The Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park

Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park

The best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is during the shoulder months, which take place from April to May and September to October.

The peak season is during July and August when the park sees the majority of its annual visitors.

By early autumn, these crowds have dissipated with the start of school, yet temperatures are still warm enough to visit most parts of the park. While spring temperatures can be unpredictable, April and may also offer great non-peak times to visit.

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Best time for good weather

The best time for good weather in Yellowstone National Park is during July and August.

Due to its geographical 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. 

Weather during other months of the year can be much less predictable. Fall and spring can see dramatic changes in temperature while winters can be harsh with sub-zero temperatures.

Best time for camping

Camping in Yellowstone

The best time to camp in Yellowstone National Park is during the month of September.

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 : Guide to camping in Yellowstone National Park

Best time for hiking

Hiking in Yellowstone

The best time for hiking in Yellowstone National Park is during the months of 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 : Hiking trails in Yellowstone National Park

Best time to avoid crowds

September and May offer the best times to avoid crowds.

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

See Wildlife in Yellowstone

The best time to see wildlife in Yellowstone National Park is early spring and winter.

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

Biking in Yellowstone

The best time for biking in Yellowstone National Park is fall and spring.

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

Fishing in Yellowstone

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.

Best time for winter sports

Winter Sports in Yellowstone

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.

Yellowstone National Park Seasons

Summer

Yellowstone National Park - Summer

With average highs in the 60s and 70s, the summer months are the best times for outdoor activities such as hiking and visiting popular locations such as The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone or Old Faithful.

It also happens to be the busiest time of year at the park with more than 2 million visitors annually.

Summer is the park’s high season. This means that the park’s many campgrounds and other accommodations will fill up quickly, so make reservations well in advance. Also, plan to visit the park’s most popular attractions at off times, such as early in the morning, to avoid crowds.

Read More : What Should I Pack for Summer Camping?

Fall

Yellowstone National Park - Fall

This is an optimal time of the year to visit the park. Crowds at the park thin significantly after Labor Day; however, the weather is still warm enough to still comfortably enjoy the park.

Temperatures range from 30ºF to 60ºF in the daytime with nighttime temperatures running from the teens to single digits. It’s also a more affordable time to visit the park as you can enjoy reduced rates at the park’s campgrounds and other accommodations.

Fall is also a great time to see certain wildlife in action, including bears, elk, and bison, as they prepare for the coming winter. Fall does mean unpredictable weather as temperatures can drop below freezing, so prepare accordingly.

Winter

Yellowstone National Park - Winter

Winters in Yellowstone Park can be quite harsh with daytime temperatures ranging from zero to 20ºC and nighttime temperatures routinely dropping below zero. The park receives tremendous amounts of snowfall and temperatures routinely drop well below freezing.

If you plan to visit the park during this season, make sure to be well-stocked with emergency equipment in case you become stranded.

Despite the hazards of winter weather, there are plenty of good reasons to visit the park in winter. Some wildlife is easier to spot during the colder months and the park offers many opportunities to experience winter sports.

Read More : What Should I Pack for Winter Camping?

Spring

Yellowstone National Park - Spring

Spring isn’t a great time to visit the park. Weather can be wildly unpredictable with temperatures ranging between near 0 and the mid-50s. The warmer temperatures also cause snowmelt, which turns much of the park’s roads and trails into mud bogs.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to visit the park in the spring. It’s a great time to see baby animals as the park’s animals begin to emerge from winter. It’s also an off-peak season, so you can enjoy the park without the crowds.

If you plan to visit the park in the spring, make sure to prepare for a variety of weather conditions.

Andrew Dodson

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.