Seeing Yellowstone’s incredible natural wonders is a must-do experience for most Americans but as you watch a bison grazing in the beautiful Lamar Valley or see Old Faithful erupt, it can make many of us wonder at how we’re impacting the land, water and air we’re visiting. But you can travel sustainably on your Yellowstone vacation by reducing your environmental footprint and supporting local conservation efforts with this fun-filled itinerary.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 29% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States come from transportation. While you might have taken steps at home to reduce your environmental footprint like biking to work or composting, it can be daunting to figure out how to travel more sustainably.
We’ve put together this 3-day itinerary to help you become a more sustainable traveler. From LEED-certified hotels to tips on keeping the park’s trails beautiful to locally-sourced dining experiences, this epic itinerary will help you keep Yellowstone beautiful.
Day 1 Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyo.
Sunrise Start: Eco-Friendly Wildlife Watching
Start your trip to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with a sunrise wildlife tour with EcoTour Adventures. This four-hour tour will get you away from the crowds and give you the opportunity to observe wildlife like moose, elk, bison, wolves, bears, bald eagles and more from a safe distance in Grand Teton. EcoTour Adventures has been a 100% carbon neutral company since 2008 and focuses on sustainability from reusable mugs for sipping hot chocolate to giving 2% of proceeds to local environmentally-focused non-profits.
Lunch: Sip Sustainably
After a morning spent wildlife watching, head to the small taphouse at Roadhouse Brewing (roadhousebrewery.com) in Jackson which was named a “Best for the World” business by B Lab in 2021. This certified B Corp brewery ensures the beers you’re drinking are easy on the environment. Choose between 10 rotating taps and stick around for a facility tour that occurs daily at 5 p.m. With innovative technologies like chemical recycling, carbon dioxide and steam recapturing and a generator that pulls nitrogen from the air, Roadhouse puts as much thought into their environmental footprint as they do their beers. The company also owns the Roadhouse Pub & Eatery in downtown Jackson. Stop in for an impressive beer list as well as food ranging from seasonal salads to flatbreads to elk and bison dishes.
Afternoon: Environmentally Smart Souvenirs
Spend your afternoon wandering the shops of downtown Jackson. Don’t miss Teton Mountaineering at 170 N Cache St. to gear up for your upcoming adventures in Yellowstone. If you didn’t pack a reusable water bottle, now’s the time to buy one. Single-use plastic water bottles are a major source of pollution in our parks. Do your part and bring your reusable bottle which you can fill with filtered water at the parks’ many filling stations.
Evening: Locally Sourced Dinner with a View
Enjoy a stunning dinner with incredible views at Piste Mountain Bistro at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (www.jacksonhole.com/piste-mountain-bistro.html). Located at the top of Bridger Gondola, you’ll be treated to a locally sourced meal with views of the mountains and valley through floor-to-ceiling windows. Enjoy ingredients from regional producers like Snake River Farms in Idaho and Carter Country Meat in Wyoming fashioned into dishes like roasted lamb with baby artichoke succotash or pork spareribs with pickled watermelon. Reservations are highly recommended. Wondering how to get there? Hop on the 100% wind-powered Bridger Gondola for a 12-minute ride to the restaurant. The gondola is free after 5 p.m. in the summer.
When it’s time for bed, head to Jackson’s most luxurious eco-friendly hotel. The first LEED-certified hotel in Wyoming, you’ll find recycled steel, organic mattresses, energy-efficient lighting and water-saving toilets at Hotel Terra (www.hotelterrajacksonhole.com). LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building rating system that certifies buildings as sustainable. The on-site infinity pool, spa and incredible dining are the cherry on top.
Prefer to sleep under the stars? An electricity-less night is a great way to lower your vacation’s footprint. Reserve a campsite in Grand Teton National Park.
Day 2 Yellowstone National Park
Explore Yellowstone on Foot
With more than 1,000 miles of trails to explore, neighboring Yellowstone National Park is the perfect place to spend a day hiking. Head north to explore Yellowstone’s best trails from a leisurely walk along the boardwalks at Mammoth Hot Springs to a summit like Avalanche Peak or Mt. Washburn that will get your blood pumping. There’s a hike for everyone in the country’s first national park.
Don’t forget to hike sustainably in the park by practicing Leave No Trace. It’s especially important to pack out everything you pack in. A stray corner of a granola bar wrapper or a little piece of toilet paper might not seem like a big deal, but when you magnify that by 3.8 million visitors each year, trash becomes a serious problem for plants, wildlife and others’ enjoyment of the trail.
Be sure to stay on marked trails as well. In a park like Yellowstone, it’s super important to keep to maintained paths to avoid wandering into geothermal areas or spooking wildlife. More than that, forging your own path scars the landscape and hurts vegetation.
Sustainable Dinner in Gardiner
After a day spent exploring Yellowstone’s trails and sights, head to the Corral at 711 Scott St. W in Gardiner (www.visitgardinermt.com/item/131-the-corral) just outside the park’s North Entrance. A testament to the fact that sustainable dining doesn’t have to come with white tablecloths, the Corral is Gardiner’s longest standing business. As part of the Western Sustainability Exchange Program, they focus on local, sustainable and organic ingredients. Go for a crowd favorite with a locally sourced, organic beef burger or opt for something on the wild side with a bison, elk or salmon burger.
Sweet Recycled Dreams
When it’s time for bed, head back into Yellowstone just over an hour south to the Canyon Lodge and Cabins. Located in the heart of the park near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, you’ll be perfectly poised for exploring the sights. Three of the lodges at the Canyon complex have been LEED-certified. The Washburn and Rhyolite lodges feature wainscoting and coat racks made of beetle-kill wood, countertops made of recycled glass along with LED lighting and low-flow toilets.
Day 3 Yellowstone National Park
Morning: Give Back and Tour
One of the best ways to see Yellowstone and learn about the complicated ecology of the park is from a knowledgeable guide. The Yellowstone Forever Institute (www.yellowstone.org/experience/yellowstone-forever-institute/), run by the park’s official non-profit partner Yellowstone Forever, provides extremely knowledgeable guides who are naturalists, scientists and more for their park experiences. Best yet? You’ll be supporting the important work the organization does to protect wildlife, conserve resources and educate. Book a private tour that’s tailored to you and your group’s abilities and interests or join one of the institute’s Field Seminars. Seminar topics range from Native American history to certificate-level naturalist courses to night photography. Don’t forget to get all of your souvenirs at the Yellowstone Forever gift stores inside the park or outside the park in Quake Lake, Gardiner and the Bozeman Airport to support the important work they do.
You can’t take your bear spray home with you on the plane so be sure to recycle it before you leave the park to keep it out of the landfill. Recycle your canister at park hotels, stores, visitors centers, backcountry offices and ranger stations or the Bozeman airport.
More Ways to Be a Sustainable Traveler
Looking to lower your carbon footprint on your next trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone? Visit in an electric vehicle! Check out our guide to all the charging stations in and around the parks. A bonus? If you stay at a Delaware North property in West Yellowstone, Mont., you’ll receive 15% off your stay if you come in your electric vehicle (www.yellowstonevacations.com/sustainability).
Another great way to help reduce your carbon footprint on your vacation is by purchasing carbon offsets. These offsets help sequester or avoid carbon via various projects. We like the Protect Our Winters carbon calculator and offset purchase tool at protectourwinters.org/cost-of-carbon/ because it’s easy to calculate the footprint of your trip and you can choose which programs you want to support with your offset purchase from forest management to emissions reduction to methane recovery.