Cold? In the spring, Yellowstone National Park certainly can be. If you bring a good coat you’ll be more than fine, because what you lack in warmth you gain back tenfold in space. On a more serious note, while Yellowstone might be a little chilly still in the spring, it’s also one of the best times to see this extremely popular national park. Early spring means you’ll avoid the largest of the crowds that flock to this destination every year.
With National Park Week 2021 taking place April 17 to 25, the shoulder season could be a great time to check out one of the nation’s most popular national parks.
Since school is still in session, spring—especially April and May—if you get some time, you really should consider checking out what this magical national park has to offer. It’s a special place any time of the year, but springtime ups the ante a little bit and will help bring to life one of the more interesting places in all of North America. So, pack up your bags, hitch up the RV or fire up the motorhome and get on the fastest route to Yellowstone this spring, you won’t regret it.
Here’s what you can expect to find at Yellowstone in the spring.
The Park Comes to Life
Spring in Yellowstone is all about renewal. The cold winter weather is subsiding and wildlife of all sorts is ready to escape the harshness of winter for the promises that Spring holds. Human beings also feel this need to get out into the world after a long winter, and the park quite literally comes to life when spring comes and snow begins to thaw. While April is still pretty early it can be a great thing to see nature in its early spring stages.
Throughout May, wildflowers like glacier lilies, shooting stars, bluebells, clematis, and larkspur peek out along streams and within meadows. Bears come down from the hills, both black and grizzly, their new cubs in tow as well as their one and two-year-olds. Spring is a great time to see wildlife like bears venture back out into the open, but it’s also time to make sure you’re following proper safety protocols.
Make sure to check in with the various visitor stations and talk to park rangers about the best ways to camp safely this spring. You want to not only ensure you and your family will have a good time but also that you don’t disturb the natural order of things and let wildlife live comfortably and free of impact from campers who visit the area.
Other wildlife newborns come with spring’s arrival. Along with the many bison and elk calves (spring is the height of their calving season), you may see fox kits, badger kits, wolf pups, and otter pups to name just a few. Chances are, if you visit Yellowstone in the spring, you will be able to see some of the youngsters playing from the side of the road.
So, if you want to watch Yellowstone come to life, spring is the perfect time to visit. You can camp, hike, or honestly see a whole heck of a lot from the window of your car.
Yellowstone also has many natural geological wonders that never take time off (it’s called Old Faithful for a reason), regardless of the season.
There are many spectacular waterfalls within the 2.2 million acres comprising Yellowstone. Some, like Upper and Lower Yellowstone, the Virginia Cascades, and Undine Falls, are easily accessible. Others, like Fairy Falls and Mystic Falls, are just a short hike into the woods. However, if you’re going to hike in the park you should always stay on the trail and never hike alone.
You can also visit awe-inspiring sights like Grand Prismatic Spring, but, once again, stay on the path. Yellowstone is volatile because it is teeming with geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and steam vents—some found immediately off Yellowstone’s designated trails.
Getting There in an RV
When traveling with your RV—towed or motorhome—it is best to avoid the steep grades of both the Bighorn Mountains (East Entrance to Yellowstone via Wyoming) and the Beartooth Highway (Northeast Entrance via Montana). In fact, they may not be available for any vehicular traffic before Memorial Day Weekend, so stick to the North, South, and West entrances for park access.
RV Park reservations inside the park for five of the campgrounds (including Fishing Bridge, the best option for RVers) are required. The following is a brief summary of RV-accessible campgrounds inside and outside the park to consider for a May visit. Act quickly, because Yellowstone is America’s most popular national park destination.
Inside the Park
Reservations for the following sites are required (the park has seven more but they are first-come, first-served, and generally not open until June).
Also please note: RV + vehicle length is 40 feet or less at all campgrounds inside the park.
- Fishing Bridge – has hook-ups (and possibly the only one that will be open by the first week in May).
- Bridge Bay – no hookups.
- Canyon – no hook-ups; some RV-only sites.
- Grant Village – no hookups.
- Madison – no hookups.
Please consult yellowstonepark.com for more information on reopening dates.
Outside the Park
When you can’t find a good campsite inside the park, you can always stay outside of the park. Many campgrounds outside of the park offer more amenities and features than those inside the park. They’re often a bit more expensive, but sometimes, those additional amenities are worth it. Here are some great parks to check out:
- Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park – West Yellowstone, MT (west entrance)
- Yellowstone Holiday RV Campground & Marina – West Yellowstone, MT (west entrance)
- Yellowstone KOA Mountainside – West Yellowstone, MT (west entrance)
- Yellowstone West Entrance KOA – West Yellowstone, MT (west entrance)
- Valley View RV Park – Island Park, ID (west entrance)
- Redrock RV Park – Island Park, ID (west entrance)
- Yellowstone’s Edge RV Park – Emigrant, MT (30 minutes from north entrance)
- Longhorn Ranch RV Resort – Dubois, WY (2 hours away from the south entrance)
- Ponderosa Campground – Cody, WY (east entrance)
- Yellowstone Valley Inn – Cody, WY (east entrance)
If none of these parks are available or just won’t work for you, then you’re not totally out of luck. Good Sam has a robust list of campgrounds you can consider staying at. The list from Good Sam will include some of the campgrounds listed above, but you can also see some additional choices. Between the list provided above that the list of Good Sam campgrounds, you should be able to find a place for you and your family to enjoy this amazing area.
When camping in the national parks is 40 foot the maximum length for the trailer or boat trailer and vehicle
This guide from Cruise America may help. Happy camping!