Jackson Lake & the Tetons

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.

5 entrances 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):

EntranceClosest Outside CityTraffic Count (2021)
West EntranceWest Yellowstone, MT833,709
North EntranceGardiner, MT482,467
South EntranceGrand Teton/Jackson, WY326,068
East EntranceCody, WY210,612
Northeast EntranceCooke City-Silvergate, MT130,248

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.

Ways to drive to Grand Teton

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:

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: 

Things to do on the way to Bear Lake or Yellowstone if you’re coming from or through Utah

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.

Flying

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?

Possible camping and lodging areas in Grand Teton near the South Entrance to 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.

Headwaters

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.

Lizard Creek

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?

Camping & Lodging inside 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.

Lewis Lake

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.

Grant Village

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?

image of waterfall
Lewis Falls

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:

image of west thumb geyser basin
West Thumb

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?

Yellowstone is BIG and COMPLICATED. I have been visiting Yellowstone my entire life. I know how to plan out a daily itinerary. 

So I did it FOR YOU! Do yourself a favor and check out my Yellowstone itinerary. With a plan in hand, you’ll have an efficient and successful trip! With that peace of mind, you can sit back and listen to me tell you all about the park as you drive around. 

My 15-20 minute stories will tell you all about the bears, bison, and wolves of Yellowstone. You’ll learn about how it became a national park, how a guy survived alone in the park for 37 days, and about the dumb things people do in Yellowstone!

My audio guide is the most complete and interesting audio guide created for Yellowstone. It comes with the itinerary. Get them today!

We also have an itinerary and audio guide for Grand Teton, and we automatically give you a 10% discount if you purchase both of them!

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