While you could make an argument for just about any season being the best to visit America’s first national park, autumn holds a special place in our hearts for a reason. If we had to pick why we love fall in Yellowstone so much, here are just a few reasons that this is the best season to visit the park.
After park visitation peaks in July, the calmer autumn is a dream. Clear air, fewer crowds, and a calmer park visit make fall the top time to go to Yellowstone. While park roads are still open to standard vehicles (which isn’t the case when winter hits), you’ll still likely encounter the odd full parking lot or bison-related traffic jam, but it won’t be like summer gridlock and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds at top attractions. Breathe in the space and calm as the pace slows.
As animals prepare for winter, whether that means hibernation, migration, or a long, hard season with reduced food availability, it’s common to see more activity from wildlife in the park. Elk move from nutrient-dense high alpine summer ranges to warmer lower elevation—or in the case of the Yellowstone plateau, lower snow—areas. Bears compete for end-of-season food to help beef up their fat stores, and wolves, in turn, take advantage of newly available food sources as other animals migrate through.
Yellowstone might not be well known as a rival to the East Coast’s famous fall foliage, but the changing colors of aspen, cottonwoods, shrubs and larch provide a colorful backdrop for an autumnal visit to the park.
Summer surge prices happen for a reason in gateway communities around the park. With peak demand comes peak pricing for accommodation and transportation. But shoulder season price tags offer budget travelers and deal hounds a break on cost. Enjoy cheaper flights and lower-cost hotel stays that still offer peak comfort.
Even with record high temperatures in Montana this summer, this alpine state was still a spot to beat the heat for many. But for those who don’t like the idea of 20-mile hikes in 90-degree heat, the fall is the time. With its average highs in the 60s and lows around freezing, autumn’s chill has a drastically different feel from sweaty summer.
During the high summer season, traveling in Yellowstone can pose a big challenge for travelers who prefer flying by the seats of their pants over detailed planning. With packed hotels, campgrounds at capacity, and fully booked rental car companies, it can be hard to show up without advance reservations. But as summer slows into autumn, being spontaneous and arriving without bookings gets a whole lot easier.
It’s still best to keep in mind that some seasonal restaurants and hotels—especially those inside the park—close up shop as early as mid September. (The Super 8 in Gardiner is one of the few that offers lodging year-round.) If you don’t mind a scenic drive to get to the park entrance gates, and you plan ahead with meals and snacks, seasonal closures don’t need to impact your visit at all.
Longer seasons and year-round options at select properties makes any Highline Adventures stay a good fit for your autumnal Yellowstone adventures. Book now to experience the new high season of the park, with an emphasis on hospitality and sustainability.