The Best Time to Visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

The Best Time To Visit Yellowstone And Grand Teton National Parks Blog

Recently I have taken a major interest in traveling...

I mean, I absolutely love it.

The Grand Teton Mountain Range In Wyoming

Because of the type of work that I do, I feel like I’m constantly around people and having to interact when, being the true introvert that I am, traveling not only gives me a much needed break from “doing” all the time to just being alone, quiet and doing the things I love to do by myself. Those things being photography, videography and writing.

It was not until last year that I took my first trip by myself to a national park. And actually, not just one, but two. Those two parks were Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

The beauty about these two parks is that you really drive straight from one into the other quite seamlessly.

Now, one of the most popular questions about visiting these national parks is when is the best time to go?

Different answers will depend on what you’re looking to achieve in your travel but for me, I’d say the best time is the end of fall and beginning of winter. And there are many reasons why.

Let’s get into that.

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The Best Time To Visit Yellowstone And Grand Teton National Parks Pinterest Pin

The Best Time of Year to Visit

When I did my own personal research into when to visit these two particular parks, I consistently found late spring and the end of fall as being the best time of year to visit.

Late Fall In Grand Teton National Park

I can now say I have experienced this, and I would one thousand percent endorse a visit in late fall.

There are many reasons as to why this is a great time to visit.

#1 The first would be that there is less foot traffic.

Now, I don’t know about you but I am not a fan of being in the middle of a crowd, standing in a line, waiting in traffic, etc. etc. All the troubles that come with going anywhere during peak season, let alone a popular national park, is not #goals to me. Fewer people is the goal.

That means less competition in getting to experience scenic sites, less time to get in and out of certain popular spots and just overall having a unique experience without the hassle of a crowd.

#2 Next is the WEATHER.

Late fall and late spring means cooler temperatures but also warm weather during the day. Being from Texas, when it’s hot, it is HOT. The humidity is almost unbearable and oppressive. But then when it’s cold, it’s bitterly cold.

During this time of year, particularly late fall in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone national parks, the cold is just a beautiful brisk cold during the night but the perfect warmth in the daytime temperatures.

Honestly, it was the perfect combination of the two. I would dress warm enough with a hoodie in the early AM and it would warm up enough to take that hoodie off by late morning to mid-day.

The Walkways At Mammoth Springs

It was not unbearable on either end of the spectrum.

#3 Easy Travel

This is also the best time of year to do a road trip. From park to park, you could probably span an easy 5-hour drive between some of the best spots but it was totally do-able because of little traffic on the road, many places to pull over and then again, the perfect mild weather.

Winter months are a great time to vacation because of the winter sports that are richly available in this region, like cross-country skiing, but not for road trips to see some of the most popular attractions. To avoid road closures, you’ll want to aim for early October and no later than late October to get the most of the nature scene.

Places to Visit

Now let’s talk about the some of the best things to do and to see if you’re taking the time to travel to the beautiful parks.

First, you have to understand that the Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks have spots that span across into Montana and Idaho, but is mainly in Wyoming. If you’re flying in, I highly recommend the Jackson Hole Airport.

Jackson Hole Airport Travel In Wyoming

Your girl did the research on the best places to fly in and there’s not that many airports to choose from. But in Wyoming, Jackson Hole airport had high ratings and because of its location, I felt like it was close enough for short drive to the place where I was staying which was Teton Mountain Lodge.

Teton Mountain Lodge Lobby
Sitting Area Of Teton Mountain Lodge
Breakfast Area Teton Mountain Lodge

The drive was about 35 minutes but I went the wrong way so it took me longer. I honestly didn’t care though. It was so beautiful when I got out the airport, I just took my time pulling over to stop and see the mountains randomly that it ate up the time.


Jackson Hole Airport is by Grand Teton national park. If you’re staying in this area, it’s totally fine because you can easily plan a few days to drive up to Yellowstone.

Grand Teton National Park

The Grand Teton Range

For Grand Teton National Park you’ve got to see the Grand Tetons. Yes, you could pull over from many spots on the road to view these mountains but seeing them at sunrise is absolutely breathtaking. One thing to keep in mind is that there are many mountains in this park. But they are different and have different names. One place to appreciate the Teton Range of mountains is from Mormon Row. Some of the popularly known peaks are of course the Grand Teton which is at an elevation of 13,775 feet, but there’s also Middle Teton at 12,809 feet, Prospectors Mountain at 11,246 feet and one of my favorites is Mount Moran at 12,610 feet. A great place to take in the sunrise on the Grand Teton peaks is Schwabacher Landing. I actually did a reel of the sunrise timelapse I captured when I took a drive out to this spot which is a popular photographer spot.

But, because it was mid-to-late October, even the crowd that was there was nothing to deal with. Everyone easily got a spot and there was even a photoshoot taking place out there when the sunrise hit. Absolutely stunning to see.

And, if you’re luck you might see a moose come by. I didn’t but this is a great spot to see some wildlife.

Mormon Row

This is also a must-see spot in Grand Teton national park. Mormon Row is iconic in this area. It’s where Mormon settlers were sent to establish new communities and grow. Though there’s not many left, there is a span of barns and homes that give this spot its name with the Moulton Barns being historical landmarks that are famously photographed.

Yours truly made sure to grab a couple of shots too.

Moultan Barn At Mormon Row

What’s awesome about this spot is that it’s pretty easy to get to and doesn’t take long to appreciate. And if you go at the right time, because of its route, you’ll be nearby the Antelope Flats road. You can easily take in the Blacktail Butte area and Gros Ventre Mountains here as well.

Not only is it easy to drive, but it’s also easy to bike so booking a guided tour ride with Teton Mountain Bike Tours would allow for some great family time and potential wildlife viewing.

This spot lies directly in the path of migration for bison and elk, which is the largest elk herd in the world, as well as pronghorn, which are also known as antelopes but… they’re actually not antelope but part of the Antilocapridae family which are mammals most closely related to the giraffe and called pronghorn because of the pronged horns on their head.

I’m sure I saw some while I was there but had no clue that’s what I was looking at in the moment.

Don’t laugh.

Where to Best See Moose

Now if you’re looking for where to see moose, the two best places will be Oxbow Bend Turnout and Moose-Wilson Road.

It’s kinda obvious now that I think about it, but at the time, I was wondering why so many cars were pulled over along Moose-Wilson Road which is a long road that takes you by Teton Village, past the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve and to the beginning of the Grand Teton Scenic Drive.

Going at dusk either in the morning or in the evening is a pretty sure way to see these beasts roaming. Most likely at the base of the mountains is the best place to look. But if in doubt, just look where everyone else is looking and there’s no way you’ll miss it.

Oxbow Bend Turnout is one of my favorite spots in Grand Teton national park. It is just an absolutely beautiful and peaceful landscape to gaze at. I don’t recall seeing moose here but it may have been I was just so focused on watching the sunset or rise that I missed the wildlife teaming around. But this is also a location to keep in mind when planning for the best place to see some wild moose.

Oxbow Bend Turnout

Yellowstone National Park

Now for spots in Yellowstone. Oh em gee. I absolutely loved this park.

The Grand Prismatic Spring

First, let’s talk about the Grand Prismatic Spring. This is Yellowstone’s largest hot spring at about 200-330 feet wide and 121 feet deep. And it. Is. STUNNING.

Now, I only had a planar view of this spring but if you hike the Fairy Falls Trail which I think most travelers actually don’t know about, then you could possibly see a birds-eye view of this natural phenomenon.

The Bridge Of Fairy Falls Trail

The best time to guarantee seeing the Grand Prismatic Spring from this viewpoint would probably be in the summer months to early fall. The issue I had when I hiked this trailhead was the fog. I went before sunrise but in mid-to-late October the fog was so dense, it didn’t lift for hours and I was not able to see even a hint of the Grand Prismatic Spring.

However, I did see it earlier in the trip by going to the popular Midway Geyser Basin parking lot where most visitors usually flock to. Parking spots are limited though so definitely try to aim for the morning or even late afternoon to get a spot.

The Grand Prismatic Spring In Yellowstone National Park

Walking up, it is incredibly impressive to see. The heat from the hydrothermal spring is like a sauna which when its cold in the fall, feels amazing but also gets you quite wet. And when you reach the pathways that allow you to walk right alongside the different hot springs, which all have different names by the way, the colors are breathtaking.

I even got some amazing shots of the bison up close in that area. I thought one would eat me, but it stopped close enough for me to get a good shot and then kept moving.

Bison At The Grand Prismatic Spring

Absolutely gorgeous and a must to see.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Known as the first large canyon on the Yellowstone River, the pathway of this waterfall is incredible. And it’s so vast that you can road trip to several spots to see different viewpoints of the falls.

Located in Canyon Village, there are actually two falls which they call the Upper and Lower Falls, and there are two trailheads you can take to see the views of one versus the other. I actually took the Lower Falls pathway, which led me to the brink of the Lower Falls where they have a platform for you to stand right at the tipping edge of the waterfall. It’s ahhh-mazing!

The Grand Canyon Of Yellowstone

I also have a reel on this on my IG feed (go follow me by the way to stay up-to-date!) that shows how impressive this is.

If there’s anything I can advise, it’s to BRING WATER. I got worn out on this hike even though it was not too rigorous. I saw elderly people take this route and it’s well worth the view.

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A post shared by Elaine J. Films (@elainejfilms)


Old Faithful

Now, I will admit that I did not make it a point to go see the Old Faithful Geyser. Don’t throw any stones, it’s just that I had heard and read that some travelers were underwhelmed by taking time to see this and because I only had about 6 days to explore both parks, I pursued other sites instead.

BUT. It’s an iconic spot to visit in your travels to Yellowstone National Park and I do recommend you at least do the research and see if this is worth the trip for you.

One of the attractions about this geyser is its location. Onsite is the Old Faithful Inn that is a national historic landmark. There aren’t that many log hotels in the United States and this is one of the precious few left.

Staying here is a throwback in time and if you time it right, you could literally go out onto the front porch and watch the Old Faithful Geyser erupt. You can see the estimated times for when certain geysers will erupt by checking out the National Park Service website.

One thing to keep in mind is that there are many geysers. It’s totally up to you if you want to see them all or just a handful but they are all majestic to see.

From the Upper Geyser Basin to the Lone Star Geyser, you can literally hike alongside these geysers for a close-up experience. With over 500 geysers in Yellowstone, there is no way you’ll leave without seeing at least one.

Mammoth Hot Springs

One of the coolest spots to see in Yellowstone was the Mammoth Hot Springs. Talk about impressive.

Mammoth Springs In Yellowstone

Located by the Albright Visitor Center, you could make a day of seeing the Mammoth Hot Springs and exploring the sites of this spot that include the Historic Fort Yellowstone and hiking trails.

The Mammoth Hot Springs have boardwalks that allow you to walk amongst the hydrothermal travertine terraces. Over time, thermal water carrying dissolved calcium carbonate also known as limestone, rose and left travertine terraces which is what happens when that carbon dioxide (CO2) is released and the CO2 is deposited.

It’s beautiful to see.

The Albright Visitor Center

Grand Loop Road Scenic Drive

When you leave Mammoth Hot Springs, a great path to take is the Grand Loop Road. Depending on the conditions, it could take you 4 to 7 hours to drive but a beautiful scenic drive well worth the trip.

I took this back to Grand Teton after hitting Mammoth Hot Springs and it’s one of my favorite decisions from my trip. It’s 142 miles tracing out into a figure-8 shaped pathway. There are many spots to pull over and take in the landscape and completely relaxing if you’re looking for a calm drive with beautiful scenery.

Because I could go on and on with more spots to see, I’m going to wrap this up with some tips to keep in mind if these parks are on your bucket list.

Important Tips

In no particular order:

#1 Do your research well ahead of time.

Plan ahead! Depending on the time of year you go, which, I really don’t recommend summer because the crows of summer time are a lot to deal with, you can always work out a way to see the best spots without too much competition.

The best way to do this is to utilize the National Park Service website to see what’s the earliest you can get out (which these parks are pretty much open year-round), what park permit fees need to be paid, important facts like when the geysers are estimated to erupt, and other important details like road closures in the winter time or dangerous animals to be aware of.

Take notes, plan out an itinerary and it will make your life drastically easier.

By the way, there are many travel itineraries available, you just have to google it. I will have an itinerary soon that will be based off of my experience and provide you with an easily accessible guide to have you take a scenic trip to both parks in one go.

Stay tuned for that.

#2 Get an early start!

It always pays to get start your days early! This will make it the easiest to see wildlife without crowds, travel with less cars on the road, and experience popular sites peacefully and with plenty of room.

I’m not talking 9-10 am either. I’m talking being up before sunrise and getting to your desired travel spot by sunrise. It’s well worth it.

#3 Five to Seven (5-7) Days is a great duration for a trip.

What most travelers tend to forget to do on a trip is to actually rest. I think it’s important you understand you won’t see everything on your list but you can make time to see the most important ones.

Taking time to get back to your resting spot whether that be a hotel or a camping ground, early enough to get some rest will help you start each day with great energy and make the most out of that day. I have found 5-7 days is usually the sweet spot to get enough time in to see all those spots I find to be the most important.

#4 Save spots in Google maps and download the All Trails app!

I quickly realized that my reception was zilch out in the middle of nowhere land, driving from geyser to Mammoth Springs. When I did, I quickly figured out how to save addresses in my app so that I could easily pull up the directions without service.

But also, there are maps on the National Park Service website that I would suggest you download and just have readily available. It’s not that difficult to read and it gives you a hardcopy back-up if you save it on your smart device.

National Park Service Map

Wildlife is rampant out in these parks. It’s awesome! But sometimes there were certain spots that I just knew I couldn’t see what everyone was looking at with their binoculars. I had my camera with 70-200mm zoom lens but that is not ideal for locating wildlife hidden among trees. Plus, it drains your battery life and wears your arms out.

It doesn’t cost much to invest in them so purchase a pair before your trip. It’ll be worth it!

Summary: The Best Time to Visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks Varies

To wrap this up, it really depends on your goals and what time you have available for experiencing the beauty of these two national parks. I would definitely say that Grand Teton National Park is more of a scenic park where you can experience so much with little effort. Just driving or biking and even walking. But Yellowstone, you’re going to want to get some hiking in.

To make the most out of your trip considering weather, foot traffic, and even costs, late fall and late spring are going to be the best times to shoot for.

But even if it’s in the summer or winter months, both are going to have recreational activities to do that may be more conducive to family vacations when kids are out of school or family trips are the goals versus experiencing and seeing all that nature has to offer during those “off peak” months.

And for another perspective on this topic, check out this article by Earth Trekkers. They have a history of traveling and have valuable insight to share that I’m sure would benefit you.

Whatever you do though, just go. Put these on your bucket list.

I know I will always remember that this is one of the most beautiful locations I’d ever seen and just driving around was enough for me to enjoy.

I’m sure you will do the same.

Because it’s impossible to put everything in one blog, I will be making a two-part itinerary and vlog showing you what I think are important spots to see in the near future. Stay tuned for that!

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