Visiting Yellowstone National Park In April

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Bison jam visiting yellowstone national park in april during spring perfect weather and excellent time to visit for fewer crowds

If you visit Yellowstone National Park in April you can expect extremely changeable weather conditions, fewer crowds, lower hotel prices, key road closures and lots of wildlife. We’ve visited Yellowstone in April and we think it’s a great time of year for you to visit if you want to avoid overcrowding and save money, as long as you don’t mind taking risks with logistics and weather.

In this guide we walk you through the 10 most important things you should know about visiting Yellowstone in April based on our experiences.

Our Experience

Couple standing together next to a wooden fence in winter clothes with snow on the ground and a distant view over rolling hills covered in sunlight
Here we are at Mammoth Hot Springs with snow on the ground

We first visited Yellowstone for 4 days in October 2019, and then we went back for another 4 days in late April 2021. It’s one of our favorite US national parks because it’s just so unique and fun to explore. Where else can you see an abundance of vibrant hot springs, bubbling mud pots and billowing geysers?!

What we liked most about our April trip to Yellowstone was incredibly quiet geyser basins and photo spots, as well as being able to book last minute hotel rooms at cheap rates. But it was cold, we had snow and some of the roads were closed so we couldn’t reach certain areas. It’s a trade-off that only works if you’re happy to give up some attractions, comfort and convenience in order to have a far more relaxing time. Read more about us.

READ: Visiting Yellowstone in October

1. Crowds

Fewer crowds at yellowstone in april mean visiting old faithful is relaxing
It was very quiet at the Old Faithful bleachers

The month of April is something of an anomaly at Yellowstone National Park. Let’s say that April, May, September and October are the classic shoulder months for visitation. And now let’s take a look at the pre-covid tourism numbers for those months in 2019, according to these Yellowstone statistics.

  • April – 48,150
  • May – 434,385
  • September – 693,119
  • October – 171,339

What’s the first thing you notice? Surely there’s a 1 missing from before the 48 in April? No, there isn’t, it really is that quiet at Yellowstone. And a bit of quick math tells us that 48,150 / 30 = 1,605 visitors per day. But there’s a lot more to this story, so don’t miss the explanation in our “roads” section later in the guide (#3).

What you need to know for now is that if you visit in April, you’re going to have some of the most famous features in Yellowstone all to yourself. And this lack of crowds is going to be your overwhelming positive about visiting the park before it begins to get busier in May.

Our experience: During our trip, we met someone at Steamboat Geyser and asked why they chose to visit in April. The person said “well, you two and myself are making up the only 3 people in the whole of Norris Geyser Basin right now.” And he was right. We had free run of almost the entire park.

How Does Fewer Visitors Benefit You?

Tourist sat in a coat and hat alone on a bench with several other benches free and snow on the ground overlooking Old Faithful geyser on a sunny day waiting for it to erupt
Kristen sat alone waiting for Old Faithful to erupt
  • All attractions (including Old Faithful) will be free from overcrowding
  • You won’t have any issues getting parked at attractions
  • The roads won’t be backed up every time you try to get anywhere
  • You’ll be able to book cheaper hotel rooms around the park
  • Park run lodging will have availability
  • Fewer people and vehicles result in easier wildlife spotting opportunities

Just take a look at these NPS statistics showing percentage of total visitors to the park each month from 2014-2018. April accounts for 1.10%, whereas July accounts for 23.57%. The difference is enormous, and you’ll benefit in so many ways.

And after the NPS announced in February 2024 that Yellowstone received 4,501,382 visitors in 2023 (the second highest on record), we think April will become a more popular time to visit the park to avoid the crowds.

 

2. Weather

Bright and sunny day with steam and woman on boardwalk in wyoming
Lots of steam coming off Grand Prismatic Spring because of the cold temperatures

Yellowstone’s weather in April is a mixed bag. It essentially transitions from freezing and snowy to very cold and rainy, but you’ll still get some really beautiful sunny days even if it’s cold. You’re likely to see snowfall if you visit earlier in the month, but there’s a good chance you’ll still have hard packed snow on the ground throughout April because it doesn’t get consistently warm enough to melt.

Our experience: We had some seriously cold mornings and a lot of snow on the ground. But the only time we had any weather-related issues was at Norris Geyser Basin when its wooden boardwalk was covered in slippery slush. Otherwise, despite being chilly in the mornings and evenings, we were happy enough to take the trade-off with temperatures so we could enjoy the park in solitude.

Yellowstone April Weather Statistics

Here are the most important things you should know about the weather:

April 1st:

  • High – 42°F (6°C)
  • Low – 19°F (-7°C)
  • Snow – 6.6 in
  • Rain – 0.7 in
  • Daylight – 12h 48m

April 30th:

  • High – 51°F (11°C)
  • Low – 27°F (-3°C)
  • Snow – 3.4 in
  • Rain – 1.4 in
  • Daylight – 14h 13m

Source: Weather Spark

As you can see, the average highs and lows increase significantly throughout April, but you’re still going to deal with cold temperatures. Remember that these numbers don’t reflect wind chill, so the “real fee” temperatures could be much lower still if the wind picks up when you’re in the park.

What should you do to prepare?

  • Pack for winter and hope for spring
  • You must bring winter boots, coats and base layers
  • Carry survival gear in your car in case you get stuck in snow
  • Have a backup plan in case roads in, out or around the park close unexpectedly
  • Keep a close eye on Yellowstone’s live conditions when you’re in the park

Need help planning your trip to Yellowstone?

Our popular Yellowstone travel guidebook helps you with planning every aspect of your visit, including what to see in each region, where to eat and stay, itinerary ideas and map!

View Yellowstone Guidebook
Where Are Those Morgans Yellowstone travel guidebook

3. Roads

Map showing Yellowstone's roads with opening and closing dates for 2024
Screenshot we took from the NPS site showing opening and closing dates for park roads in 2024

Remember we said there’s a reason April has such low visitor numbers? Well, here’s why: Some of Yellowstone’s most important roads don’t open until the third Friday of April each year. The map above shows which park roads open on certain dates throughout spring in 2024. And the key roads for you to consider are the blue roads, because if you visit Yellowstone before the third Friday you won’t be able to visit Old Faithful, Norris or Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in Canyon.

Our experience: We knew about the roads opening after mid-April, so we planned to arrive near the end of the month and we highly recommend you do the same. In truth, most of the top attractions are accessible once the roads to Old Faithful, Norris and Canyon open. So we didn’t miss out on too many places, and again, we think it’s just part of the trade-off for fewer crowds.

What Changes?

We created the infographic below to show you exactly what it means for your visit:

Infographic showing which Yellowstone attractions are open and closed in April with certain roads opening in the middle of the month to allow more exploring to popular landmarks
Infographic: What’s open before and after the roads to Canyon, Norris and Old Faithful open in Yellowstone

As you can see, there’s so much more you can see if you arrive into Yellowstone after the roads open on the third Friday of April. It’s important to know that you’ll be severely limited if you arrive earlier.

Finally, once those roads open in mid-April, you can also enter Yellowstone via west entrance at the resort town of West Yellowstone. This means you can more easily access the park from Salt Lake City airport and you can book hotels in West Yellowstone.

READ: Airports near Yellowstone

4. Grand Teton

Grand Teton Jenny Lake not accessible in early spring
One of our favorite photos we took in Grand Teton back in 2019

Are you planning to see Grand Teton when you go to Yellowstone? Together, we think they’re the best places to visit in Wyoming, but you’ll have two problems in April: The road between Yellowstone’s south entrance (at West Thumb) and Grand Teton is closed, and Teton Park Road which takes you to Jenny Lake is also closed. You could drive around from West Yellowstone to Jackson, but you’d only be able to see half of Grand Teton anyway. Check Grand Teton live road conditions here.

Our experience: We spent 2 amazing days in Grand Teton after visiting Yellowstone the first time in October 2019. It instantly became one of our favorite national parks because it’s incredibly photogenic and it’s so easy to visit. So we were definitely frustrated we couldn’t go again when we visited the area in April. The bottom line is, you should wait for May if you want to visit both parks in one trip.

READ: How to spend 2 days in Grand Teton

5. Hotels

Yellowstone lodging is not open in april so hotels should be booked in gardiner or west yellowstone
We stayed at Riverside Cottages in Gardiner and it was a fantastic experience

You have 3 options for lodging when you visit Yellowstone:

  • Stay at a national park lodge, cabin or hotel inside the park.
  • Book a room in a non-national park hotel outside the park.
  • Camp or park your RV in a campground inside or outside the park.

Almost all official Yellowstone national park lodging is closed through April (not opening until May), with the exception of Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful Snow Lodge. But both open around the fourth Friday in April, so unless you’re visiting at the very end of the month, they won’t factor into your plans anyway. Here’s a full list of all Yellowstone lodges opening and closing dates.

Tent camping will be cold and even RV camping will be cold unless you have a good heating system in place. As a result, that means you’ll to fight with the other 50,000 tourists for hotel rooms in West Yellowstone and Gardiner. The good news is that there’s plenty of options available for you.

Our experience: We spent 2 nights in Gardiner and 2 nights in West Yellowstone when we visited in spring. Gardiner was much quieter but food options were limited, whereas West Yellowstone was much busier but there were also lots more restaurants. We’ve written about the top rated hotels in the four towns around Yellowstone on our site Best Hotels Anywhere.

Hotel Recommendations

West Yellowstone:

Gardiner:

Exclusive: If you’re planning to camp, why not take advantage of our exclusive no-strings 30-day free trial with The Dyrt PRO to get reservations at sold out campgrounds or find dispersed camping spots around the park.

READ: Where to stay in Yellowstone

6. Wildlife

Cars stuck in a bison jam in yellowstone in april loads of bison walking on road
We got stuck in this massive bison jam between Mammoth and Norris

Yellowstone is one of the best places in the United States to see wildlife roaming in the wild. And April is a great time to spot animals because many are just waking up after hibernating through a harsh winter, and there’s also fewer cars and tourists so they don’t scare as easily. Plus, bear cubs, moose calves, elk calves and most famously bison calves will stretch their legs for the very first time in spring.

Our experience: In October we saw lots of bison, deer elk and coyotes. And during our April trip we saw a bear at Upper Mammoth Terrace (we think it was a black bear, not a grizzly), a lone wolf near Grand Prismatic Spring, an eagle on the Yellowstone River near South Rim Drive and lots more bison (including a huge bison jam between Mammoth and Norris).

Where To See Animals

Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley are the two famous places you’ll hear about for seeing animals in Yellowstone. And they’re great, but just know that you’ll see animals all over the park. You can visit Lamar Valley in April, but the road to Hayden Valley doesn’t open until early May.

Grizzly bears are commonly spotted around Yellowstone Lake in later spring, but it’s closed in April. Just remember to very careful if you see a bear defending a food source, such as the carcass of an animal that couldn’t survive the winter.

Wolves are commonly seen around both Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley in spring, but you could see one anywhere else in the park like we did near Grand Prismatic Spring.

If you see a group of people with telescopes or heavy duty binoculars, chances are they’re looking at something worth stopping for. But that doesn’t mean abandon your car in the road. You must be respectful and quietly approach.

7. Hiking

Many hiking trails are closed in yellowstone throughout april due to snow and bear activity like fairy falls with a barricade
This was Fairy Falls Trailhead with a trail closure sign due to bear activity

If you’re a keen hiker, you might want to look away now: April is not the month to visit Yellowstone for hitting the trails. Trust us, we know! Mount Washburn is the most popular hike in the park but the trailhead can’t be accessed until the end of May. Many other trailheads can’t be accessed and even those that can are likely to be covered in deep snow anyway. But you can walk around the wooden boardwalks in the geyser basins, so there’s plenty of places to stretch your legs.

Our experience: We’d say the most frustrating part of our trip was the closure of Fairy Falls Trail, which you have to hike for a mile to get to the classic elevated photo overlooking Grand Prismatic Spring. But we also didn’t fancy meeting a hungry grizzly bear face to face, so we adhered to the rules, they’re in place for a reason.

Why Are The Best Trails Closed?

Tourist in pink fleece and hat walking alone on a narrow wooden boardwalk through a geyser field on a sunny day
Kristen walking on wooden boardwalks through a geyser basin

Roads: Firstly, you can’t actually access some hikes like Avalanche Peak, Storm Point, Tower Fall or Mt Washburn because the roads leading to the trailheads are closed in April.

Snow: Many trailhead signs are sticking out from a foot or two of snow. You can clearly see when trails are inaccessible, even along North Rim Drive and South Rim Drive at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone because it just doesn’t look safe.

Bears: Yes, Yellowstone’s grizzly bears are awake and they’re hungry. Certain hiking trails are closed where bear activity is high (like Fairy Falls Trail was closed for us because of bear activity). Plus, the snow is still an issue and there’s very few people around in case you have an incident.

8. Waterfalls

Waterfalls in peak in Spring with Winter snow melt
Photo we took of Lower Falls from North Rim Drive

Waterfalls in the US are best seen in spring and early summer for full flowing, powerful falls. So when the snow begins to melt after a long winter season, Yellowstone’s waterfalls are a joy to behold. But the problem is whether or not you can actually see them due to trail closures at this time of year. We think May or June would be a better time to visit if waterfall photography is your top priority.

Our experience: We focused our attention on Lower Falls in Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone because it’s by far the star waterfall attraction in the park. Artist Point is our favorite view but we recommend driving both Rims for various perspectives. We’ll hike to the other major waterfalls when we next visit Yellowstone in May or June.

Best Falls To See

  • Yellowstone Lower Falls
  • Yellowstone Upper Falls
  • Union Falls
  • Fairy Falls
  • Gibbon Falls
  • Firehole Falls
  • Mystic Falls
  • Tower Falls
  • Undine Falls

9. Geysers And Hot Springs

Steam billowing out of grand prismatic spring in april at yellowstone vibrant colors
This is one of our favorite Grand Prismatic Spring photos

Yellowstone’s geysers and hot springs look more visually appealing in the summer months because there’s plenty of warm air surrounding the geothermal features, which means very little steam is created. So if you visit in April, you’ll have ground snow partly covering hot springs and lots of steam billowing, which isn’t ideal. You also won’t be able to visit West Thumb geyser basin at all because the roads don’t open until mid-May.

Our experience: When we were sat by ourselves on the bleachers waiting for Old Faithful to erupt, we commented that we were fine with the snow and steam! We were able to see most of the important geothermal features but only because we visited near the end of April, which you must also do if you want to see Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic and Norris.

Which Should You See?

  • Upper Basin (Old Faithful)
  • Midway Basin (Grand Prismatic)
  • Lower Basin (Fountain Paint Pot)
  • Biscuit Basin
  • Black Sand Basin
  • Artists Paintpots
  • Norris Basin
  • Mammoth Hot Springs

10. Photography

Morning glory pool is incredibly photogenic despite visiting Yellowstone in april when steam billows out of hot geothermal features
Here’s our photo of the vibrant Morning Glory Pool

If photography is your top priority in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, you might want to reconsider which month you visit. We recommend holding off until mid-May at least otherwise you won’t be able to reach some the best photo spots in both parks, sunrises and sunsets are freezing cold, and you’ll end up with lots of whites from snow or blown out skies.

Our experience: We’re travel photographers, so we’re always out for sunrises and sunsets no matter the temperatures or conditions. But we struggled in Yellowstone. It was so cold, there was so much snow and we couldn’t get to places like Fairy Falls or even into Grand Teton at all. Our next trip will be in May or June to focus more on hiking and photography.

The Morgan Conclusion

Couple standing together  on top of a vent with steam billowing out and more steam coming out of a hole in the ground behind on a hillside
Here we are at Mud Volcano near Hayden Valley

Late April is a fantastic time to visit Yellowstone if your highest priority is to avoid crowds. You’d benefit from quiet roads and geothermal features, lots of wildlife spotting opportunities, and cheaper hotels in Gardiner and West Yellowstone.

But you’d have to contend with cold temperatures, major hiking trails being closed, some park roads being closed and not being able to drive directly to Grand Teton. If you’re happy to take on the risk, we can tell you from experience that Yellowstone is refreshingly quiet in late April.

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We hope this guide to visiting Yellowstone in April helps with planning your trip to Wyoming!

Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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20 thoughts on “Visiting Yellowstone National Park In April”

  1. Hello Mark & Kristen,
    I am planning my 4th trip to Yellowstone (1999, 2006, 2016) May 6-15, 2024. I have a reservation for a conversion van in SLC, but am reconsidering because I’m having a tough time deciding on campgrounds to reserve (since many are not opened that early–even outside the parks). Ugh!

    My question is: If only the West and North entrances are open during my stay — what route would you recommend to get to the North entrance from SLC? Route 89?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Carolyn, it’s great to hear you will be heading back to Yellowstone for a fourth time. Yes, your dates in May are right in that period when certain roads and campgrounds are beginning to open but many are still closed. If only west and north entrances are open when you drive up from SLC, you can take 89 but you will have to drive from Jackson to West Yellowstone (west entrance) on 33 and 20 because south entrance to Yellowstone (through Grand Teton) is still closed. It might be worth taking the interstate from SLC to West Yellowstone to save a bit of time but it will be far less scenic. If you do stick to those dates, keep a close eye on road openings since they are weather dependent. You should be able to enter at West Yellowstone, see the north side, drive down to the south side and leave through Grand Teton on the way out if you leave May 15th (south entrance opened on May 12th in 2023 for reference). Hope that helps and have a fantastic trip!

      Reply
  2. Hey Guys Loved reading Thru . I have been to Yellow Stone and Teton in July and this time I am taking my parents on April 28th for 3 days . I am hoping I can make a Day Trip from West Yellowstone into Teton. My Parents are elderly and reading your article has given me much confidence in parking availability . I am so excited for them to experience Yellowstone free from the overwhelming crowd in the summers and parking nightmares. I would be staying near the West Entrance and would you have a 2 days Itinerary that you would suggest . I want to make sure I cover most spots and get a view of the lake too.
    Thanks for all your help .

    Reply
    • Hi Moom, thanks for getting in touch and we’re glad to hear you have a family trip planned to Yellowstone! The end of April is a wonderful time to visit as things begin to open and the crowds are yet to arrive. West Yellowstone is a great place to set up at this time of year and you’ll be able to see most of the best parts in the park. However, you will not be able to access Yellowstone Lake (roads leading here don’t open until May 6). If you want to day trip Grand Teton you will have to drive 3h 30m around the back of Teton and through Jackson. South entrance connecting Yellowstone to Teton doesn’t open until May 13th. So there’s a bit of a tradeoff between fewer crowds and cheaper hotels vs logistics and accessibility. You can still easily do Mammoth, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone Falls, Norris, Old Faithful and all the main geyser basins except West Thumb. Let us know if you have any more questions but if not we hope you all have an unforgettable visit to the area!

      Reply
  3. Hi guys,

    Loved the article. Will be driving up to Montana to visit my grandfather and will have my dog with me. I planned on pit stopping at Yellowstone as I haven’t been since I was a child. Can I leave my dog in the car inside the park? Any pet friendly places to stay? I’ll be heading in around April 16th.

    Reply
    • Sounds like a great trip, Logan. Yes you can leave your dog in the car and most of the attractions in Yellowstone only require short periods to explore, so your dog won’t be left for too long. Dogs aren’t allowed in the hotel rooms inside the park, but they are allowed in certain cabins within the park. But most hotels in West Yellowstone and Gardiner allow pets. Have a great time with your grandfather!

      Reply
  4. Hi Mark and Kristen,

    We r travelling to yellowstone on April 15th , will we able to drive to the artist point and the upper and lower falls look out ?

    Thank you

    Reply
    • @Mark and Kristen Morgan,

      Thanks so much for the response , two more questions , are there any restaurants open inside the park where we can pick lunch ( since we r travelling with a 4 yr old) and are there restrooms easily accessible throughout the park?

      Reply
      • Restrooms are available at each of the major attractions, such as Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful. But food is a problem area for Yellowstone in April. All of the dining rooms are closed until the very end of April. We bought food at grocery stores and took packed lunches into the park each day. There is a small convenience store open at Mammoth but it is limited and more expensive vs West Yellowstone supermarkets.

        Reply
    • Hi Jason, it depends entirely on how much snow falls in the days leading up to your visit, but typically the NPS will plow any snow to clear the main roads so you should be fine with FWD. If you’re hiring a car, it might be worth paying the extra for 4WD if the weather looks suspect just to be safe. Have a great time in Yellowstone!

      Reply
  5. I’ve gotten come conflicting information on seeing old faithful in April. We are going April 18-21, 2022 and trying to get an idea of where to enter and if we can see old faithful. Not knowing the area and seeing how large it is makes it confusing. What would be the best entrance for that?

    Reply
    • Hi Aven – West (West Yellowstone) entrance opens April 15 in 2022. North (Gardiner / Mammoth) entrance is open year round but the roads between Mammoth and Old Faithful don’t open until April 15. Your dates of April 18th – 21st mean you can access Old Faithful via either North or West entrance. Have a great trip!

      Reply
  6. Super helpful ! Any more suggestions for a group of 6 (all adults, one with some knee issues but still good for walking) looking to go to Yellowstone 4/18/22-4/22/22. Thoughts on if it’s Better to fly in/out of Bozeman & stay in an Airbnb closer to the north entrance ? Or west entrance ?

    Reply
    • Hi Alexandra, thank for getting in touch and we’re happy to hear you have a Yellowstone trip planned! You will be arriving just a few days after the park opens (as long as there’s not too much snow!) so you’ll have much of the park to yourself before it gets really busy around the start of May. A lot of trails will still be closed, but you’ll be ok to explore each geyser basin by walking around the boardwalks. Either Gardiner or West Yellowstone will be great. Gardiner works better if you are flying into/out of Bozeman but West Yellowstone is more central for the park. Driving to/from Gardiner (or Mammoth) every day will add up quickly. There are more food options in West Yellowstone. Gardiner is closer to Lamar Valley if you’re most interested in wildlife. So there are pros to both areas! If you have any more questions please let us know, otherwise we hope you all have a wonderful trip!

      Reply
  7. Great blog, but Im still a bit confused. We will be in Montana in first week of April – 5-10th, I see one raod is open from North to North East entrance, can we park and hike from this road?
    I hope so!

    Reply
    • Hi Liz, thanks for making the point – we’ve cleared that one up! You will be able to drive into Mammoth, across to Tower and up Lamar Valley. This is the best wildlife spotting area in the park and you will barely see another soul, especially if you hike away from the main road. Have a great trip!

      Reply
    • @Mark and Kristen Morgan,
      This article was so helpful in planning an upcoming trip (April 15-19)
      I’m wondering how safe it is to get out of the car and walk around in terms of wildlife and animals being around? I’ll be sure to use common sense of course but still a little worried about coming across a wolf or other animal if we are walking around?!

      Reply
      • Hi Jen, we’re glad you found it helpful. It is safe enough to walk around the major attractions, we saw wolves at a distance near Grand Prismatic Spring but they stay well away from humans. When it is unsafe to visit an area, there will be notices saying so, for example Fairy Falls trail was closed during our April visit because of high bear activity. You will see bison and/or elk walking through Mammoth Hot Springs, just keep your distance and you’ll be fine. Have a great trip!

        Reply

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