Yellowstone in October is a good time to visit because there are fewer people, cooler temperatures for hiking and greater wildlife activity. It’s a stark contrast to the crowds of summer.
You do need to be prepared for a trip to Yellowstone in the fall. The weather is unpredictable in the fall so pack for sun, rain, and snow.
In October, the lodges, stores, gas stations and roads begin to close for the season. Do your research in advance so you know what to expect for all park services.
If you enjoy waterfalls, wildlife, outdoor adventure and nature photography, and can do without some park services, we recommend you plan your next Yellowstone vacation for the month of October.
YELLOWSTONE FALL TRAVEL GUIDE: All the information you need to plan your trip!
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What to Pack for Yellowstone in October
DOWNLOAD: Yellowstone Packing List
→ Insulted boots – Baffin boots are amazing!!
→ Heavy wool socks – we LOVE Darn Tough Socks!
→ Base layers – it’s all about wicking and quick-drying base layers.
→ Fleece jacket – Columbia fleece jackets are our favorite!
→ Insulated jacket – you’ll need a warm Insulated jacket to layer atop the fleece jacket for the cold mornings and evenings, trust us!
→ Waterproof rain jacket – fall weather at Yellowstone could mean sun, snow or rain so it’s a good idea to also pack a waterproof rain jacket.
→ Winter hat – it gets cold in the morning and evening during the fall so an insulating hat is always a good idea!
→ Winter gloves – put some winter gloves in your pocket just in case!
→ Rechargeable hand warmers – and our favorite new find are rechargeable hand warmers in addition to the gloves!
→ Neck gaiter – when the wind blows, it will be cold so a soft fleece neck gaiter or buff will help keep you warm.
Hotels and Vacation Rentals Near Yellowstone
Places to stay in West Yellowstone that we recommend:
Places to stay in Gardiner that we recommend:
Yellowstone Gateway Inn, Gardiner – full kitchen and comfy bed, one of our favorite places to stay!
Park Hotel Yellowstone, Gardiner – charming place to stay and loved by guests!
Absaroka Lodge, Gardiner – beautiful location with river views!
Places to stay in Cooke City or Silver Gate that we recommend:
Sunny Log Home on the Creek, Silver Gate (VRBO) – the most AMAZING location with an awesome fireplace and comfy bed!
Mountain View Cabin, Cooke City – great views and we enjoyed having a washer and dryer!
High Country Motel and Cabins – local owners who love what they do, and make you feel so welcome!
YELLOWSTONE IN OCTOBER: THINGS TO SEE & DO
Visiting Yellowstone in mid-October is so nice because tour buses are few and you often have the roadways and trails to yourselves.
As nature and wildlife enthusiasts, we spend our days searching for new photographic opportunities of the park’s mountains, lakes, rivers, and volcanic hot spots.
Yellowstone Waterfalls in October
Experiencing and photographing the various Yellowstone waterfalls is always at the top of our must-do list.
Most of the time we were able to enjoy the sounds and serenity of the waterfalls with no other people around.
Our favorite waterfalls:
- Firehole Falls
- Gibbons Falls
- Lower Falls
- Moose Falls
- Undine Falls
The one drawback for an October visit to Yellowstone is the waterfalls aren’t as full as they are in the spring, but they are still amazing nonetheless.
Yellowstone Wildlife in October
The wildlife possibilities are amazing in October. It’s important to know the parameters to keep you and the animals safe!
But first, please take the Yellowstone Pledge:
- Never approach animals. The animals in Yellowstone are wild and unpredictable, no matter how calm they appear to be.
- The safest (and often best) view of wildlife is from inside a car. Always stay at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all other animals, including bison and elk.
- Stay on boardwalks and trails in thermal areas. Hot springs have injured or killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature. Keep your children close and don’t let them run.
- Never feed wildlife. Animals that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed. Keep all food, garbage, or other smelly items packed away when not in use.
- Never park in the road or block traffic. Use pullouts to watch wildlife and let other cars pass. Stay with your vehicle if you encounter a wildlife jam.
You know you’ve had a rewarding Yellowstone trip when you capture an image of a wolf in the park.
Wolves can be seen anywhere in the park, so be prepared.
The best locations to see wolves in Yellowstone are Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley.
When you see people in these two areas set up with spotting scopes, stop and ask about the wolf activity in the area. Most people are willing to share their finds about wildlife in Yellowstone.
Black bears and grizzly bears can be found in ALL parts of Yellowstone. Here’s a list of some of best places to see bears:
- Lamar Valley
- Hayden Valley
- Swan Lake
- Gibbon Meadows
It’s so exciting to see a bear in Yellowstone. Please be a responsible visitor to the park and obey the guidelines.
Don’t be the cause of a Bear Jam because you stopped in the middle of the road and left your car to take a picture of the bear. Sadly, this happens too often.
Be prepared and know the protocol for Bear Safety at Yellowstone.
The elk rut in Yellowstone during the fall months is a big draw for people. The sights and sounds of the males is exciting, but can also be very dangerous.
It may seem the enormous elk eating on the side of the roadway is harmless, but he is a wild creature capable of inflicting tremendous damage to YOU, and even your vehicle, in seconds.
Don’t be the guy above.
Places to see elk in the fall at Yellowstone:
- Mammoth to Tower
- Along the Madison River
- North entrance near Gardiner, Montana
PHOTO TIP: Telephoto and zoom lenses allow you to get that great shot of an animal without having to get dangerously close. We never want to be one of those viral videos depicting some poor person getting thrashed by a wild animal in a bad mood.
HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH YELLOWSTONE IN OCTOBER
Our number one tip is: be prepared for anything so you can capture the moment when it happens.
One of the best experiences and photographic opportunities we’ve had occurred when we were least expecting it.
We were out early one morning to shoot waterfalls. We noticed fog sitting on Swan Lake as we drove past and decided to turn around and check out the possibilities.
As we stood photographing the fog on the lake, a pair of swans swam right up by the bank and began to bathe and dance. It was one of the highlights of our trip and spectacular to witness and photograph.
The weather at Yellowstone in October is unpredictable. You could experience rain, snow, fog, frost and sun.
Use the various weather conditions to your advantage when taking photos of the park. These frost-covered bison create a unique subject you don’t see every day.