Yellowstone National Park
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Yellowstone National Park

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Update 2021: After reading this article, scroll back up here and browse the 60 Most Spectacular Destinations for 2021 (opens in a new tab)

When Is the Best Time

When Is the Best Time

We talked to many Yellowstone Destination experts and visited the park ourselves multiples times during different seasons. Every season and time has its own advantages and drawbacks. 

The best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is between April and early June and from September (after Labor Day Weekend) to October. During those times, the crowds are lighter while the weather is still pleasant. 

However, the park is a fantastic experience at any time and can be visited year-round. Please read our detailed guide below with tips for each season (winter, spring, summer, fall) and months, and our tips on how to avoid the crowds.
 

Best Weather

Yellowstone Monthly Weather

Long, cold winters. Mild, but short summers. The warmest months are from June to August and a great time for hiking. In spring the weather is unpredictable: Cold and even snow can linger into April and May. A warm jacket and rain gears are a must-have in spring. Fall months, especially September and early October may be the best months with mild weather, fewer crowds, and lots of wildlife. In winter heavy snowfall occurs from December to March.
 

Avoiding Tourist Crowds | Busy Times

Yellowstone Busy Months

July and August are also the peak tourist months. Crowds start to thin out after Labor Day in September. In October it even gets much quieter. A perfect month to enjoy many places without many others. Just keep in mind that a lot of facilities close sometime in October and November: NPS Yellowstone - Operating Hours.

Please note, that September became busier in recent years. It's less busy than in summer but not a super quiet shoulder month anymore. Follow our September Tips:

  • Go mid-September, as it gets quieter. A great sweet spot week is the last week in September.
  • Go as early as possible. If you get up early you'll avoid heavy traffic at the busy areas like Old Faithful or elk rutting spots along the road.

Another great month is the first week of June with warm weather and fewer crowds before the peak summer season starts. Again, keep in mind that June became much busier recently: Go early in the morning and try to avoid weekends.
 

Monthly Weather Details - Road Status - Activities

Yellowstone is worth a visit during any month. However, it’s important to know what you can do, the weather conditions, as well as possible road closures. Please keep in mind, that the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and Northeast Entrance stays open throughout the year: Google Maps - Yellowstone - Road from Mammoth Hot Springs to Northeast Entrance

January

Yellowstone January
Yellowstone in January - Bison near Midway Geyser Basin

  • Facilities: Limited
  • Busy: No, very quiet
  • Roads: Closed for public except Mammoth Hot Springs to the northeast entrance
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing and photographing, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, staying at Old Faithful for 1-2 nights, ranger programs

January in Yellowstone National is an icy month: Average temperatures vary between -4°C/24°F in the day and -17°/1°F at night. It is also the snowiest time.

The average January snowfall is 871 millimeters/34.3 inches, which typically accumulates 16 days out of the whole month. If you visit Yellowstone during January, make sure that you wrap up in warm layers when undertaking outdoor activities for any length of time. It is also vital to bring sleeping bags and food provisions as well, in case the car you are traveling in breaks down. Be aware most roads are closed due to snow.

February

Yellowstone February
Yellowstone in February- Guided snowmobile tour

  • Facilities: Limited
  • Busy: No, very quiet
  • Roads: Closed for public except Mammoth Hot Springs to the northeast entrance
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing and photographing, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, staying at Old Faithful for 1-2 nights, ranger programs

The last of the official winter months in Yellowstone, February, remains very cold. Average temperatures are sub-zero, peaking at -2°C/28°F in the day and falling to -17°C/1°F during the night.

You must ensure that you wear plenty of warm clothing, even when walking a relatively short distance, such as between the parking lot and nearby attractions. With 772 millimeters/30.4 inches of snow typically falling during the month over 13 days, be knowledgeable of snowdrifts when driving.
 

March

Yellowstone March
Yellowstone in March - Grazing bison

  • Facilities: Limited
  • Busy: No, very quiet
  • Roads: Closed for the public except Mammoth Hot Springs to the northeast entrance
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing and photographing, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling

Despite being the first month of meteorological spring, March remains rather cold and snowy in Yellowstone National Park. Average temperatures range between 2°C/36°F during the day and -13°C/9°F at night.

Snow accumulations are lower than in the winter months. Visiting Yellowstone in March means,  that wearing thermal clothing is still essential. During the warmer days (typically towards the end of the month), rainfall occurs quite regularly, with 45 mm/1.8 inches falling over an average of 13 rainfall days. Therefore, warm waterproof clothing and rain gear are suggested.
 

April

Yellowstone April
Yellowstone in April - Open pool in Midway Geyser Basin

  • Facilities: Limited
  • Busy: Very few crowds, a little busier on weekends
  • Roads: The road from Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful re-opens mid-April, as well as West Entrance to Madison Junction and Norris to Canyon Village. Mammoth Hot Springs to the northeast entrance is open as usual.
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing and photographing, hiking and sightseeing at lower elevations, skiing, snowshoeing at higher elevations

It gets slightly warmer in April at Yellowstone, as the average daily high reaches 6°C/43°F, whereas nighttime lows typically drop to -8°C/18°F. Although snowfall still occurs, it falls less frequently than in the winter months.

Only nine days in April are snow days. Rain typically falls for 11 days. Therefore, although warm layers are still required, waterproof layers are also a good idea. As the snow melts during the day and freezes overnight, it is necessary to be aware of ice patches on any roads and trails.

April Visitor Report: Terrific month with few crowds, lower prices, and the chance to experience this region like it was over 300 years ago. The downside to visiting in April: A little snow, no ranger tours, limited facilities. 
 

May

Yellowstone May
Yellowstone on a May morning - Grand Prismatic Spring

  • Facilities: Still limited
  • Busy: Light to moderate crowds. Warning: It gets packed on Memorial Day weekend
  • Roads: Every road will be re-opened by Memorial Day weekend
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing and photographing, hiking and backpacking, sightseeing

Despite being the last month of the meteorological spring, May can be a rather chilly month in Yellowstone. The average maximum temperature reaches 11°C/52°F during the day and falls to -2°C/28°F at night. Therefore, even though it is close to summer, layered clothing is still recommended, particularly for outdoor activities during the morning.

Although snowfall is far less frequent than during the months earlier in the year, it typically falls on 4 days in May, particularly towards the start of the month. Rain falls on an average of 11 days during the month.
 

June

Yellowstone June
Yellowstone in June -  View from Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail

  • Facilities: Most are open
  • Busy: Very busy, especially on weekends
  • Roads: Every road is accessible
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing and photographing, hiking and backpacking, sightseeing, camping, fishing, ranger programs

June is the first month of meteorological summer in Yellowstone and generally consists of warm days, although night time temperatures remain low. With daytime maximum temperatures typically reaching 16°C/61°F, and night temperatures dropping to 2°C/36°F, you will still need warm clothing when undertaking early morning outdoor activities.

Warm layers (especially sleeping bags) are essential for overnight camping. Despite being June, rare snowfalls still occur at Yellowstone, although this happens only one day on average. Rain typically falls on 14 days during the month; therefore, it is recommended that you bring waterproof clothing with you.
 

July

Yellowstone July
Yellowstone in July - Boating

  • Facilities: Everything is open
  • Busy: Extremely busy, especially on weekends
  • Roads: Every road is accessible
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing and photographing, hiking and backpacking, sightseeing, boating, camping, fishing, guided tours, ranger programs

July is the warmest month at Yellowstone, with daytime temperatures typically peaking at 22°C/72°F and nighttime lows generally dipping to 5°C/42°F. It is the ideal month for hiking activities – daytime temperatures are relatively temperate, although mornings may be a bit cool.

An additional layer (such as a light sweater) is recommended for outdoor activities during both the morning and late evening. A sleeping bag is recommended for any overnight camping. Snow does not occur during the month, but rain falls on an average of 11 days during July, so bringing lightweight waterproof clothing with you is advised.
 

August

Yellowstone August
Yellowstone in August - Visitors watching Beehive Geyser eruption

  • Facilities: Everything is open
  • Busy: Extremely busy, especially on weekends
  • Roads: Every road is accessible
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing and photographing, hiking and backpacking, sightseeing, boating, camping, fishing, guided tours, ranger programs

August is another relatively warm month in Yellowstone, with temperatures typically rising to 22°C/72°F during the day and lowering to 4°C/40°F at night. Therefore, with warm days, the weather is ideal for hiking activities, although (as seen in July) the mornings and evenings will feel fairly cool.

Snowfall is absent during August, but rainfall typically occurs on 11 days. This means that you probably won’t regret bringing along a lightweight waterproof raincoat with you despite the rather pleasant summer weather conditions.
 

September

Yellowstone September
Yellowstone in September - Pink Cone Geyser

  • Facilities: Most facilities are open. Some campsites close in mid-September
  • Busy: Moderate. It gets less busy after Labor Day weekend
  • Roads: Every road is accessible
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing and photographing, hiking and backpacking, sightseeing, camping, fishing, guided tours, ranger programs

This is the first month of meteorological fall/autumn. September in Yellowstone National Park is subtly colder than July and August, with an average high temperature of 16°C/61°F in the day and lows typically falling to 0°C/32°F by night. Although the days are rather pleasant, nights can be rather chilly, so wearing warm clothing layers is recommended when engaging in outdoor activities, such as morning hiking.

Sleeping bags are also essential for camping activities. Although the main form of precipitation is rain, which typically falls on 10 days during September, the month also sees the first snowfall – on average, the snow falls on one September day every year.
 

October

Yellowstone October
Yellowstone in October - Bison in Lamar Valley

  • Facilities: Limited. Campsites close
  • Busy: Moderate. Not busy at all during the week, moderate on weekends
  • Roads: Most roads are still open but can be closed sometimes due to weather conditions
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing and photographing, hiking and backpacking, sightseeing, ranger programs

The average temperatures continue to drop into the month of October: The average daily high and low for this time are around 9°C/48°F and -5°C/23°F, respectively. Wearing warm layers is strongly advised for outdoor activities, especially during mornings and evenings.

Although rain falls on the national park on an average of October 9 days, snow accumulates on 6 of these. Therefore, trails and roads can become very slippery, especially when laying snow melts during relatively warm days. Then, it refreezes during cold nights, so vigilance must be applied when hiking along trails or driving along roads.
 

November

Yellowstone November
Yellowstone in November - Great Fountain Geyser sunset

  • Facilities: Limited
  • Busy: No, very quiet
  • Roads: All roads will close from November 8, except Mammoth Hot Springs to the northeast entrance
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing and photographing, hiking

November is the last period of meteorological fall/autumn. The average November temperatures in Yellowstone are rather wintry, with daily maxima typically climbing to 1°C/34°F, and night time minima falling to -10°C/14°F. Snowfall is common throughout the month, with 13 days on average recording snowfall accumulations.

However, despite the temperatures being sub-zero for much of the month, 13 rainfall days also typically occur. Therefore, it is essential to wear warm clothing when visiting the park and to bring warm layers and extra food provisions with you as a precaution.

December

Yellowstone December
Yellowstone in December - Group watches Cinnamon Spouter

  • Facilities: Limited
  • Busy: No, very quiet
  • Roads: Closed for public except Mammoth Hot Springs to the northeast entrance
  • Activities: Wildlife viewing and photographing, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, staying at Old Faithful for 1-2 nights

This is the first month of meteorological winter. December in Yellowstone is frigid, with average maxima reaching -4°C/24°F and minima typically dropping to -15°C/5°F. Snow falls for 15 days on average, with a total accumulation of 775 millimeters (30.5 inches). Therefore, it is essential to wrap up in warm layers during all outdoor activities.

However, hiking for more extended periods is discouraged during the winter season. Walking trips between the parking lot and attractions such as the geysers require many thermal layers in these conditions. As previously mentioned, bringing extra warm layers and food provisions is strongly encouraged, in case your car breaks down.

Lodging Deals in Yellowstone (Price Guarantee)

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Where and Tips

Wyoming
United States

Yellowstone is the world's first national park, established in 1872. Witness volcano’s hidden power rising up in colorful hot springs, mud pots, and geysers. Explore mountains, forests, and lakes to watch wildlife and watch the beauty of the natural world unfold.


Top Tips
  • Avoid the crowds! Visit the popular areas (NPS - Yellowstone Places To Go) in the early morning or in the evening. Try to get to the busier spots either first thing in the morning or later in the evening when most visitors already left.
  • Bring layers of cloth! Especially in spring, early summer and fall, it's a good idea to bring layers of cloth. With layers, you can peel a layer off or on. Suggestion: Base layer, wool sweater, fleece jacket, waterproof breathable rain gear works.
  • Go hiking! Even a short hike will take you away from crowds and offers a much more rewarding experience of Yellowstone's amazing landscapes.
  • Watch the wildlife! The best times for wildlife spotting is either early morning or in the evening. Read our special wildlife tips: Yellowstone - Wildlife
  • Stop at the Visitor Center and check for the Ranger Programs.

 

Comments

Renee Lund

Grand Prismatic Spring has got to be the most dramatic and color spectacular ever found in Yellowstone. During each season it has the ability to change colors in coordination with the weather of the day. The colors are the most prolific when they are found under a sunny sky. The steam has the ability to create an entirely different mood when the wind blows cold and mingles with the warmth of the boiling steam.

Renee Lund

There's nothing more welcoming than the Grand Loop Rd that travels from one end of the park to the other. With each curve appears or bridge that is crossed you find yourself in one stunning and unique landscape after another. The amazing history and stunning beauty of Yellowstone National Park is as unique as a fingerprint. Adventure and photographic memories are the priceless and one of a kind souvenirs we each take home. Memories are relieved, stories are told, and relationships are built when photos are shared.

Renee Lund

Yellowstone's Grand Canyon Lower Falls is an epic experience. The depth in which the water plunges below is quite spectacular. The eroded canyon with it's rich rust colored walls is a sight to behold. Early Spring leaves just a small remnant of Winter's blanket of snow to highlight a contrast in color and rugged character. Standing at Artist Point looking up towards the Brinks demands a commanding presence.

Renee Lund

Lamar Buffalo Ranch, what a special feeling it is to be able to still walk among buildings and working locations of history and wish you could hear what the walls would say!

The historic livestock ranch is located in the Lamar River valley of Yellowstone National Park, in the state of Wyoming. As listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Lamar Buffalo Ranch Historic District established in 1907 includes five buildings: a ranger station used for residence of the assistant buffalo keeper that was moved to the ranch in 1938 from Soda Butte (1915), a pole fenced corral built from 1915 to the 1930s, a log barn for hay and horses (1927), a bunkhouse (1929) which the interior has since been remodeled and is currently used by the park's public stewardship institute, Yellowstone Forever, which conducts classes and seminars there. The ranch was created to preserve one of the last free-roaming American bison (buffalo) herds in the United States. It was started with the 28 bison that were moved from Fort Yellowstone to the Lamar Valley in the northeast corner of the park. The herd at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch was maintained as a semi-domesticated source of additional bison to enhance the park's natural herd. As the ranched herd increased in size, it was released to the open range, where it interbred with the wild herd. After the ranched bison were successfully integrated, the ranch continued to be used to produce hay to feed wild bison in the winter until the 1950s.

The vegetation around the ranch is mostly sagebrush and nonnative grasses that were planted during the period of hay cultivation or migrated into the area. Remnants of irrigation ditches, fencing, and water troughs can still be found. Rose Creek has historically run along side the pole fenced area and down into the Lamar Valley where it provides water access for a variety of wildlife.

Renee Lund

Mammoth Hot Springs ~ The chapel of 1913 in Yellowstone National Park (Fort Yellowstone) was the last existing building completed during the army era. Built of native stone with a slate roof and oak furnishings, it is still used today and is the best preserved building at the fort inside and out.

Renee Lund

Boardwalks of Yellowstone ~ Reminds us that staying on provided walk ways help to insure our safety while we are enjoying the park! Most are a beautiful walk to our destinations and provide great views and opportunities for photos. During winter visits the boardwalks help to guide you in the right direction.

Renee Lund

Color and textures can be found throughout Yellowstone. You will find some of the deepest and brightest colors that can only be found in the park that have never been named. Rugged and chiseled textures run through the thermal landscape and reflect a more primitive time of long ago.

Renee Lund

Yellowstone is filled with many species of trees however it seems the standing dead or those trees that are known for their locations are the most fascinating. In and around the thermal features you can see quite a few lodge pole pines that have died but are still standing. Some trees like the ones found in Lamar Valley are iconic to most frequent visitors as they seem to never change.

Renee Lund

Thermal features such as springs and pools have some of the most vivid colors you'll ever see. The aroma of sulfur is ever present with a lovely mist of steam that feels like a day at the spa. The temperature of the day mixed with the temperature of the thermal feature will determine the amount of steam that's visible and at times will completely cover all the colors you would normally see. The colors are most vivid on clear sunny days.

Renee Lund

Rustic Falls is located in the northwest area of Yellowstone, about four point seven (4.7) miles south of Mammoth Hot Springs on the Grand Loop road. Small but beautiful and takes walking along Grand Loop road next to the guard rail to reach an area to photograph. Driving south is easiest direction to see it as it is located directly under the pull out on the road driving north.

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