>> Getting there Located in Wyoming’s northeastern corner, Yellowstone has five official entrances. For this trip, go through the North Entrance, about 80 miles southeast of Bozeman.
>> Season Midweek in late summer for uncrowded trails; mid-July for wildflower explosions; post-Labor Day for crisp days and bugling elk (and zero mosquitoes).
>> Gear shop Stock up on bear spray at Northern Lights Trading Company in Bozeman (866-586-2225). YNP doesn’t require bear canisters (you hang your food, whether it’s in a bag or a box), but if you’ll sleep easier, rent or buy one here.
>> Pre-trip breakfast Load up with the Cateye Café’s specialty: banana bread french toast, the sweet “aristocrat of the griddle,” served with cream, farm-fresh eggs, and organic potatoes. In Bozeman; (406) 587-8844
>> Best frontcountry campground Norris, near Norris Geyser Basin, has 116 walk-in campsites ($14, first come, first served). The premier spot: a shaded site at the edge of Lewis Creek, where the river makes a sharp S-curve before flowing into the park.
>> Permits Yellowstone’s eight visitor centers are open from April through September. Get to the North Entrance’s Albright Visitor Center early for beta on your hike. All multiday trips require a permit, obtainable no more than 48 hours in advance of your trip. However, a mail-in reservation system allows hikers to request permits as of April 1 ($20 per permit request; 307-344-2160; nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/backcountrytripplanner.htm).