The best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is from April to May and from September to early October.
The shoulder months have milder temperatures and lesser crowds. Spring temperatures can be unpredictable between April and May. Daytime temperature in late spring averages in the low 50s and nighttime in the high 20s.
By early autumn, the crowds have dissipated with the start of the school term. Yet temperatures are still warm enough to visit most parts of Yellowstone. Daytime temperature averages in the low 60s and down to the low 30s at night.
September to October
Autumn is one of the best times to visit Yellowstone as is still mild. During the day, the typical temperature can range from the mid-30s to the low-60s (nighttime can see temperatures in the teens and single digits).
Most of the summer tourists have left, leading to cheaper accommodation rates. Be aware that many establishments, including visitor centers, general stores, and post offices, may close as early as mid-September. Additionally, seasonal road restrictions begin in mid-October.
What’s on :
November to March
Yellowstone’s winter season is harsh. There is a lot of snowfall in the area, and the daytime temperatures rarely exceed freezing.
Be ready for hazardous driving conditions, and some roads will be closed. In the winter, only the North Entrance is accessible by cars, and by December, all park facilities, aside from the park headquarters in the Mammoth Hot Springs region, will be closed for the year.
The NPS website has some very good safety information for visiting during the winter.
April to May
Yellowstone’s springtime weather might be erratic, but if you go on the right day, you can watch the spring come into life with minimal crowds.
Plan to bring a lot of layers, as average temperatures can range from the low 60s to single digits. The roads usually begin to open from mid-April onwards, so plan your trip accordingly.
Visit the National Park Service website to discover the most recent road closures and opening dates.
What’s on :
- National Park Week (April)
June to August
June to August is the peak season when Yellowstone sees 44% of its annual visitors.
Due to its location and elevation, summers in Yellowstone are pleasant, with average daytime temperatures hovering around 70ºF and cool nighttime temperatures dropping into the 50s.
This makes the summertime ideal for sleeping outside. Temperatures can be significantly cooler at higher elevations, even dropping below freezing during the summer.
What’s on :
Best time for camping
The best time to camp in Yellowstone National Park is in September. The average daytime highs are in the high 60s and nighttime lows in the high 30s.
Summer temperatures still linger in September and most of the park’s campgrounds are still open. Crowds have thinned with the arrival of the start of the school year, making it easier to get reservations to some of the park’s coveted campgrounds.
In comparison, during the summer reservations should be made well in advance as campgrounds fill up quickly. Yellowstone closes most of its campgrounds for the season by the end of September with the exception of Mammoth, which is open year-round.
Read More : Best Campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park
Best time for hiking
The best time for hiking in Yellowstone National Park is in July and August.
By this time, the weather has warmed enough to make all trails in the park accessible. Hikes at some of the park’s higher elevations, such as Mt. Washburn, often remain snow-covered into July. Hiking these higher peaks during other times of the year can be risky due to extreme weather
And, while temperatures during the summer can sometimes reach 80ºF in the park’s lower elevation areas, highs and lows are typically mild, making for comfortable hiking. Just keep in mind that it is best to start early in the morning to avoid crowds and late afternoon thunderstorms.
Read More : Best Hiking Trails in Yellowstone National Park
Best time to avoid crowds
May and September are the best times to avoid crowds in Yellowstone. These two months make up around 10% and 16% of Yellowstone’s annual visitors.
After Labor Day, crowds thin considerably in the park and don’t return to their peak levels until after Memorial Day.
During May and September, the weather is warm enough to be comfortable. And most of the park’s facilities are open during these months, allowing you to experience its best attractions. You do still need to be on the lookout for sudden changes in temperature, so make sure to layer and have rain gear with you wherever you go.
While winter offers the best time to avoid crowds at the park, extreme weather makes this an attractive time for mainly diehard outdoor enthusiasts.
Best time to see wildlife
The best time to see wildlife in Yellowstone National Park is from December through March.
It really depends on what you want to see.
Early spring and fall are the best times to see bears as they’ll be foraging for hibernation during the fall and emerging from their winter slumber in the spring.
Wintertime is the best season to find wolves and bighorn sheep while other animals, such as Elk and bison, can best be spotted during the summer and fall months as they make their migrations to lower elevations for the winter.
Whichever time you choose, make sure to follow park regulations and maintain a safe distance while observing these animals.
Best time for biking
The best time for biking in Yellowstone National Park is from March to May and October to November.
Though cycling is allowed year-round, the best season begins in early November when the park closes the roads to traffic in preparation for the coming snows. Once the snow arrives, the cycling ends.
Biking opens up again in early April when the roads clear, allowing for traffic-free cycling until about mid-May. This gives cyclists access to some 250 miles of park roads without having to share it with traffic.
Make sure the roads are clear before heading out. Check the park’s Website for road closing information.
Best time for fishing
The best time for fishing in Yellowstone National Park is July to August.
This is when the insect population is at its highest, so fish are especially active. It’s an excellent time for fly fishing on all of the park’s rivers.
Mid Summer is also the most comfortable time to fish, with warmer weather and warmer waters, making backcountry fishing a great option.
The top places to fish in the park at this time are Slough Creek, Soda Butte, and Lamar, for both their fish populations and amazing scenery. Make sure you have a valid permit.
Best time for winter sports
The best time for snow sports in Yellowstone National Park is January.
This is because the park records an annual average of 35″ of snow during the month, which is the highest of any month during the year.
This makes it an excellent time for snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and other winter sports. There are numerous outfitters around the park for renting equipment or booking guided tours.
If you plan on visiting the park during the winter, make sure to come prepared with winter clothing as winter weather can be extreme in Yellowstone.
Andrew Dodson is an avid camper who enjoys the great outdoors with his wife and two-year-old son. He resides in Colorado, where you can often find him enjoying hikes with a toddler strapped to his back and mini goldendoodle Percy nearby.