Top 10 Reasons to Visit Yellowstone in October

Angie Ripple

The West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park is open until November 5; making plans now to visit during one of the most scenic times of year is a great idea. Not only is the foliage ablaze in color, the bull elk are bugling, bison are grazing in Hayden Valley, fish are biting, and the crowds of summer are gone. The North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park (Gardiner) is the only entrance that is open year round.

Room to Breathe
Crowds in the summer months keep many locals from visiting YNP. The shoulder seasons, particularly fall, leave roads, trails and the most famous site-seeing spots much less busy, making room for visitors to breathe in the mountain and Old Faithful air. Day trips to Yellowstone from Bozeman are an easy way to break from the norm and enjoy the amazing National Park in our backyard. No line as you enter the park in October means less time in the car and more time to explore.

Less Road Construction
Traffic can be a YNP visitor’s largest summertime foe, but October brings less traffic and less road construction. However, conditions in Yellowstone can change quickly, and it is a good idea to check road closures before heading out on your trip. Call (307) 344-2117 for up-to-date information or check

The Rut
Fall brings spectacular scenery and the annual elk mating season, the rut, where huge bull elk are vying for the females’ attention with eerie echoing bugles across wide valleys. This time of year, the herds can be found in the northern range, including Mammoth Hot Springs and along the Madison River.

Cooler fall temperatures create spectacular photo opportunities at Old Faithful and other geysers in Yellowstone Park. Turning aspens are an especially beautiful site this time of year as well. Grab your best camera for your trip to YNP, and be sure to keep it at the ready to capture every moment. Enjoy images by local photographers Chris Daniels, John Juracek and Ken Takata this October at the West Yellowstone Public Library display of The Spirit of Flyfishing: A Photographic Journey.

It’s the best, and likely safest, time of the year for mountain biking and road cycling in Yellowstone and the surrounding National Forests. The 20th Annual Old Faithful Cycle Tour will take place Saturday, October 7th, 2017. This supported ride is sixty miles round trip, with options available for one-way travel. Proceeds from the ride will be donated to the Yellowstone Park Foundation, the Reid Sanders Memorial Fund, and other local non-profits such as Community Health Partners, and local school groups.

The trails in and around Yellowstone National Park are a hiker’s dream, offering an abundance of options on millions of acres of public land. Miles of trails wind past aspen and pine, tranquil meadows, and impressive peaks. October trails are serene and crowd free. Don’t forget your bear spray!

Wildlife Viewing & Birdwatching
In autumn, YNP animals wander unbothered, making the appearance of coyotes, wolves, moose and other rare animals in the park more likely. Again, the rut brings excitement to viewers and listeners, and bison will be easy to spot as well. Over 311 species of birds have been documented in Yellowstone Park; serious bird-watchers will enjoy getting on the trail to seek elusive species.

Boiling River
The secret is out, and the Boiling River has become a new major tourist attraction within YNP. Fall is maybe the best time to soak, with no disruption from spring snowmelt, and the crisp air and warm water make for a great combination. No changing area exists here, so come prepared, and please pack out what you pack in!

Roads Soon to Close
It’s time to go while you can! Canyon Junction to Tower Fall will close Tuesday October 10, 2017. The Beartooth Pass is set to close for the season the same day at 8am, but this closure is weather dependent, so it may happen sooner. Fall weather is unpredictable and roads may be closed temporarily by snow or other weather conditions; snow tires are recommended and chains may be required for late season travel.

Much of the in-park dining options close this time of year, a perfect opportunity for you to plan to bring a picnic lunch on your trip (and good to know so you avoid disappointment). Closures open the door for you and your traveling partners to spread out and take your pick of picnic tables, lakeshore, or scenic overlook to enjoy a snack or meal that you bring along. Another great photo op as well.

If you’ve held off on your annual trip to Yellowstone, now is the time! Be safe, don’t feed the animals or put them in your trunk, carry bear spray on any trail adventure, and pack out what you pack in. Have a great trip.   

Created by Angie Ripple with help from West Yellowstone TBID, Destination Yellowstone.

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