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There are two major seasons in Yellowstone: summer (May–October), the only time when most of the park's roads are open to cars; and winter (mid-December–February), when over-snow travel (snowmobiles, snow coaches, and skis) takes a fraction of the number of visitors to a frigid, bucolic sanctuary. Except for services at park headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs, the park closes from October to mid-December and from March to late April or early May.
You'll find big crowds from mid-July to mid-August. There are fewer people in the park the month or two before and after this peak season, but there are also fewer facilities open. There's also more rain, especially at lower elevations. Except for holiday weekends, there are few visitors in winter. Snow is possible year-round at high elevations.
1. Before your trip, go online to get information from the park's official website, www.nps.gov/yell.
2. On arrival at the park, stop at the nearest visitor center for information and updates.
3. Pack for all types of weather no matter what time of year.
4. Avoid the crowds by getting an early start to your day in the park.
5. Stay at least 75 feet away from wildlife (300 feet for bears).
6. Stay on geyser basin boardwalks to prevent serious thermal burns.
7. Drive defensively, and allow more time than you think you need.
8. Try to be to your destination before dark to avoid hitting wildlife on park roads.
9. Take a friend when you go hiking; it's safer and a lot more fun!
10. Don't try to see and do everything. You need two to three days just to visit the park highlights.