Visiting Yellowstone in April: Tips, Weather + More!

April is the heart of the spring season in Yellowstone National Park. But because of Yellowstone’s elevation, it might feel like it is still winter.

This means that though some of Yellowstone may be closed in April, the crowds are low, baby animals are abundant, and visiting Yellowstone is as unique as ever.

Though still a bit frosty during the month, visiting Yellowstone National Park during April will still give you multiple sunny days, empty boardwalks, and some of the best hiking conditions of the year.

This guide will help you plan your trip to Yellowstone National Park in April so you can enjoy all the area has to offer before the busloads of tourists begin to unload for the summer season.


Yellowstone in April Quick Facts

Yellowstone-Spring-April-Roads

April is a very tricky month to visit Yellowstone. Winter activities such as snowmobiling and snowshoeing are no longer available and summer activities in the park have yet to begin. Visitors must plan their Yellowstone visit in April carefully or else they might find many of the attractions in the park unavailable.

Here are some quick facts to assist you:

  • Park Roads: – All park roads are closed except for the ones open during the winter (the road on the Northern part of the park). Road from West Entrance to Madison Junction, Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful, and Norris to Canyon Village usually open on the third Friday of April.
  • Campgrounds – No campgrounds are open in Yellowstone during April.
  • Lodging Inside Yellowstone – No lodgings in Yellowstone are available in April, unless you count Mammoth Hotel and Cabins and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge which open a few days before the end of the month.
  • Weather – The weather is usually chilly, but sunny. There is, however, always a chance of snow or rain.
  • Crowd Level – April is one of the quietest months in Yellowstone National Park.
  • Visitor Centers – Albright Visitor Center is open year-round. West Yellowstone Visitor Center, Old Faithful Visitor Center, and Canyon Education Center usually open on the third Friday of the month.

It is important that you check on the official site the date of the road re-openings. The date changes every year, and sometimes it changes more than once because of unexpected climate.

Yellowstone-in-April-Road-Openings
See Full-Quality Map Here (Original Map Credit: NPS)

As you can see, the majority portion of the park is closed in early April. Even in the latter half of the month, some parts of the park are inaccessible. Here is a list of the main sights in Yellowstone that are accessible and inaccessible in April.

Attractions Available BEFORE Road Re-openings In Mid-April:

  • Mammoth Hot Springs
  • Lamar Valley
  • Boiling River (not available for swimming)
  • Albright Visitor Center
  • Undine Falls
  • Petrified Tree

Attractions Available AFTER Road Re-Openings In Mid-April:

  • All the Above
  • Norris Geyser Basin
  • Canyon Village (Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and its waterfalls)
  • Fountain Paint Pots
  • Old Faithful
  • Grand Prismatic Spring (But Overlook not open)
  • Midway Geyser Basin
  • Upper Geyser Basin

Attractions UNAVAILABLE AFTER Road Re-Openings In Mid-April:

  • Yellowstone Lake
  • West Thumb Geyser Basin
  • Mud Volcano
  • Tower Falls
  • Mount Washburn

Pros of Visiting Yellowstone In April

Crowd Free

Old-Faithful-Yellowstone-No-Crowds

Statistically speaking, April is the last month before the crowds arrive. Compared to May, April usually sees about one-tenth of the visitors as May. In 2020, the park saw 46,219 visitors in April and 573,204 in May.

Fewer crowds let you enjoy some of the park’s most famous scenic views without the hassle of hundreds of tourists.

Even places like Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring are relatively empty during April allowing you to have the perfect photo and viewing opportunities.

Unique Wildlife Viewing Opportunities

Yellowstone in May Wildlife

Spring means the arrival of baby animals and the end of winter hibernation for Yellowstone’s grizzly and black bears. For visitors to Yellowstone, this means there are far more opportunities to see wildlife.

Baby bison wander the valleys near Madison Junction, bears start scavenging for food all over the park, and Mammoth’s elk begin looking patchy as they shed their winter coats. Wolves are also often spotted in Lamar Valley as they make their way to their summer grounds.

It is an amazing time to be in the park for wildlife lovers!

Hot Springs Near Yellowstone National Park

Grand-Pristmatic-Spring-Yellowstone-Snow-May

Though chilly in April, the sun is usually shining and the skies are cloudless. This means that Yellowstone’s hot springs are at their most beautiful.

Filled with thermophilic bacteria, the colorful hot springs of the upper geyser basin and lower geyser basin can be viewed in all of their rainbow glory. The thermophilic bacteria cause the colors to appear even more vibrant in the sun. 

Want to soak in a hot spring? Though you can’t soak in any of Yellowstone’s geothermal features. April’s cold weather means it is a great time to explore some nearby hot springs resorts such as Yellowstone Hot Springs in Gardiner, Montana.

Dramatic Landscapes for Photographers

Bison Calves Spring yellowstone

The snow, steam, mountains, wildlife, and crowd-free boardwalks all contribute to some of the most dramatic landscapes you can see in Yellowstone National Park.

The combination of the steam and snow adds depth to photos and emphasizes the true wild essence of the region. Wildlife photographers also flock to the area to get once-in-a-lifetime shots of bear cubs and bison calves as they take their first steps into their new world.

Low Elevation Hiking and Backpacking

Though April is too early in the season for high-altitude treks, it is the perfect time to enjoy some of the lower elevation trails that are too busy in the summer months. The days are cool and a great temperature for longer day hikes.

Though the temperature does drop significantly at night, lower elevation hikes are far more enjoyable in April than during the heat and height of summer travel months. Just remember to pack some waterproof shoes as the melting snow causes lots of mud and puddles along the trail.

Powerful Waterfalls In Yellowstone

When the snow melts in the park, some of the water goes into the river. This means that any waterfalls in Yellowstone you see are likely going to be much more powerful than they normally are. April is a great month to observe the power of mother nature through these waterfalls.

However, the best waterfall in the park (the Lower Falls of Yellowstone), is situated in Canyon Village. The road to Canyon Village typically isn’t open until later in the month, so make sure you keep that in mind when visiting.


Cons of Visiting Yellowstone In April

No Connection to Grand Teton National Park

Sunrise-Grand-Teton-National-Park-Featured

Due to the proximity of Grand Teton National Park, many visitors combine their Yellowstone itinerary with a visit to Grand Teton National Park. Unfortunately, this is not possible in April.

The South Entrance that connects the national parks is closed during April as the Northern part of Grand Teton has yet to open. This closure prevents visitors from knocking both off their bucket lists while visiting Yellowstone in April.

Most of The Park Is Still Closed

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of visiting Yellowstone in April is that you might not get to see all of its main attractions. In the earlier parts of the month, roads to Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring are likely to be closed, and only the northern parts of the park will be open.

Typically, some of the roads in Yellowstone will reopen on the third Friday of the month, but visitors still don’t have access to the southern parts of the park.

If you are planning your visit to Yellowstone, try to plan it for the days after the roads re-open. At least you get to see the majority of the park.

Fewer Accommodations and Amenities

Lodgings inside the park are typically not open in April. Most of them have staggered openings starting in late April until early June. Park amenities open from late April to early May (but the exact dates are dependent on the weather that season).

If you planning a trip to Yellowstone in April, make sure you are prepared to stay and eat in entrance towns such as West Yellowstone or Gardiner, Montana.

If you are visiting before the roads (and west entrance) open, then Gardiner is the only town you should stay in.

Road Closures

Yellowstone in May Weather

Though there are five roads open (four scheduled to open third Friday of and one open all winter) in Yellowstone National Park in April, it is important to realize that most roads are closed in early April.

The open roads also usually only include the main throughways. Scenic detours, such as Firehole Canyon Drive, often remain closed despite the main roads staying open. Road closures might also occur in the case of bad weather even if it is after the road opens in the middle of the month.

Even when the roads are open in late April, you have to spend valuable time double-tracking on parts of the Grand Loop Rd because other parts of it are closed.

Hiking Trail Closures

Due to the abundance of wildlife and the amount of snow on the ground, hiking trails may be closed. Lower elevation trails might be shut down due to bear sightings on the trail or bison blockages.

Higher elevation trails will likely still have too much snow on them to open in April. Keep in mind that you may need to have backup plans in case the hike you were planning is closed. 

Everywhere Is Slippery, Wet or Muddy

Yellowstone-In-April-Trails

The snow that has accrued in the winter is finally starting to melt in April. This creates super muddy hiking trails and just really wet terrain everywhere you go. The worst part is that the snow that melts during the daytime refreezes at night when the temperature is a little bit lower, so some of the paths can become quite icy.

This is particularly a concern when you are on the boardwalk exploring the geyser basins. Make sure you take some waterproof hiking boots with good grip on your trip.


Yellowstone Weather In April

Weather-in-Yellowstone-April-Snow

Though spring in some states, Yellowstone National Park is still dethawing in April. The daily temperatures generally fluctuate between 43.3°F (6.3°C) and 18°F (-7.8°C). The temperatures will feel like it is winter, but April sees an average of eight hours of sunshine per day.

Though known for being a sunny month, visitors to Yellowstone do need to recognize that snow is very likely in April. According to past statistics, April usually has about 9.5 days of snow out of 11.6 days of precipitation. So when it rains, it is usually so cold that it becomes snow.

This means that a visit during the month could be interrupted by snowy weather and road closures.

If you want to avoid snow and possible road closures, visit in the latter half of the month when the temperatures are warmer and snow is less common.


Things To Do in Yellowstone in April

See The Powerful Falls Of The Yellowstone River

Lower-Falls-Yellowstone-April

As we have mentioned, the melting of the snow from the winter causes an increase in the volume of the water in lakes, rivers, and more. Consequently, one of the best months to observe the waterfalls in Yellowstone is April.

There are plenty of waterfalls in Yellowstone, but none will amaze you as much as the waterfalls of the Yellowstone River. There are two falls that visitors can see:

  • Upper Falls (109 ft high)
  • Lower Falls (308 ft high)

Lower Falls is usually the crowd’s favorite, as it is much higher and the dramatic cliffs around it enhance its beauty.

There are multiple viewpoints to admire the waterfalls. But depending on the weather condition of the year, some of the viewpoints might be closed. It is always good to check online to see which viewpoint is available for visitors.

Wildlife Viewing in Lamar Valley

Bison-Calves-In-May-In-Yellowstone-Featured

April in Yellowstone is full of wildlife as winter ends and animals start to move to their summer grounds. Bears are coming out of hibernation and introducing their new cubs to the world. Bison calves are taking their first steps in spring sunshine as the herds migrate to summer-feeding regions. 

Lamar Valley is one of the best places to see spring wildlife up close. The road between Tower Junction and Cooke City (the northeast entrance) is full of animals.

Due to the lower traffic levels and fewer crowds, visitors are more likely to have sightings of bears, bison, elk, and wolves. For photographers and wildlife enthusiasts, a trip to this part of Yellowstone National Park is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

To get to Lamar Valley, you enter through the North Entrance or Mammoth Hot Springs area. While driving through Mammoth, look for elk herds that frequent the hot springs and town. Keep an eye out for wildlife after you pass Tower Junction into Lamar Valley. Many sightings aren’t obvious so it is good to bring binoculars, scopes, and patience for the best wildlife viewing experience. 

Osprey Migration at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Osprey-Yellowstone

Not only is the wildlife in Lamar Valley flourishing, but birdwatchers flock to Yellowstone in April for the osprey migration. Ospreys are large birds that live in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone during the summer season. 

The birds usually return from their winter migration in April and begin building nests in Yellowstone National Park. Ospreys depend on fish as one of their primary food sources. This means that they build their nests near a lake, river, or other body of water. 

In Yellowstone National Park, one of the locations with the most returning ospreys and nests is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Here, the birds will build their nests on the pinnacles of the canyon or in the trees above the canyon walls. The birds are often seen flying above the Yellowstone River near the upper and lower waterfalls of the Grand Canyon.

Bird enthusiasts frequent the canyon during April so they can photograph the ospreys and their next. However, people who don’t identify as birders are also taken by the views of ospreys flying through the waterfalls’ mist.

Soak In Bozeman Hot Springs

Though the Bozeman Hot Springs are not inside Yellowstone, they are close enough (and stunning enough) to warrant a visit. Located in the city of Bozeman, about 1.5 hours away from the North Entrance of Yellowstone, the Bozeman Hot Springs is the perfect day trip.

The Bozeman Hot Springs is one of the most comprehensive complexes of hot springs in the area. It features a range of indoor and outdoor pools, all supplied by natural hot water from underneath the ground. There are also saunas and a gym for a full day of relaxation.

The Bozeman Hot Springs is a great place to visit if you are visiting in early April when most attractions in Yellowstone aren’t open yet. It is the perfect thing to do after a day of hiking in the park!

Visit Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth-Hot-Springs-Yellowstone-In-April-Featured

Mammoth Hot Springs is one of Yellowstone National Park’s most beautiful sights. Located near the north entrance in the town of Mammoth, this geothermal feature is a must-see in the park. With vibrant steaming travertine terraces, Mammoth Hot Springs is a sight to behold. 

However, it’s not just the terraces that attract visitors. Surrounding the upper and lower levels are boardwalks that let you get up close to this geological wonder. Walking along the boardwalks, you can see the intricate details of the travertine and boiling springs.

If you are visiting Yellowstone in April this sight is made even better by the steam and not-quite-melted snow decorating the scene. 

Mammoth isn’t just known for the hot springs. The town of Mammoth is the only town in Yellowstone National Park and is home to a museum, hotel, archives, restaurant, visitor center, clinic, and gift shop.

If you want to learn more about Yellowstone National Park’s history, a trip to the Mammoth visitor center and museum is worth your time and deserves a stop on your Yellowstone itinerary

Take a Trip to Cooke City

Cooke-City-Montana
Credit: Flickr

Cooke City is located just outside of the northeast entrance. Though most famous for the Beartooth Highway that connects Cooke City and Red Lodge – which isn’t open in April — a visit to Cooke City is worth the trek. 

The drive to Cooke City is scenic. From the north entrance, you can drive through Lamar Valley into Silver Gate and Cooke City town limits. The northern part of Yellowstone National Park is beautiful and full of wildlife.

The drive to Cooke City takes you through one of the best areas for wildlife photography and the northeast entrance is flanked by the granite cliffs of the Beartooth mountain range. 

First, visit Yellowstone National Park’s other regions and then take a break from hiking and exploring to relax in Cooke City. With places to stay, local restaurants, and tons of beautiful views, you won’t regret spending a night or two in the Beartooth wilderness. 

If you do visit Cooke City, make sure to avoid going out on a Monday. Many of the local business owners drive to Cody, Wyoming for groceries and errands on Mondays. This means that more shops and restaurants are closed than normal.


Discover Yellowstone In Other Months


Yellowstone In April FAQs

Can I Drive Through Yellowstone In April?

Technically yes, you could drive through Yellowstone in April, but only in the later part of the month. The North Entrance of Yellowstone is open all year round, and the West Entrance opens in the middle of the month, but the South Entrance of Yellowstone is not open in April.

Is There Snow In Yellowstone In April?

Yes, there is usually quite a bit of snow in Yellowstone in April, especially early in the month. On average, Yellowstone sees about 9.5 days of snow in the entire month. The weather is typically cold with a good chance of precipitation!


Final Thoughts

If you have gotten all the way down to the end of the article, you might have realized that April is a unique time to visit Yellowstone National Park.

Depending on when you visit in the month, your experience could be vastly different, since the park is very much closed early on. But if you visit later in the month, you might have a good time in Yellowstone with little tourists!

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