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Yellowstone’s sublime beauty sparked the creation of the National Park system, and since becoming the first of its kind in 1872, other National Parks have been protected around the world. Still largely untouched, the parklands of Yellowstone has otherworldly natural phenomenon like geysers and boiling mud pits, as well as abundant classic American fauna, not to mention buffalo, wolves, and grizzlies thrive in the park. Those eager to set their eyes on this unique ecosystem usually assume the summer months are the best times to visit Yellowstone, but there are other options. We explore the best time to visit Yellowstone below.
Best Time to Visit for Good Weather
The wilderness of Northern Wyoming (parts of the park extends into Idaho and Montana as well) can certainly present some unpredictable weather. The summer months of June to August have the most temperate temperatures that float in the 70s during the peak sunshine hours. With that being said, it is not completely unusual to see the climate dip into freezing temperatures even in the summer.
The issue with visiting during the summer is the crowds. By the end of 2017, Yellowstone had welcomed the sixth most guests amongst the US National Parks. That same year, the park saw more than four million visitors walk through its gates. Of those four million, an extreme majority came between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The Low Season
The best time to beat the crowds is between October and February. During the chillier months, many visitors will, at times, feel as though they have the park to themselves. Although it will be cold, with the proper layering a visit to Yellowstone in winter can be very rewarding. The scenes of snow blanketed meadows and mountains are quite serene and seen by most only in photographs, while the added visuals that the cool air adds to the steams of the many hot springs is striking. Once October rolls around, the local accommodations and airfare to the closest airport in Jackson Hole will be significantly cheaper.
While there are advantages to winter in Yellowstone, there may be just as many drawbacks. As mentioned, it will be cold. Temperatures in the winter rarely get above freezing and are more often subzero. While temperatures can be counteracted with proper clothing, there is nothing to be done about road closures. From October to February many roads are subject to closure because of both weather and to revitalize plant growth near the highways. So, unless you’re a talented cross-country skier, much of Yellowstone will be inaccessible.
Our Pick for the Best Time to Visit Yellowstone
While there may not be a “bad time” to visit (those subzero temperatures mean there won’t be a gaggle of tourists in your picture of Old Faithful), we do have a favorite. The latter half of April and on into May, before schools get out, is our pick.
The weather during the spring can still be unpredictable, but temperatures are often pleasant and precipitation rates are fairly consistent year-round so there won’t be a spike in rainfall. For wildlife lovers, this is a great time to visit, as many animals will be active; bears are done hibernating and elk and moose begin flocking into the park. The scenery is stunning as well, with small lingering patches of snow dispersed amongst resilient grasses and wildflowers.
Booking a trip during the end of April and into May can be somewhat risky, it might be cold which could affect some park closures, but with a bit of luck, visitors will be met with a stunning vacation to Yellowstone to see its gorgeous vistas without battling the masses.