which takes you along I-15.

A longer but more scenic drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone is about 400 miles along Highway 89 / Highway 26, taking in more of the highlights of Wyoming and Idaho.

How Long Do I Need Driving from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone?

The shorter I-15 drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone is about 5 hours. This drive will take you through Idaho Falls to arrive at the West Yellowstone entrance.

The longer Highway 89 route is about 12 hours of driving time, but taking it this way will mean you can add a visit to Grand Teton National Park to your trip.

While both of these drives are entirely possible to do in one day, we’d recommend planning for at least a few days, if not up to a week, to get from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone so you have time to make interesting stops along the way.

Driving Distance Calculator

Use this handy table to help you calculate your driving distances and how long you’d like to be on the road each day:

Driving RouteDistanceApprox. Drive Time
Salt Lake City to Antelope Island State Park 73 miles1 hour 35 minutes
Antelope Island to Logan Canyon 193 miles3 hours 50 minutes
Logan Canyon to Jackson Hole33 miles45 minutes
Jackson Hole to Grand Teton National Park5 miles7 minutes
Grand Teton to Idaho Falls132 miles2 hours 50 minutes
Idaho Falls to Caribou-Targhee National Forest78 miles1 hour 45 minutes
Caribou-Targhee to West Yellowstone 50 miles1 hour 15 minutes

Best Time of Year to Drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone

Spring, summer, and fall are all good times of year to drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone.

Summer is by far the most popular time to visit Yellowstone National Park, and during the months of June-August, the park is usually packed with tourists, meaning that you’ll need to reserve your accommodation well in advance.

The shoulder seasons of spring and fall are good bets if you want to skip the high temperatures and crowded parking lots of summertime.

While it’s entirely possible to do the drive during winter, you will need to be more mindful of the potential for slippery winter roads, and a lot of accommodation in Yellowstone is closed during wintertime.

Best Stops on a Salt Lake City to Yellowstone Road Trip

If you’re making a round trip from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone, you can take the Highway 89 route one way and the shorter I-15 route in the other direction. We’ve highlighted stops along both routes so you can plan how you want to spend your travel time.

Antelope Island State Park, Utah

The largest of the islands in the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island, offers a unique landscape and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Technically, depending on how high the lake water is, the “island” is actually a peninsula, but that doesn’t detract from its scenery! It’s only about a one-hour drive from downtown Salt Lake City, making it a perfect first stop to stretch your legs and explore.

USA Salt Lake City to Yellowstone Road Trip - Antelope Island State Park

The island has over 20 miles of hiking trails, all of which boast incredible views of the Great Salt Lake with the mountains in the background. Although some of the trails are more challenging, there are also plenty of easy hikes which are perfect for families with young kids.

Although you might not expect it at first, the island is also home to some of the iconic wildlife of the West, like bison and the antelope from which the island got its name.

If you have a bit more time to explore, you might also consider taking a horseback riding tour of the island. These fun tours let you experience the amazing scenery with a real ‘Old West’ sort of vibe and learn about the history of Antelope Island from a knowledgeable guide.

Logan Canyon Scenic Byway, Utah

Traveling on US Highway 89 during a Salt Lake City to Yellowstone drive, you’ll be treated to the incredible views along Logan Canyon Scenic Byway.

One of the best scenic drives in Utah, this stretch of road connects the city of Logan to Bear Lake and provides some breathtaking scenery of the mountains and canyons in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

USA Salt Lake City to Yellowstone Road Trip - Logan Canyon Scenic Byway

This drive is about 1 hour in length, but if you’re looking for some places to stop and explore (without so many tourist crowds!), it could easily turn into a few days of travel time.

First Dam Park is a great place for families to stop since this park has more maintained paved pathways, picnic tables, and a lakefront where you can fish or go paddleboarding.

For a more rugged adventure, you might want to check out the Wind Caves, which are incredible limestone formations found at the end of a 4-mile hike. The views of the cliff face are stunning and a definite testimony to the wild beauty of Utah.

This drive is particularly impressive during the fall when the colorful autumn leaves turn the landscape into a beautiful array of bright gold and orange.

Pro Tip: There aren’t any gas stations along this stretch of road, so especially if you’re planning on taking time to explore, make sure you have a full tank of gas before beginning.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

One of Wyoming’s most popular tourist destinations, Jackson Hole can turn into an entire trip by itself. It’s worth planning to spend at least a night or two here as you drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone.

USA Salt Lake City to Yellowstone Road Trip - Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole is a wilderness haven with endless opportunities for outdoor exploration at places like the National Elk Refuge. In the wintertime, it’s a skier’s paradise thanks to the legendary ski slopes like Snow King Mountain.

It’s also a super family-friendly city to visit with spots like Phil Baux Park, where you’ll find all sorts of activities like small climbing walls, horseshoe pits, and playground equipment. There’s also the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum, which has awesome hands-on activities the entire family can enjoy.

For a bird’s eye perspective of the city and a stunning view of the mountains, you can ride the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram up 2,700 feet to one of the mountain peaks overlooking the city.

The adventure doesn’t stop there; for adrenaline enthusiasts, you’ll have an opportunity to go paragliding at the top! If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, check out the trails or simply enjoy a meal and appreciate the view at one of the three restaurants located on the peak.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Jackson Hole is also the gateway to Grand Teton National Park, and it’s well worth adding this park to your itinerary for an SLC to Yellowstone road trip itinerary.

The park is known for its incredible mountain scenery and picturesque lakes, making it an awesome place to cool off and swim during the hot summer. You’ll find some of the most incredible Wyoming scenic driving routes here, including the Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway.

USA Salt Lake City to Yellowstone Road Trip - Grand Teton National Park

There are also over 200 miles of trails throughout the park ranging from easy, kid-friendly walks to arduous treks best suited for seasoned hikers. No matter which trails you decide on, you’re guaranteed to see some amazing wildlife and beautiful natural landscapes.

In the winter, many of the trails are converted into cross-country skiing and snowshoe routes for those who enjoy winter sports. 

One of the must-visit spots in Grand Teton is Hidden Falls. Located on Cascade Creek, these stunning waterfalls are one of the most famous natural wonders of the park. It’s a roughly 8-mile hike to reach the falls, so bring extra water and snacks for the trek.

There are several campgrounds within Grand Teton National Park, or it’s very easy to stay in Jackson Hole and drive the short distance into the park to explore.

Idaho Falls, Idaho

If you take the I-15 route for the drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone, you’ll pass right through Idaho Falls as you make your way to the park.

We’d definitely recommend spending at least the afternoon, if not a day or two, in Idaho Falls to check out the city and the surrounding natural wonders.

USA Salt Lake City to Yellowstone Road Trip - Idaho Falls

Set right along the Snake River, Idaho Falls has some stunning scenic drives. In fact, the whole city is very scenic, combining modern attractions and pleasant outdoor spaces. For the best views in the city, explore the Idaho Falls River Walk which is a well-maintained path popular for biking, walking, and running.

Kids will love the Idaho Falls Zoo, which is a part of the larger Tautphaus Park, where you’ll find picnic spaces and the Funland Amusement Park with kid-friendly rides and carnival activities.

Other city activities include visiting the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho or browsing through the unique artifacts in the Collectors Corner Museum, which houses a variety of collectibles ranging from coins to hubcaps.

If you have time, get out to explore the Hell’s Half Acre lava field, located about 25 miles out of the city. This immense stretch of hardened lava was formed about 2,000 years ago, and hiking the trails cutting through the jagged formations, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped onto a different planet!

Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Idaho

Spanning between Idaho and Wyoming, the Caribou-Targhee National Forest is a perfect place for travelers hoping to enjoy the mountains and forests of the region with more peace and solitude than you’ll find in Yellowstone or Grand Teton.

There are over 1,600 miles of trails traversing the park, so you certainly won’t be at a loss for places to explore! During the winter, skiing is also a popular sport thanks to the 175 majestic mountains which characterize the landscape.

USA Salt Lake City to Yellowstone Road Trip - Caribou-Targhee National Forest

Caribou-Targhee is known for its incredible waterfalls and canyons. One of the most popular trails is the Darby Canyon Wind Cave Trail, a 6.3-mile hike through the forest and alongside a canyon to finally reach an impressive waterfall with a cave located near the top.

It’s easy to visit Caribou-Targhee National Forest as a day trip from Idaho Falls, or there are plenty of campgrounds if you want to really escape into nature. Whether you stop just to stretch your legs or spend a few nights camped out in the ravines and scenic valleys, Caribou-Targhee is a great place to include on your drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone

Approaching from the southwest, West Yellowstone is your gateway to Yellowstone National Park. A small town surrounded by pristine forests, a stop at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is a must.

If you don’t have lodgings pre-booked well in advance for staying inside the park, the town of West Yellowstone makes a great place to base yourselves for exploring Yellowstone. You are only 5 minutes from the park entrance, and around 20 minutes from the Grand Loop, making it the ideal park entrance for exploring the parks geothermal activity.

Alternative Route – Grand Teton to Yellowstone National Park

An alternative to traveling through Idaho and coming into the park from West Yellowstone is to continue your journey from Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park along the John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Highway.

Yellowstone national park  south entrance sign entering from Grand Teton

You will find there are fewer queues coming from the south entrance and it’s a unique way to visit the lesser-explored southern areas of Yellowstone, before hitting the traffic on the Grand Loop!

Our complete family guide to exploring Yellowstone with road trip itinerary suggestions is coming soon!

Lonely Planet Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks 6 (National Parks Guide)
Moon Best of Yellowstone & Grand Teton: Make the Most of One to Three Days in the Parks (Travel Guide)
What I Saw in Yellowstone: A Kid's Guide to the National Park

More Tips for Road Tripping from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone

  • Yellowstone National Park is one of the largest in the United States, spanning 2.2 million acres (Larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined!), so give plenty of time in your itinerary to properly explore the park.
  • Due to the parks size and popularity, you won’t be alone! Early starters will be rewarded with fewer entry queues, and get off the main roads for a more enjoyable experience.
  • Yellowstone has an entry fee of $35 for a single vehicle, valid for 7 consecutive days; you can also use America the Beautiful passes – well worth it if you are visiting both Grand Teton and Yellowstone, or see if your family could be eligible for a 4th Grader Every Kid Outdoors pass.
  • Give wild animals their space. Seeing bison, elk, or maybe even a grizzly bear is all part of the amazing adventure of driving to Yellowstone, but keep your distance in order to stay safe.
  • Pack plenty of layers for your trip. Temperatures can vary a lot depending on the weather and time of day, and having a variety of clothes will help keep you comfortable.
  • Accommodation in Yellowstone fills up very quickly, so make sure you make reservations well in advance (usually summer before your trip is recommended).
  • Cell phone service in a lot of parks, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton, can be limited. Downloading a map and checking your messages before getting to your campground is a good idea.
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© Family Road Trip 2024

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