Yellowstone Is Reborn in May

Watch Yellowstone Emerge from
Its Winter Hibernation This Spring

Spring is perhaps the best time of year to visit Yellowstone National Park. The park is brimming with new life…infant bison, bear cubs, elk calves, and blooming wildflowers.

And you can watch the park emerge from its winter hibernation without dodging hordes of tourists.

Abundance of Wildlife

“Yellowstone ‘awakens’ in the spring, as the bears are fully emerged from hibernation, and newborn animals, such as bison and elk calves, make their debuts,’” said Rick Hoeninghausen, of Yellowstone National Park Lodges.


Safety First!

Protect yourself and the sights you plan to enjoy by following a few simple rules:

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  away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards 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.

Source: National Park Service


“The sights and sounds of May have their own feel and rhythm that are palpable and a clear signal that summer is around the corner.”

What to Look For

Here’s a sampling of what you can expect to see this month:

Black bears and grizzlies emerge from their dens, along with the cubs born during hibernation. As they forage for food, they’re easier to spot, but you’ll want to take extra care to view them safely from a distance. (See sidebar.)

Bison begin to deliver their calves in April. Two hours after birth, the infants can already keep up with their mother. These calves are sometimes called “red dogs” because of their rusty color.

Like the bison, elk calves are up on their feet and walking about within an hour after birth. When protecting their young from predators, elk cows will often run, leading the predator away from their motionless and odorless newborn, which are lying hidden.

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone 25 years ago, and are a true conservation success story. They can be in the park on a daily basis, especially in the Lamar Valley. The wolf puppies are born inside their den between the months of March and May.

Female pronghorn usually deliver twins. Within 30 minutes of birth, young pronghorn walk; within a couple of days, they can outrun a human.

Be Weather Wise

At this time of year, the weather in Yellowstone is warm and spring-like during the day and very cool at night. The average high temperature for Mammoth Hot Springs is 60 degrees, with a low of 35 degrees. At Yellowstone Lake, the average temperature is a high of 51, and a low of 27 degrees.

But Yellowstone’s weather can be somewhat unpredictable in spring, so it’s best to be prepared. Dress in layers, as it will be chilly in the morning and quickly warm up. You also may want to start your day with gloves and a hat. It’s also the rainiest time of year for the park, so you may want to bring along your rain gear.

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Access to Roads and Amenities

Note: In light of the coronavirus pandemic, many scheduled road openings have been postponed. Check road openings here before you venture out.

The hiking trails at lower elevation are usually cleared of snow by the middle to end of May. There may still be considerable snow at higher elevations, though. Be sure to check out the trail conditions before you head out.

Campground Openings

If you’re up for a camping adventure, check out the following campgrounds, which are expected to open May 22:

The rest of the Yellowstone campgrounds will be opening in June.

Lodge Openings

May 22 is also the expected opening day for the following Yellowstone lodges and cabins:

Grant Village Lodge is expected to open May 29.


Featured Image: Pixabay

Wildland Trekking

Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Yellowstone National Park Trips


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