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. Also, the lodges, stores, gas stations and roads begin to close for the season. Do your research in advance so you know what to expect in October for 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.
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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
- Gibbon Falls
- Lower Falls
- Moose 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 nontheless.
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.
WOLVES IN LAMAR VALLEY
You know you’ve had a rewarding Yellowstone trip when you capture an image of a wolf in the park.
We were lukcy to see and photograph gray wolves standing on the hilltop observing us as we took their picture. Unforgettable.
Funny story here is: there were others in a turnout near us who were focusing their gaze on the valley. As photographers we’re in the habit of always looking around the scene. And good thing we did. The wolves were on the hillside BEHIND everyone.
Unfortunately, the other people across the road never knew, and we couldn’t get their attention without yelling so we enjoyed the experience while it lasted.
Bears can be found in many parts of Yellowstone:
- Lamar Valley
- Hayden Valley
- Near 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 this guy.
Places to see elk in the fall at Yellowstone:
- Mammoth to Tower
- North entrance near Gardiner, Montana
- Along the Madison River
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.
Your Photography Journey Facebook Group
This is the group for you if...
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What to Pack for Yellowstone in October
- Insulated boots
- Heavy wool socks – we LOVE Darn Tough Socks!
- Wicking and quick-drying base layers
- Fleece or insulated jacket
- Wool, down or heavy-weight insulated jacket
- Waterproof rain jacket
- Insulating hat
- Insulating winter gloves
- Fleece neck gaiter or buff
Places to Stay Near Yellowstone in October
In October we like staying in Gardiner, Montana so we’re close to Mammoth (and the elk), We also enjoy Silver Gate and Cooke City, Montana because they are so close to Lamar Valley (for other wildlife).
If you prefer to see the waterfalls and geysers, then it’s best to stay in West Yellowstone. Here are places we’ve stayed, and recommend, in these towns:
Sunny Log Home on the Creek, Silver Gate (VRBO) – the most AMAZING location with awesome fireplace and comfy bed!
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