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Best time to visit Yellowstone
Old 11-04-2014, 10:10 AM   #1
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Best time to visit Yellowstone

Greetings folks!! Just beginning research for a family trip to Yellowstone and Badlands NP's.. Mt Rushmore, Needles Highway, Devils Tower, Custer State Park are all on the wish list. I've done some searching of the forum and have gotten some good basic info.. getting ready to check Trip Advisor too.

Family is 4, all over 60 (DW, BIL and SIL) departing from Texas, most likely flying and renting an SUV.

Question is: when is best time of year to go? Most comfortable, scenic, least crowded, etc...

Any thoughts are very much appreciated..... Cheers...
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Old 11-04-2014, 10:18 AM   #2
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I had a seasonal engineering tech job there in 1983, but I don't think the summer visitor dynamics have changed that much. IMO, if you want to see many animals, right before the hordes get there, which is about the last week in June, because July 4 is the real start of tourist season in most of the mountain west.

For that job I had, I started in early May and there were many animals around. by July 4 they were all gone. the Elk standing in the river in May was replaced in July by a fly fisherman. On the other hand, it was still snowing a little in May and not all the tourist facilities were open. So early to mid-June would be my selection. otherwise, after labor day into mid-October. when some of the animals are coming back in sight.

on trip advisor, there is a road trip forum that is really good. Do a search first, as this is a common question I believe. http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum...oad_Trips.html

[edit: If you go to the Black hills and badlands first, and then to devils tower, the back road to devils tower from belle fourche, along the belle fourche river, is more scenic than the interstate. It is SD hwy 34 and Wy hwy 24 via Hulett Wyoming]

[edit #2: take the beartooth hwy from Red Lodge Montana west into Yellowstone. That is one of the top two drives in the USA, IMHO. But it does not open until around memorial day]
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Old 11-04-2014, 10:27 AM   #3
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I've visited Yellowstone several times, and always tried to shoot for early/mid September after the crowds have died down.

The weather is (usually) still very good, and you can get around the park no problem. I say "usually" because as with any high country destination, there always exists the chance for a freak snowfall. I've seen spitting snow in September, but luckily never encountered anything that stopped traffic or anything like that.

Good luck in your trip - Yellowstone is beautiful, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it!
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Old 11-04-2014, 10:33 AM   #4
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I was at Yellowstone last year in early September and it was a good time to visit, not too crowded and good hiking weather. You'll probably need to get your reservations in early if wanting to stay inside the park, West Yellowstone also has plenty of places to stay and makes a good home base.
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Old 11-04-2014, 10:41 AM   #5
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We went at the end of May and while it was certainly cold, it was quite nice and the scenery was beautiful. I have no way to compare the crowds to other times of year, but it wasn't like there was a traffic jam problem much of anywhere, well, except when a mama bear and her cubs were out playing beside the road, and every camera for a 100 miles came out!
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Old 11-04-2014, 11:02 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timo2 View Post
[edit #2: take the beartooth hwy from Red Lodge Montana west into Yellowstone. That is one of the top two drives in the USA, IMHO. But it does not open until around memorial day]
A big +1 on this. Beartooth highway was an amazing drive.
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Old 11-04-2014, 11:12 AM   #7
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I would concur that immediately after Labor Day is your best bet. Otherwise, July through August to avoid the still somewhat unstable weather that persists until about the end of June.

For summer travel, which we did just this year, to almost every place you've listed as part of a 10-week RV trip, my tip would be to forego sleeping in and get to your most important site of the day first thing in the morning. The crowds generally hold off building until about 10:00 AM. Consider enjoying/taking your downtime in the late afternoon instead.

Also, I can't emphasize enough how wonderful the ranger-led activities are in our national parks. They'll take you to places you might not get to on your own, and provide tons of interesting information along the way. Make stopping in to a Visitor Center for a schedule of activities one of your first priorities.
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Old 11-04-2014, 11:18 AM   #8
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DW and I did a similar trip the 3rd week in September a few years back. Great weather, and no crowds. For example, we were the only people in the courtyard at Wall Drug, and did a morning hike around the base of Devil's Tower and saw only a couple other people. Yellowstone had a small fraction of the people you see in the summer. The exception was the breakfast buffets in the morning, since the hordes from the tour buses that had rolled in the night before all ate at the same time. But the buses and their passengers didn't seem to be in the park during the day.
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Old 11-04-2014, 11:41 AM   #9
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My first trip as an adult was in early May. Most of the park was closed due to snow. That said - there were some fabulous moose/bear sitings on the road from Gardiner down to Old Faithful.

A few years ago we went in late June. Lots of mama bears with cubs. Almost no moose, though. The crowds weren't *that* bad since we were still before 4th of July. I can see where September would be a good time if you want to avoid crowds. I'm still tied to the darn brats darling children's school schedule - so I can't take advantage of that.
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Old 11-04-2014, 11:44 AM   #10
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The hiking trails in Yellowstone have very few people on them. Most people stay around the drivable tourist sites. Even in the late July, if you want to be alone, take a hike.
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Old 11-04-2014, 12:07 PM   #11
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We went to the Tetons the last week of June for many years, leaving before the 4th of July. The tourists with motor homes flood Yellowstone and Teton National Parks the first of July..

I recommend June but be prepared to wear a winter jacket. You may see some snowfall in the mountain passes. The wildlife will have calved and mom's will be bringing their babies to lower levels because it is easier living. Once a lot of humans appear they will retreat back into the forest.

Everyone, I think, knows that bears should be left alone. However I thibk moose as more dangerous. They are dumb and can be aggressive, particularly if there is a calf nearby.
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Old 11-04-2014, 12:18 PM   #12
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Another vote for Sept. You'll get to hear the elk bugling as well.
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Old 11-04-2014, 01:00 PM   #13
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I'll also throw in a pitch for driving from Yellowstone/Grand Teton down into Utah through the Green River natural area if you are considering Moab as a side trip.

Man, that was a beautiful run, and some amazing driving, even in our old bus. Hardly any traffic, wonderful and deserted campgrounds, and neat to stop in at the dam's visitor center.
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Old 11-04-2014, 02:09 PM   #14
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April/May or September/October. Be aware of the weather always during this period; particularly in Yellowstone. Nevertheless, it doesn't matter when you go, it will be an unforgettable experience (in a good way).
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Old 11-04-2014, 02:45 PM   #15
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as always, forum folks deliver..thanks for all the feedback. Will begin planning our trip....
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Old 11-04-2014, 02:48 PM   #16
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Great tips! Makes me want to start planning a trip for next September. Yellowstone is on my bucket list.


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Old 11-04-2014, 06:18 PM   #17
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Parts of Yellowstone will be closed in May-June. Best bet is finish all the other parks in your list in late August and be there from Labor Day in Yellowstone (early Sept).
July-Aug is typically too crowded. Strongly recommend spending minimum 4 days in Yellowstone, preferably 7-10 days. Stay inside the park, 3 days each in 3 separate areas. Keep looking online for accommodation inside the park, there are cancelations all the time and if you keep trying you will get what u want.
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Old 11-07-2014, 07:58 PM   #18
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We went in mid sept - it was perfect.
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Old 11-07-2014, 11:48 PM   #19
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Been many times. like some of the others third to fourth week in Sept with good chance of snow possible. Nothing like the large elk herds bugling that time of year and less tourist. More animals seen in N Yellowstone. If the opportunity presents itself a drive through the Hoback cannon is also nice on the way into Jackson. I'm hoping to draw an event to snow cat through Yellowstone hopefully next winter.
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Old 11-10-2014, 08:03 AM   #20
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For visiting the Black Hills, this Blog may be useful:

The Black Hills Travel Blog

As an example:

Foodie Tour of the Black Hills | The Black Hills Travel Blog

Quote:
While historically, the Black Hills have not been known for culinary diversity (a great steak could always be found), today there are some great hand-crafted offerings and we’re not just talking about Mount Rushmore or Crazy Horse. If seeking out the culinary must-try’s of a region is your flavor, let us present you with our Foodie tour of the Black Hills.

Length: Five Days
Quote:
Day One – the Badlands

Since much of the Black Hills’ traffic comes from the east, we’ll start here and if your stays may start in one part of the Black Hills and end in another, we’ll start with the outlier.

Badlands National Park is one of six national park units in the Black Hills region and this place is 244,000 acres of other-worldly landscape. One of the best ways to experience it is to get out of the car and traverse this mind-blowing terrain and there are many trails to choose from. Notch, Door, Window and the Fossil Trail can be enjoyed by most all. Also make sure to check out the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site located right outside the Badland’s east entrance.
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