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Secret Season in Yellowstone National Park

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

America’s first national park often ranks somewhere near the top of every outdoor enthusiast’s list of must-visit destinations. From sky-high mountains to abundant and diverse wildlife, there’s no wonder why! It's a mecca for wildlife photography, camping, fishing, and hiking.

When the warm season slips away and the junior rangers return home to begin another school year, Yellowstone National Park transforms. The summer crowds peter out, and the front country becomes a place to explore at a slower pace.

Fall has arrived.

Without a doubt, fall is the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park. If you blink, you might miss it. However, if you catch the short season when the Aspens change color, the elk are in rut, and the grizzly bear are scavenging for their last meals before the heavy winter snow falls, you’ll never forget it.

two women hiking in yellowstone national park
Emily and Olivia hiking near the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone.

But first, some essential tip planning tips…

Road Closures

Many of the roads in Yellowstone National Park close in early November. Although there is still much to explore once the roads begin to shut down, you may want to squeeze your trip into the sweet spot between Labor Day Weekend and the road closures.

Find more helpful information on Yellowstone National Park roads HERE.

Road Conditions

Travel in a vehicle with AWD or 4WD and winter-worthy tires. It’s not uncommon for Yellowstone to see winter driving conditions in September!

Limited Amenities

The few stores and gas stations in Yellowstone National Park close down or reduce their hours once the summer crowds have dispersed. Have your vehicle stocked with food, water, and warm winter gear in case of an emergency.

Tip: Pack your cooler with everything you need to stay fueled for the day. Nobody wants to be a hangry hiker! Yeti Coolers are built for Yellowstone. They feature two holes on the opening corners, which can be locked or bolted for bear-safety!

Now, let’s talk about why fall is Yellowstone National Park’s best season…

Experience Solitude (Even at Popular Attractions)

We’ve all seen photos and heard accounts of the crowds gathering around Old Faithful just before its timely eruption and the limited parking at Mammoth Hot Springs. Luckily, these chaotic images are just distant memories come fall.

Father and daughter at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.
Emily guiding her dad around YNP.

The change of season paints a more tranquil picture of Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. The boardwalks that wind through the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs are spacious, and visitors are merely sprinkled throughout the viewing deck at Old Faithful.

Tip: Want to view Old Faithful's show from a less trendy perspective? Since I know you all love to hike, take the switchbacking trail up to Observation Point. It'll be up to you to time this one right so you can see the eruption from above!

Campsites and Backcountry Permits are Easier to Score

Finding a last-minute campsite in Yellowstone National Park during the summer is near impossible. With the passing of Labor Day Weekend, Mammoth Campground begins to reveal vacancy for visitors willing to brave the chilly nights.

However, cold-weather camping doesn't have to be so... cold. Bring a little heat and light to any campground with a portable fire pit. Solo Stove has the best selection of fire pits that you can take with you on any adventure. Did I mention they are smokeless and perfect for practicing Leave No Trace?

Check fire restrictions with the camp host or a park ranger before igniting.

Backcountry camping permits are easier to come by too! There's nothing quite like stargazing in remote Yellowstone while listening to the wild sounds of bugling elk and howling wolves in the distance.

Fall backpacking in the Cascade Corner of YNP.

Quiet Hiking Trails

Do you hear that? It's the sound of... absolutely nothing. In between calling "Hey, Bear!", there's nothing to be heard but birds rustling in the brush and the occasional chatter of a squirrel above your head. The scenic hiking trails to Fairy Falls, Mt. Washburn, and Avalanche Peak are desolate compared to summer traffic.

While you're preparing to brave the frosty air in Yellowstone, don't forget to pack a sturdy pair of shoes and Merino Wool socks. Darn Tough socks are designed for the outdoors with a strong focus on using high-quality materials. They will be your favorite companion during fall hikes, and they come with a lifetime warranty!


Will you be visiting Yellowstone National Park soon?

Let us know in the comments!


Emily is a freelance travel and outdoor recreation writer from Big Sky, MT. Samples of her published work can be found at

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