What’s the Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park?
Is Yellowstone National Park the next location on your bucket list? From hiking trails to wildlife sightings to frozen waterfalls and beyond, there’s never a dull moment when you’re visiting Yellowstone.
But when is the best time to visit? We’ll cover seasonal attractions, how to enjoy the park with fewer crowds, when you’ll experience the best weather, and more. So are you ready to enjoy the world’s first national park? Then, let’s get to it!
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The Weather in Yellowstone National Park
Temperature is always an essential factor in deciding when to travel. Whether you’d prefer to take in a magical winter wonderland or bask in the heat of the summer months, here’s what you can expect from your time in Yellowstone National Park.
Summer in Yellowstone
Summer months are peak season in Yellowstone National Park. It’s when families head out to Yellowstone, so be prepared for crowded boardwalks, busy campsites, and packed trails if you’re visiting the park between mid-June and mid-September.
However, you can enjoy predictable weather — though snow in early June is always a possibility — and experience all park facilities and activities that Yellowstone has to offer.
Avoid the rush while soaking up the sun by planning your trip around Memorial Day weekend (when all roads open up) or after Labor Day, but keep in mind that some summer attractions may be closed for the season.
Fall in Yellowstone
If you’re looking to explore Yellowstone National Park in a bit of tranquility, fall is a lovely time to visit. You’ll notice the days are shorter and a bit cooler in these months, but the reduced crowds and gorgeous autumn colors make it all worthwhile.
You may even sneak a peek of a captivating male elk ritual as September to mid-October is elk rutting season. Plus, the chilly air makes fall ideal for watching the steam rising off of the Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful geyser, and Mammoth Hot Springs area — don’t jump in, though!
Winter in Yellowstone
When winter arrives in the park, you’ll be treated to snowy landscapes, frozen waterfalls, and a whole slate of unique activities. It’s a magical time to visit Yellowstone National Park, but prepare for the snow!
Hot springs, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing will keep you occupied during your whole stay but beware of road closures making it challenging to get around.
If you’re a wildlife lover, hang around the park in the early winter months when the bighorn sheep rut occurs to witness a spectacular sight.
Spring in Yellowstone
As the snow melts in Yellowstone, wildlife watching opportunities are in full force. Keep an eye out for baby mountain goats and bison calves, but beware that spring in the park is pretty similar to the winter months — but muddier.
You won’t see wildflowers bloom until summer and most park roads and attractions remain closed. Still, you can enjoy some quiet, peaceful days before the summer crowds hit.
Road Closures and Openings
Most roads in Yellowstone close between November and late April. The only road open year-round goes from the North Entrance to the Northeast Entrance, which takes you to the park headquarters. Road closures are weather-dependent, so it’s always best to confirm openings before traveling.
Also, there are many ways to get to Yellowstone so you might want to check what works best for your trip.
Peak Tourist Season in Yellowstone National Park
Summer crowds draw 3 million visitors (yes, 3 million, you read that right!) to the park every year. So plan your trip in early June or September to avoid peak tourist season but still enjoy that gorgeous summer weather.
Best Times to Visit Yellowstone to Avoid Crowds
Early spring and winter are the best times to visit Yellowstone National Park if you’re seeking solitude. Tourism is minimal in these seasons, so plan your trip then to enjoy some peace and quiet in nature.
Best Time of Year for Wildlife Viewing
Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Hayden Valley are can’t-miss spots if you want to watch wildlife. Here are the best times to visit Yellowstone if you’re an animal lover. Check them out at dawn or dusk for the best viewing possibilities.
- Bison: rutting season in late July to August, near springs in winter
- Elk: summer, rutting season in September to mid-October
- Mountain goats: winter in lowlands, summer at high elevation
- Bighorn sheep: rutting season in November
- Grizzly bears: mid-summer
- Wolves: winter and early spring
You can often spot adorable baby animals in spring as they begin to find their legs.
Most Affordable Time to Visit Yellowstone
Yellowstone flights are cheapest in the off-season around October through February. Double your sightseeing by flying to Jackson Hole airport and spending time in Grand Teton National Park before driving up to Yellowstone.
Best Time of Year for Sightseeing
The best time to visit Yellowstone for sightseeing is summer, as all amenities and attractions are running in full force. However, check out the park in the shoulder seasons— early May or late September — to experience brilliant sightseeing with fewer tourists.
Best Time of Year for Hiking and Backpacking
Yellowstone is still snowy in spring and late fall can bring cold nights, so it’s best to wait until summer to get your hiking on. Hold off until early autumn if you prefer quieter trails, cooler weather, and changing leaf colors.
Best Time of Year for Fishing
Anglers have the most options available throughout mid-summer but can find reliable fishing spots any time of year. Even in winter, it’s a short drive out of the park to hit up some ice fishing locations.
Best Time to Visit Yellowstone for Fall Colors
Late September to early October offers visitors the most stunning fall colors. Unfortunately, Yellowstone’s weather is pretty unpredictable, so don’t wait too long to view these spectacular sights!
Book Your Yellowstone Adventure with Explorer Chick
Ready to have an unforgettable trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks? Claim your spot on one of Explorer Chick’s 7-day small group tours for women to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.
Meet the Writer
Megan Wray is a queer, mixed-race Japanese-Canadian freelance writer based on Treaty 1 Territory. Passionate about pleasure, identity, and anti-oppression, Megan’s fuelled by meaningful chats about topics that aren’t “appropriate” for dinner table conversation. When she’s not writing, you can find Megan cooking vegan food, singing to live music, and trying to understand astrology.
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JuliaSeptember 9th, 2021
I highly recommend the Best of Yellowstone and Grand Tetons trip with the Explorer Chicks! We had an awesome, action-packed trip to one of the most beautiful regions in the United States and got to have so many cool experiences like seeing bears, wolves, and bison in the wild, horseback riding in the back country, seeing the geysers erupt, and enjoying the lovely hot springs. This amazing group of women was led by two knowledgeable and supportive guides, Kirsty and Lauren! Well worth the time and money for an unforgettable experience! Thank you, Explorer Chicks!