By Matt, Feb 2022
Visiting Yellowstone and don’t know what entrance to use?
If you’re wondering about the South Entrance, you’re in luck, because I’ll cover the pros, cons, and many more things you need to know about the South Entrance to Yellowstone.
How many entrances to Yellowstone are there?
There are five entrances to Yellowstone. Although more than 90% of the park is in Wyoming, three of the entrances are located in Montana. But the South and East entrances are in Wyoming.
What is the most popular entrance to Yellowstone?
The most popular entrance to Yellowstone is the West Entrance in West Yellowstone, MT. Yellowstone receives over 4 million visitors per year.
Regarding entrances, the park provides traffic counts (number of vehicles, not people).
Here they are, in order of popularity (most to least):
|Entrance||Closest Outside City||Traffic Count (2021)|
|West Entrance||West Yellowstone, MT||833,709|
|North Entrance||Gardiner, MT||482,467|
|South Entrance||Grand Teton/Jackson, WY||326,068|
|East Entrance||Cody, WY||210,612|
|Northeast Entrance||Cooke City-Silvergate, MT||130,248|
What is the closest city to the South Entrance?
Jackson, Wyoming, is the closest major city to the South Entrance to Yellowstone.
Jackson is a little over an hour away from the South Entrance.
How do I get to the South Entrance?
If you’re entering through the South Entrance, you must come through Grand Teton National Park and the Jackson Hole Valley.
So basically, you have to get to Grand Teton first, then head north to Yellowstone’s South Entrance.
Surrounding mountain ranges make Grand Teton a long drive from just about anywhere.
Driving to Grand Teton
Most people will enter Grand Teton from Yellowstone, which is about an hour north of the park.
If you’re driving from points east, you’ll almost certainly go through Cody, WY, into Yellowstone (and hopefully visit Yellowstone), and then enter Grand Teton from the north.
If you’re driving from Colorado, you have two GREAT options. You can’t go wrong either way:
- Through Lander & the Wind River mountains (gorgeous)
- Through Pinedale, Wyoming, the home of the Mountain Man Museum.
If you’re driving from points south, like Salt Lake City, you also have some great options. Strangely, these routes all take about the same amount of time, which is about 5-6 hours from Salt Lake City, UT:
- Turn off in Brigham City, UT, and drive through beautiful Logan Canyon. You’ll pass the deep-turquoise Bear Lake before arriving in Montpelier, where you can visit the Oregon Trail Center and the Butch Cassidy Museum (an actual bank that Butch robbed!)
- Turn off at Lava Hot Springs. Take a soak in the hot springs and see the nearby incredibly well-preserved historical town of Chesterfield, Idaho. Then head to Soda Springs and see the Soda Springs geyser, which erupts every hour on the hour.
- Continue north to Idaho Falls (although Lava Hot Springs is located right off of I-15, so consider stopping in for a soak!). Idaho Falls is a nice, clean city with a graffiti art gallery, a beautiful temple (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), the Museum of Clean, walking and biking paths along the Snake River. And just north of Idaho Falls is Bear World, and place we’ve visited many times with our kids; we just love it! You can either cut over on Route 26 or continue to West Yellowstone and then drop down into Grand Teton.
If you’re driving from points northwest, like Seattle, you could drop in via Idaho Falls, Bozeman, or West Yellowstone. If you go through Montana, don’t miss the lovely town of Missoula and Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Deer Lodge.
I believe most people who fly will fly into Bozeman, MT, because most people visit Yellowstone on the same trip. You can also fly to Jackson Hole Airport which sits right next to GTNP. Some people might fly to Salt Lake City, UT, and do the 5-hour drive to Yellowstone/Grand Teton (watch the video above).
Should I stay in Jackson, WY when visiting Yellowstone?
No, you should not use Jackson as a home base for seeing Yellowstone.
Jackson is actually located on the south side of Grand Teton National Park, so in order to get to Yellowstone, you’ll need to drive through Grand Teton to get to the South Entrance to Yellowstone.
Then you’ll still need to drive another 20-30 minutes or so to get to Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road, near Grant Village.
Then you’ll need to drive even further to other popular attractions like Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Then you’ll need to drive all the way back to Jackson.
Some tours will get people up early, drive to Yellowstone, drive around the Lower Loop, and return to Jackson. Considering it takes 2.5 just to drive the Lower Loop, you’ll easily spend 5-6 hours driving in one day.
Should I stay in Grand Teton when visiting Yellowstone?
We still don’t recommend staying in Grand Teton, even though there are plenty of places to stay at the north end of the park.
However, it is much more of a possibility than Jackson, so let’s cover a few of them here.
Most of them are inside Grand Teton National Park, or in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway. This Parkway is a small section of land and road that connects Grand Teton with Yellowstone.
The closest lodging or camping option is Flagg Ranch at Headwaters. They offer lodging, cabins, and a campground with hookups.
For me, Headwaters is the ONLY acceptable option if you want to stay outside Yellowstone near the South Entrance.
Although it is possible to use Headwaters as a base for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton, I still think it results in a lot of driving to see both parks, and I would rather change places than use one base camp.
Heck, Yellowstone is so big I recommend two places just to see Yellowstone, let alone both parks.
Headwaters is also a resort, with fishing, horseback riding, rafting, and many options for family fun.
This is a small campground on the north end of Jackson Lake. The problem here is it might be difficult to get a campsite because it has few sites. See our Grand Teton camping post for more information.
Colter Bay, Jackson Lake Lodge, and Signal Mountain
These are really cool places that offer camping, RVing, lodging, and high-end lodging. They are great places to stay while visiting Grand Teton!
But they’re too far away for me to recommend staying in them to see Yellowstone.
Where can I stay in Yellowstone near the South Entrance?
Any of the locations listed here would be good places to stay as you transition from Grand Teton to Yellowstone, but none of them would be good base camps to see both parks because they’re too far away from Grand Teton.
This is a first-come, first-served (FCFS) campground with 84 sites. It offers canoeing and kayaking and looks like a really nice place to stay.
The problem is that it’s hard to rely on FCFS sites nowadays. I’d much prefer a reserved campground, or at least having a decent backup plan if you can’t get a site in Lewis Lake.
- See more on camping in Yellowstone.
Grant Village has camping, lodging, and dining. It’s about 30 minutes away from the South Entrance.
This is a GREAT place to stay right along Yellowstone Lake. You can’t go wrong with Grant Village to see the Lower Loop.
But if you want to see the Upper Loop, you’ll want to change locations. Possible options are Gardiner/Mammoth, Roosevelt Lodge, or Canyon Village.
Old Faithful, Bridge Bay, & Lake Village
These locations are far away from the South entrance and aren’t really associated with it. Once you get to these places, you’re moving more into the heart of Yellowstone.
What is there to do around the South Entrance?
The stretch of road from the South Entrance to the Grand Loop Road (and Grant Village) is quite remote with a lot of trees.
Here are a few sites to see as you drive into the park through the South Entrance:
- Moose Falls is an unmarked waterfall. The pullout is on the north side of Crawfish Creek. Park and walk east for about 100 yards to see a 30-foot waterfall.
- Lewis Falls is a roadside stop with a short walk to a waterfall. As mentioned above, Lewis Lake is a place for canoeing and kayaking.
- The Continental Divide is like the rooftop of the country. From here, water either flows south to the Pacific Ocean or Northeast and eventually out to the Pacific Ocean. It’s just a roadside sign. There isn’t really anything to see, but you can take a picture of yourself standing on the point of the continent’s rooftop!
- West Thumb is one of the more popular geyser basins in the park. It has deep blue hot springs and it sits right alongside Yellowstone Lake. It’s just a delightful place to visit with beautiful views.
Is there a Visitor Center near the South Entrance?
The closest Visitor Center to the South Entrance is at Grant Village, about 30 minutes away from the entrance.
Most national parks have a major visitor center when you enter the park. But with five different entrances, the park long ago decided to create smaller interpretive stations all over the park.
For example, Fishing Bridge has a little station, as well as Norris and Madison.
The major stops, like Grant Village, Old Faithful, and Canyon Village, have larger visitor centers.
Is there a Ranger Booth at the South Entrance?
Yes, there is a ranger station there, staffed by a ranger. He or she will provide you with a map and newspaper with park announcements as you enter.
Can I pay to enter the park at the South Entrance?
Yes, all ranger booths allow you to pay your park entry fee if you haven’t already purchased your pass.
What if I get to the entrance before the booth opens?
Yellowstone is open 24 hours per day. If you get there before the booth opens, you can just drive into the park.
If you haven’t purchased your park pass yet, just purchase it later when you see another booth or visitor center.
Please be honest and purchase your pass at some point. Yellowstone is one of the wonders of the world and it’s an honor to visit and only have to pay $35 for a carload for a week.
Visiting Yellowstone and need a plan?
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