Yellowstone Park Overview, Seasons, Fees

Five entrances provide access to various parts of Yellowstone National Park, with paved roads running between these entrances. Much of the park is rugged backcountry where vehicle traffic is not permitted (often not possible). If you are driving, you need a good regional map to help you get to the park and then a detailed map to help you get around inside the park.

Yellowstone National Park Map


Yellowstone Park is open every day of the year. The park is located at a high elevation and summers are cool and often stormy. Winters are harsh.

Most people visit during the summer when it is pleasant to hike, bike, camp and engage in other traditional recreational activities. Roads inside the park start to open for the season in April but many are not completely open until the end of May, depending on the weather. Some roads open to bicycles and foot traffic before they open to motorized vehicles.

Yellow Stone Steaming

Fall is perhaps the best time to visit if you want to observe wildlife. Animals are active and impressive during that period. The elk have full racks and all animals are moving about, feeding and preparing for winter. Weather can be unpredictable during fall, so visitors need to be prepared during that season.

Most park roads are not plowed and become snowpacked during early winter. Snow machines are allowed to operate in some areas and it is becoming increasingly popular to visit accessible attractions during winter months. A winter park experience is completely different from a summer visit.

Some people explore parts of the park by traveling on snowshoes or cross country skis.

During springtime, weather is unpredictable and roads may or may not be open, making it is difficult to plan trips. Wildlife is often not as active during springtime, but that season provides a chance to see baby animals � some people really enjoy seeing elk and buffalo calves.

Lodging and Camping

Campgrounds are located at many places within the park and in gateway communities. Some campsites can be reserved in advance but many are available on a first-come, first served basis. During summer, campgrounds fill up quickly. Travelers are encouraged to select campsites during the morning or early afternoon � by evening all may be full.

Since Yellowstone is bear country, campers need to take safety precautions. Study the national park website and other publications to learn how to stay safe.

Old Faithful Inn

The historic Old Faithful Inn is located inside the park and it is very popular � you need to make reservations months or years in advance if you want to stay there. Other lodges and cabins are available inside the park and in gateway communities. During summer they also fill up quickly and so advance reservations are usually needed.


The park entrance fee is good for 7 days and allows entrance to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. At this writing, fees are as follows:

  • $25 for private vehicle
  • $20 for each snowmobile or motorcycle
  • $12 for people on bikes, skis, foot, etc.

Additional fees are charged for camping and boating.

A $50 annual pass is available for entrance to Yellowstone and Grand Teton

The $80 inter-agency annual pass allows entrance to virtually all US national parks, monuments, recreational areas and other facilities.

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