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Planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park and worried about your autoimmune diseases reacting to changing climates? I understand, I’ve been there too. This guide will help you plan for physical, mental, and emotional well being so you can enjoy your trip to the fullest. With diligent preparation, you’ll be navigating Yellowstone with autoimmune ease….free to spend your energy soaking up Yellowstone’s treasures instead of losing precious vacation time from an autoimmune flare. 

Buffalo grazing while navigating Yellowstone with autoimmune ease

Changing Weather

Yellowstone is known for its ever-changing weather. This can wreak havoc for autoimmune health. It almost happened that way for me when  I spent a week there during the summer months.  The day I arrived it was 90 degrees and I was ready to put on a bathing suit for the hot springs. Within 48 hours, the temperature plummeted to 45 degrees and stayed there for the entirety of my trip. And it was rainy. Did this ruin the vacation? Absolutely not.

As an autoimmune warrior, I proudly call Yellowstone my favorite national park, and I have hiked in National Parks in Utah, Virginia, Wyoming, Tennessee, North Carolina, California, Arizona, Maine, and Nevada. So I have been treated to some world-class hiking. That’s why I urge you not to skip this park because of fickle weather and autoimmune fears.  Plan ahead and live your best life.

iconic geyser in Yellowstone
Iconic Grand Prismatic Spring

Feel the awe of standing before those incredible geysers – nature’s powerhouse. Layer up, embrace the elements, and go with the flow. Yellowstone’s charm shines through every season; gear up for the wild ride of weather changes. Yellowstone can be your playground for adaptability. 

Self Care Preparation

1. Plan Ahead to reduce stress. Research and plan your itinerary well in advance, considering your energy levels and pacing activities accordingly. Identify accessible trails and attractions to ensure a more comfortable experience. Read here for a comprehensive guide.

2. Take weather precautions seriously. Yellowstone’s weather can change quickly, so pack layers to adapt. Shield yourself from the sun with hats, sunscreen, and lightweight clothing, while also being prepared for cooler temperatures. For rain and chilly weather, bring a durable poncho that prevents wind and rain from triggering a flare. Consider using a neck wrap to keep your breath warm. I use these:

head bands for sleep

3.  Hydration is key. Stay hydrated, especially at higher altitudes. Carry a reusable water bottle and sip water regularly to combat dehydration, which can exacerbate autoimmune symptoms.

4. Take rest breaks.  Allow time for rest breaks during your explorations. Plan shorter excursions and factor in breaks to prevent fatigue and ensure an enjoyable vacation.

5. Medication management is a must.  Keep your medications organized and ensure you have an ample supply. Consider bringing a small travel pharmacy with essentials, just in case.

6. Organize your dietary needs in advance.  Research dining options and bring snacks that align with your dietary restrictions to maintain your energy throughout the day.

7. Comfortable accommodations safeguard against flares due to lack of sleep. In addition, double check accommodations that will prioritize your comfort. Whether it’s a lodge with accessible features or specific bedding preferences, ensuring a comfortable stay is crucial for a successful trip. Don’t forget your earplugs.

8. Try to be realistic about your limits. If you have symptoms of a flare, recognize your physical limits and be willing to adjust plans if needed. Listen to your body, and don’t hesitate to modify activities to accommodate your health needs.

9. Emergency preparedness is important. Familiarize yourself with the park’s medical facilities and have a plan in case of an emergency. Carry important medical information and emergency contacts at all times.

10. Connecting with nature mindfully promotes good health. Yellowstone’s natural beauty is awe-inspiring. Embrace the healing power of nature but do so mindfully. Take breaks to soak in the surroundings without pushing your physical limits, giving yourself a balance between exploration and self-care. Bring your field guide to expand your self-care practices.

Getting There

There are many options for flying into Yellowstone National Park:

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) – Located in Bozeman, Montana, this is the busiest and often the most convenient airport for accessing Yellowstone. It’s about a 90-minute drive to the park’s North Entrance.

Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) – Situated in Jackson, Wyoming, this airport is very close to the park’s South Entrance, about an hour’s drive. It offers stunning views upon arrival and departure, as it’s right in the Grand Teton National Park.

Yellowstone Airport (WYS) – This seasonal airport in West Yellowstone, Montana, is only open from late May through early October. It’s very close to the West Entrance of the park.

Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA) – Located in Idaho Falls, Idaho, this airport is about a 2-hour drive to the West Entrance. It might offer more flight options and sometimes cheaper fares than smaller regional airports.

Billings Logan International Airport (BIL) – In Billings, Montana, this airport is about a 2.5-hour drive to the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone. It’s a good option if you plan to explore the northeastern part of the park or the Beartooth Highway.

Navigating The Park

Now that you have your plan in place for your autoimmune diseases, it’s time to explore some itinerary options available in Yellowstone’s vast and breathtaking wilderness. This sample itinerary will help you navigate choosing which entrance to begin your journey, where to stay and your “must see” list. 

driving through Yellowstone

If  staying in the park is feasible for you, do it. This is because Yellowstone is incredibly large. At  3,472 square miles, it is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. For autoimmune warriors, your goal is to keep driving to manageable portions since driving can be stressful and stress can trigger symptoms.

Therefore, staying in the park will alleviate the burden of driving in and out to experience sights and trails. The reality is, you’ll still be driving a lot if you stay inside the park. But the win is that you have access to every glorious thing the park offers as you get from one place to the other.

North Entrance

Because Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is only about an hour and a half from Yellowstone’s North Entrance, it’s ideal for keeping driving to a minimum. Using that as your initial entrance, a perfect in-park lodge is Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. It has been recently renovated due to the 2022 Yellowstone River flooding.

elk at Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs Cabins

Based on my personal experience staying there, I recommend booking a “Cabin Without Bath” unit. It is relatively budget-friendly, compared to other lodging within the park. It offers easily accessible dining and sights. Finally, a rare and welcome amenity is that it comes with an outdoor patio. If you’re a camper, you’re accustomed to using shower and restroom facilities located a short walk away. Mammoth facilities are across from the cabin, and offer opportunities to spend time engaging with the outdoors.

In addition, it compliments the camping lifestyle and increases the feel of community living. The Cabin Without Bed unit contains a 2-room cabin without private bathroom with 2 double beds and 1 queen bed. It is spacious and private if you’re traveling with others.

coffee on patio Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel
Cozy outdoor patio and lovely view at Mammoth Cabins

Another winning feature of Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is its proximity to seeing a variety of geological beauty and wonder right outside your doorstep. Mammoth Hot Springs has two terrace boardwalks, the upper and lower, and approximately 50 hot springs within the area.

Terrace hot springs in Mammoth area of Yellowstone
One of many hot spring terraces in Mammoth Hot Spring’s north section

Besides being unique and so different from other thermal areas in the area, they’re also logistically perfect. Because the boardwalks feature varying heights of the springs, the visitor gets multiple levels and angles for viewing the entire area. The space. You can access the lower boardwalk from the parking lot or the Grand Loop Road, and You the upper boardwalk from the one-way Upper Terrace Drive and parking lot. The road winds among springs for 1.5 miles before it loops back for a half mile.

When observing these curious miracles of nature, try to find peace in the mesmerizing geothermal features. Imagine the limitless energy and power these expressions of earth contain. Allow yourself to be held captive by them before embarking on your next destination. Two days in the northern section of Yellowstone is plenty. As you prepare for your second lodging accommodation, be ready for more amazement.

Driving North To South

The drive from Mammoth Hot Springs to Lake Lodge is only about an hour and a half. However, if you make it an entire day trip, taking your time, you’ll see these parts of the park at your leisure. Being present and traveling mindfully will add immeasurably to your experience.

Below is a map with stopping points for some of the best sights between Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Lake Lodge.

The drive north from Mammoth Hot Springs to south to Lake Lodge will provide countless opportunities to view geysers and wildlife. Some of the highlights are listed above. Two of the stops, Grand Canyon at Yellowstone and Hayden Valley, lie beyond Lake Lodge. You have the option to save them for after you’ve checked into your cabin at Lake Lodge, but seeing them twice is also worth it.

Firehole Canyon Drive is an amazing hidden gem between Mammoth Hot Springs and Lake Lodge. It’s a 2-mile, one-way side road off the Grand Loop.

Yellowstone South

Once you check into Lake Lodge, you’ll immediately notice a difference in the landscape. This area of Yellowstone is densely packed with lodgepole pines, giving it a cozy and secluded feel. In addition, you’ll see forests of Douglas firs, blue spruce, and whitebark pine all around.

Breathtaking beauty and power of Yellowstone Lake

Lake Lodge Cabins

Western Cabin with two queen beds and a private bath. Bonus is the bathtub which was divine, especially as an autoimmune warriors seeking warmth and muscle ease after a day of hiking in 50 degree rainy conditions.

The Western Cabin is noticeably small than Mammoth Hot Springs Cabins and at the time of my booking slightly more expensive. However, the bathroom and tub, as well as the rustic western furnishings, make it the perfect chance for you to treat yourself.

There are three eateries nearby for food options for you choose from. There’s also a cool rustic gift shop with an incredible fireplace and rocking chair for relaxing. It’s where I bought my deck of Yellowstone playing cards to make the most of the weather conditions and cabin atmosphere. Three to four days is a good start for exploring the southern area of Yellowstone. More is better.

Western cabins are perfect for relaxing, playing cards and journaling.

Lake Lodge is centrally located to Grand Canyon at Yellowstone as well as Fishing Bridge and Hayden Valley, just to name a few. In addition, there are many quiet and satisfying trails close by. Read on to learn about two gems.

Hiking Southern Yellowstone

Two short hikes I recommend are Pelican Creek Trail and Storm Point Trail. A word of caution: before hiking, always check with a ranger for recent bear sightings and activity. In addition, carry bear spray and periodically make noise on the trail so you don’t unexpectedly surprise any animals.

Pelican Creek Trail is a 0.8-mile easy loop that delivers big on views and serenity. You’ll pass a section that parallels Yellowstone Lake, a great spot to skip stones, bird watch, and practice mindfulness.

Pelican Creek Trail

Storm Point Trail 2.3 mile easy loop passes Indian Pond and offers sweeping views of Yellowstone Lake. Because the perspective of the lake is slightly raised elevation, and Yellowstone Lake is so vast, it appears to the viewer as more of an ocean than a lake.

Storm Point Trail overlook

Both locations, Mammoth in the North and Lake Lodge in the South, serve as ideal bases for your Yellowstone journey. They provide the comforts of home to keep your autoimmunes at bay. Furthermore, they give you the thrill of exploring captivating natural wonders, vast wilderness, jaw dropping wildlife, and peaceful hikes.

Final Thoughts On Navigating Yellowstone With Autoimmune Ease

The charm of Yellowstone shines through every season. Gear up for the wild ride of weather changes with diligent planning and preparation. Then prepare for an experience of a lifetime.

Yellowstone is surrounded by incredible energy. Draw from that energy with enthusiasm for adventure and a spirit of resilience. Roll with the weather punches, soak up nature’s healing vibes, and celebrate the strength that solo exploration brings, even with autoimmune challenges.

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