Visit Yellowstone during its warming-up season—spring—to explore the park when both the heat and crowds are at bay. With a little research and careful packing, you can enjoy the park during this beautiful transition season.
Spring Weather in Yellowstone
Be prepared: spring in Yellowstone is different than spring in other locales; due to its high elevation Yellowstone can feel more like winter during this period. Daytime temperatures range from the 30s to the 60s, with lows at night in the teens to single digits. Snow is common, with accumulations of 12” in a 24-hour period possible. Yellowstone’s weather is highly unpredictable—especially in spring—so come equipped with plenty of warm layers. Add ski or snowshoe equipment to your list and you’ll soon discover a sparkling winter world accessible via the park-wide network of cross-country tracks. More about weather
Roads Close for Snowplowing and Open to Bicycles and Motor Vehicles
Each spring, park roads close while crews clear a winter's worth of packed snow from the Grand Loop. This totals 198 miles of main road, 124 miles of secondary roads and 125 acres of parking lots inside the park as well as 31 miles of the Beartooth Highway outside the park’s Northeast Entrance to prepare for the summer season.
Bicycling, walking, jogging, roller blades, roller skis and similar means of non-motorized public travel may be permitted beginning sometime in late March or early April between the West Entrance and Mammoth Hot Springs prior to these roads opening to motorized public travel. The first day of "spring bicycling" is never predetermined and is dependent on road conditions as determined by park staff.
Bicyclists willing to brave the often unpredictable elements of spring in Yellowstone National Park are able to travel 49 miles of park roads from the West Entrance at West Yellowstone, Mont., to Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyo., beginning mid-March. Read More
Spring Roads Open to Traffic
Weather permitting, roads open at 8 am. Changes and delays are always possible.
2017 Road Opening to Motorized Vehicles
April 21: Mammoth to Old Faithful; Madison to West Entrance; Norris to Canyon.
May 5: Canyon Junction to Lake; Lake to East Entrance (Sylvan Pass).
May 12: Lake to West Thumb, West Thumb to Old Faithful (Craig Pass), and South Entrance to West Thumb; Tower Junction to Tower Fall.
May 26: Tower Fall to Canyon Junction (Dunraven Pass)
May 26: Beartooth Highway
Spring Animal Activity in Yellowstone
Riders and hikers alike should be aware that the park’s awakening—marked by the opening of interior roads and campgrounds in May—also signifies the awakening of its large mammal populations: bears, bison, elk, wolves, and other wildlife. These inhabitants include females preparing to give birth, according to the NPS, "The beautiful red colored baby bison arrive first, followed by baby elk and then the emergence of mother bears and their cubs (born during the winter)." See photos and video of Baby Animals
As spring is a time of wildlife activity, drivers should watch for bison migrating back into the park north of Gardiner, MT; slower speeds and extra caution are encouraged. Furthermore, be advised that bears are active in the spring as they emerge from their winter dens and begin searching for any food source that will help them restore fat reserves lost during torpor. Bears aggressively defend food sources—such as winter-killed animals, wildflower buds or burrowing rodents—from perceived aggression. Therefore, all park visitors should follow bear safety precautions when skiing or hiking.
Spring Camping in Yellowstone
For those interested in camping, note that the Mammoth Campground is the only year-round option. The other campgrounds will follow a graduated opening schedule beginning in early May and continuing through the end of June.
2017 Projected Opening of Campgrounds
Year-round: Mammoth Campground
May 5: Fishing Bridge RV Park
May 19: Bridge Bay Campground
May 26: Tower Fall Campground
May 26: Canyon Campground
June 9: Grant Village Campground
Spring Lodging in Yellowstone
The park has a plethora of food and lodging options, though only a handful of these amenities are available year-round. Most of the facilities—key locations and offerings listed below—begin opening in May, in step with the rest of the park. Mammoth Hot Springs offers the only year-round service station, general store, and clinic.
The dates listed below are generalized from previous year openings for trip planning purposes. All dates are subject to change! For lodging inside Yellowstone please contact Xanterra Parks & Resorts at (866) 439-7375. Learn more about lodging inside Yellowstone.
2017 Projected Opening of Hotels and Cabins
April 28: Mammoth Hotel & Cabins Note: Mammoth Hotel & Cabins are closed for construction and scheduled to reopen summer 2018)
May 19: Old Faithful Snow Lodge
May 5: Old Faithful Inn
May 14: Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins
May 19: Old Faithful Lodge
May 19: Grant Lodging
June 2: Canyon Lodge & Cabins
June 9: Roosevelt Lodge & Cabins