Why You Should Visit Yellowstone in the Fall

Less crowds, beautiful weather, and abundant wildlife

Yellowstone is one of the most popular National Parks, and for good reason. Hot springs, geysers, and the wildlife that the park has to offer draw in hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. However, if you time your trip right, you can avoid most of the tourists and dodge the busy roads of the peak seasons. In the peak months of June-September, the average number of visitors per month is roughly 580,000. In October, that number drops to just over 100,000. November-April has very low visitation numbers, but many parts of the park are closed at these times as snow covers the ground and roads.

We arrived at the west entrance at mid-afternoon, in mid-October. We started our trip by making the pilgrimage to Old Faithful before setting up camp at the Lewis Lake campground. The geyser wasn't supposed to go off for another 45 minutes, but already the parking lot was filling up with cars. We set off on the boardwalks that led around upper geyser basin, and were able to escape most of the crowds. The weather was warm, and the geysers didn't disappoint. By the time we got back to Old Faithful, it was about to erupt, and was thronged with tourists. We slipped away while it was going off, drove to Lewis Lake, and set up camp.

We headed back up to Biscuit Basin as the sun was going down, and set out on the Mystic Falls Trail. A few people were walking the boardwalks that were in the basin, but once we hit the trail, we passed one family that was on their way back down.

The falls were beautiful, and we had them all to ourselves for about 30 minutes. The roar of the falls was the only sound, and solitude allowed for an incredible experience. 

Eventually, a couple more people showed up, and we moved on up the trail. We had the rest of the loop completely to ourselves. This trail would have been closed if we had gone a week later; but by timing our trip right, we got to visit a stunning 70-foot waterfall and have it all to ourselves.

Even with the sun having gone down, it wasn't too cold. We got back to camp, and a fire and a hoodie was perfect to keep away the chill. We had planned to get up early to drive to the Lamar Valley, so we had a quick dinner, then sat around the fire for a little while before calling it a night. 

Waking up at five in the morning was cold and dark, but the cold helped to dispel the lingering sleep. We broke camp and headed out onto the road. We didn't see anyone for an hour and a half. The mist hung low to the ground for a while as we drove north past Yellowstone Lake. We were able to spot a lot of wildlife as we drove.

We reached Lamar Valley just as the sun was rising on the horizon. It was still cold as we set out along the Lamar River trail, but the lighting was ideal for photography. As we walked along, we saw a coyote scamper over a ridge off in the distance, and a herd of buffalo was up ahead of us. It turned out that the herd was grazing right along the trail, and so we were forced to turn back around and find a different hike for the morning. 

There was hardly anyone else in the valley, and once the sun rose over the mountains, it warmed up quickly. We found a small trail that led up to a beautiful overlook of the valley, and then finally found a picnic area for breakfast.

As we headed out of the valley and out of the park, we were able to spot a coyote a little ways off from the road. As we watched by ourselves, the coyote dove into the bushes and came up with a vole in its mouth. It was a great ending to a great trip.

By going in the fall, we were able to avoid the crowds, but still experience the full beauty of one of the most iconic National Parks in our country. The weather was picture-perfect; not too hot and not too cold.  All of the roads and campgrounds were still open, and we had easy access to the trails and roads that lead to the best parts of the park. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!