Yellowstone National Park is a natural wonder that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. This preserve spans over 3,472 square miles or 2.2 million acres, making it bigger than two U.S. states. You’ve met your match if you want to get so far off the beaten track that you don’t encounter another living soul for days outside of birds and squirrels.
While the Native Americans long occupied the region, it remained unknown to settlers until the 19th century. Much of its woodland remains as pristine as it ever was. It offers an authentic taste of life before the invention of highways, shopping malls, and fast food establishments on every corner.
Are you considering planning a vacation? If so, you no doubt wonder what time of year to schedule your trek. When is the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park? Let’s explore this breathtaking beauty in all four seasons.
Have you dreamed of dashing through the snow like the popular holiday song? There may be no better place to have your feet make the first impressions on fresh snow than in Yellowstone National Park in winter.
Unlike locations like Grand Canyon North, you’ll still find two lodging locations available, even in January. This season is the best time for those who seek to escape the madding crowds. Most of them frequent the park in the summer — the visitor percentages plummet below 1% from November through March. If like the fictional Elsa, the cold never bothered you anyway, you can enjoy the serene beauty of this location without seeing other humans.
You will, however, spy an abundance of wildlife. Barren trees with the white snow in contrast provide high visibility for spying wolves, bears, moose, deer, and bison with their thick, wooly winter coats. Keep a safe distance and have your zoom lens ready on your camera to capture some of the most stunning photographs to wow your Instagram fans.
Are you the athletic sort? You’ll get plenty of exercise between cross-country skiing and snowshoeing as you explore this natural wonder. Perhaps you’re more of the pirouette type? If so, you’ll find ample ice skating opportunities with frozen solid lakes. Afterward, relax with a cup of hot cocoa by the roaring campfire at your hotel.
Spring breathes new life into frozen land, and it’s a glorious time to experience Yellowstone before the summertime crowds arrive. Although temperatures will still be low enough to freeze in April, you may see a crocus or two peep its head above the snow, setting the scene for a lovely photograph. You can also witness the geysers against their remaining backdrop of wintery white without braving the subzero temperatures the region often sees in January.
April through June is the optimal time for wildlife viewing, but you must make like the early bird to get the best shots. Bears, bison, elk, and wolves emerge from their winter dens, and many prepare to give birth. Please remember to follow all safety rules and keep a safe distance — even deer will defend their young violently if necessary.
You’ll also need to exercise caution while driving. Many area roads close for spring plowing after remaining closed all year, so pay attention when planning your itinerary. You may not be able to use your snowmobile if officials are working the route. Furthermore, bison tend to migrate back from north of Gardiner, so drive slowly and use extra caution if traveling by vehicle.
Are you looking to save on lodging? Park officials anticipate spring camping opening in May, but keep an eye on the weather. There’s still a chance that a freak blizzard could leave you shivering — it might be worthwhile to rent an RV.
It should come as no surprise that summer is the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park for many. Even in July, daytime temperatures rarely break 80 F, remaining in the 70s much of the time. This makes the region a welcome respite for folks from warmer climes — like most of the nation this time of year.
Summer is also a fabulous time to camp out in this pristine wilderness. A tent will serve you well. Better yet, get up off the cold ground in a hammock. While you’ll still want to place a thick comforter on the bottom and top, the dampness won’t seep into your bones overnight. You can also plunk your sleeping bag on your hammock if you can get into it without flipping to the ground.
Although the park sees most of its millions of visitors during these months, you can still find plenty of places to be alone. The preserve’s massive size means you have less than one person per acre much of the time. Furthermore, having a few more folks around isn’t necessarily bad — especially if you’re new to wilderness exploration and prefer the safety of numbers.
Active sorts will find Yellowstone a playground in the summer. You can hike, bike, canoe, or kayak. Most waterways are closed to swimmers due to frigid temperatures in some and thermal activities in others. However, you can find a few locations where you can don your bikini and take a dip. A natural thermal spring is a glorious way to loosen tight muscles after a more vigorous excursion.
Fall is a lovely time to go to Yellowstone. Leaf peepers from warmer climates must start their excursions early — the colors peak around the last week of September through early October. Have your camera ready to capture some of the most spectacular foliage against heartstopping backdrops.
You’ll see traffic drop precipitously as October nears November. Be sure to bring plenty of warm clothes if you go then to avoid crowds. One of the earliest park explorers was a trapper who separated from his team and suffered severe frostbite when they found him.
What’s for dinner? Why not get your fishing license and hit the Firestone, Slough, or Gardner Rivers? A 6-pound cutthroat trout provides a feast fit for royalty.
Pro-tip: You’ll probably want to unplug on your getaway. However, fall is the spooky season. It’s worth it to go on YouTube before you depart and download some National Park Mystery stories to listen to around the campfire at night. There’s no scarier way to ring in Halloween.
When is the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park? The correct answer is anytime at all. Why not explore this natural wonder in all four seasons? You’ll have rolls and rolls of camera footage — make prints to sell online or adorn your home’s walls with canvases made from your photos.
There’s so much more to do than what’s mentioned above. Are you the equestrian sort? Book an afternoon of horseback riding and explore the park like the earliest visitors did. Perhaps you have a need for speed? You can rent a motorcycle for cruising the scenic highways or take an off-road adventure in an ATV.
Where should you stay if you don’t camp? Here is a list of hotels, although not all of them are open year-round — call them for information and reservations:
- Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins
- Gray Wolf Inn and Suites
- Kelly Inn-West Yellowstone
- Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone
- WorldMark West Yellowstone
- Hibernation Station
- Brandin’ Iron Inn
- Yellowstone Lodge
Plan Your Trip to Yellowstone National Park
This scenic wonderland offers unparalleled beauty and adventure any time of year. Book your trip to Yellowstone National Park today if you want to go wild on your next vacation. You’ll return with photographs that wow your friends and memories that last a lifetime.
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