Yellowstone in July and August - complete guide and tips for your visit

Yellowstone in Summer + 9 Top Tips for Visiting in July or August

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Summer is by far the best time of the year to enjoy everything that Yellowstone National Park has to offer. However, summer is also the most popular time in Yellowstone, with millions of people visiting America’s Oldest National Park in this period…

If you are wondering what it’s like to visit Yellowstone in July or in August or are looking for some useful tips on how to actually enjoy Yellowstone in summer, then read on!

In this article, you can learn what it’s really like to visit Yellowstone in July or in August. In addition, we share our personal experience (we traveled at the end of July – beginning of August). Furthermore, we included some practical tips and tricks that will help you avoid the crowds and make the most of your trip to Yellowstone in summer.

I hope that this article will show you that visiting Yellowstone in summer can be fun. I also hope that our tips will help you plan a dream trip and truly enjoy this stunning place, despite it being the busiest season. Find out!

Green landscapes of Yellowstone National Park in July
Yellowstone in summer
 

Why Visit Yellowstone in Summer

Summer, and particularly July and August, is a magical time to be in Yellowstone. There is plenty of wildlife, the snow has melted, and hiking trails are open.

Because all the park facilities and roads are open and all the natural attractions are accessible, summer is the season that allows you to explore Yellowstone National Park to the fullest.

TIP: If you want to know when is the best alternative time to visit and why, make sure to also check our guide for the when to visit Yellowstone. It contains detailed information and tips for every season.

Keep on reading here for practical information and top tips and tricks for visiting Yellowstone in summer!

 
Bison in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone in July
Bison in Lamar Valley – Yellowstone in July
 

Disadvantages of Visiting Yellowstone in July or August

There are also some drawbacks if you decide to visit Yellowstone in peak season. The main drawback is the crowds, but it’s also more expensive to visit Yellowstone in July or August compared to the shoulder season.

That being said, it’s possible to really enjoy Yellowstone in summer. Further below, you can find our top tips for avoiding the crowds and making the most of your trip, time, and budget. But first – some practical information and our personal experience. Read on!

Old Faithful - the busiest area of Yellowstone in summer
Old Faithful is the busiest area of Yellowstone attracting big crowds in summer
 

Summer Weather in Yellowstone

July and August are the warmest months in Yellowstone. While it can still freeze at higher elevations and can be cold at night, it’s generally very warm during the day.

In July and in the beginning of August, you can expect daytime temperatures between 68-80 °F (20-27°C). However, it’s best to be prepared for colder weather as well. Although it doesn’t rain much, afternoon storms can come very quickly, so a rain jacket is a must! Luckily, these storms usually only last a couple of minutes.

In late August, temperatures generally decrease by 5-6 degrees. Daytime high temperatures can still be in the pleasant 70°F (20°C) range, whereas low temperatures can drop to around 40°F (5°C).

Family vacation in Yellowstone in summer
You wouldn’t say it from this picture, but just half an hour before that it was pouring and we got soaking wet when exploring the Upper Geyser Basin. By the time we got to the Morning Glory Pool, the sun was shining, it was hot, and our clothes were dry as if nothing happened…
 

What to Do in Yellowstone in July and August

As already mentioned, these two summer months is the absolute best time of the year in Yellowstone, because everything is accessible and open.

July and August are the best months to explore all the best places in Yellowstone and see lots of wildlife. In addition, you can go hiking, swimming, fishing (permits required), kayaking, or exploring Yellowstone Lake by boat.

Camping is also available and all the campgrounds of Yellowstone are open in July and August.

Multi-day hikes and backpacking are also possible in Yellowstone in summer. However, some of these activities require permits and thus advance booking and preparation.

There are lots of other summer activities in Yellowstone and while some activities cannot be done in June or September, pretty much everything is available in the peak summer months of July and August.

READ MORE: Best Things to Do in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Elk
Yellowstone Elk – summer is a great time to see wildlife in Yellowstone
 

What It’s Really Like to Visit Yellowstone in Peak Season

I have to admit that I was really worried about visiting Yellowstone in summer – there are so many stories all over the Internet where people are saying how crazy busy it is…

If you read some of these reports, you’d think that Yellowstone is so crowded that it can’t be enjoyed. Some of them even go as far as to say that it’s a terrible idea to visit Yellowstone in the summer.

However, just as most families with school-going kids, we could only visit Yellowstone during the kids’ school holidays. We had a choice – visit Yellowstone in summer or not visit at all. So summer it was! Below, you can read about our experience visiting Yellowstone in July/ August.

Yellowstone in summer - guide to visiting Yellowstone in July and August
We visited Yellowstone with kids and travel at the end of July – beginning of August
 

Our Experience: Yellowstone at the end of July – beginning of August

We booked our Yellowstone accommodation over a year in advance and chose our travel dates based on the lodging availability. Ironically, that meant that we traveled to Yellowstone in the absolute peak season – at the end of July – beginning of August. 

And you know what? We absolutely loved it! 

Yes, it was busy at some places, and yes, we stood in bison jams a few times and it took us around 40 minutes to cross the Hayden Valley once… But we made the best of it and took our time to observe the incredible wildlife and take a gazillion pictures of bison. Also, more often than not, the roads were very quiet with hardly any traffic around.

Take a look at the two pictures below and you’ll understand that it’s possible to prove anything you want if you just choose to show one side of the story instead of the whole picture…

Bison jam in Hayden Valley
Bison jam in Hayden Valley
Visiting Yellowstone in July - August
Empty road in the Lamar Valley
 

And yes, it was busy at the Old Faithful and at the Grand Prismatic Spring, as well as at several other most popular areas of the park. Once, we had to wait for a parking spot at the Grand Prismatic for about 20 minutes. But I also have to add that we didn’t experience any other delays anywhere else in Yellowstone.

Small crowds at the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone in July
It was relatively busy at the Grand Prismatic Spring, but we also chose to visit it in the middle of the day because we heard that the colors are at their best when the sun is high
Visiting Grand Prismatic Spring with kids - Yellowstone NP, USA
Despite it being one of the busiest places in Yellowstone in July, we could admire the Grand Prismatic Spring as much as we wanted and take pictures without any people as well…
 

And the park was simply incredible in summer – everything was so green, geothermal features were as colorful as they ever get (the colors really pop when it’s sunny), the weather was fabulous and we could play in the water and even go swimming.

We hiked a lot, we had picnics at the most beautiful places, and we saw so much wildlife… Despite it being the peak season, we managed to make the absolute best of our trip, truly enjoy it, and discover so many amazing places without any crowds whatsoever. 

How did we do that? By preparing in advance, planning our days well, and by looking for some lesser-known places to explore during the busiest times of the day. But also by keeping an open mind and making the best of the situation (such as taking lots of bison pictures when stuck in the traffic jam). 

If you don’t prepare well and have limited time in Yellowstone and still try to see it ‘all’, you might indeed get very frustrated with the crowds at the main landmarks or longer than foreseen driving times. So don’t make this mistake!

Below, you can find our experience-based tips that will help you make the most of your trip to Yellowstone in August or in July. Take a look!

Hiking to Wraith Falls in Yellowstone in summer
Hiking to Wraith Falls – we hardly met any people here and during other hikes in Yellowstone
 

9 Tips for Summer Trip & Avoiding the Crowds

Yellowstone is a busy place in the summer. Over 2,5 mln of people visit Yellowstone in the summer months (June-August), with July being an absolute peak season. However, even during these busy times, it’s possible to avoid the crowds in Yellowstone and enjoy your vacation.

Below are some tips and tricks for visiting Yellowstone in summer:

1. Book in Advance

My top tip for visiting Yellowstone in summer is to book your stay as long in advance as possible. Yellowstone accommodations for July and August get fully booked a year upfront. Furthermore, the best price-quality accommodations outside the park get booked up many months in advance.

This will not only ensure that you have a well-located place to stay, but will also save you lots of money.

Some Yellowstone campgrounds are on a first come first served basis and in summer, they fill up early in the morning. Some other campgrounds can be booked in advance and I highly recommend that you do that. The chances of finding a camping spot upon arrival in July or in August are minimal, so don’t count on it and make sure you have an alternative. Here you can find more info about Yellowstone campgrounds.

READ MORE: Where to Stay In and Near Yellowstone

Old Faithful Inn is always fully booked in July and August
Old Faithful Inn is always fully booked in July and August. If you want to stay here, you’ll have to book over a year in advance
 

2. Book a Longer Stay

The best way to truly enjoy Yellowstone is by taking your time and getting off the beaten path. For that, you need more time. Yellowstone is a big park and I advise at least 3 days to cover the main attractions.

If you can, plan to stay longer (4-5 days or more). That way you can take your time to get off the beaten path a bit, avoid the crowds, and experience Yellowstone deeper.

If you just come to Yellowstone for a day or two days, you can still enjoy it as well. But don’t try to see everything in that short time or you’ll end up spending all your time driving and queuing for a parking spot. Take it easy, pick just a few highlights to visit each day and remember that often less is more! Which brings us to our next point – itinerary.

Gibbon River in Yellowstone in July
Gibbon River in Yellowstone – one of the amazing peaceful places we had all to ourselves
 

3. Plan Your Itinerary Well

If you really want to make the absolute most of your time in Yellowstone in summer, it’s essential to do at least some planning. Ideally, you plan to visit the most popular landmarks first thing in the morning, before tour buses and day tourists arrive. 

As it gets busier in the park, you can then spend your time driving bigger distances to reach the other popular spots at around lunchtime. Have a picnic and then set to explore as everyone else starts to leave for lunch.

In the afternoon, go hiking or visit lesser-known places where most tourists don’t go. There are plenty of such places in Yellowstone, and that’s why it’s important to do some preparation in advance.

TIP: While it’s very useful to have a rough plan of your day, make sure that your itinerary isn’t packed. It’s important to leave some time for unexpected discoveries, wildlife encounters, bison jams on the road, and simply to enjoy the amazing scenery around you.

READ MORE: Yellowstone Itinerary

Artist Point Yellowstone
Artist Point – this viewpoint was very quiet at around 10 AM, but it got busier quickly after that.
 

4. Start Your Day Early

My best tip for visiting the most popular Yellowstone attractions is to go as early in the morning as possible. Most tour groups and tourists start to arrive around 10 AM and even the busiest landmarks are rather quiet before that time.

The busiest hours at the park gates are between 9 AM and 11 AM. The busiest hours at the main attractions are between 10 AM and 3 PM. I recommend visiting the main landmarks before 10 AM or after 4 PM.

For example, we visited the most popular viewpoints of the Yellowstone Canyon at around 8.30 – 10.30 AM and there were very few people around. We met maybe just a handful of other people when hiking Uncle Tom’s Trail and also the famous Artist Point was deserted. Whereas, if you come here during the day in summer, you’ll have difficulty to even find a parking spot…

Uncle Tom's Trail Yellowstone Canyon
Hiking Uncle Tom’s Trail around 8.30 AM – we had this popular trail almost to ourselves
 

5. Stay Late in the Evening

The days are long and it doesn’t get dark until around 8-9 PM in summer in Yellowstone. So take advantage of that! Most tour groups start to leave at around 3-4 PM and the park is much quieter after that. While you won’t be completely alone at the Old Faithful at 6 PM, it’s incomparably quieter than at 2 PM.

I have to admit that we stayed later only once or twice and that’s because our kids (age 5-7) were simply too tired after a long day of sightseeing. But if you are visiting Yellowstone with just adults or older children in your group, then definitely go and explore the park in the evening.

Sunset and dusk is also a great time to see wildlife in Yellowstone. Another good reason to stay a bit longer!

Yellowstone River at sunset
Yellowstone River at sunset
 

6. Go Hiking

The majority of Yellowstone visitors don’t walk further than 10-20 minutes from their car. So it’s really easy to escape the crowds in Yellowstone – go hiking. You don’t have to do any extremely strenuous hiking, there are plenty of shorter easier hikes where you’ll hardly see anyone around.

Here are some of the nicest short hikes in Yellowstone:

  • Upper Geyser Basin – at the Old Faithful
  • Grand Prismatic Viewpoint – at the Fairy Falls car parking
  • Storm Point Hike – North of Yellowstone Lake
  • West Thumb Geyser Basin – West of Yellowstone Lake
  • Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces – at Mammoth Springs
  • Uncle Tom’s Trail – at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
  • Tower Fall – trailhead behind the Tower Fall general store
  • Porcelain Basin – at Norris Geyser Basin
  • Trout Lake Trail – East of Lamar Valley
  • Wraith Falls – between Tower-Roosevelt and Mammoth Hot Springs
  • Undine Falls – between Mammoth and Tower Junction (can also be seen from the road)
  • Ice Lake – between Norris and Canyon Village
  • Harlequin Lake Trail – between Madison and West Entrance
  • Black Sand and Biscuit Basin Trails – West of Old Faithful
  • Mystic Falls Trail – back of the Biscuit Basin boardwalk

Of course, there are also plenty of long hikes

Kids hiking in Yellowstone in summer
Hiking in Yellowstone in July – we hardly met any other people on the hiking trails, even at this very easy and accessible trail to Undine Falls.
 

7. Visit Less Popular Places

Yellowstone Park is huge, yet everyone goes to the same few landmarks. Yet, there are so many other amazing places to explore that are often overlooked by the majority of visitors. These spots are ideal to visit during the busiest hours of the day when the most popular Yellowstone attractions are crowded.

Some of our favorite places in Yellowstone where we hardly met any other people were: Ice Lake, Artists Paintpots, Storm Point, Blacktail Plateau Drive, Wraith Falls, Undine Falls, scenic North East Entrance Road at the far NE end of the Lamar Valley, Lake Butte Overlook, Lewis Lake, Lewis Falls, and many more.

We never really planned to visit most of these places. But as we were driving around, we looked at the map for some ideas of places to see nearby and went to check it out. Most of the time, it was well worth a short detour. There was just one place that we visited that didn’t impress us much and that was the Petrified Tree close to Tower/ Roosevelt Junction.

All the crowds in Yellowstone are concentrated around the few main areas and everyone who says that Yellowstone is crowded in summer, simply didn’t take the time to explore the park deeper.

Artists Paintpots - one of the lesser visited places in Yellowstone
Artists Paintpots – one of the lesser-visited places in Yellowstone. There was hardly anyone here when we visited in the middle of the day at the end of July.
 

8. Pack a Picnic for Lunch

Yellowstone has lots of cafes and restaurants, but they are extremely busy. Furthermore, depending on where you are, it might take you a while even to get there. Not to mention that you also have to find a parking spot, find a suitable restaurant, wait for a free table, etc. Before you know it, you waste a couple of hours for lunch.

Instead, make sure to pack a picnic lunch! There are plenty of places where you can have a picnic in the park. Not only it’s a great way to enjoy your day in Yellowstone, but it also allows you to visit some of the busiest attractions at lunchtime when most other visitors are queuing at the restaurants. Needless to say that this will save you a lot of money as well – dining out in Yellowstone is not cheap.

There was just one time when we didn’t pack a picnic with us. That was the day when we visited Mammoth Hot Springs. It’s not the busiest place in Yellowstone and so we thought that it would be ok to have lunch there. However, the place was absolutely packed. We wasted so much time that we could have spent sightseeing, not to mention that the kids got really tired and cranky having to wait so long… So take my word for it and pack a picnic. It will save you a lot of time and frustration!

Good to know: Some areas in Yellowstone are frequented by bears. If you are hiking in such a place, it’s probably not the best idea to carry food with you, unless it’s packed in such a way that bears wouldn’t smell it. In that case, it’s best to have a picnic in your car or drive to a safer picnic area.

Yellowstone in July - Storm Point at Yellowstone Lake
Wouldn’t you rather have a picnic with a view like this than in a crowded restaurant…
 

9. Go Swimming

There are several places where you can go swimming in Yellowstone – Firehole River Swimming Area and also Boiling River.

While these places can get quite busy during the day (especially the Firehole River), there is hardly anyone around in the morning.

Going for a swim is a great way to make your Yellowstone summer vacation more special, especially when the weather is nice and warm.

READ MORE: Boiling River in Yellowstone

Swimming in Boiling River in Yellowstone National Park
Swimming in the Boiling River in Yellowstone at the beginning of August
 

So, this is our guide to visiting Yellowstone in July and in August. If you rather avoid the peak season and have the flexibility to do so, you may want to visit Yellowstone in the shoulder months. In that case, please also take a look at our guide for the best time to visit Yellowstone. It contains detailed information for visiting Yellowstone in every season. Check it out!

More tips for your trip to Yellowstone:

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Tips for visiting Yellowstone in July and in August
 
What it's like to visit Yellowstone in summer in the peak season July and August

Comments

  1. Jurga,
    Thank you so much for your blog posts on Yellowstone! The information and tips are invaluable. We started planning our trip last summer for next month (July 2020) and we are so looking forward to our trip. I have been referring to your posts a lot over the past few weeks as I start to plan out our days, meals, etc. Your itineraries have been so helpful!

    As for meals, we were wanting to plan a lot of picnic lunches as well, to save on $$ and time, to enjoy nature, but especially with the pandemic and the soon-to-be reopening of Yellowstone-we are unsure what the dining halls will look like when we go. We are staying within the park and planning on bringing food in with us, as I didn’t really see a lot of great options for purchasing grocery-type food for picnics within the park. Is this what you found to be true as well or are there store options within the park where we can replenish picnic lunch-type food? I see general stores are available, but they look more like gift shops…

    Thank you again. Stay well!

    1. Author

      Hi Randi, I had the same concern when we visited, but it turned out really easy to find food to buy and places to eat in Yellowstone. We didn’t take anything with us simply because we had no place to store it, so we just bought whatever we needed there.
      There are quite a few food stores in Yellowstone:

    2. Tower Falls General Store
    3. Old Faithful Lower General Store
    4. Old Faithful Upper General Store
    5. Fishing Bridge General Store
    6. Grant Village General Store
    7. Grant Village Mini Store
    8. Mammoth Hot Springs General Store
    9. Canyon Village General Store
    10. Roosevelt Lodge Mini Store
    11. There are also delis, bakeries, and cafeterias where you can get picnic lunch as well. Really nothing to worry about.
      Enjoy your trip!

  2. Jurga, fantastic blog! We’re off on a road trip in August to Yellowstone, Grand Titans, South Dakota, and Utah. You site is a great help. I’m wondering – where in Yellowstone is that picture at the very top of this page? Thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi Bodie, glad you found lots of useful info for your trip. The top picture is from the far northeastern side of Yellowstone, road 212 past the Lamar Valley. Here you can see the approximate location on the map.
      Have a wonderful trip!

  3. Jurga –

    I’ve been following your blog for several months now and love your articles.

    This one especially, so glad you got to experience Yellowstone! I’m from Minnesota in the USA and Yellowstone was a recurring road trip vacation for my family when I was growing up. I was so fortunate to have parents that wanted us to experience and appreciate nature at a young age. I’m so glad you’re sharing that same idea with your family.

    I think you nailed this on the head, especially when to avoid crowds. Our family always talked about vacationing on “the edges”, meaning early mornings and late evenings. Less people, more animals and cooler weather in summer!

    Anyway, I just wanted to say I love what you’re writing and glad you got to see one of the most nostalgic natural beauties in the US.

    Andrew

    1. Author

      Thank you for your kind comment, Andrew, and it’s great to have your perspective on avoiding the crowds in Yellowstone.
      Lucky you to have been able to spend your childhood holidays in Yellowstone! We hope to return one day.

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