All About Visiting Yellowstone in October
The benefits, drawbacks, activities and other features of visiting Yellowstone in October.
October is a phenomenal time to visit Yellowstone National Park. The summer crowds have all but disappeared, and you have a real chance for solitude. There are many benefits to visiting in October, as well as some drawbacks. If you are able to make it to Yellowstone in October, you are sure to have a fantastic trip! Browse the categories below to determine if October is the best time for you to visit the park.
Benefits of Visiting in October
The biggest benefit to visiting in October is the lack of crowds. With fewer people, your chances for solitude grow exponentially. This means no sitting in long lines of traffic, no waiting in long lines for services or food, and no inching through a crowd of people to see the famous sights. Of course, the park won’t be totally dessertd, but you will have a much better chance of feeling like you are immersed in the wilderness compared to the summer months. Another benefit is that all the roads in the park remain open through October, with the exception of Dunraven Pass—the road from Tower Fall to Canyon Village– which closes in the middle of October. In contrast to winter months and even later in the fall during November, this means that you can access the entire park in your own private vehicle without having to worry about over snow travel or roads that are closed altogether. You can read the fall road closure information for year-to-year details.
While Yellowstone is in the mountains and many of the park’s trees are evergreen, the fall colors are abundant in the beginning of October. Among the long stretches of lodgepole pines that don’t chance colors, there are many pockets of aspen trees throughout the park. Their bright yellow leaves shimmer in the autumn sunlight and are a treat for visitors in October, especially at sunrise or sunset when the warm colors are already giving the park a orangey glow. It is also mating season for many species of wildlife in October. The elk move north to areas like Mammoth Hot Springs and the Madison River for their mating, called the rut. Bull elk are seen defending and fighting for their harem, and their bugling can be heard echoing off the mountainsides. Bull bison can be seen in Hayden and Lamar Valleys doing the same.
October also provides a respite from the peak season accommodation rates and availability. Summer comes with accommodations booked solid months in advance along with peak season prices, but in October things have begun to slow down, and you are more likely to be able to find something within a few weeks of your travel date. Most, if not all of the trails remain open this time of year and while temperatures drop rapidly after the sun goes down and the days are getting shorter as winter nears, hiking is still a great option in the cooler weather and backpacking can still be done with a few additional precautions because of weather.
Drawbacks of Visiting in October
The biggest drawback to visiting Yellowstone in October is that many of the campgrounds and facilities begin to close at the beginning of the month. By the middle of the month, many of the summer lodges, campgrounds, and other accommodations are closed for the season and won’t open again until winter when over snow travel is available. This means that even though places like Old Faithful may have refreshingly few visitors, there may not be services at the visitor center or any of the eateries in the town. There are multiple village areas in the park, so check online to see when these areas close for fall if you are planning on eating or staying there. Mammoth Hot Springs campground is open year round and you can get backcountry permits all year long also. The road from Tower Fall to Canyon Village closes in the middle of October, but you can still take the longer route to get there.
Another drawback to Yellowstone in October is that the weather can pose some additional restrictions for visitors and is rather unpredictable. With highs in the high 40s and lows in the high 20s and usually around 10 days of rain, October can get some icy conditions on the roads and trails as the rain water freezes overnight when the temperature drops below freezing. This can not only cause some changes to your itinerary if a road is unexpectedly closed, but can also make for dangerous conditions on the roads and trails that remain open, forcing guests to be prepared for much colder and harsher conditions than those visiting in summer. This means that visitors will need more and better gear and clothing to be able to enjoy a trip to Yellowstone in October, as those who come unprepared will be miserable and possibly in danger of hypothermia or frostbite. While October is a safer shoulder season to visit the park if you don’t have the winter gear to visit later in the season, guests should still be aware that October is not summer, that snow is possible, and that additional warm gear is needed to make the trip enjoyable.
Things To Do In October
October is a great month for sightseeing in Yellowstone. The wildlife is still very much out and about as the mating season of elk and bison tapers off at the beginning of the month and they begin to prepare for winter. The huge amounts of food these creatures eat during October before the snow comes gives you an excellent opportunity to see large herds of ungulates grazing together. Fall is also a great time to view some of the larger predators in the park. Bears have not yet retreated to their dens for winter but are foraging and feeding like mad to gain enough fat reserves to sleep for the next 6 months. Wolves, on the other hand, are not hibernators and have come down to lower elevations such as Lamar valley as the high country becomes colder and the prey have moved down. While they may be far away across the valley, seeing a pack of wolves is one of the signature Yellowstone experiences and many guests wait for hours with their cameras and tripods along the side of the road to get a glimpse of these creatures.
Winter sports aren’t yet in season, so you won’t be able to go skiing or snowshoeing quite yet in October. But the hiking in October is world-class, even if it’s only a short walk due to snow at higher elevations or cold weather that prevents you from being outside all day. The aspen trees are glistening gold in the autumn light, making any hike magical. There are many options throughout the park, but some of the higher peaks at elevations may be inaccessible due to snow if it has been unusually cold. Since the roads are open to the southern section of the park but many of the facilitates in this area are not open, you are likely to find relative solitude even around the big sights like Old Faithful or Norris Geyser Basin. Viewing hydrothermal features in the park is a wonderful activity in October, not because they vary in activity throughout the year, but because there are so few people that you are more likely to get a better look.
Fishing is also ideal in October; as the water cools, the trout begin to bite again and are willing to chase your lure. The Madison River as well as Gardner and Yellowstone rivers are great options for fishing when it’s cooler. The fall colors and warm lighting in October make Yellowstone every photographer’s dream from shooting everything from landscapes to wildlife. Night and star photography are also popular options if you are brave enough to face the cold of autumn nights in the park. Even though many of the visitor centers close early in the month, there are still plenty of things in an indoor setting to do if the weather prevents you from being outside or if the higher action activities aren’t your thing. There are many bus tours that will take you all around the park from the comfort of a heated bus and there are a few museums and visitor centers still open. The Albright visitor center is open year round and is a great resource for current and interpretive information about the park. There is a museum on the lower level and rangers available to answer all your questions. The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is just outside the west entrance of the park and is also open year round. An AZA accredited, non-profit wildlife park and educational facility, this zoo is a great option for getting to see the big animals of the park up close. Many of the bears they have had gained access to human food in the park and had to be removed from the wild. And plus, they don’t hibernate so you can see them all year. The wolves along with other animals at the facility such as otters are also a treat to see as you can get a closer look at these creatures safely. There is plenty to do in Yellowstone in October to make your trip a memorable one.
Things to see in october
Yellowstone is full of sights to see and October is no exception. With such a large variety of ecosystems and landscapes, the park boasts some of the most unique sights in the entire country. We’ve created a list of the some of the must see sights in October, but make sure to do your own research to see what specifically piques your interest in the park.
Old Faithful: This Yellowstone icon is a must see, no matter how many times you’ve seen it before. While many geysers are unpredictable and erupt infrequently, Old Faithful has lived up to its name and wowed visitors with its consistent eruptions for decades. And plus, in October, there won’t be nearly as many people at this famous site in you’ll be able to enjoy it without the crowds.
Norris Geyser Basin: Yellowstone’s oldest, hottest, and most dynamic geyser basin, Norris Geyser Basin is a can’t miss. With extensive boardwalks that allow you to walk among these amazing hydrothermal features, this basin boasts the tallest geyser in the world, Steamboat Geyser that sprays water 300-400 feet in the air when it erupts. With less crowds in October, you are sure to find this basin one of the highlights of your trip.
Grand Prismatic Spring: Known for its technicolor waters and massive size, the grand prismatic spring is probably the most famous hot spring in the park. With brilliant hues of blue, green, orange, and yellow, guests have been wowed by the sheer brilliance of these colors created by microscopic organisms numbering in the billions that live in very specific water temperatures. The area offers a board walk along the side of the spring and also a short hike up to an overlook where you can get a better look at the colors.
Mammoth Hot Springs: Perhaps one of the most unique features in the park, Mammoth Hot Springs is built upon lime stone terraces unlike other hot springs in the park that have formed from years of mineral rich water flowing up from beneath the earth’s crust. Often described as more beautiful than any fountain man could have designed, these white and burnt orange terraces are truly a sight to behold.
Lamar and Hayden Valleys: Probably the two best areas for viewing wildlife in the park, Lamar and Hayden Valleys are very popular destinations for photographers and for those just wanting to see the wildlife. Large herds of bison and elk gather in these areas in late fall and winter for the relatively warmer weather at low elevation and the more readily available food. There are many pull outs along the roads that run through each of them so you can get out of your car and enjoy the majestic scenery.
Hiking in October
With the fall colors putting on a show and the cooler temperatures, hiking is absolutely ideal in October. You can read about the best locations to see wildlife before setting out on the trail if you are looking to see these creatures in other places than right on the road. With far fewer people in the park in the fall, you have a high chance of not seeing anyone else while you are on the trail. With Yellowstone being so vast, there are hiking options for everyone of every skill level. Most of the geyser basins have boardwalks within the 1 to 2 mile range that are flat and perfect for those who want a leisurely stroll around some of the parks most astonishing features. Norris Geyser Basin and Upper Geyser Basin where Old Faithful lies are great options for short walks among these astonishing hydrothermal features.
October is late enough for there to be snow on the higher peaks, so some of the summits may not be available during this time of year. But the hiking around the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is still accessible with the Seven Mile Hole Trail and the trail to Red Rock Point both being great options. There is also walking along the rim of the canyon that will bring you to many of the viewpoints that give you views of Yellowstone falls. Hiking trails also abound in Lamar Valley and the Northern range such as Lost Lake Trail, a 2.8 miles moderate hike that begins behind Roosevelt Lodge or the easy 1.2 mile Trout Lake loop that should be accessible year round. The hiking around the Lamar river in the valley itself is also stunning and often affords views of wildlife. Hikers should be cautious when hiking anywhere in the back country in October as the weather can change quickly and cause unfavorable conditions. If it has rained within the last few days, keep an eye out for ice on the trail as below freezing temperatures at night might have frozen the rain water from the previous days. Make sure to stay on the boardwalks in the populated areas with hydrothermal features and to give them plenty of space if you see them in the back country as many people have been severely burned and died from coming in contact with the scalding water.
backpacking in October
October is the last month of the year that snow is not likely, so backpacking is still an option if you have the appropriate gear for chilly nights. Permits are easier to obtain in the fall when the crowds have thinned, and spending the night under the golden aspens and brilliant stars in Yellowstone National Park is unbeatable. Backpackers should be advised, however, but this is the very end of the backpacking season until there is full snow coverage and winter camping can begin. Backpacking in October is much like backpacking in mid to late spring, with a very cold nights and the possibility of snow. While it can certainly be done safely, backpacking in October does require some additional gear and expertise compared to backpacking in the summer. It is probably best to stay in the northern part of the park, where the elevation is lower and the chance of snow is less likely. Many of the summits that bring you up to higher elevations may by inaccessible due to snow or the dangers of storms in the afternoon. Wildlife always needs to be considered when in the high country in Yellowstone. The bison and elk have all but finished mating season, and are stocking up on food for the winter. The bears are also preparing their dens and fat reserves to sleep for the next six months. But just because these animals are focused on food does not mean that they cannot be aggressive or dangerous if approached. Give all animals a wide berth and the respect that they deserve. Backpackers should also be aware of the weather and be prepared to turn back if it turns bad. An early snowstorm can very quickly cause a survival situation for backpackers who expected late fall conditions that were cold but snow free. Make sure to check the back country situation report and talk to a ranger you if you get a chance about the conditions in the back country, the weather, and what you might run into before setting out on your trip.
An option to make backpacking a little easier in October is to do a llama trek. Many guiding companies offer llama assisted backpacking trips and you can also rent llamas for your own use if you want to get out on your own. Hiking with llamas is a great opportunity to get to hike with less weight on your back, have a mild tempered and strong animal companion that will act as a kind of guard around your camp, and enjoy the novelty of hiking with an unusual stock animal. You can read all about what hiking with llamas will be like and the pros and cons when comparing llamas and horses. Especially in bear country, llamas are great companions as they will sense danger before humans do, and large predators such as bears and cougars are more likely to leave a herd of large, strange animals alone. Some hikers even pitch their tents among the llamas as a form of bear deterrent. Making it easier to carry the gear that you need for a trip in the colder, shoulder seasons, llamas are a great option for backpacking in Yellowstone in October.
Weather in October
Yellowstone is a large park with elevations ranging from 6,000 to 11,000 feet. Therefore the weather that you experience is highly dependent on where you are and what elevation you’re at. Many of the higher peaks in Yellowstone in October might have snow on them, but most of the lower elevations should be snow free as the roads will still be open. Generally, the weather in October is rather variable, most likely with warmer days and chilly nights. Average temperature for Mammoth Hot Springs is a high of 55, and a low of 30 degrees Fahrenheit (13/ -1 degrees Celsius). At Yellowstone Lake, the average temperature is a high of 46 and a low of 24 degrees Fahrenheit (8/ -4 degrees Celsius). On average, there are 8 days of precipitation in October. These numbers are just averages and the park can be much warmer– or much colder– than these temperatures. Guests should also keep in mind that mid 50s or mid 40s is not very warm during the day, and you will have to dress in layers even during the the warmest weather on your trip.
Because the weather in October is somewhat variable, visitors will need to bring a variety of gear and clothing to be able to face the worst weather that they might encounter. It is always best to bring layers that you can put on or take off throughout the day as you get warmer or colder. Both hypothermia and overheating are very real threats in Yellowstone, especially if you haven’t taken precautions with how you dress. If you only bring your ski jacket, you’re going to be too warm most of the time but too cold if you take it off. Instead, try warm base layers, a fleece or down jacket, and then a rain jacket or a good outer shell to keep the wind and possibly rain off you. Most cases of hypothermia in the park occur when the temperature is between 30°F and 50°F, so make sure you get out your rain jacket before you get wet and put on your warm clothing before you start shivering. This will help keep you from getting chilled, even if the temperature is not below freezing. Visitors should check the daily forecast for the specific area of the park they are visiting every morning before heading out. If you can’t find a weather page for that part of the park, you can look at the weather for the nearest visitor center or ask a ranger if you see one. Although the hot springs can look tempting on cold days, many of these hydrothermal features are often more than 200°F. Many people have been severely burned and scaled to death by coming in contact with these features. Never leave the boardwalk in areas with geysers, hot springs, or steam vents. Be especially careful after there has been a rain and the temperatures fell below freezing during the night, as thin layers of ice can form over boiling water that resemble solid ground. The weather in October can be intimidating and unpredictable, but it is by no means a reason not to visit the park in this month. Your visit will just take a little extra planning and equipment to make sure it is enjoyable and safe for everyone.
wildlie in october
October is a great time to view wildlife in Yellowstone. The rutting season for elk and bison is tapering off by the beginning of the month and many of these creatures are gathering in the low lands and valleys to stock up on fat reserves for the winter. Huge herds of bison and many elk as well can be seen in the Lamar and Hayden valleys. The iconic, big animals of Yellowstone are much sought after by first time visitors, and are often seen walking beside or even along many of the roads. Neither the grizzly bears nor black bears that live in the park are in hibernation yet for the winter, so you are still likely to see these animals foraging on the hillsides and preparing for winter. Yellowstone has the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states, and is also known for its predator-prey complex. Besides bison, elk, and bears, there are six other species of ungulates (bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, pronghorn, white-tailed deer, mule deer) and five other species of large predators (Canada lynx, wolves, coyotes, wolverines, mountain lions). And even besides these large predators, there are many other smaller predators in the park such as bobcats, red foxes, badgers, martens, and long and short tailed weasels. And none of this includes the diverse populations of rodents, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Yellowstone is truly a hotbed for wildlife which is why so many photographers and naturalists flock here to see these creatures. In October, many of these creatures are out and about during dawn and dusk: beavers can be seen diving under icy waters, otters play on the banks of the rivers, coyotes slink through the campgrounds, bobcats hunt voles and mice, bears forage on berries and plants in the low country, bison and elk graze with their maturing calves, mountain goats and bighorn sheep scale the rocky heights, and eagles fly overhead looking for something scavenge. While you might need to be patient to see some of these animals that aren’t the famous ones that proliferate the park, you won’t regret taking extra time to view any of these amazing creatures.
RECOMMENDED WILDLAND TRIPS IN OCTOBER
Planning a trip to Yellowstone in October can be intimidating as you try to decide what style of trip you want and have to keep up with weather and current conditions. But you can bypass all the headache by booking a trip with Wildland Trekking and letting one of our expert guides show you around. As October is right on the edge of the backpacking season, we offer a variety of trips from backpacking trips and llama treks to day hikes and inn based tours. There is something for everyone at Wildland Trekking and as all of our trips are all inclusive, included in your price are meals, location transportation, accommodations, and much more. Feel free to browse all the trips we offer in Yellowstone, but here are a few we especially recommend for October.
Best of Yellowstone Tour: This 5 day, inn based tour will take you on a journey you won’t ever forget. Each day, the group will set out on a different day hike in distinct areas of the park before settling down for the evening in your comfortable lodge accommodations. With the perfect balance of rustic and luxury, this trip is a must for those looking to enjoy the sights and wonders of Yellowstone without the headache or worries of planning the trip themselves.
Yellowstone Spring Trekking Adventure: We know it’s called a spring trip, but we also offer this trip in the mid fall as it’s the other shoulder season in Yellowstone for backpacking. With the wildlife out and about and the crowds far away, this 3 or 4 day backpacking trip takes you into the heart of Yellowstone to experience of the park’s most stunning scenery. Camping every night near the waters of a river or stream and including a traverse of Black Canyon, this trip gives you the best of the shoulder seasons without the hassle of planning the trip yourself.
Lamar Pelican Loop Llama Trek: Llama treks are a great option in October in Yellowstone and Wildland Trekking offers a variety of them, but this one is especially perfect for October. With moderate hiking with only a light pack thanks to your llama companions, you’ll get to experience the northern range of the park at the lower elevations where the wildlife will be abundant and the temperatures warmer. With time to throw a line into one of the rivers for the last of the fishing season on this 5 day trip, you won’t want to miss this awesome adventure.
Join a Guided Hiking Adventure
Yellowstone National Park is home to some of the most epic and amazing hiking vacations in the world. Wildland Trekking offers trips with the best of Yellowstone: geysers, waterfalls, views, wildlife, solitude, adventure and fascinating natural and cultural interpretation.
Guided Yellowstone treks are all-inclusive which covers permits; local transportation (excluded on certain tours); meals; equipment; safety systems and professional hiking/wilderness guides; all of which allows visitors to maximize their time in Yellowstone and focus entirely on enjoying the Park.
YELLOWSTONE ADVENTURE TOURS
- GUIDED BACKPACKING ADVENTURES: these are for people interested in an authentic Yellowstone adventure away from the roads and crowds.
- LLAMA TREKS: on these innovative trips, guests hike with light day packs and camp near in stunning backcountry locations.
- INN-BASED PACKAGES: these tours are all-inclusive packages with lodging, amazing daily hikes, expert guides, meals, transportation and more!
- CAMPING-BASED HIKING PACKAGES: camping-based hiking packages provide all-around hiking experiences of Yellowstone on wonderful outdoor vacations.
- DAY HIKE TOURS: maximize your day in Yellowstone on a fully guided, award-winning hiking tour on one of the Park’s best trails.