11 Best Stops on a Portland to Yellowstone Road Trip


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A Portland to Yellowstone road trip takes travelers through three states, each with an overwhelming number of places to stop and explore. If you’re planning to drive from Portland, Oregon to Yellowstone National Park, stay tuned. We have a list of the best places to explore in Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming as you make your way to America’s first national park. 

Whether you’re looking for a road trip when you’re primarily outdoors or in cities with some outdoor activities, you’ll find something for everyone on this route. You can fully customize your travel experience. Keep reading for everything you need to know when planning your road trip from Portland, Oregon to Yellowstone National Park. 

Planning a Portland to Yellowstone Drive

When you drive from Portland to Yellowstone NP, you’ll pass through both rural areas and cities. You’ll have plenty of places to stop along the way for gas, lodging, and snacks. We recommend planning your trip to stay overnight in more populous towns like Boise, Hood River, Walla Walla, or Twin Falls.

Each of these cities have plenty of stops to make in either direction and will have several affordable options for lodging. Similarly, if you’re traveling during the summer, consider camping! There are countless campgrounds in national forests, national parks, and local campgrounds along the route from Portland to Yellowstone NP. 

If traveling in winter, make sure you pack accordingly. Plan for cloudy and rainy days in Oregon by packing a rain jacket, layers, and sturdy shoes. When you reach Idaho and Wyoming you might run into cold temperatures and snow. Pack your bag to make sure you stay warm in these temperatures.

It’s not uncommon for Yellowstone National Park to be dusted in snow during the winter months. While there is beautiful scenery, it’s cold and wet. During summer, plan for warm temperatures. Pack shorts, comfortable walking sandals, a bathing suit, and other summer attire. 

If you need to rent a car for this trip, you can browse Rentalcars.com for deals across major car hire companies. Alternatively, check out Outdoorsy for RV or campervan rentals, particularly if combining this drive with other trips such as from Yellowstone to Denver.

RV Road Trip Through Yellowstone
RV Road Trip Through Yellowstone

How Far is Portland to Yellowstone?

The distance from Portland to Yellowstone is 873 miles. When driving straight, the average drive time is about 14 hours in regular traffic. However, should you choose to take your time, you can easily spend three to four days driving from Portland to Yellowstone.

If you’re traveling from far away, consider flying into Portland, renting a car, then starting your drive by taking I-84 through the Columbia River Gorge.

There is a small airport in Jackson Hole, Wyoming if you need a flight home from near Yellowstone National Park. There are flights back to Portland as well, usually with layovers in Seattle, Washington. Alternatively, you can also drive from Seattle Airport to Portland and even detour to see some of the highlights of the Oregon Coast!

Snake River at the stateline of Idaho and Oregon
Snake River at the stateline of Idaho and Oregon

Best Portland to Yellowstone Road Trip Stops

Now that you know what to pack and the best way to travel from Portland to Yellowstone National Park by car, let’s take a look at the best places to stop along the way. 

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

For your first stop on a road trip from Portland to Yellowstone, consider making a pit stop in the Columbia River Gorge. Interstate 84 runs directly through the Gorge on the south side of the river and you’ll take this interstate when driving to Yellowstone NP.

The Columbia River divides Washington and Oregon. Along both sides of the river are several places to stop and explore.

If you’re new to Oregon (or even if you’ve visited several times before), pay Multnomah Falls a visit. This two-tier waterfall is a staple of sites to see in the Portland area. You can hike all the way to the top of the upper falls or use the falls as a trailhead to take another nearby hike. 

Make sure to plan your time at Multnomah Falls carefully. This is a heavily-trafficked area and it’s not uncommon for the parking lots to be full by late morning.

Bring comfortable walking shoes and a rain jacket. Multnomah Falls and everything else the Columbia River Gorge has to offer can keep you busy for an entire day. 

Columbia River Gorge along the i-84
Columbia River Gorge along the i-84

Hood River, Oregon

Continue east through the Gorge along I-84 and you’ll eventually come to Hood River. Depending on how much time you’ve budgeted to spend exploring Portland and the Gorge, Hood River might be a great place to spend your first night of your Portland to Yellowstone National park road trip.

This small city is home to several day hikes and other outdoor activities including whitewater kayaking and windsurfing. During a sunny day, you’ll see windsurfers out in the river and people meandering around downtown visiting coffee shops, breweries, and local restaurants.

If staying here, you can opt for an Airbnb or hotel–you have several options available to you.

Even if your visit to Hood River only involves a quick lunch break to stretch your legs, make sure you check out a local brewery (Hood River is well known for them) and walk along the riverfront. 

Apple orchards near Hood River
Apple orchards near Hood River

National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Oregon

Did you know that you can visit a portion of the Oregon Trail?

The Bureau of Land Management hosts the National Historical Oregon Trail Interpretive Center that includes demonstrations, interpretive programs, exhibits, special events, more than four miles of interpretive trails, and multimedia presentations. It’s a stop we recommend making especially if you’re traveling with kids.

The area is informative and fun to explore. Stop here for an afternoon picnic, explore the remnants of the historic Flagstaff Gold Mine, and witness the incredible views of the historic Oregon trail route. Be sure to check out the interpretive center’s calendar for special events happening during your planned visit. 

Boise, Idaho

If you’re looking for a city along the Portland to Yellowstone National park drive to rest, consider staying in Boise. The drive from Portland to Boise is almost halfway to the national park and it is filled with plenty of activities for everyone on your road trip.

You’ll also find several options for affordable lodging and dining. Boise is another great place to land if you have a day to spend exploring the city. Walk along the Boise River Greenbelt, visit the Old Idaho Penitentiary, the State Capitol Building, or Camel’s Back Park. 

Idaho State Capitol
Idaho State Capitol

Lava Hot Springs, Idaho

After a long day of driving, there is no better way to unwind than to relax in a lava hot springs mineral pool.

The Lava Hot Springs Foundation World Famous Hot Pools are heated from natural underground springs, but possess none of the sulfur smells commonly associated with hot springs.

Temperatures range from 102° to 112°F Fahrenheit. Whether it’s pouring rain or a warm summer day, you can easily visit the pools as they’re covered and protected from the elements. You can either purchase a day pass online or upon arrival.  

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Want a sweeping view of Grand Teton National Park without having to trek up miles of steep trails? You should check out the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram and Gondola Ride. On the tram, you’ll cover 4,139 vertical feet in just 12 minutes.

From the top, you get incredible 360-degree views of the Jackson Hole valley and the Tetons. Whether you visit in summer or winter, the gondola is open to ride. Kick off a day of hiking or trailing running from the top in summer or ski your way down in winter. 

Jackson Hole provides another great stopping point for an overnight stay during your Portland to Yellowstone road trip. Located directional outside Grand Teton National Park gives this town plenty of lodging and dining options for travelers.

Keep in mind that because Jackson Hole lives right outside the park, prices do tend to be higher, however, you can also choose to camp or stay in a yurt. 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park neighbors Yellowstone and visiting one park usually comes with a visit to the other though some people might have to choose between Yellowstone or Grand Teton if limited with time.

The Grand Teton range is a segment of the Rocky Mountains where the peaks stretch high into the air. Here there are over 100 miles of trails for you to explore. Rock climbing and backpacking are especially popular activities in the park.

The Cascade Canyon Trail and Lake Solitude is one of the most famous hikes in the park, but not one for the faint of heart. It’s a strenuous hike that begins from the Jenny Lake Trailhead.

From the North Fork of Cascade Canyon hikers can look back at the spectacular views of the valley between mountains. On this hike, keep an eye out for moose, bears, and mountain goats. 

Beautiful Grand Teton National Park
Beautiful Grand Teton National Park

Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, Wyoming

Even without paying a visit to Yellowstone National Park, you’ve probably seen photos of the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring.

As the third-largest hot spring in the world, the Grand Prismatic is 370 feet in diameter, larger than a football field. Upon arrival, you’ll begin walking on a boardwalk that takes travelers close to the hot spring.

Due to the thermal waters, you’ll see shades of light blue, teal, and yellow before bands of orange reach out beyond the pool itself. The vibrant colors come from its depth–121 feet and heat-loving bacteria. Within the Midway Geyser Basin, check out the Opal Pool, Turquoise Pool, and Excelsior Geyser.

Try to visit the area during early morning or late evening as this is when crowds are most likely to be at their thinnest.  

Grand Prismatic Hot Spring
Grand Prismatic Hot Spring

Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming

Prepare yourself for the smells of sulfur as you reach Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. This site is an absolute must visit once you reach the park at the end of your road trip.

Mammoth Hot Springs was created thousands of years ago when hot water from nearby hot springs cooled. It deposited calcium carbonate that crystallized and gave the site its iconic white hues. Overtime, the build of this mineral caused a series of terraces with thermal water running down over the sides. 

The most famous part of Mammoth is Terrace Mountain. It’s the largest known carbonate-depositing spring in the world. Thermal activity has been prevalent here for several hundreds of years. This is visible by the several sinkholes near Mammoth.

Travertine Terrace is the most photographer section of the area, so be sure to visit during the early morning. Mammoth Hot Springs is a must-see during your time in Yellowstone. 

Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs

Old Faithful, Wyoming

This cone geyser in Yellowstone National Park is the postcard image of the park.

The geyser got its name from its intervaled eruption that occurs every 60 to 90 minutes. People from all across the globe travel to Yellowstone every year to pause on the deck of the Old Faithful Inn with a drink and snack to watch the geyser erupt.

During an eruption, boiling water is thrown 106 to 185 feet into the air and can last for up to five minutes. 

Old Faithful is reliable in its eruption interval due to its independent thermal features. It’s not connected to other hot springs or geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin area. During your visit to the park, make sure to work in time to visit the geyser and marvel at its spectacular performance.

Tourists watching the Old Faithful Geyser
Tourists watching the Old Faithful Geyser

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Wyoming

Yellowstone got its name from the vibrantly colored rock in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Here is where you’ll find the famous Yellowstone Lower Falls and Upper Falls.

The Canyon is 24 miles long, about 1,000 feet deep, and nearly one mile wide. The canyon was created from erosion by the Yellowstone River, not by glaciers as much of the park. About 600,000 years ago when the Yellowstone Caldera erupted, the area was covered in lava flows that most likely contributed to the canyon’s unique shape.

If you’re up for a hike, take a stroll along the rim of the canyon, but make sure to bring a pair of sturdy shoes. 

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Where to Stay on a Portland to Yellowstone Road Trip

There are so many stops on the Portland to Yellowstone drive that, if you want to enjoy a good portion of these places, you’re going to need to find a place to stay the night. The Idaho capital of Boise is a great option for this and makes for a good halfway point on your road trip.

Boise

Modern Hotel – This centrally located hotel is a great option to rest your head in Boise. Locating in the Idaho capital’s Linen District, they have a range of great rooms available and there s a bar and a lovely outdoor terrace on site, as well. Click here to see their availability

Oxford Suites Boise – This hotel is another great option if you’re looking for a hip yet mid-range option in Boise. They are centrally located near all of the city’s top attractions, have a range of rooms available, and even have a fitness center and swimming pool on site. Click here to see their availability

Private Rental – If you’d rather have your own place in the Idaho capital than stay in a hotel, a private rental is a great option. There are lots of options available in the city, such as this 1940s bungalow. Click here to browse more Boise private rentals

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Boise hotels!

Yellowstone

Bentwood Inn – If you’re looking for a luxury hotel close to Yellowstone, then this is a fantastic option. Located in Wilson, WY within easy reach of both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, they have a number of great rooms available, a hearty breakfast included, and even include wine and cheese for guests each evening. Click here to see their availability

Yellowstone Park Hotel – Located in West Yellowstone, MT, this hotel is an excellent option if you’re looking for a mid-range place to stay within easy reach of the Yellowstone Park entrance. They have a range of rooms available, a continental breakfast available each morning, and even have a swimming pool on site. Click here to see their availability

Private Rental – Staying in your own place close to Yellowstone – like this condo close to the Park’s west entrance – is a great idea for those looking for a bit more privacy on their trip. There are lots of properties to choose from that will suit all kinds of travel styles and budgets. Click here to browse private rentals near Yellowstone!

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Yellowstone hotels!

Yellowstone National Park Wildflowers
Yellowstone National Park Wildflowers

There are many great places to stop while driving from Portland to Yellowstone National Park. Whether you’re looking for a wide variety of outdoor activities or a blend of outdoor and city sites, there are stops along the way for you.

Are you planning a road trip from Portland, Oregon to Yellowstone National Park? Have any questions about this route? Let us know in the comments!

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Audrey Webster is a writer for The World Was Here First. She is an Oregon native who has visited countries across the globe and currently spends her weekends exploring the Pacific Northwest. Her approach to traveling combines exploring famous tourist sites and wandering off the beaten path to discover new destinations.

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