Sunday, October 14, 2012

When to Visit Yellowstone Park

Memorial Day Might Not Work

Sure, you've always heard about Yellowstone National Park and its many scenic wonders. It's quite possibly the most famous of the national parks. Much of the park is very mountainous with lots of lakes and canyons to see. There's a mud volcano, several sulfur springs, and, of course the most famous geyser of all, Old Faithful.
Note the Snow on the Side of the Road--Photo by Author
I've always wanted to visit Yellowstone to see its impressive beauty. This past summer, I got my chance. I had a work-related gig in Colorado, and it was only slightly out of the way to go through Montana into Yellowstone. We drove through the park on Memorial Day weekend. Being originally from West Virginia, I'm used to 80-90 degree days by Memorial Day. Even spending the last year in Grand Forks, North Dakota, we had fairly comfortable temps in the 50s to 70s for the previous month, so I expected something fairly comfortable. Was I in for a shock to the system.
This is Old Faithful--the White Stuff that looks like dots on the grass is falling snow--Photo by Author
Knowing that we would be going through a mountainous region, we packed jackets for our trip. It was a good thing that we did. As we entered the park from the north on US 89, the temperature was in the low 40s. By the time we got to Old Faithful, the temp was 34 and snow began to fall. As we sat waiting for the geyser to blow, near blizzard conditions set in as depicted by the attached pic. Needless to say, our first trip to Yellowstone was quite memorable...a Memorial Day trip with blizzard conditions.

After looking at, it became quite obvious that May can still be a bit iffy with the weather in Yellowstone. May high temps average a not-so-balmy 52 degrees. In all, only June through September see average highs for the month above 60 degrees. July and August peak out at 72 and 71 degrees, respectively. When we arrived on our cold May day, the entire northeast quadrant of the park was inaccessible for...get this...snow. As we drove through the parts of the park that were open to traffic, we saw snow banks higher than our minivan. An interesting trip indeed. We did get to see some interesting things, not the least of which was a late May snowstorm. Therefore, my advice on the best time to visit Yellowstone would be a 10-day window of around July 25-August 5. All I can say is, I would have hated to have been camping in a tent on the day we drove through.

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