Imagine a place where boiling water shoots up from the ground and herds of bison roam freely. A place where huge waterfalls create epic canyons and a steady layer of fog lay across the land. While this may seem like an imaginary location from a fairytale, this is Yellowstone National Park.
Located in northern Wyoming, this park has some of the most unique features in world. All of the hydrothermal features, mountains, and rivers make for a very special ecosystem and weather patterns.
Northern Wyoming has brutal winters and short mild summers. Each season has its own special effect on the park. So you can be prepared for your visit during any time of year, let’s take a look at the highly varied weather in Yellowstone NP.
What is the Warmest Month in Yellowstone?
Yellowstone is definitely not the park for you if you’re looking for tropical summer weather. The warmest months in the park are from mid-June to mid-September.
Even then, you probably won’t see many days above 75 degrees. And at night, temperatures can even drop below freezing.
While 75 degrees sounds like a nice mild summer day, the weather can quickly change here. It can go from the 30’s at night to 75 at noon to thunderstorms by 3pm. Even in the summer months you should come prepared for snow at certain elevations.
Is Yellowstone Always Cold?
The coldest months in Yellowstone are from mid-November to the beginning of March. During these months, the temperatures will barely reach above freezing. Nightly temperatures often drop below zero. Snowfall is significant, ranging from 5 to 30 inches per month.
Because of the intense snowfall during winter, many areas of the park are closed to vehicles. Areas like Old Faithful can be reached by snowmobile tours only.
The only entrance open in the winter is the north entrance at Mammoth Hot Springs. For accomodations in Mammoth, the hotel and campground will be open for winter lodging.
The winter months does have its advantages, though. The warmth of the hot springs and geysers melting through the snow is unique. Plus, the abundance of wildlife enjoying the cold days, it’s something most visitors during the warmer months never get to see. Just be aware, that you should bring snowshoes or crampons to be sure of your traction in the snow.
And with temperatures sometimes dropping 20 degrees below zero, you will want to dress in a lot of warm layers.
Shoulder Seasons of Yellowstone NP
Mid-April to May and September to mid-October is considered to be the shoulder months of Yellowstone National Park. During these months you’ll have cooler and wetter weather, but fewer crowds than in the warmer summer months.
The rainiest month of the year will be May, with around 2 inches of rain on average. Although it may seem like a lot, most of the time it rains for only a brief period in the afternoons.
During the shoulder seasons, you also have the potential for snow. So, come prepared for the cold, including snow during these months.
What is the Best Month to Visit Yellowstone National Park?
The best month for weather in Yellowstone is July. That will be your warmest month, with little expectation of snow. The only issue is that it will also be the busiest month in the park. This makes it harder for you to be able to see the best spots.
Places like Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring can be very difficult to get into during this month of the year when it is peak visitation.
I highly suggest going during the shoulder seasons to avoid the summer crowds. Late May and early June, or September are good times to visit the park if you want smaller crowds.
It will be a bit chilly, rainy, and possibly snowy, but so much more enjoyable. In addition to less traffic, animals are more active during this time of year. For more information around crowds, hours, etc., check the Yellowstone National Park’s website to see what services are open when you’re visiting.
Why is the Weather so Intense in Yellowstone?
The best explanation for Yellowstone’s erratic weather patterns is elevation. Yellowstone’s elevations vary from 7,000 to 9,000ft across the park. This means the weather can be drastically different from just one side to the other.
Higher elevations can have snow and freezing temperatures year-round while lower elevations tend to be warmer. There are times when one side of the park you’re in a t-shirt and, on another side, in a winter coat.
What to Pack For Yellowstone Weather
Be prepared for almost any weather at any time of the year you visit. As I mentioned, Yellowstone has quite unpredictable weather that can change at any moment.
Bringing a warm coat that is preferably waterproof to double as a raincoat is a great bet. Comfortable hiking boots or walking shoes are a must (waterproof is a plus).
While there are many quick pull-offs, you can see a lot more by hiking into the park. However, it is advised to have bear spray; especially if you’re walking off any roads or paths.
Also, don’t forget sunscreen. At these high elevations, the sun is a lot more intense. This can burn your skin quickly. This also includes a hat to cover your face. While the weather can seem cool most days, you can still get burnt in the winter or even if it’s cloudy.
With beautiful mineral pools and erupting geysers, Yellowstone National Park has some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in the world. Due to the high elevation and northern location, Yellowstone has mostly cold winter weather year-round. Besides the hottest months of July and August, you’re looking at a snowy wonderland much of the year.
Regardless, you will want to be prepared any time of the year for changes in weather from hot to cold, and dry to rain. This unique park can see every season in one day with fluctuations of 40-50 degrees in the same day!
We hope this sheds some light on what the weather is like in Yellowstone National Park. If you make the trip up north to Wyoming, you should also check out Grand Teton National Park, which is located just below Yellowstone. Interested in some of the top things to do in Yellowstone? Check out our other post “Top 10 Things to do in Yellowstone”.
Want a complete list and recap of all our US National Parks as well as free downloadable maps and other great resources? Check out our US National Parks List and Map guide!