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The Best Time To Visit Yellowstone & Grand Teton: 5 Reasons + 35 Photos

 
Photo collage with title for Pinterest-best time to visit yellowstone

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I love exploring National Parks here in the US. Although I’ve been to several in my lifetime, I only recently (in the past few years) began to develop a true appreciation for them. Yellowstone is obviously an iconic park and so I was really excited to see it! Grand Teton is basically next door. A two-in-one sounded convenient. But, deciding when to go was a little tricky. We weren’t sure when the best time to visit Yellowstone was. We settled on late spring before the peak season started and it was perfect!


The Reasons

So, what made it perfect? Well, a combination of a few things really.

yellowstone national park entrance sign-best time to visit yellowstone

First…

To begin with, it was the first week of June which is the week prior to the start of the high season. Not everything was even open for operation yet.

Second…

Probably my favorite reason, the bears were out of hibernation and their cubs had recently been born so the chance to (hopefully) see them was exciting!

Third…

The crowds. Guys, the crowds at Yellowstone are unreal. I can’t imagine what peak season is like and I don’t want to know. I’ll just be thankful for my late-spring/preseason crowds!

grand teton national park entrance sign-best time to visit yellowstone

Fourth…

And my second favorite reason, the weather was awesome. It was nice most days, but chilly sometimes and this is perfect for me. I am from the South. ANYTIME (and I do mean a.n.y.t.i.m.e) I can avoid heat and humidity, it’s a great day!

Fifth…

The cost. Prices aren’t super cheap, but they aren’t the ridiculously high prices of peak season. And, we wanted amenities like wifi and hot showers. The included breakfast and free parking were bonuses. All that plus location is what made our hotel a perfect place to stay!

If you are a camper, you can save even more money. Campers should check out this guide to camping in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone & Grand Teton Resources & Recommendations

Spring Photography

Now you know the reasons, so let’s get to the important part. The photos!

Arrival

airport employee loading bags outside the airport at the curb-best time to visit yellowstone

I knew flying into West Yellowstone, Montana meant a small airport, but picking up my luggage this way was a first for me!

Now onto the photos you really want to see!

Landmarks

Old Faithful

old faithful at sunset

By far, Yellowstone’s most popular and well-known attraction is Old Faithful. It was later afternoon on the day we arrived, so we decided to check out Old Faith at sunset and it was really pretty!

Thanks to a 24-hour webcam you can get prediction times (except when the visitor’s center is closed twice during the winter) and watch Old Faithful erupt from wherever you are!

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

grand canyon of yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is sometimes referred to as the most breathtaking sight in Yellowstone. While I don’t agree with this because, for me, the geothermals took that honor, I was very impressed with the canyon.

photo collage with two different views of the grand canyon of yellowstone

The canyon is about 24 miles long, 4,000 feet wide and 1,200 feet deep. Here are views from two different spots. In the distance in the right photo, you can see the iconic Lower Falls.

Lower Falls

closeup of lower falls in yellowstone

The Lower Falls are pretty impressive and powerful. You are able to walk down and get pretty close to them.

full shot of lower falls in yellowstone

My favorite part of Lower Falls was its colors. They were beautiful!

Mammoth Terraces

palette spring in yellowstone

To me, the best feature of Mammoth Terraces is Palette Spring. There are many other things to see here though such as the Liberty Cap, Devil’s Thumb and also the Main and Upper Terraces.

Yellowstone Lake

me standing in the freezing yellowstone lake

Yellowstone Lake is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America. It’s 20 miles long and 14 miles wide and maintains an average year-round temperature of only 41 degrees. Needless to say, swimming isn’t recommended.

For this reason, I decided I had to at least stand in the lake. Since the lake thaws in late May/early June and well, it was the first week in June, I’m not quite sure it was even 41 degrees! It was SO cold! I’m highly surprised I lasted long enough to wade out there and get the photo!

You might also like: 5 INTERESTING PLACES TO EAT IN YELLOWSTONE & GRAND TETON

45th Parallel

sign for the 45th parallel in yellowstone

The 45th Parallel runs right through Yellowstone. It’s the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole! Technically, because of the Earth’s spherical shape, it’s a little north of this point, but don’t let that ruin the fun!

Continental Divide

sign for the continental divide at Craig Pass in Yellowstone

You can see this Continental Divide sign on the Grand Loop Road at Craig Pass. Isa Lake, the small lake nearby, straddles the Divide and drains into both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

Wildlife

Be sure to stay a good distance from all wildlife. With the exception of the car photos, all photos below were taken from at least 30 yards away.

Bison

closeup of a bison

Bison are literally everywhere in Yellowstone. Everywhere.

view of bison walking in the street in yellowstone from the car's sideview mirror

Sometimes they cross the road right in front of or behind your car. Expect at some point while you are visiting Yellowstone to get held up by bison!

a pair of baby bison in yellowstone

Their babies had recently been born too!

Elk

closeup of an elk in yellowstone

Also, elk are quite common.

photo collage of elk eating, crossing the road and river in yellowstone

They can be found eating, standing right by your car at twilight as you are held up (by bison), crossing the road, or crossing a river.

Pronghorn

closeup of a pronghorn in grand teton

Actually, we found this Pronghorn in Grand Teton, but they can be found in Yellowstone too. Those eyes!!

Grizzly Bears

a mama grizzly bear with her cub in yellowstone

One of the most exciting moments of the trip was getting to see this mama grizzly and her cub.

mama grizzly bear feeding her cub in yellowstone

We even got to see her feeding her cub! It’s hard to see in this photo because the tree got in the way and there were a lot of people around. A ranger was present to keep anyone from doing something stupid like trying to get closer.

Black Bears

mama black bear searching for food in yellowstone

We saw this mama black bear too. You don’t see her cubs with her because she put them up in a tree to babysit while she ate and napped! Smart!

two black bear cubs up in a tree in yellowstone

We did get to see the cubs but they were pretty high up. There were a couple of rangers present here because there were so many people and mom was not too far from the road.

Squirrels

I know what you’re thinking. Squirrels. Big deal. I have those here at home. And yes, you probably do, but…

squirrel standing up and posing in yellowstone

Do your squirrels at home do this? Because the ones at my house don’t! This little guy was so playful. To be clear, we were picnicking in the park and he wanted to share my lunch. But as we were leaving, I was trying to get his picture and so he stood up and posed! Too cute!

Sunsets

sunset at jackson lake in grand teton

There are countless places in both parks to watch the sunset. This one is from Grand Teton at Jackson Lake.

sunset in yellowstone

And this one was taken while we were inching our way out of Yellowstone one night!

Grand Teton

road shot driving to grand teton from yellowstone

On one of the days, we went to Grand Teton National Park. If you don’t have much time, it makes a great day trip from Yellowstone.

lake, mountains and orange canoes in grand teton

The colors are all so vibrant in late spring but I must admit I would also love to visit Grand Teton in winter!

panoramic shot of jackson lake in grand teton

Jackson Lake is a must-see during the day or at sunset.

Geothermals

The geothermal pools are all very interesting and must-sees!

emerald pool-an orange, green and blue geothermal pool in yellowstone

Emerald Pool

an aqua geothermal pool at fountain paint pots in yellowstone

A beautiful aqua pool at Fountain Paint Pots

grand prismatic in yellowstone

Grand Prismatic was definitely my favorite. I had never seen anything like it before!

portrait shot of grand prismatic in yellowstone

It looked like a giant, multi-colored sunshine on the ground complete with rays!

panoramic shot of grand prismatic in yellowstone

I couldn’t get over the vivid colors and that they were natural! By far the best thing I saw in Yellowstone!

And Many More

small orange, white, blue, green and yellow geothermal pool in yellowstone

blue geothermal pool in yellowstone

Pretty amazing, right??

Funny Story

While I was standing up on a bench, gawking at Grand Prismatic, I kept hearing a camera clicking. No one was up here on the bench with me so where was it coming from? I could NOT figure it out until…

lady in a pink hat pointing her camera up at me in yellowstone

I looked down and was greeted with this. To my surprise, the camera was pointed at me.

Me. WHY??? Grand Prismatic is right behind you!

lady in pink hat checking the pictures she took of me in yellowstone

Not only was she taking photos of me, but she was checking EACH one of them too! I was both confused and amused!

Thinking I would just play along so we could both get back to Grand Prismatic, I smiled at her camera and posed.

Wrong choice. She motioned for me to keep looking up (she didn’t speak English). She wanted to take a photo of me looking in the distance. But, without Grand Prismatic. Because it was behind her.

me with grand prismatic in the background in yellowstone

It was so weird! The only thing I can come up with is that I had on a tie-dye dress that had the colors of Grand Prismatic in it. It actually looked like someone had swirled the colors together. Maybe that was her focus? I don’t know. I got back to my business and she snapped away and then smiled up at me when she was done. Alrighty, then!

PIN IT!

created pin for pinterest with blog post title

See why it was a great time to go? I would love to go again one day and this is the time I would pick for my second visit because it’s the only time of the year with the perfect combination of all five of these reasons!

Have you been to Yellowstone? What time of year did you go and what did you like best about it?

‘Til next time…

Trimm Travels,

Heather

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17 Comments

  1. Your pictures are beyond stunning! I’m going next year but sadly it has to be the second week of June so will be busier, hopefully it’s still similar to your experience. Wish my photography could be as good.

    1. Hi Sarah, I really appreciate that, thank you so much!! Don’t worry, I think the second week of June will still be okay. It might be a tad easier, but the wildlife will still be moving (they’re always there) and the cubs will still be young-just a week older. πŸ˜‰ So I think there’s a good chance of it being similar to my experience. And as for the photography, yours can be just as good! When you go, always have your camera ready whether in the car or not. Look for different angles on things and different times and lighting too. Remember sunrise and sunset. Would love to hear about your trip when you get back! Thank you for reading! πŸ™‚

      1. Hi Kathy-It wasn’t ever not working for me but thank you for alerting me to the issue and participating in the survey! Also, thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Holly-We were there a week, but I definitely recommend longer if you have the time. Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

  2. Heather – the pictures and advice on super cool spots are great! We are heading to visit that area the 3rd week in May…a bit earlier than your trip but we hope to see all the sites!

    1. Hi Tina-Thank you, I’m so glad you like them! It is a bit earlier than my trip, but I still think it will be a good time to go. However, be prepared for it to be cold! I hope you have a great trip and would love to hear how it goes and if you get any of these photos! Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

  3. We are on our way there right now! Love your photos and this will be a very useful guide. Had not thought about going to Grand Teton, but probably will now. Pinned for reference!

    1. Hi Jane-Thank you so much!! I’m so glad you like the photos and found the post helpful. You will LOVE Yellowstone! Grand Teton is beautiful, definitely try to at least get in a day trip there if you don’t have the time to spend a few days. Excited for you to see this part of the country. Thanks for reading and pinning! πŸ™‚

  4. Our travel will start June 5, 2020… is this the recommended time?

    Thank you for your feedback
    Angie

    1. Hi Angie-Yes that is during the time we were there so you should be good. I just hope you are able to go still! Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

  5. Going end of August into first week of September. Hope the weather is good and there will be plenty to see.

    1. Hi Denise-I hope you have great weather and a fantastic time. There will definitely be plenty to see. Not sure if the fall colors will have started yet though. Let me know and thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

  6. We are planning the third to fourth week in June 2021. Will it be a madhouse with people? Is Grand Teton less crowded? I can’t wait to take a 1,000 photos!

    1. Hi Bobbi-That is getting into high season or is in high season actually (just the beginning). Yellowstone always has a ton of people but it is definitely more crowded in the summer. With our current times, I am suspecting that number to possibly be a bit higher but I’m not certain. Road trips and outdoor travel are definitely more popular this year. I know that’s not a clear answer to your question but I would say to expect a lot of people. Doesn’t mean you won’t have a great time or get those 1,000 photos! And, I’d love to see them! πŸ™‚ As for Grand Teton, it might be a bit less crowded than Yellowstone but it is still popular and again this year might be a bit different in numbers. Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

  7. Me n my honey are going the second week of September we are staying at evergreen it’s like 5 min from the west entrance..any advice?

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