Are you ready for an epic vacation to the first ever National Park? Visiting in Yellowstone in May is like traveling through an American safari. There are animals roaming the plains with few other visitors around.
I have been to Yellowstone three times, but this last visit in May was my favorite one yet! We didn’t know what to expect, because we thought things would still be quiet. But WOW OH WOW we saw sooo many animals 🦊 and many of the park highlights as well!
You may even get the chance to see the elusive Yellowstone wolves 🐺🐺! Pack your binoculars and head out for adventure.
If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone in May, then you can read my complete guide below. This comprehensive post includes what to do, where to stay, what the weather is like, and what to expect on your visit!
You Might Also Like These Posts:
- The Ultimate 3 Day Yellowstone Itinerary
- How to Spend a Week in Yellowstone & the Tetons
- 5 National Parks to Visit in Spring!
Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. I may get a small commission if you purchase items through the links at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!
Table of Contents
All About Yellowstone in May
Quick Park Facts
💵 Yellowstone National Park costs $35 for a private vehicle which lasts 7 days. You can also use annual passes like America the Beautiful Pass to enter this amazing park.
☀️ Weather can change quickly in Yellowstone from sunny skies to storm clouds. Make sure that you stay updated and that you take the proper precautions. If there are signs up bad weather stay away from water sources and off the trails.
⛺️ All campgrounds in Yellowstone must be reserved in advance. Campgrounds that are run by Yellowstone National Park Lodges typically open up in May while the other ones don’t open until June. You can learn more about that on the NPS website.
🐻 Yellowstone is definitely bear country as we saw a few in just one day. Make sure to stay bear aware and bring bear spray to hike on trails. Use the rule of thumb when viewing wildlife, so that you stay the correct distance away.
🦮 Pets are not allowed in most areas of the park. This is for their own protection as there is a lot of wildlife as well as dangerous hot geothermal areas.
⚠️ Many of the roads usually open up during early to mid-May. You can check on the road status on the NPS website to see what parts of the road have opened up for your visit.
🍃 Remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles. As always, you want to leave nature looking better than you found it.
Is May a Good Time to Visit?
May is a fantastic time to visit with far smaller crowds and plentiful wildlife sightings.
I will tell you right here and now that I honestly do not enjoy Yellowstone in the summer time 🥵. There is tons of traffic, people everywhere, and it’s just not very enjoyable.
However, we went in May this year and Yellowstone grew in my current national park rankings. There were very few other people, we saw a crazy amount of animals 🦌, and it was an epic day in the park. I would go back 100 times in May just to have that experience all over again!
Things to Know About Visiting in May
Because spring hits Yellowstone later then other places, things are just starting to reopen in May. In the beginning of the month, some of the major roads in the park may still be closed 🚧.
However, by the end of the month most of the roads should be open except for the Dunraven Pass area. This means, that you will be able to get to the major areas of the park including the various geyser basins, Hayden Valley, Mammoth Springs, and Lamar Valley. You can find all of the latest updates on road closures on the NPS website as well as at the visitor centers.
If you are hoping to do some hiking 🥾, you will have to stick to the lower elevation trails. Mount Washburn, the North Rim Trail, and Avalanche Peak typically open sometime in June or even July. But, there’s still plenty to see and do!
Where to Stay
Yellowstone is such a large park, that choosing where to stay can be difficult! There are also plenty of options ranging from hotels to primitive campgrounds ⛺️. Read all about the best lodging options so you can maximize your time in Yellowstone.
Staying in the Park
Yellowstone National Park Lodge runs 9 lodges within the park as well as 5 campgrounds that you can reserve ahead of time. There are more than 2000 rooms within the lodges, but they do book far in advance 👩💻. So, if you want to stay in the park you’ll want to plan ahead.
Outside of the Park
There are also a few great areas that you can stay outside of the park if the ones in the park book up. West Yellowstone is the most popular area to stay, because there are plenty of hotels and rental homes there. However, you can also stay in Gardiner or Cody. You can look at Yellowstone hotels here.
Things to Do in May
The very best thing to do in May is to see wildlife in the park!
When Dylan and I were there this past May we were absolutely shocked at how much we saw. During a one day visit we were able to see 2 black bear with cubs, 2 more black bears, a grizzly bear with two cubs, another grizzly, a bald eagle, a coyote, hundreds of bison, a few pronghorn, plenty of elk, and 6 wolves! 😮😮😮😮
So, if you’re going in May, then you should spend time exploring 🦬 Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley 🦬. These are the areas of the park that are known for their abundant animal sightings.
Remember to completely pull off the road to view wildlife and always put at least 100 yards between you and any animal. Never touch, feed, or go close to them, that’s how tourists wind up injured!
However, we also saw plenty of animals along the drive. The key is to go early in the day or during dusk 🌄. Then, you can chat with other visitors about what they have seen and where they saw them. It’s all about keeping your eyes open and preparing for sightings.
See Geothermal Features
Yellowstone is a supervolcano with one of the largest calderas in the world. Because of this explosive caldera and hot magma 🌋 that lays below the surface, you can see these crazy geothermal features above ground!
One of the most famous sights in the park is Old Faithful. This geyser regularly erupts every 90 minutes or so. But, there are so many other amazing geothermal areas to explore- in fact there are over 10,000 geothermal features in the park 🤯!
As you go through Yellowstone, you can stop along the way at many of these features including geysers, springs, mud pots, and steam vents. These features range in color from muddy brown to bright blues. You can’t miss seeing these on your visit!
Geothermal Areas in the Park:
- Norris Geyser Basin
- West Thumb Geyser Basin
- Old Faithful
- Mid-Geyser Basin & Grand Prismatic Spring
Admire Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
You’ve heard of the Grand Canyon, but did you know that there’s a Grand Canyon in Yellowstone?
This is one of the most scenic areas of the park in Yellowstone! Scientists think that this canyon formed over 140,000 years ago when the caldera collapsed. So, take a step back in side and marvel at this crazy natural wonder.
While you’re there, make sure to visit Artist’s Point 🎨, which is one of the most beautiful spots where you can view the Lower Falls. You can walk along the Rim of the Canyon or drive from the North to the South Rim.
Drive Yellowstone Loop Road
One of the best ways to see Yellowstone is to drive 🚙 the entire Grand Loop (142 miles) throughout the park. However, in May some roads are often closed, but you can make an S through the park.
This long drive will take you past beautiful valleys, geothermal features, plentiful wildlife, and gushing rivers. It is a fantastic way to see the park and it allows you to get out and stop along the way.
We went for just one day this past visit and we were able to do the entire loop excluding the Dunraven Pass section. Allow extra time to complete this drive, because it may take a lot longer than you think it will. Although it’s a lot of driving, it was definitely worth it! 🚙🚙
What is the Weather Like in May?
The Yellowstone weather in May can be slightly unpredictable. Most mornings and nights are fairly chilly 🥶, so you might find yourself needing a jacket and winter hats. But, the days tend to warm up.
Yellowstone stands between 7000 and 8500 feet, so at this higher elevation you tend to get cooler temperatures. If you’re visiting Yellowstone in May there’s a chance you’ll even see snow, but don’t worry that’s rare.
I recommend that you prepare for your visit by checking the weather a few days ahead of time. Things can change quickly at elevations that high. Then, bring layers because once it gets warmer during the day, you’ll want to take that jacket off!
Packing List for Yellowstone
Now, that we talked about the weather, let’s talk about what to pack for Yellowstone. You’ll want to have an idea of what you want to do before you go, so that you know what to bring!
If you want to just see the sights and watch wildlife, then you’ll need a pair of comfortable shoes and good binoculars 🔭🔭. But, if you’d rather hit the trails, then you’ll want sturdy hiking boots. Below are a few things that I recommend you bring on your trip!
- Comfortable Hiking Boots or Walking Shoes
- Small Pack
- First Aid Kit
- Layers including rain jacket and winter jacket
- Hat to block sun
- Bear spray
- Parks Pass
Final Tips for Your Yellowstone Visit
Visiting Yellowstone in May is absolutely unforgettable! Remember that despite there being smaller crowds than summer, you may have to wait in traffic jams or deal with road construction.
It’s important to always stay updated on the NPS website or by talking to rangers in the park about your visit. Have the best time!
Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this guide!
📍 Pin Ultimate Guide to Yellowstone in May to Pinterest