Visiting Yellowstone National Park in June
There are always tradeoffs when deciding what time of year to visit the more popular US National Parks. The time of year when the weather is the most desirable not surprisingly tends to coincide with the time of year when the crowds are at their largest. Offseason travel is oftentimes a good solution to this problem, but some of the parks are so miserably cold in the offseason that it’s not a viable option. We visited Yellowstone in June, and while there were certainly pros and cons, overall it was a good time of year for a visit.
The warmest months in Yellowstone are July and August but June isn’t terribly far behind. The days are usually very comfortable, especially at the lower elevations, but it can get very cold at night and in the early mornings. We had to bundle up when we left our cabin each morning before 6 AM, but were down to t-shirts by the afternoon. It is important to note that June is one of the rainiest months, which we experienced first hand. It’s not an extremely rainy place by any means, but don’t be surprised if you experience some showers. You’ll also notice that many of the tallest mountains in the park are still covered in snow throughout the month of June, even with temperatures in the 60’s during the day. Despite this, all roads in the park are open throughout the month which makes getting around by car the best transportation option. Almost everything in the park is fully operational in June; however, boating services on Yellowstone Lake as well as some campgrounds do not officially open for the summer until mid-June.
June is not quite as crowded as July or August, but it is a very busy time of year. Expect crowded roads and parking lots and make sure to book your accommodation well in advance. Old Faithful and most of the geyser basins and other popular attractions in the park will be overflowing with tourists. The best advice is to get an early start or to go on a hike to get off the beaten path to avoid the crowds. Yellowstone is easily accessible by car, so most visitors never take the time to venture far beyond the main roads. Once you get out on the hiking trails the crowds disappear. Just be sure to carry bear spray.
June is one of the best months for wildlife viewing. Bears emerge from hibernation in March/April and usually don’t head for higher elevation until later in the summer. If you go to Lamar Valley or Hayden Valley at dawn/dusk, you’ll have decent odds of spotting a grizzly off in the distance. If you’re lucky you’ll see one close to the road. Your odds of seeing Bison are 100% and you’ll likely have to stop at some point to let them cross the road. Elk and moose won’t have antlers at this time of year but they are still spotted frequently. Wolves are always hit or miss, but they are sometimes spotted hunting in Lamar Valley this time of year.
Waterfalls will be flowing at full volume this time of year. Be sure to check out Lower Falls, Upper Falls, Tower Falls, Mystic Falls, and Gibbon Falls.
Overall, June is one of the better times to visit the park. It will certainly be crowded, but it hasn’t yet reached it’s peak visitation, especially in early June. The weather will be comfortable and you will not be restricted by road closures or deep snow at lower elevations. Wildlife will be abundant and you’ll have a good chance at spotting a prized grizzly.