Best Time of Year for a Denver to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park Road Trip
The best time of year to take a Denver to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park road trip is from May through October. Some exciting times throughout the year include bison birthing season in May, wildflower blooms in June and lasting through September, and August being a great time to see bison mating.
While summer allows the most road access, it’s also the busiest time of year to visit the parks, especially from Labor Day through Memorial Day. If visiting during the summer, expect long entrance wait times and traffic in the park. Avoid visiting over weekends.
May and late September through October are the shoulder seasons. Both parks are less crowded in the spring and fall, but temperatures are cooler so pack layers! Also, many services are limited outside of the summer. Most lodges and restaurants close.
Outside of the summer, most park roads in both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park close. Weather permitting, in Yellowstone National Park, the only year-round park road that remains open is the northernmost route from Gardiner, Montana to Cooke City, Montana. Yellowstone road updates can be found here. Teton Park Road from Taggart Lake Trailhead to Signal Mountain Lodge is closed from November 1 to April 30. Other Grand Teton National Park road closures and updates can be found here.
Preparation for a Denver to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park Trip
Before embarking on your Denver to Yellowstone and Grand Teton road trip of a lifetime, preparation is crucial to enjoy a smooth and comfortable trip. Here are a few things to consider before your campervan road trip:
Book Your Campsites
After you plan your route, it’s essential to book campsites as early as possible. Campsites in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park book up quickly, so reserve your campsites as soon as possible. Campground reservations in Grand Teton National Park open six months in advance.
Campsites at Yellowstone National Park are reserved through two booking sites. Sites can be reserved at recreation.gov and are available six months in advance. Campgrounds run by Yellowstone National Park Lodges are available as early as 13 months in advance.
Fuel Up & Pack a Lunch
Services in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park are limited. Fuel up your tank before you enter the park. Outside of the busy summer season, most restaurants and lodges are closed, so pack enough food for your trip.
Get Paper and Online Maps
Download offline maps of your route before hitting the road. Cell coverage is spotty over your trip, and you will lose service along your drive from Denver to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. It’s always important to have paper maps in case your phone stops working or if you lose your phone. When you reach the park entrances, rangers will also provide you with paper park maps.
Charge Your Devices
Pack a backup battery pack to charge your devices. While you can charge it in the camper van it’s nice to have extra battery power when out hiking or scrolling through your photos while lying in bed.
Pack Warm Clothing and Layers
Temperatures vary drastically in the mountains throughout Grand Teton and Yellowstone—pack layers including a rain jacket, puffy coat, and base layers. There is so much to see in the parks so bring comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots. If you are traveling in the spring or fall, extra blankets are always a good idea.
Research the Destination
It’s always important to research the area you are heading to. It helps your trip run smoothly. Check to see if permits or reservations are required to enter your destination. Always check road conditions and closures before heading out. Look up if there are fire restrictions in effect. Research the local wildlife and safety; Grand Teton and Yellowstone are part of Grizzly Bear Country, and bear spray is recommended in the parks.
Denver to Yellowstone Itinerary Stops
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park offer some of the most impressive views in the country. The landscape and wildlife diversity of Yellowstone National Park and the iconic peaks and bodies of water making up the Teton Range offer a variety of hikes, sites, and things to explore.
The drive from Denver to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park may be long, but it’s well worth it to experience the parks. Luckily there are some unique stops along the way. When heading out to Yellowstone, plan a stopover in Thermopolis to explore local hot springs. Then spend a few days taking in the landscapes and abundant wildlife in Yellowstone National Park, followed by hiking or a scenic drive in Grand Teton National Park. Wrap up your trip in the adventurous city of Jackson, Wyoming. Go rafting, fly fishing, or explore downtown before returning to Denver.
Day 1: Thermopolis
After picking up your Escape Campervan in Denver, it’s time to hit the road. While it’s possible to drive from Denver to Yellowstone in a day, it’s a long drive, about 9 hours without stops. The quaint town of Thermopolis is just over 6 hours from Denver, making it the perfect stop along the way.
Things to do in Thermopolis, Wyoming
Soak at Hot Springs State Park: There’s no better way to break up a campervan road trip drive from Denver to Yellowstone than a relaxing soak in some natural hot springs. Hot Springs State Park is located right in the town of Thermopolis along the Bighorn River. Water from natural mineral hot springs flows over a natural terrace at 128 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a bit hot for soaking but the park has created a free bathhouse for visitors to enjoy where the water is maintained at a therapeutic 104 degrees.
Visit the Wyoming Dinosaur Center: The Wyoming Dinosaur Center is an educational exhibit with information about the paleontological history of the area. Crazy enough, the Wyoming Dinosaur Center is located within a 10-minute drive of excavation sites, where you can go on a “Dig for a Day” tour looking for bones and fossils.
Restaurants in Thermopolis, Wyoming
One Eyed Buffalo Brewing 528 Broadway St, Thermopolis, WY 82443
One Eyed Buffalo Brewing Company is a fun, friendly, upbeat brewery and restaurant located in Thermopolis. With a variety of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and more, it has one of the most diverse menus in the town of Thermopolis, and of course, great beer too.
Camper Van Friendly Sites in Thermopolis, Wyoming
Boysen State Park: Boysen State Park is just south of Thermopolis. It’s located along the Wind River and features impressive views of the distant mountains, as well as camping.
Lake Cameahwait: Lake Cameahwait is just south of Thermopolis and is a great dispersed camping spot on the first day of your Denver to Yellowstone and Grand Teton campervan road trip. As a primitive camping spot, there are minimal to no services. However, bathrooms are accessible near the lake.
Days 2 – 3: Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park: covers about 3,500 square miles of wilderness, so as you can imagine, there’s plenty to explore. The drive from Denver to Yellowstone is about 9 hours. From Thermopolis to Yellowstone’s east entrance is less than 3 hours.
With so much to see in Yellowstone National Park, you’ll want to spend at least 2 or 3 days here. We recommend if departing from Denver, enter through the park’s east entrance.
Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone Lake: Yellowstone Lake is a large alpine lake sitting at 7,732 feet above sea level. It’s the largest lake in Yellowstone, about 20 miles long and 14 miles wide. Because of its high elevation, Yellowstone Lake is cold year-round and swimming is not recommended. However, the views from around the lake are stunning and if you enter Yellowstone National Park from the east entrance, Yellowstone Lake is one of the first destinations you’ll reach.
West Thumb Geyser Basin: Located right next to Yellowstone Lake is the West Thumb Geyser Basin, where aqua-blue and blue-green geyser pools cover the landscape. The hydrothermal features of West Thumb Geyser Basin, with views of Yellowstone Lake in the distance, make it a worthy site to check out.
Grand Prismatic Spring: You can’t visit Yellowstone National Park without seeing the Grand Prismatic Spring. The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the US and the third largest worldwide. The colors flow from orange into yellow into green into a large blue pool with intense heat rising all around. Prepare for a sulfur smell, and stick to the established walkways!
Old Faithful Geyser: Old Faithful Geyser is one of the most predictable and easily accessible geysers in Yellowstone National Park. Old Faithful erupts about 20 times a day so if you wait for 45 – 90 minutes, there’s a 90% chance you’ll see an eruption! There’s also a gift shop, dining room, and cafeteria next to Old Faithful Geyser.
Mammoth Hot Springs: Located near the northwest entrance of Yellowstone National Park, Mammoth Hot Springs is a unique hydrothermal feature of travertine terraces in hues of whites, reds, yellows, and oranges. Mammoth Hot Springs is also a popular snowshoeing destination in the winter.
Places to Eat in Yellowstone National Park
Geyser Grill 1000 Old Faithful Rd, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
Grab a quick bite to eat at the Geyser Grill located right next to Old Faithful Geyser. Choose from burgers, hot dogs, salads, chili, soup, and baked goods. The Geyser Grill is a great way to pass your time while waiting for Old Faithful to erupt. Geyser Grill also has gluten-free and vegetarian burger options available.
Mammoth Terrace Grill 305B Grand Loop Rd, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
Stop by the Mammoth Terrace Grill for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or ice cream. Open for the summer season, the Mammoth Terrace Grill offers quick options ranging from sandwiches to salads to burgers and, of course, hand-dipped ice cream. Breakfast includes cereals, breakfast sandwiches, coffee, and juice.
Grant Village Dining Room 550 Sculpin Ln, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
The Grant Village Dining Room serves a breakfast buffet and dinner from the end of May through the end of September. Enjoy entrees ranging from Bison Burgers to seafood. Don’t forget to stop by the Seven Stool Saloon next door to grab a drink!
Camping in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park has 12 campgrounds offering over 2,000 established campsites. They are located in different regions throughout the park. All campsites must be reserved in advance, and most are only open for the summer season, starting in May and closing in October.
Day 4 -5: Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is located just south of Yellowstone National Park. The park borders are less than 20 minutes apart. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park are connected via the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Highway.
Things to Do in Grand Teton National Park
Drive the 42-Mile Scenic Drive: The 42-mile scenic drive is a loop that showcases the best of Grand Teton National Park. It’s a must on your campervan road trip. We recommend that you spend a day or two driving this route, as there are many scenic vistas and hikes along the way. The route follows Teton Park Road passing alongside Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake. The 42-mile scenic drive then runs into the 191 and continues back south, running near the Snake River.
Explore Jenny Lake: Glacially formed about 12,000 years ago, Jenny Lake offers striking views of the Teton Range from the lake’s edge. Drive Jenny Lake Road to reach Jenny Lake Overlook and String Lake. There are also a variety of hiking trails that start near Jenny Lake for those looking to explore the area around the lake
Check Out Jackson Lake: Located off of Teton Park Road, Jackson Lake is one of the largest alpine lakes in the country. This natural lake was later dammed and extended in size. It’s a popular spot for its striking views of the Teton Range as well as for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.
Hike the Taggart Lake Loop: Taggart Lake is considered an easy hike and is one of the most popular hikes in Grand Teton National Park. The 4-mile loop only gains 420 feet in elevation and winds you through dense forest and wildflowers until you reach Taggart Lake. When the water is calm at Taggart Lake, enjoy the reflection of the high peaks. If you want to continue hiking, then head up to Bradley Lake!
Photograph Snake River Overlook: Snap a classic Ansel Adams photo at Snake River Overlook, where the high peaks of the Teton Range fill the background behind the Snake River.
Stop at Schwabacher Landing: Schwabacher Landing is located off Highway 191. Schwabacher Landing is formed by a beaver dam along the Snake River and, when the water is calm, offers spectacular reflections of the Grand Tetons.
Places to Eat in Grand Teton National Park
Jenny Lake Dining Room: Jenny Lake Road, Moose, WY 83012
Enjoy fine dining in a log cabin built in the 1930s at the Jenny Lake Lodge. This woodsy cabin restaurant offers breakfast and lunch daily as well as a rotating five-course prix fixe dinner menu. Sustainable ingredients are locally sourced from the Jackson Hole area. The Jenny Lake Lodge is open seasonally from June through early October. Reservations are highly recommended.
Doran’s Pizza & Pasta Company: 12170 Dorans Rd, Moose, WY 83012
Grab some classic Italian comfort food at Doran’s Pizza & Pasta Co after a long day of exploring in Grand Teton National Park. Doran’s is located in the Spur Bar, which is open year-round. In the winter warm up by the large stone fireplace. In the summer, we recommend dining under the sun on the upper deck.
John Colter’s Ranch House: 100 Colter Bay Village Road, Moran, WY 83013
Stop by John Colter’s Ranch House for rustic comfort food. While dining in the ranch house view the historical photos of the surrounding area. The Ranch House is family-friendly but also offers a large bar. Meals are made from local produce, all-natural beef, and sustainable seafood sources.
Camping in Grand Teton National Park
Colter Bay Campground: Colter Bay Campground is a large campground with 324 sites located near Colter Bay Village. The campground has flushing toilets, coin-operated showers, and potable water. It’s open in the summer from Memorial Day weekend through the end of September. Colter Bay Campground is a short walk to views of the Teton Range. Colter Bay Village is also located nearby, with restaurants, shops, and a visitor center.
Signal Mountain Campground: Signal Mountain Campground is located near the Signal Mountain Lodge and is just a short walk from Jackson Lake, offering some of the most spectacular campground views in Grand Teton National Park. There are 81 sites, potable water, flushing toilets, and coin-operated showers. Signal Mountain Campground is open from Memorial Day weekend through late October.
Jenny Lake Campground: Jenny Lake Campground is located near Jenny Lake and offers 61 sites with potable water, flushing toilets, and coin-operated showers. Jenny Lake Campground is open from May 1 – September 25. The walk from the campground to the lake is a few minutes.
Day 6: Jackson, Wyoming
Before heading back to Denver, you have to stop in Jackson, Wyoming. Located just south of Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole is the perfect last stop on your campervan road trip. Jackson is known as an adventure city, the gateway to rafting, hiking, climbing, skiing, and fishing. As well as for its fine dining and upscale accommodations.
Things to do in Jackson, Wyoming
Stoll Through Jackson Town Square: Jackson Town Square is a great spot to spend the last evening of your Denver to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park road trip. Grab a bite to eat, have a classic Western drink at the saloon, and do a little shopping before you hit the road in the morning.
National Elk Refuge: The National Elk Refuge is located just outside the town of Jackson and is home to one of the largest elk herds in the US. Not only that, but the National Elk Refuge is a photographer’s delight with the scenic Teton Range in the background.
Raft or Float the River: Both adrenaline seekers and laid-back explorers can enjoy an adventure on the Snake River. If you’re looking for an intense river trip, then go Whitewater Rafting on one of the most impressive sections of the Snake River. If whitewater isn’t your forte, then sign up for a float down a flatwater section of the Snake River and enjoy lunch and views along the way.
Go Fly Fishing: Wyoming is known to have world-class fly fishing, with the Snake River in Jackson Hole offering some of the best in the country. If you’ve never tried fly fishing before, then don’t miss out on this opportunity. It’s a great way to spend your last day on your Denver to Yellowstone and Grand Teton campervan road trip.
Places to eat in Jackson, Wyoming
Persephone Bakery 145 E Broadway Ave, Jackson, WY 83001
Grab a pastry, coffee, and a loaf of bread at Persephone Bakery before you hit the road on the last morning of your campervan road trip.
Snake River Brewing Co. 265 S Millward St, Jackson, WY 83001
Grab a beer and some food at the oldest small craft brewery in Wyoming, Snake River Brewing Co. The brewery has a full kitchen and bakery. Snake River Brewing is family-friendly and offers tours by appointment and outdoor games.
Gun Barrel Steak & Game House 862 W Broadway, Jackson, WY 83001
Gun Barrel Steak & Game House is the perfect spot if you’re looking for a classic Wyoming dinner experience. Dine on buffalo, venison, elk, and other wild game at Gun Barrel while surrounded by cowboy artifacts.
Camper Van Friendly Sites near Jackson, Wyoming
Curtis Canyon Campground: Curtis Canyon Campground is an off-the-beaten-path campground located just north of National Elk Refuge, close to the town of Jackson. It has drinking water, toilets, and picnic tables. Curtis Canyon Campground is first come first served.
Atherton Creek Campground: Atherton Creek Campground is located in Bridger-Teton National Forest. It’s within a 30-minute drive of both Grand Teton National Park and Jackson. Atherton is a walk-in, first-come, first-served campground. In the summer there are bathrooms and water. Outside of the summer season, you can still stay here, but services are closed.
Why Rent a Camper Van for a Denver to Yellowstone to Grand Teton National Park Road Trip?
Renting an Escape Campervan in Denver is the best way to enjoy your Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park road trip. A campervan is the perfect option because you can stop wherever you want along the way and find a place to camp!
Renting a campervan is a better option than renting an RV because campervans are smaller, more mobile, and can park anywhere, unlike large, cumbersome RVs. Skip worrying about if you’ll fit in a campsite or if there are hookups, and go with a camper van. Finding campsites and parking throughout Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks can be challenging, especially in the summer, and a camper van maximizes your options.
Escape Campervans provides everything you need, from rental extras to trip accessories! A place to sleep, cook, and hang out! There’s no need for electric or sewer hookups. And there’s no need to stress about driving a large vehicle on your Denver to Yellowstone and Grand Teton road trip.
Reserve with Escape Campervans for your Trip
So now you have all the information to plan your Denver to Yellowstone and Grand Teton road trip. And what better way to travel than in a camper van? This is a bucket list trip of a lifetime, and nothing is better than comfort while exploring. With a place to sleep, cook, and chill, Escape Campervans offers everything you need, and with easy pickup right in Denver, everything is already ready for you to hit the road!