Natalie Ogbourne

When is the best timeto go to Yellowstone?

When is the best time to go to Yellowstone? I get this question a lot. Here’s the simple answer: Whenever works best for you. While simple is good, you may want something a little more, shall we say, helpful. Here it is:

There is no bad time, no wrong time to go to Yellowstone. Every season is simply different. Each has unique characteristics, challenges, and gifts.

Year to year, week to week, and day to day, the weather within each season varies. (Case in point: One year my husband and I visited Yellowstone in early September. We had rain, snow, cold, and a whole lot of shivering when the sun went down. My parents went the very next week and had sunny days and temperate evenings—as in, they were still playing Rumicube by lantern light at their campsite picnic table at 11 o’clock at night.)

The best time to go depends on when you’re available, along with the opportunities you want to pursue and the challenges hope to avoid. To help you decide which season would be best for you, here’s an overview of what I see as the opportunities, challenges, and maybe even gifts of each season. (The seasons, by the way, don’t necessarily line up neatly with the calendar. I’ve indicated the general timeframe that corresponds with my experience in Yellowstone.)

Seasonal Guide

Winter (mid-December through April)

While Yellowstone’s winter landscape is at once harsh, delicate, and exquisite in its beauty, it’s the profound solitude and pristine, undisturbed backdrop of woods, wildlife, and water that captivates me. Because nearly all of Yellowstone’s roads are open only to snowmobiles and snow coaches, transportation is the biggest challenge for a winter’s visit.

When to go to Yellowstone

Spring (May through early to mid-June)

Because the roads are slow to open and warmth is hesitant to show itself, Yellowstone’s spring seems to ally itself more closely with winter than hint at the coming summer. New life in the form of baby animals and budding foliage, along with surprisingly long daylight hours, are my favorite parts of Yellowstone in spring. Challenges include the aforementioned lingering wintry weather and trails that are either blocked by unmelted snow or closed to hold space for bears to safely come out of hibernation and feed after their long winter’s rest.

When to go to Yellowstone

Summer (mid-June through late August)

The only drawback to a summer visit to Yellowstone is the crowds—lots of people on the boardwalks and a city’s worth of cars on the roads. As if to make up for this, summer provides open trails, fairly dry weather, profuse wildflowers, more animal babies, marmots, and long daylight hours to enjoy them.

What to go to Yellowstone

Fall (September and October)

Also known as early winter, fall is my favorite time to visit the park, bestowing on visitors crisp mountain mornings and golden aspen, along with the gifts of the warmth of the sun on your face and the occasional snow. The most challenging aspects of visiting the park in the fall are the frequent rain showers, short days, and temperatures that drop rapidly when the sun goes down.

For a deeper look at the seasons, I recommend these resources:

  • For Everything There is a Season: The Sequence of Natural Events in the Grand Teton-Yellowstone by Frank C. Craighead, Jr.| This book gives a week-by-week tour of what happens in the Greater YNP Teton ecosystem, throughout the year.
  • Silence & Solitude: Yellowstone’s Winter Wilderness by Tom Murphy | Tom Murphy’s photography books show each of the four seasons in depth. This particular volume is my absolute favorite.

So when is the best time to go to Yellowstone? Head to Yellowstone whenever it works for you. Let me know if you need any help planning your visit. And let me know how it goes! in Yellowstone:

Glimpses of Goodness in Yellowstone

Although Yellowstone’s weather is varied and extreme, the seasons follow one another in an orderly pattern established in the beginning. The flow of Yellowstone’s seasons, wild though they may be, is an apt reminder that there is a time and a season for everything–everything in nature and everything in the landscape of our lives.

take heart & happy trails ~ Natalie 🥾

Additional Resources

  • For more information about planning a trip to Yellowstone, check out the National Park Service website here.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by planning your Yellowstone vacation? Let me help you map out a satisfying Yellowstone experience. For more information or to schedule, contact me here.