One of our favorite ways to get oriented to the park is to start a trip with a visit to one of the Yellowstone Visitor Centers. And even though we visit the park quite frequently, we like stopping at the visitor centers repeatedly because we can always find new information.

There are ten visitor centers in Yellowstone — nine in the park plus the West Yellowstone Visitor Center in, you guessed it, West Yellowstone. 

Bonus Visitor Center: Yellowstone Forever, a non-profit organization that raises money for the park and offers educational programs has a small visitor center and souvenir/gift shop in Gardiner. It isn’t an official National Park visitor center, however, I like stopping there. It’s a good place to ask where wildlife, especially wolves and bears, have been recently spotted.

The museums at Fishing Bridge, Madison Junction, and Norris Geyser Basin were designated National Historic Landmarks in 1982. They are examples of parkitecture:  A style of 20th-century architecture developed by the Park Service to create buildings that harmonized with the natural environment, looked organic and handmade, and avoided the regularity and symmetry of the industrial world.

Yellowstone map (relief) at Fishing Bridge Visitor Center
Fishing Bridge Visitor Center

What Will You Find at a Yellowstone Visitor Center?

While each visitor center has a different theme, they all have maps, the Yellowstone Visitor Guide, and information on the whole park. You can purchase a fishing, boating, or backcountry camping permit. Most of them have a gift shop/bookstore and they all have restrooms and water fountains. 

Each Yellowstone Visitor Center can set you up with the park Junior Ranger program. They are also the place to go to get your Junior Ranger badge and take the Junior Ranger oath once you complete the workbook.

Often starting at the visitor center, Yellowstone National Park ranger programs are a great way to learn more about Yellowstone and deepen your experience in the park. You can learn about all the ranger programs there, even if they start elsewhere. 

Child looking at a geothermal exhibit at the Old Faithful Visitor Center
Old Faithful Visitor Center

As I mentioned, most visitor centers have a gift shop attached. You can find all manner of Yellowstone books, National Park Passports, puzzles, stuffed animals, stickers, patches, and more. See more gifts for people who love National Parks here

See this page for more about planning your Yellowstone trip. 

Here is all the information you need to know about the 10 Yellowstone National Park Visitor Centers and how to get oriented.

Yellowstone Visitor Centers Map 

David Whitebread, Experiencing Wildlife Program at Mammoth; Cortney Adair; July 27, 2013; Catalog #19127d
NPS Photo

Albright Visitor Center (Mammoth Hot Springs)

Park and trip-planning information, exhibits on the park’s history and wildlife, ranger programs, a bookstore, a backcountry office, restrooms, and free Wi-Fi.

More commonly called the Mammoth Visitor Center, it has an interesting wildlife display upstairs. We always enjoy seeing some of the taxidermied animals up close since we won’t be getting close to the live ones. It’s kind of amazing how big a beaver is and how tall elk stands.

Even the building itself is interesting. It was built in 1909, as the bachelor officers’ quarters for the US Army. Mammoth Hot Springs was the headquarters for the US Army, which managed the park before the National Park Service was created (from about 1890 to 1916.)  

This is the main visitor center for Yellowstone and a great place to get your bearings and plan your trip.

Hours and Seasons: Open daily, year-round, with extended hours during the summer season.

Museum of the National Park Ranger (Norris Soldier Station); Jim Peaco; June 2013; Catalog #19350d; Original #IMG_9380
NPS Photo

Museum of the National Park Ranger (Norris Area)

This visitor center was originally a Ranger Station and residence and now you can explore the history of professional Park Rangers. It’s staffed with retired rangers, with whom you can chat and ask questions. This is one of my favorite visitor centers in Yellowstone. It’s small, but I love the history of rangers and seeing all of their old gear.

Hours and Seasons: Open daily, late May through late September.

Stone and timber building is the Norris Geyser Basin Visitor Center
NPS Photo

Norris Geyser Basin Museum & Information Station

The Norris Museum is another former trailside museum with impressive “parkitecture.” The open foyer in the middle of the museum provides a grand entrance to Norris Geyser Basin and the rooms on either side of the foyer have exhibits about the hydrothermal features of Yellowstone. 

We think this is an interesting visitor center to pop into – it won’t take you long to see it all – because even though other visitor centers have geothermal displays, Norris is unique in that it is such a highly acidic basin. Ask the Ranger on duty if it’s true they have to replace their boots here faster than at other basins because of the acidic soil.

There is a bookstore nearby.

Hours and Seasons: Open daily, late May through early October.

Madison Visitor Center; NPS/Janine Waller; 20100912_jw_1715b
NPS Photo

Madison Information Station & Trailside Museum

The Madison Information Station is the first visitor center you encounter when coming from the West Entrance.

The Madison visitor center was built as a trailside museum when people started driving themselves into the park rather than going with a guide. Early park visitors could get information about the park on their own. Today, the trailside museums are staffed with Yellowstone Park Rangers. 

This facility provides park orientation information and a partner-run bookstore. It’s tiny but has nice access to the Madison River, which we love to wade in on a hot day. 

Hours and Seasons: Open daily, late May through early October.

Modern visitor center at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
NPS Photo

Canyon Visitor Education Center

Explore Yellowstone’s supervolcano and geology. Information, a bookstore, and vending are available during open hours, while restrooms are available 24 hours a day.

The displays in the Canyon Visitor Center are quite fascinating. We like spinning the giant, water-covered globe and light up the room-sized relief map of Yellowstone.

Hours and Seasons: Open daily from late April through the end of October, with extended hours during the summer season and mid-December – mid-March. 

Fishing Bridge Visitor Center; Jim Peaco; June 2015; Catalog #20196d; Original #IMG_6661
NPS Photo

Fishing Bridge Visitor Center & Trailside Museum

The Fishing Bridge Visitor Center is the first one you get to when coming in through the East Entrance near Cody, Wyoming. The classic stone-and-log architecture, known as “parkitecture,” can be seen on other visitor centers and buildings in Yellowstone, but we think it is especially classic here and love how you can look through the building as it frames Yellowstone Lake.

The focus here is on things to do and see in the Lake Area. See vintage exhibits about the park’s birds and other wildlife, and Yellowstone Lake’s geology. This one is my son’s favorite because of the giant relief map of Yellowstone Lake where you can see the underwater geology.

Hours and Seasons: Open daily, late May through early September.

Ranger giving program at West Thumb Geyser Basin; Diane Renkin; July 2015; Catalog #20254d; Original #P1070371
NPS Photo

West Thumb Information Station

Pique your curiosity before exploring the adjacent geyser basin on the shore of Yellowstone Lake in this small visitor center. You can chat with a Park Ranger and gather information about your trip. 

Hours and Seasons: Open daily, late May through early October.

Snowcoach at Old Faithful Visitor Education Center; Jim Peaco; January 2011; Catalog #19210d; Original #275I9037
NPS Photo

Old Faithful Visitor Education Center

Stop here on your way to see Old Faithful and get the geyser eruption predictions, which are calculated during visitor center hours. There are interactive kids’ exhibits, a bookstore, and bathrooms. The Old Faithful Visitor Center is the largest visitor center in Yellowstone and has a great view of the famous geyser.

This is the best visitor center to visit with kids as there are many interactive exhibits. My kids loved playing and learning in the kids’ section and you can plan your Old Faithful Area time here. 

But first, read this post about planning your time at Old Faithful and this post about visiting Old Faithful in winter

Hours and Seasons: Open daily throughout the year, with two month-long closed periods in the fall (mid-November through mid-December) and spring (mid-March through mid-April).

Grant Village Visitor Center; Diane Renkin; July 2013; Catalog #20557d; Original #DSCN0262
NPS Photo

Grant Visitor Center

This is the first visitor center you reach from the South Entrance.

Delve into the extraordinary impact of the park’s historic fires of 1988 at the Grant Village Visitor Center where the focus is on fire ecology with great views of Yellowstone Lake. As wildfires grow more intense and frequent as the climate warms, we find looking at past fire events pretty interesting and somewhat telling of what the future looks like for Yellowstone and the West.

Hours and Seasons: Open daily, late May through early October.

West Yellowstone Visitor Center with pamphlets and a desk
NPS Photo

West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center (NPS Desk)

Located near the West Entrance in the town of West Yellowstone, you will find general park information, passes,  permits, and brochures available at the NPS desk located inside the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce building.

I recommend buying your Park Pass here (if you don’t already have one) as it will speed your time getting into the park.

Hours and Seasons: Open daily, late April through early November, and open daily during the winter, mid-December through mid-March.

Be sure to check hours of Yellowstone Visitor centers on the park website.

colorful exhibit about geyser eruption at the Old Faithful Visitor Center in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Visitor Centers FAQs

Q: How many visitor centers does Yellowstone have?

A: There are ten Yellowstone Visitor Centers. Seven of them are in the park and one is in West Yellowstone. Scroll up to read about them all.

Q: What visitor centers are in Yellowstone?

A: Every village and several other locations in Yellowstone (and West Yellowstone) have official Yellowstone National Park Visitor Centers. Each visitor center has a different theme. This article describes them all. 

Q: What’s the best visitor center in Yellowstone?

I think the best visitor center in Yellowstone is impossible to choose. I like the Mammoth Visitor Center for wildlife information, the Museum of the Park Ranger for memorabilia, and the Old Faithful Visitor Center for interactive kids exhibits. 

All of the visitor centers in Yellowstone are wonderful and I encourage you to visit as many as possible. Each has a different theme (see above) so you can learn something new about Yellowstone in each one. 

Q: What is the main visitor center in Yellowstone?

A: There isn’t really a main visitor center for Yellowstone. Since the Mammoth Visitor Center (Albright Visitor Center) and the West Yellowstone Visitor Center are both near entrances to the park, either may be considered the “main visitor center,” but in reality, they are all different and equally important. The Mammoth Visitor Center is the original entrance to the park and therefore the oldest.

Q: Does Yellowstone have a visitor center?

A: There are eight Yellowstone Visitor Centers. 

Related: Get Your Kids Ready For Your Yellowstone Trip (games, books, and videos)

More Tips for Visiting Yellowstone