Around 10,000 hot springs, underneath around 3,000 geysirs and a smell of sulphur. But also endless land, beautiful views and a simply unique wildlife- that all is Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, the world’s oldest National Park which attracts over 4 million visitors each year.
The climate of Yellowstone National Park is mostly influenced by itslocation in the Rocky Mountains which results in always changing weather.You have to be prepared for sudden rain or snow at almost any time of the year. Always bring a warm coat and rain gear too. Even in summer, nights can get as cold as near the freezing point.
Best Time to Visit Yellowstone Park
In terms of a good combination of weather and crowd avoidance, the best time to visit is from late April to mid June as well as from the end of August until the end of October. High season is in July and August. It gets very busy during that period. But it is only then when all the visitor centers, accommodations, petrol stations and restaurants are open. Check for opening times when visiting during shoulder or off seasons. Also note that during winter most of the roads can only be accessed via snowmobiles or snow coaches.
Springtime offers temperatures between 39°F (4°C) and 63°F (17°C). During the night temperatures can drop to 10°F (-12°C) even in spring and quite often you will still find snowfall too.
During the summer months temperatures can reach highs of up to 73°F (23°C) in the lower locations. Especially in the afternoons, you will often encounter thunderstorms in summer.
Winter months are extremely cold in Yellowstone National Park with temperatures between 3°F (-16°C) and 1°F (34°C) and there is a lot of snowfall too.
Things to know about Yellowstone Park
Top 10 tips for Yellowstone National Park
#1: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
The orange-yellow-red colored valley is between 1500ft to 3000ft wide and between 600ft and 1300 ft and is a favorite spot in the Park. The Upper and Lower Falls are the famous waterfalls of the park. Especially the Lower Falls (which are almost twice as high as Niagara Falls) provide an incredible panorama from different viewing points. The best viewing points include: Brink of the Lower Falls (North Rim), Lookout Point (North Rim), Inspiration Point (North Rim), Artist Point (South Rim) and Uncle Tom's Trail.
#2: Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs is THE highlight of the Northern Yellowstone Loop and shows how surreal and beautiful the park really is. Incredible canary terraces are formed from deposited minerals. Water as hot as 160°F (70°C) runs down the terraces. Small lakes, steaming springs and bigger and smaller deposits can be reached via the boardwalks. The area is divided into Upper and Lower Terraces. So if you don’t want to/or can’t climb all the way, you can first visit the lower part by car and then drive up to the upper part.
#3: Norris Geyser Basin
South of the Northern Loop is the Norris Geyser Basin, a wide network of boardwalks leading to the different geysers and hot springs. Porcelain Basin and Back Basin are the hottest springs in the Park. A map of all the paths can be found on the official site of the national park.
#4: Yellowstone Lake
North America’s largest mountain lake is located 7,732ft above sea level. As to be expected the water is freezing cold and crystal clear. Just on the South edge are there a few hot springs. Sadly kayaks or boats can’t be rented here. If you still feel like paddling you can bring your own or rent one for example in Jackson (ca 2 hours drive south). A few companies from Jackson even offer guided kayak tours (e.g. Geyser Kayak Tours).
#5: West Thumb Geyser Basin
On the southern end of the park, right next to the Yellowstone Lake, you will find the hidden West Thumb Geyser Basin. When coming from Grand Teton this is actually the first stop in the park. Over approximately a mile a boardwalk leads past a dozen hot springs.
#6: Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring is the third largest hot spring in the world and the largest in the USA. Sounds impressive? It really is! The spring is approximately 370ft in diameter and around 160ft deep. From a birds eye view, the Grand Prismatic Springs looks a bit like a crying eye. Every minute it releases around 560 gallons of water. The mixture of colors is incredible. Depending on the air temperature and the content of bacteria, the colors change- it’s truly phenomenal. The most impressive view of the Grand Prismatic Spring you will get is a bit above the path. Before you reach the parking lot follow the signs for Fairy Falls Trailhead. Hike up the hill for approximately a mile to the viewing point.
#7: The Old Faithful
THE top attraction in Yellowstone National Park is the Old Faithful. Approximately every 90 minutes the geysir erupts sending a huge fountain up towards the sky. In the nearby visitor center you can get a prognosis as to when exactly the spectacle is supposed to happen. And there are also a few quite informative exhibitions to be seen in the center. An eruption lasts between 1 to 5 minutes and pushes the water up to 170ft. The only downside is that due to safety reasons you have to keep quite far away which makes it look a bit less spectacular.
#8: Upper Geyser Basin with the Morning Glory Pool
Nowhere else in the park will you find as many springs and geysers in one spot as in the Upper Geyser Basin near the Old Faithful. The single geysirs are connected via wooden paths. Wherever you look it’s constantly boiling somewhere- it’s really unreal! Some of the geysirs do erupt regularly whereas others have been dormant for decades. On the way to the Morning Glory Pool, one of the most beautiful hot springs in the park, you can follow 17 interesting signs.
#9: Wildlife / Safari in the Yellowstone National Park
As with every safari the rule is that early in the morning or late in the evening you have the best chances to see the animals. Early in the morning you might see grasing bisons in the Hayden Valley. Late at night you might even spot a bear (somewhere in the distance). The endless grassland offers perfect conditions for the animals. Note that if you get up early (before 8.30am) you will be able to avoid the coaches bringing visitors. The best spots for diverse animals are:
Black Bears: In the woods and fields. During the summer months particularly along the Northern Loop around Tower-Roosevelt and Mammoth Hot Springs.
Grizzly Bears: In the woods and fields. During sunrise and sunset particularly in the Hayden Valley.
Bison: In the fields particularly in the Hayden and Lamar Valley (the Northeast of the Park).
Elks: In the swampland and near the lakes and rivers.
A guided tour by a park ranger can also be very interesting. In any case you must follow the ranger’s guides on safety. Stay at least 300ft away from bears and wolves and at least 80ft from reindeers and elks.
#10: How much time should I spend in Yellowstone National Park?
That’s quite simple- however long you stay it will always be too short! But you should really have at least 2 full days
1 day for the Northern Loop (70 miles)
At least 1 day for the Southern Loop (96 miles)
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