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Weather and Seasons

When Is the Best Season to Visit Yellowstone?

That's like asking, "Who is your favorite child?"

There simply is no “best time” to visit Yellowstone. Every season offers something different to those who travel to the world’s first national park.

Spring in Yellowstone

A snowy spring day at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
A snowy spring day at Mammoth Hot Springs in YellowstoneNPS Jacob W Frank

Contrary to what you might experience in spring in places like Texas, California or Missouri, you will not find warm weather nor wildflowers during March, April or May in Yellowstone. It’s the most challenging time to visit the park, and the last season we’d recommend visitors come.

The spring is called the “mud season” and is a low-volume time to visit Yellowstone. It can still be cold and snowy. The remaining snow of winter thaws turning the park’s roads, trails, meadows and campgrounds—you guessed it—muddy, icy, snowy and difficult to navigate.

Many roads in the park remain closed in spring, limiting where you can go, and a lot of the facilities are closed, including hotels, restaurants and visitor centers. This season may yield swampy hiking conditions, occasional mudslides blocking parts of the Grand Loop, slushy snowpack and freezing pouring rain that could hamper activities in Yellowstone like driving, skiing, biking or boating.

The upside to going in spring? Tourism is at a minimum during these months (with good reason) leaving the park, weather and roads permitting, all to yourself. And you’ll have a chance to see baby animals. But you’ll be limited on what roads you can take, where you can go and what you can actually see.

More about springtime in Yellowstone

 Summer in Yellowstone

Spring Wildflowers in Yellowstone
Summer Wildflowers in YellowstoneDepositphotos

The months between Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend are exceptionally beautiful, although they draw the highest volumes of families taking summer vacations and road trips.

Summers alone attract more than three million tourists, but you can beat the influx of campers and sightseers if you travel to Yellowstone early in June or September. Catch a quieter Yellowstone in the early days of September, after kids are back to school, bison are nearly done with finding mates and the mosquito swarms die down.

5 Ways to Celebrate Summer’s Arrival in Yellowstone

Autumn in Yellowstone

Lewis Falls in Autumn
Lewis Falls in Autumn

Leaves and grasses turn lovely yellows and oranges. There’s that slight bite in the air. And the masses of summer tourists have returned home.

Fall in Yellowstone National Park is a magical time to visit for dozens of reasons -just make sure you check for road closures (usually early November) and pack appropriately for unpredictable weather. Because fall is getting to be a more popular time to visit because crowds are lower, you’ll still want to book your reservations months in advance. Yellowstone’s best-kept secret is no longer a secret.

Visiting Yellowstone in September and early October can be especially exciting because the elk are in rut and act a little crazy. If you are a witness, stay at a safe distance.

More about autumn in Yellowstone

Winter in Yellowstone

Yellowstone winter visitors at Dragon's Mouth Spring. Photo by NPS Jim Peaco
Yellowstone winter visitors at Dragon’s Mouth Spring. NPS Jim Peaco

A winter in Yellowstone is simply magic. Steam from thermal vents and springs turn to frost on nearby trees, elk post-hole through thick snow, and geysers burst boiling hot water scattering into droplets that freeze in the air.

The season begins late in December and lasts sometimes through March, open for cross-country skiing, ice-climbing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and exploring the ski and snow vehicle trails that cut through snowy basins like Black Sand, and frozen waterfalls that shimmer like frosted chandeliers.

More about winter in Yellowstone and Average Weather per Season in Yellowstone.

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