Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first and most famous National Park! Yellowstone is huge, and spans over 2 million acres and across three states (Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana), it has five entrances and just as many visitor centers, and welcomes nearly 5 million visitors annually. With those types of stats, it’s easy to see why everyone loves this national treasure!
The summer months account for over half of the annual visitors to Yellowstone National Park, with more than 1 million visitors in July alone. The best way to escape the crowds at Yellowstone is to visit in the off season. Fall is the perfect time to avoid the masses of tourists, reconnect and recreate in nature, and witness some of the most spectacular geothermal features in the world surrounded by the beauty of fall colors and Yellowstone’s local wildlife preparing for winter.
Here’s our guide to the best time to visit Yellowstone for fall foliage, activities and attractions to include in your itinerary, and where to stay to experience the beauty of Yellowstone National Park in fall.
1. Pick Your Dates for Prime Fall Foliage
The first signs of fall appear in late August – there’s a cooler nip in the air, layers of sunrise frost blanket the valleys, and the higher elevations above 7,000 feet begin to turn to glorious shades of gold. From mid-September to mid-October the fall foliage cascades from the upper elevations down to the lower valleys with hues of golden yellows, burnt oranges and brilliant reds adding contrast to Yellowstone’s captivating landscapes.
Low 30oF – High 64oF
Fall colors above 7,000 feet
September is still a popular time to visit Yellowstone so be prepared for potential crowds of tourists (far fewer than summer!) and traffic lines of enthusiastic leaf peepers and wildlife viewers. September highlights include the famous elk rut near Mammoth Hot Springs, the fascinating raptor migration in the Hayden Valley, and a higher chance of incredible bear sightings as the black bears and grizzly bears prepare for winter hibernation foraging for berries, nuts and roots in the valleys and roadside meadows.
Low 22oF – High 51oF
Fall colors below 7,000 feet
By October the fall foliage in the lower elevations is vibrant, the crowds have dissipated, the roads are quieter, and the chance of wildlife sightings is climbing! The Yellowstone Park restaurants, services and facilities begin to close down mid-October, and the weather is unpredictable! Light snowfalls can begin as early as October in Yellowstone so pack your layers and be prepared for potential dangerous winter driving conditions and road closures – or take a guided Yellowstone tour!
Low 12oF – High 34oF
Fall colors fading
By November the fall colors have faded, the peaks are blanketed with snow, and most of the roads within Yellowstone National Park are closed. The Visitor Center at the West Entrance remains open year round, however entrance to the park is limited. Yellowstone winter tours begin early November with amazing private and group experiences from wolf watching and wildlife tours to snowshoe tours, snowmobile expeditions and unique backcountry experiences.
2. Plan Your Fall Attractions & Activities
For the ultimate fall trip to Yellowstone National Park, we highly recommend booking a guided Yellowstone tour with a local tour company. An experienced local guide has an in-depth knowledge of Yellowstone’s diverse ecosystems and natural wonders, wonderful stories to share, and will ensure you visit the top sightseeing spots during fall.
Scenic Drives: Firehole Canyon Drive and Firehole Lake Drive.
Natural Hot Springs: Firehole River near Madison Junction.
Waterfalls: Fairy Falls and Firehole Falls.
Geological Wonders: Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful, Artists Paintpots, Norris Geyser, Mammoth Hot Springs
Wildlife Viewing: Hayden Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs, Lamar Valley.
Fall Fly Fishing: The Madison River is a hot spot for fall flying fishing.
3. Expand Your Exploration Beyond Yellowstone
Situated only 50 miles north of the West Entrance, Big, Sky Montana is the ideal base camp for a trip to Yellowstone -and is fast becoming one of the top travel spots in the western USA worthy of every vacation bucket-list.
In 2021, Big Sky was voted one of the “Best Ski Resorts in the West”, one of the “Best Mountain Towns to Visit in the USA”, and one of “The Coolest Towns in America to Visit in 2021”. Big Sky was also ranked as an extraordinary destination to explore in “The World’s Greatest Places of 2021” by Time USA.
Expand your exploration out of the park and stay in Big Sky, MT. Tours of Yellowstone National Park depart right from the heart of Big Sky (or from your front door if you choose a private trip!). After your fall trip to Yellowstone, you can join in end of season golfing and summer activities at Big Sky Resort, hike or bike through vibrant fall foliage on Big Sky’s epic network of trails, flyfish the Gallatin River, horseback ride, or simply stay home, soak up the views, and stargaze from your private hot tub!
4. Stay with Big Sky Vacation Rentals
Whether you choose to stay minutes from the action in Mountain Village or Big Sky Town Center or in a secluded setting for stargazing and wildlife viewing from home, our collection of luxury Big Sky rentals is sure to include a private mountain cabin near Yellowstone National Park, perfect for you!
Browse our selection of 70+ custom vacation homes, cabins and ski condos in the heart of Big Sky Resort’s Mountain Village at the base of Lone Peak. Our convenient Big Sky Resort lodging ranges from 2 bedroom contemporary condos overlooking Lake Levinsky to rare 7 bedroom modern mountain chalets for a family reunion near Yellowstone.
Our collection of 4 to 6 bedroom Meadow Village condos and custom lodges are conveniently situated close to shopping, dining and world-class golf in Big Sky Town Center. Meadow Village is an easy 7-mile drive or free shuttle ride to Big Sky Resort Mountain Village.
Moonlight Basin is a Big Sky neighborhood perched high on ski runs and trails of Lone Mountain. Whether you’re seeking a secluded and cozy mountain cabin or an exclusive mountain lodge for a large group getaway, even the most distinguished guests will find their luxury Yellowstone retreat in Moonlight Basin.
Start planning your fall visit to Yellowstone with Big Sky Vacation Rentals. Browse our collection of vacation rentals near Yellowstone, download our Big Sky Vacation Guide for trip planning, or call our team of local experts who are happy to help with tour suggestions for Yellowstone, local Big Sky recommendations, and find you a Yellowstone vacation rental to match your needs.