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
Each spring, the Old Faithful Snow Lodge closes as the park readies itself for the summer season. In 2020, it closed March 1. Park roads also 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. Read More
Spring Roads Open to Traffic
The park road from the North Entrance to the Northeast Entrance is open to traffic 365 days per year.
2020 Road Closures to Snowcoaches and Snowmobiles
Park roads closed to oversnow travel by snowmobile and snowcoach at 9 pm on the following dates.
- March 1: East Entrance to Lake Butte Overlook (Sylvan Pass) and Mammoth to Norris.
- March 3: Norris to Madison and Norris to Canyon.
- March 8: Canyon Village to Fishing Bridge.
- March 15: All remaining groomed roads close.
2020 Road Openings to the Public
Conditions permitting, roads will open at 8 a.m. on the following dates.
- Open Year-round: Gardiner to Cooke City, Montana; Mammoth Hot Springs to the Upper Terraces; and Highway 191 between Bozeman and West Yellowstone, Montana.
- April 17: West Entrance to Madison, Mammoth to Old Faithful, Norris to Canyon.
- May 1: East Entrance to Lake (Sylvan Pass), Canyon Junction to Lake.
- May 8: South Entrance to West Thumb, Lake to West Thumb, West Thumb to Old Faithful (Craig Pass)
- May 22: Beartooth Highway (Not a park road. This scenic drive leads to Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance.)
- June 5: Tower Junction to Tower Fall.
- Closed until April 2022: Tower Fall to Chittenden Road
Check NPS website about current road conditions at www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm
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; 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.
2020 Projected Opening of Campgrounds
Open Year-round: Mammoth Campground
May 1: Madison Campground
Closed Until Early Sept. 2020: Fishing Bridge RV Park
May 15: Bridge Bay Campground, Norris Campground
May 22: Canyon Campground
June 5: Tower Fall Campground, Grant Village Campground
June 7: Grant Village Campground
June 12: Indian Creek Campground
June 15: Pebble Creek Campground, Slough Creek Campground, Lewis Lake 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.
2020 Projected Opening of Hotels and Cabins
April 17: Old Faithful Snow Lodge
May 1: Mammoth Hotel & Cabins
May 15: Old Faithful Inn, Old Faithful Lodge & Cabins
May 15: Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins
May 29: Grant Village Lodge
May 22: Canyon Lodge
June 5: Roosevelt Lodge & Cabins
June 10: Lake Lodge Cabins
See complete list of facility opening dates at www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/hours.htm