While a visit to the picturesque Yellowstone National Park is sure to be a vacation of a lifetime, an even better idea would be taking a road trip to get there. You'll not only get a chance to explore the natural beauty of Yellowstone, but explore the diverse landscapes and vibrant cities along the way.
The 1,230-mile road trip from Kansas City to Yellowstone will take up to 18 and a half hours driving. Highlights en route include Topeka, Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, as well as Pikes Peak, Grand Teton National Park and Dinosaur National Monument.
So, what are you waiting for? Keep reading to learn more about the route to follow, where to stop, the attractions you need to see, and more.
How far is Yellowstone from Kansas City, and how long will the road trip take?
The road trip from Kansas City to Yellowstone is 1,230 miles long and will take up to 18 and a half hours of pure driving without taking into consideration the inevitable detours you'll take as with so much to see; you're bound to stop to explore the plethora of national monuments and other attractive landmarks along the way.
While this mammoth road trip - passing through Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho - can be conquered in two days straight, all that driving doesn't exactly spell out the beginning of a relaxing vacation.
It's best to break up the trip into three or even four days so you can truly soak in all that there is to see between Kansas City and Yellowstone.
If you decide to divide the trip into three to four days, you can spend time marveling at the art at the Denver Art Museum, soak in the scenic views at Mt. Evans, hike the mountains in the beautiful Grand Teton National Park, explore the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, and have the road trip of a lifetime!
Best road trip route from Kansas City to Yellowstone
There are three possible routes for the road trip from Kansas City to Yellowstone, each with its landmarks to explore. However, the most scenic one, with the most attractions to explore - and just an hour longer than the shortest route - passes through Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho.
If you'd like to travel via the forests and farmlands of South Dakota, the route is 45 minutes shorter but doesn't have as much to explore along the way. For this reason, we'd strongly suggest you take the route set out below.
Our route is primarily an interstate drive with only slight detours onto state routes when visiting a National Park or other landmark.
Road trip route from Kansas City to Yellowstone
You'll begin your road trip by getting onto Interstate 70 East in Kansas City. Keep right at Y junction to continue on Interstate 70 East, merging onto Interstate 670 West in the direction of Wichita as you enter the state of Kansas.
Then you'll go on to take a left back onto Interstate 70 West and after driving for about 50 miles, keep right at Y junction to continue on Interstate 70 West towards Topeka, an iconic city in Kansas.
You'll move on this road for over 500 miles, and somewhere more than halfway, you'll enter Colorado, the state of scenic landscapes, wildlife, and its exhilarating ski mountains.
Joining Interstate 25 at Denver, you'll pass through iconic towns of Denver, Aurora, Boulder, and Fort Collins. We strongly recommend that you stop over and explore the attractions of each of these places.
As you follow the I-25 North, you'll also pass natural gems like the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, Bear Lake Trailhead, and more.
At Fort Collins You'll get onto US Route 287 North which takes you into Wyoming and then merge with Interstate 80 West via the ramp to Rawlins. Get on US Route 191 North at Rock Springs and you'll pass by the majestic Grand Teton National Park (which is definitely worth a visit). This road will lead you to your ultimate destination: the magnificent Yellowstone National Park.
Best places to stop between Kansas City and Yellowstone
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a stopover location on your trip from Kansas City to Yellowstone National Park.
This varied, scenic trip passes by some of the most beautiful towns, cities and attractions that the United States has to offer, so be sure to make the most of your time here!
To help take the pressure out of your decision on where to stay, we've suggested a few of our own favorites.
Spend a cozy night in Boulder
If you're thinking of diving your trip into a couple of days, one of the best towns to stop in while you're on this incredible road trip is the Colorado town of Boulder.
Located on the foothills of the Rockies, this place is known for its culture, history, and art, making it a perfect base for relaxing between your trips up the mountains.
Situated within walking proximity of the historic Pearl Street Mall, the Boulder Creek Path, and Eldorado Canyon State Park, our hotel recommendation, Basecamp Boulder, places you in the heart of the city.
A modern property that incorporates the mountains into its design, you'll be close to majestic Flatirons and everything else Boulder has to offer for a reasonable price.
Barely a 20-minute detour from your route, you can check in to the hotel in the evening after a whole day of exploration and driving, get dinner at the nearby Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, and get into bed early to wake up rejuvenated for an exciting day on the way to Yellowstone.
Explore the sights in Casper
If you're looking for a place located closer to your destination to stay at on your last night on the road, the city of Casper in Wyoming is a great pick.
A quaint town in Central Wyoming, Casper has a rich history and beautiful attractions to explore, making it the perfect place to stay while you discover the beauty of the region and recharge your batteries before you get back on the road.
The stylish and comfortable Residence Inn by Marriott Casper takes you just 30-minutes away from your fastest route. Here, you'll be close to the Casper Mountain, Nicolaysen Art Museum, Platte River, and a short drive from the Hogadon Ski Area.
You'll also be an hour away from the Thunder Basin Grassland, where if you have the time, you must go on a tour of the Black Thunder Coal Mines.
After a long day of driving, you can settle into this lovely hotel, order from their onsite steakhouse, and wind down so that you're up early to make it to your final destination, Yellowstone National Park.
Alternatively, if you miss cooking for yourself by this point, the hotel will happily supply you with your own barbeque for the evening.
Things to see on a road trip from Kansas City to Yellowstone
While on a road trip from Kansas City to Yellowstone, there are so many monuments and natural wonders to explore along the way. Though there are several attractions to explore, here's a shortlist of the things you truly can't miss:
- Grand Teton National Park - One of the most iconic national parks in the country, it is located in Wyoming and home to serene lakes, unique wildlife, and scenic hikes.
- The Wild Animal Sanctuary - A 789-acre animal sanctuary in the town of Keenesburg, Colorado, that rescues and cares for large wild animals like bears, tigers, lions, wolves, and more.
- Denver Botanic Gardens - Located in Denver, it is an expansive area that celebrates horticulture - rare seeds, plant formations, etc. and promises a lovely walk.
- Coors Field - Located in Denver, a 76-acre historic landmark that was the home of the Colorado Rockies and boasts views of the majestic Rocky Mountains.
- The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave - Located in Colorado, A tribute to Indian and Cowboy days with several exhibits, live events, an observation deck, and more.
- Chautauqua Park - Historic landmark located in Boulder at the foothills of the Flatirons, it is famous for dining, lodging and hiking.
- Mt Evans - Slight detour, a mighty peak that's a part of the Rockies, and the summit is known for its unobstructed panoramic views of the region.
- Bear Lake Trailhead - Located in Estes Park, Colorado, this trail loops around one of the most scenic high-altitude lakes in the region.
- Pikes Peak - A 14,115-foot peak located in Colorado, it is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rockies in North America and boasts stunning views of the region.
- Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest - Located in Southern Wyoming, this region spans over a million acres and has diverse, picturesque landscapes and wildlife.
- Gannett Peak - A minor detour from the route, this peak is the highest mountain in all of Wyoming and stands at a mammoth height of 13,804 feet.
- Bridger-Teton National Forest - Nearly 3.4 million acres large, this National Forest is located in Wyoming and holds the title for the third largest National Forest outside of Alaska.
- Dinosaur National Monument - Slight detour from the route, it is located on the border of Colorado and Utah and is an excellent place for history lovers or dinosaur enthusiasts.
- Denver Art Museum - Located in the heart of Denver, it is a unique architectural marvel that houses western and neo-classical art.
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge - A nearly 16,00-acre region located in Colorado, this wildlife refuge is home to several unique wildlife like Deers, Bison, Raptors, Prairie Dogs, and more.
Best time to go on a road trip from Kansas City to Yellowstone
While you can take the road trip from Kansas City to Yellowstone during any season of the year, your experience may turn out to be better in some months compared to others.
Visiting Yellowstone during different months leads to different experiences, but most would say that the ideal times to visit are the months of April, September, and October.
This is a great time to visit as not only will you be able to see nature at its best (especially in the fall, to see the changing colors), but you'll also be able to avoid the summer crowds. It is worth noting that you can still expect temperatures to hit highs of 60 degrees Fahrenheit in September.
Considering you'll also be passing through Colorado and driving by the Rocky Mountains, visiting during the winter wouldn't be such a bad idea either; however, some areas of the park and roads leading to the park may be closed due to harsh weather, so be sure to check current conditions before your trip.
No matter when you choose to visit, spread out your trip into as many days possible, carry your favorite road trip snacks, and stop to explore as many attractions as you can for a trip that you're sure to remember for life.