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Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park (Monthly Guide by a WY Native!)

Explore the best times to visit Yellowstone National Park with a monthly guide from a Wyoming native. Learn when to see wildlife, avoid crowds, and enjoy activities!

Tobi Miles
July 23, 2022
Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park (Monthly Guide by a WY Native!)

Yellowstone national park is among the top best national parks in the world. Yellowstone National Park is located in the western United States. The park boasts several beautiful sceneries, such as the old faithful. So when is the best time to visit Yellowstone national park?

The best time to visit Yellowstone National park is in early May. The bears and wolves come out of hibernation, major park roads are open, and there will be fewer people. In the month of May, snowfall at Yellowstone comes to a halt, and the temperature rises, making it perfect for exploring the park and participating in activities.

Yellowstone National Park is known for its wildlife, geysers, grand canyon, hot springs, waterfalls, calderas, and outdoor activities. The park has the highest concentration of mammals in the United States.

Beneath the park lies one of the world's active super-volcanoes. 2.1 million years ago, the Yellowstone volcano experienced its first significant eruption. Keep reading for more details about the Yellowstone national park.

When Should You Not Visit Yellowstone National Park?

Winter and early spring are the worst times to visit Yellowstone national park. The weather at the park becomes unbearably cold and freezing at higher elevations.

You will not be able to participate in outdoor activities as the snow could be 150 inches deep and above. Winter at Yellowstone national park spans mid-December to early March.

Since most of the park lies at an elevation of 6,000 feet above sea level or higher, expect big temperature swings. During the summer, heavy rainfalls and extreme thunderstorms can occur during the day. Due to the holidays, the park gets crowded during the summer.

Mid-March, when the snow starts to thaw, the park's roads, hiking trails, and campgrounds are muddy, making them difficult to navigate.

There are occasional mudslides blocking paths and constant freezing pouring rain. Many roads in the park remain closed in early spring, and many of the facilities are closed.

When is the Cheapest Time to go to Yellowstone National Park?

Early spring and winter are the best seasons to visit Yellowstone National Park If you plan on making a pocket-friendly trip. Due to the size and diversity of Yellowstone park, decisions should be made in advance, especially if you intend to camp or book a lodge.

Although freezing winter temperatures deter some visitors, if you love participating in outdoor snow activities such as snowboarding, skiing, and others, winter is the perfect time to visit the park.

Due to snowfalls, heavy rainfalls, and mudslides, the park will shut down some facilities. Early spring, fall, and winter are the park's slow seasons, so the price of services will be low.

Summer is the worst time to visit because of how crowded it gets and the increase in flights and hotel prices due to high demands. You can save money by booking some of the park facilities in advance. The cost of services at the park and airfare is much lower when booking in advance.

Related Read: Mount Rushmore to Yellowstone Road Trip

What Time of Year is the Best Weather in Yellowstone National Park?

Late spring in May has the best weather in Yellowstone park. The heavy chilly rainfalls start to decrease, waterfalls rush, and the temperature rises enough to participate in outdoor activities. Winter ends, and you can witness the animals come out of hibernation and the wildflowers bloom.

Although due to the elevation of the park, the weather can be quite unpredictable. The average temperature can fluctuate between 0 digits to the 60s.

The summer months also offer the best weather, although there is a larger crowd at the park during this season. The park is the busiest and most crowded from June to August. In the summer, there are extreme thunderstorms in the afternoon.

During late spring and summer, the best time of the day to visit the park is at dawn or dusk for prime wildlife viewing opportunities.

Whatever season you choose to visit the Yellowstone national park, check out the park's website for the available activities, road openings, and open attraction spots.

Yellowstone Best Weather: Monthly Breakdown

January: Snowboarding and Cross-Country Skiing

One of the best months to visit Yellowstone National Park is in January. Winter is typically at its best this month, and the temperature is more bearable, making it the ideal time to go skiing.

Yellowstone offers top-notch cross-country skiing, an abundance of backcountry trails, and a range of terrain perfect for beginners, families, and experienced skiers.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted on all unplowed roads and paths, although only a few have tracks set. There are 40 miles of cross-country routes, many of which are connected, in the vicinity of the Old Faithful geyser.

Concessionaires at the park also offer buses and guided ski tours. You can hire ski equipment. You cannot reserve skiing equipment in advance.

  • Wildlife Watching
  • Geyser Rain
  • Snowshoeing

February: Yellowstone National Park Snowcoach Tour

February is popular for wildlife viewing and winter activities, such as snow coach trips. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and Old Faithful are just among the park's attractions that may be visited on snow coach tours. At this time, the park is still off-limits to automobiles.

In February, daily temperatures in Yellowstone National Park approach the 30s, and 10 inches of typical snowfall is easier to deal with than earlier in the season. From the park's west, north, and south entrances, snow coach tours are accessible. You can book your snow coach tours in advance.

Yellowstone's winters are quite cold; thus, fewer visitors and the park seems tranquil and calm. The wolf's mating season begins in February when they become much more active and noticeable. It is against the law to bring pets on snow coaches, except for service animals.

  • Scenic Views
  • Snowmobile Tours
  • Winter Photo Safari
  • Ice Skating

March: Visit West Thumb Geyser Basin

One of the park's lesser geyser basins, West Thumb, contains geothermal features such as hot springs, geysers, fumaroles, and mud pots. The Absaroka Mountains offer a lovely backdrop in March as the snow begins to melt and Yellowstone Lake starts to thaw.

The west thumb is a caldera located in a caldera. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, a significant volcanic explosion created the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake. An extension of Yellowstone Lake was later formed when the resulting collapsed volcano filled with water.

West Thumb is one of the least frequented basins in the park. The west thumb basin's Fishing Cone has traditionally attracted the most visitors. Early tales of "cooked trout" helped to publicize its peculiar placement along the lake shore and its symmetrical cone. In the west thumb basin, notable scenic features include:

  • Twin geysers
  • Black pool
  • Fishing cone
  • Lakeshore geyser
  • West thumb paint pots

April: Great Time for Wildlife Viewing

Local wildlife is particularly active during April, making it an excellent time to see wolves, bears, and other animals coming out of hibernation. Nothing compares to witnessing Yellowstone's natural scenery come to life in the springtime.

With a peak temperature of 43 degrees Fahrenheit and a low temperature of 18, April in Yellowstone is slightly warmer than March. The amount of rain is comparable to the winter months, with fewer snowfalls as the month progresses.

The fact that there are few visitors in April makes it a good time to explore Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone National Park receives fewer than 2,000 visitors per day in April.

  • Abyss pool
  • Lamar Valley Bisons
  • Fountain Paint Pot
  • Biscuit Basin
  • Morning Glory Pool

May: Visit The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Yellowstone's snowfall stops in May, and the weather warms up, making it the ideal time to visit the park and engage in outdoor activities like hiking trails in the Grand Canyon. Dramatic hues and patterns in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River illustrate the park's detailed geologic history.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Park, from the Upper Falls to the Tower Fall area, is around 20 miles long. The canyon is 800 to 1200 feet deep—puffs of steam mark hydrothermal structures on the canyon's sides.

The Yellowstone River plunges 308 feet over the Lower Yellowstone Falls into the grand canyon. Erosion developed in the canyon as the Yellowstone River ran over soft and less resistant rocks.

  • Norris Geyser Basin
  • Artists Paintpots
  • Yellowstone Falls
  • Petrified Tree

Related Read: 15 Best Waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park

June: Canoeing and Kayaking on Yellowstone Lake

June is an excellent month to visit Yellowstone since the weather warms up and most park roads and facilities are available to the public. You may explore America's first national park from a unique viewpoint while kayaking or canoeing in Yellowstone.

Paddling is also permitted on most lakes in Yellowstone National Park. The largest high-alpine lake in the nation, Yellowstone Lake, is over 8,000 feet above sea level and provides a wilderness experience where you can spend hours wandering the untamed coastline.

Yellowstone's iconic hydrothermal features may be seen up close and personal when paddling on Yellowstone Lake, which offers a special route to the West Thumb Geyser Basin. In this area, you may paddle through caves dripping with hot, steamy water and see steam vents that send streams of bubbles into the air.

By late summer, the water temperatures on park lakes could reach the 60s, up from the 40s in June. Furthermore, sudden high gusts can create waves of three to five feet, making open-water crossings extremely risky.

  • Hellroaring Bridge
  • Undine Falls
  • Boiling River
  • Hiking

July: Visit The Grand Prismatic Spring

For festival enthusiasts, July is the best month to visit Yellowstone because the park and the nearby towns organize various activities. Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the three largest natural hot springs and the largest in the United States.

Grand Prismatic Spring, which is around 300 feet in diameter and has water that is a scorching 160 degrees Fahrenheit, is situated in the Midway Geyser Basin. This stunning Yellowstone natural feature is well-known for its wide variety of seasonal colors. The warm orange and red hues complement the summer's scorching temperatures.

Summer is the best time to see the grand prismatic spring. This Grand Prismatic spring has a diameter of roughly 110 meters and a depth of 50 meters. The boiling water from beneath is sterile due to its high temperature, which contributes to the lake's extraordinary clarity and blue color.

  • Camping Outdoor
  • Union Falls
  • Firehole Falls
  • Nature Photography

August: Hike The Hayden Valley Trail

The Hayden Valley, located in the middle of the park, is a true treasure of Yellowstone. Depending on where you are in the park, the average high temperature in august ranges between the 70s and 80s, providing ideal hiking conditions.

The valley, which spans the Yellowstone River, is mostly a subalpine grassland. The Hayden Valley area encompasses around 50 square miles of the valley floor, which is the ancient lake bed of Yellowstone Lake when it was much larger.

Bison are primarily found in the Hayden Valley, close to the Lake and Mud Volcano thermal areas. Visitors frequently see herds of bison grazing and relaxing along the vast Yellowstone River that passes through the valley. You can also spot coyotes, wolves, ducks, and grizzly bears in the Hayden valley.

Every amenity in the park will be accessible during august. Yellowstone receives almost 2 million tourists in August during the summer, so that lodging will book up quickly. Make reservations as soon as possible if you decide to travel during the summer.

  • Black Sand Basin
  • Yellowstone Mud Volcano
  • Tower Fall
  • Yellowstone East Entrance

Related Read: 15 Best Campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park

September: Festa De La Merce

La Mercè is the name of Barcelona's yearly event, which takes place in Catalonia, Spain. Visitors can participate in the la merce celebrations in the communities near the park in September.

September is one of the nicest seasons to travel in autumn. In the daytime, autumn temperatures can range from the mid-30s to the low-60s. There are many possibilities to observe wildlife, the weather is still nice, and practically all of the summer tourists have left, leaving a lot of cheap hotel rooms available.

Remember that most park facilities may close as early as mid-September. Although most roads will be open until the end of the month, an early snowfall may result in unforeseen closures.

Yellowstone National Park is a spectacular sight to view in the autumn, especially around sunrise. The enthusiasm peaks during Yellowstone's prime season in the final week of September. Before losing their leaves, the aspen and cottonwood trees in Yellowstone turn gorgeous colors of gold.

  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Yellowstone East Entrance
  • Avalanche Peak Trail
  • Hike Mount Washburn

October: Participate in a Yellowstone Ranger Program

Joining a ranger program is among the greatest ways to explore a national park. In October, Yellowstone National Park offers a wide choice of ranger programs all over the park.

Yellowstone National Park offers a self-guided Junior Ranger program for four and older visitors. This program serves as a method to introduce kids and those still young at heart to the park's natural treasures and their contribution to their preservation.

Participants get an official Yellowstone Junior Ranger badge after fulfilling the age-appropriate requirements outlined in the ranger program booklet and verifying their work with a ranger at any visitor center.

Visitors must complete activities in the brochure in order to learn more about park resources, problems, and ideas, including hydrothermal geology, wildlife, and fire ecology.

Requirements include visiting with a ranger, hiking on a park trail or boardwalk, participating in certain activities, learning more about the park, and experiencing the fun of becoming a Junior Ranger benefits kids and adults.

In Yellowstone, rangers from the National Park Service provide many programs during the summer and winter. Venues throughout the park host these programs. The availability of rangers determines which specific activities are delivered each season. Consult the park's calendar.

  • Lava Creek Trail
  • Specimen Ridge
  • Observation Point Hiking Trail
  • Lone Star Geyser

November: Camping at Mammoth Campground in Yellowstone

The majority of the trails in the Mammoth Hot Springs region are open in November, making hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing excellent activities. The Mammoth Campground is the only campground that is available all year. The campground is five miles south of the park's North Entrance at 6,200 feet.

The mammoth campground is reservable and run by the National Park Service. The Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, hiking trails, and fishing spots are all close to the campground. Elk and bison periodically travel through the campground, providing numerous excellent opportunities for animal viewing.

In a high sagebrush grassland, scattered juniper and Douglas fir trees give shade during the scorching summer. There are public showers, including an accessible shower for the disabled, at the North Entrance Wash Tub in Gardiner, Montana. This bathroom facility is the closest to the mammoth campground.

  • Mystic Falls Trail
  • Hiking
  • Self-driving Audio Guided Tour
  • Wildlife Watching

Related Read: 20 Best Camping Spots In Wyoming

December: The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center

In December, you can observe grizzly bears engaging in various activities in their magnificent bear habitat. The bears engage in a setting that provides constantly shifting enrichment possibilities, whether playing in a cascading waterfall, fishing in ponds stocked with trout, or hunting for food in the snow.

Any day of the year is a terrific time to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center since the bears there do not hibernate. Two wolf groups are present, and they can be seen from outdoor lookouts or the Naturalist Cabin. You can look closely at the wolves through the cabin's floor-to-ceiling windows.

Take a break from the park and go to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center if you want to learn about Yellowstone species in a more controlled setting. The center is situated in West Yellowstone, Montana, just beyond the park's West Entrance.

Bears, wolves, and raptors who couldn't survive on their own in the wild are housed at the nonprofit GWDC facility. The facility offers daily educational sessions for kids and informational exhibitions about its resident animals.

  • Dog Sledding
  • Giant Screen Theatre
  • Ice Fishing
  • Snowmobiling

When is The Best Time of Day to Visit The Grand Prismatic Spring?

You can't see much of Grand Prismatic Spring from the boardwalk. Around noon, when most of the steam has been "burned off" by the sun, is the best time of day to visit the grand prismatic spring. You can view the Grand Prismatic spring in two different ways.

First is the boardwalk at Midway Geyser Basin. This is a  0.8-mile track around the Midway Geyser and makes for a quick hike. The boardwalk is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers and has a lovely boardwalk. You can view the grand prismatic spring at ground level because the boardwalk stretches around the edges.

The Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook Trail provides a second vantage point for viewing it. This is where you may view the spring from the air and shoot the aerial photos of the Grand Prismatic you frequently see. If you want to avoid the crowds during summer, you can visit the grand prismatic spring in the morning.

How Many Days Should You Spend at Yellowstone National Park?

The ideal time to spend in Yellowstone National Park is three to four days. However, you may still see the main features in a day or two.

Yellowstone national park has it all —including vivid geothermal pools, powerful waterfalls, and verdant valleys teeming with wildlife. There is a lot of sightseeing and activities at Yellowstone Park. It's advisable to visit the park for at least four days.

This also depends on what time of year you visit the park. You can see most of the big attractions in two to three days if you go in the late spring when fewer visitors are needed.

If you visit in the summer, when the park is quite busy, there will be traffic and long lines to enter several facilities, consuming more of your time. Driving between the points of interest in the summer takes hours.

What Is The Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park With Family?

It is preferable to take your family to Yellowstone in the winter or late spring. During these seasons, the park will be less crowded, and there won't be a long line to use the amenities. Families can engage in various wintertime sports, including snowboarding, skiing, and snow coach tours.

Late spring and winter seasons boast fewer crowds and lower costs for accommodation. Yellowstone Park experiences its greatest weather in late spring during May. Rainfalls become less frequent and frigid, waterfalls begin to roar, and the temperature rises enough to allow for outdoor activities like hiking.

When Winter ends, you can witness the animals come out of hibernation and the wildflowers bloom.

What Is The Best Time to Visit Old Faithful?

Mid-May through September is the ideal time to explore Yellowstone's Old Faithful geyser. Fewer people would allow you to relax and take in the scenery. If you choose to visit the park during the summer, to avoid the crowds, visit the old faithful early in the morning before tourists arrive or late in the afternoon after the day tourists have left.

Best Month to Visit Yellowstone National Park to Avoid Crowds

May, September, and February are the ideal months to explore Yellowstone Park. Yellowstone's snowfall stops in May, and the weather warms up, making it the perfect time to visit the park and engage in activities.

Major park roads are open, the wolves and bears emerge from hibernation, and there will be fewer visitors because most schools are still in session, and the weather can still be fairly chilly.

There are fewer tourists and cheaper hotel rates during these months. Most people wouldn't want to visit the park until most facilities are open because some would be closed due to snowfalls, heavy downpours, and mudslides.

Some guests stay away from the area in February because of the frigid cold. February is the ideal month to visit the park if you enjoy outdoor winter sports like snowboarding, skiing, and other winter sports. Because the temperature will start to climb, there will be little to no crowd, and the cold will become more tolerable.

When is The Best Time for a Winter Trip to Yellowstone National Park?

February is the ideal time to visit Yellowstone National Park during the winter. During this month, the temperature would increase, making it bearable to engage in outdoor winter sports like snowshoeing.

Yellowstone's winter season is very harsh and unbearable. The temperature drops well below freezing point during the day. This time of year, the park receives a lot of snowfall, especially in December, when the snowfall might reach 150 inches or more.

The North Gate is the only entrance accessible by car during the winter, and by December, all park amenities in the Mammoth Hot Springs region, aside from park headquarters, will be closed for the year.

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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