Millions of people from all around the globe come to Wyoming every year to visit Yellowstone National Park (Montana and Idaho have a sliver, too). There are actually many people who live here in the United States who have never been to Yellowstone for whatever reason. Even I grew up in Wyoming and never took the time to visit Yellowstone until I was an adult. I just didn’t understand how magnificent the park actually was. It’s an interesting mixture of breathtaking and intriguing. If you’ve ever been there you know what I mean. If you are like me and have taken the park’s existence for granted you are truly missing out on one of America’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s clear to see why it was named the first National Park in the United States. But for those of you who cherish the natural beauty of the great outdoors and are planning a trip to Yellowstone you may be asking yourself, “What is the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park?”
What’s the Best time to visit Yellowstone National Park?
It’s not a simple question to answer. Yellowstone has a lot to offer no matter what time of year you choose to visit. That being said, there are some things you need to know before you make your decision. Different seasons come with different treasures as well as challenges so it just depends on what kind of experience you are looking for.
Yellowstone National Park in the Winter
The winters in the Yellowstone National Park area can be quite harsh but it has been said that if you haven’t visited Yellowstone in the winter, you haven’t really experienced Yellowstone National Park. Navigating the park after it has become a winter wonderland is a completely different experience as well due to road closures from the vast amounts of snow. From November to mid-April the roadways in the park are closed to normal traffic. It is possible to get from the north entrance to Mammoth Hot Springs by car but to continue on into the park snowcoaches or snowmobiles are required. There are a total of 9 lodges inside Yellowstone National Park but during the winter months only two of them remain open; Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins. If you plan to visit Yellowstone National Park in the Winter remember to bring some warm clothes because temperatures average between 0°F and 20°F (-20°C to -5°C) and have been known to dip as low as -66°F (-54°C)! But one of the great things about visiting Yellowstone in the winter is that there are very few other tourists in the park during that time and some people say they feel like they’ve got the park to themselves.
Yellowstone National Park in the Spring
As the quietest time of year to visit Yellowstone, spring may be your best option if you wish to avoid the crowds. During the spring the roadways begin to open up in the northern part of Yellowstone first. These roadways open up some time between the middle of March and early April. Roads in other parts of the park open to traffic on the 3rd Friday in April. Check out the current road conditions for more information about when the roads will open. The one thing that you may want to remember is that even though it may feel like spring in other parts of the country, Yellowstone National Park’s climate is typically much colder due to the elevation of the park. There will likely be a lot more snow than you might expect. Although there are more services available in the park in spring than there are in the winter, it is still quite limited and you should check the opening and closing dates of such facilities to see what will be open during your visit.
The Peak Season to Visit Yellowstone
July and August are the busiest months to visit the park because the weather is much warmer, the children aren’t in school, and people are in the mood to take their summer vacations. Apart from the crowds of tourists summer is the best time to visit the park because all of the facilities and services are open to guests and the events that are seasonal are in full swing. It’s important to plan your trip well in advance to make sure you will have a place to stay, as lodging in the park can be hard to find on short notice. Wildlife viewing is one reason that many people visit Yellowstone every year. Explore the park early in the morning and in the evening if you want to make sure that you see some wildlife on hot days. Many of the animals like to stay in shady areas and out of direct sunlight. Can you blame them?
Yellowstone in the Fall
If you love wildlife viewing the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is the fall. As the weather gets cooler many animals such as bears come out of the mountains to start preparing for the winter months, bison begin migrating to their winter feeding grounds, and the behavior of elk changes significantly and they are more visible this time of year. Elk are great for viewing during this time because they are in rut and the bull elk are commonly found doing something interesting such as bugling or making unique displays to show their absolute dominance.
The crowds of tourists are usually much smaller during the fall months and the beautiful colors of the leaves and grass in addition to the increased wildlife visibility make fall the best time of year to visit Yellowstone National Park if you don’t mind unpredictable weather and possible road closures. Check the road conditions before you make your travel plans because some roads’ closure dates depend on snowfall. As mentioned before, the weather during the fall can be quite unpredictable and temperatures typically range between 20°F and 65°F (-7°C and 18°C) so it’s best to be prepared for whatever variances in weather you might encounter. Some other valuable resources for you to check out when planning your trip include the Wyoming Department of Transportation road conditions, the Montana Department of Transportation road conditions, and the National Weather Service for the Yellowstone area.
Destination West’s Yellowstone Tour Season
At Destination West Luxury Tours we have structured our tour season to fall in line with the additional activities that our tours include. So our Yellowstone tours run from Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) to Labor Day (the first Monday in September). Check our date availability here. These additional activities include hot air ballooning, stargazing, river rafting, and the “Cody Nite Rodeo.” For a detailed, day-by-day description of our Yellowstone Tours please visit our Tours Page.
What if you want to visit Yellowstone outside of those dates? That’s not a problem. We don’t currently have the appropriate vehicle to tour the park during the winter months but pretty much any other time of year we absolutely can! We are happy to customize a tour package to meet your specific travel needs. We simply cannot guarantee that any of the additional activities will be available. Contact us now to tell us what you have in mind!
When you choose to tour Yellowstone National Park with Destination West Luxury tours all you have to do sit back, have a drink and enjoy the views. Leave the rest to us!