Author Topic: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone  (Read 2565 times)

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Offline neil

When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« on: July 20, 2012, 05:26:08 am »
Hi
I'm bringing 11-13 British cyclists to Yellowstone in 2013 and am unsure of the best time
2 choices
1) June, could be rainy
2) September, the recommended time I've read is the week before and after labour day
I intend to tour for 17-18 days, starting in Billings

I've cycled in the States a lot and last visited Yellowstone 15 years ago and it was fabulous

  Any ideas greatfully received
      Neil
(Life member of Adventure Cycling - it's a wonderful organisation)

Offline staehpj1

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2012, 07:06:24 am »
I hope someone with more specific experience with various times in Yellowstone will pipe up, but...
  • It was pretty nice when we rode through there in early July.
  • Fall would be very nice as long as it is before the snow flies, which can be fairly early.
  • In most vacation areas of the US Labor Day is crazy busy.  Going just after Labor Day is likely to give you a less crowded time.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2012, 08:05:05 am »
Having been there twice as many times as Pete, I'm still not sure I qualify as an expert.  :)

That said, here are a few more observations:
  • Elk antlers grew between mid-July and late August.
  • Elk rut starts sometime after Labor Day, so you'll need to be more cautious then.
  • I think there were more tourists in July than the week before Labor Day
  • Facilities start to close right after Labor Day, in particular some of the campgrounds.  Seems there's not enough tourists to keep them open later in the year.

Offline jamawani

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2012, 08:12:52 am »
Have lived in Wyo for 20+ years and biked/hiked throughout the park.  September used to be an ideal time 20 years ago, but more and more early retirees in RVs clog the park and facilities start to close in late August - - so the last time I rode the park in Sept., it was tougher to get camping. 

There is usually a early snow in the first week of Sept, then glorious weather, but there is no predicting when the first storm will hit - - and for three or four days it is darn cold and wet.  June is similarly unpredictable, but with the advantage of a wildflower bonanza late in the month.

The peak tourism months are July & Aug (ca 900,000) - followed by June & Sept (ca 600,000).
Of the 3.5 million visitors in 2011 - 3 million came  during June thru Sept.

My choice would be the last two weeks of June or the last two weeks of August.

PS - you may need a permit for your group.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 08:15:33 am by jamawani »

Offline jamawani

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2012, 08:24:43 am »
Don't forget -
Temperature variations and altitude acclimation.
You Brits are not used to 50F swings in temp and 8000 ft.

With a solid 2 weeks of cycling time, I would also encourage a loop into Grand Teton NP.
More than likely counter-clockwise - heading back thru Togwotee and Wind River Canyon.
Or, you can fly into Great Falls and do a loop of Glacier and Yellowstone - - easily.

Billings can easily be 35C in August - and it's a wasteland of traffic and box stores.
(But the view from the airport on the Rim is stunning.)
Cycling out of and into Billings is no picnic - others cities are easier.

Considering that you will have a significant lower altitude section to start and end with -
Late June may be better then late August.  You Brits melt like buttah, eh?

PS - "Labor Day" - And Americans have no neighbours nor any appreciation of colour.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 08:26:19 am by jamawani »

Offline neil

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2012, 02:37:29 pm »
Thanks
To put a bit more detail in

1) We will be staying in motels/cabins.
We can't camp due to weight restrictions on planes and frankly people don't want to do that

2) I've chosen Billings as it's close and we can do a flight from the UK with one change. A direct would be ideal

3) In Colorado last year I did use transportation out of the airport but this is problamatic. In Colorado it was a nightmare. I was picked up at Boulder with 13 others. The driver was 90 minutes late arriving and he didn't know the way and there was traffic, we very nearly missed the flight back to London.

4) The route I'm looking at is
Billings-Red Lodge-Powell-Cody-Grant Village (with a stop in the middle) - stay 3 nights - West Yellowstone-Ennis-Bozeman-Livington-Gardner- rest day - Silver gate - Red Lodge - Billings

However with comment above, maybe risk transport from airport to Red Lodge and hope I get the same great service as did in New England 3 years ago.

Yes the English fry in the heat but Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome are English!!
   
   Cheers
      Neil

Offline neil

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2012, 02:51:13 pm »
PS
It's June or September, I'm not coming in July or August due to cost and traffic  8)

Offline dwboca

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2012, 05:10:54 pm »
I was there for my first time June 9 - 17th 2012 and it was perfect.  Crowds not there yet and we had great weather.  First day got cold with snow in the higher elevations but the rest of the days actually got a little warm by afternoon.  Windy mostly every day and few scattered afternoon showers that were not bad.  No bugs.  Avoid the crowds early June as we did.  Just my recent experience - may help you decide.

Offline jamawani

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2012, 06:46:42 pm »
Neil -

I lived in Jackson years back and worked in the hospitality industry.  If you are staying in motels/cabins, be aware that it will be pricey even in June or September and you will need to make reservations well in advance - like 90+ days if possible.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming probably has more direct 1-stop connections than Billings, Montana - plus you would be immediately in paradise without having to risk an iffy shuttle for 13 people.  Jacskon has direct flights from Denver, Salt Lake, Chicago, and Dallas - - so you would have plenty of options with a London international connection.  You would be at 6200 ft rather than 3200 ft in Billings - a recoup day would be prudent not only for weariness, but for altitude.

Speaking of altitude - you can avoid altitude sickness by taking precautions before - but it's tough to knock out after.  Plenty of fluids, limited alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, if O.K. an aspirin a day, don't overdo it at first.

Prevailing winds tend to be southwesterly in the region, less so in June, more so as the summer progresses.  They are also impacted/magnified by topography.  That said, riding westbound from Cody into Yellowstone can put you in a brutal maw for 50 miles - a good part totally exposed.  Again, no guarantees with wind, but the Wapiti Canyon usually has strong westerlies.  It is a lovely ride - lovelier when you can raise your head.

Of places to stay three nighst in the park on a bike trip, Canyon is waaay better than Grant Village.  Both have a range of facilities, but the hiking is so much better around Canyon - along either rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, to backcountry lakes, up the Hayden Valley with all its wildlife.  There's a slightly longer, paved back route from Bozeman to Livingston - a moderately longer one thru Clyde Park.  Then there is the very quiet East River Road south of Livingston.

Unless your riders are extremely strong, I would caution you about riding the Beartooth Highway from Cooke City to Red Lodge.  Especially if you are doing this early or late - the Beartooth Plateau makes Yellowstone look tropical - plus you are exposed in near-tundra conditions for a considerable distance.  The climb is brutal and the descent is terrifying - melted rim variety.

<<<>>>

The nice thing about starting in Jackson would be that you have an initial 50 miles of relatively flat riding, but eye-popping vistas.   A great way to get acclimated.

Offline neil

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2012, 07:41:12 pm »
OK
You have 18 days
Start Jackson Hole
50 miles a day (about) 60 at an absolute push, but not consistently
4 rest days
12-13 cycling days
Need to find accomodation at the end of each day in fixed accomodation
Suggested route?
   
   Neil

Offline jamawani

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2012, 01:44:09 am »
I only have 18 days left to live??
Puerto Rico for me.

18 days with or without travel?

DEP - London (dp 7:45a) to Jackson Hole (ar 2:00p) - 13+ hours
Most direct is via Chicago - United, others - early flight allows for delays and connection
Overnight in Jackson - bike shops, all services - play a little tourist/sleep

D1 - Via Jenny Lake in Grand Teton NP to Jackson Lake Lodge cabins
D2 - Via South Entrance to Grant Village
D3 - Via Old Faithful and Norris to Canyon
D4 - Day off in Canyon area
D5 - Via Hayden Valley and Lake to Pahaska Teepee
D6 - Via Wapita Valley to Cody (Irma Hotel?)
D7 - Day off Buffalo Bill Historical Center (best in West) Cody Nite Rodeo
D8 - Via Dead Indian Pass to Cooke City - stunning, tough, not as exposed as Beartooth Hwy
D9 - Via Tower and Mammoth to Gardiner
D10 - Via East River Rd to Livingston
D11 - Via Clyde Park and Wilsall to Bozeman
D12 - Day off in Bozeman, great college town
D13 - Via Hwy 84 to Ennis
D14 - Via US 287 (or Idaho if you wish) to West Yellowstone
D15 - Via Norris to Lake
D16 - Via Jackson Lake to Signal Mountain (big downhill)
D17 - Via Jenny Lake to Jackson - 1/2 day

RET - Jackson Hole to London overnight

You could return to Jackson via the Idaho side
But it isn't nearly as nice - and trafficky at times
No one has ever complained about cycling along the Tetons twice.


Offline staehpj1

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2012, 09:02:05 am »
1) We will be staying in motels/cabins.
We can't camp due to weight restrictions on planes and frankly people don't want to do that
Nothing wrong with staying in motels if you want, but it is certainly possible to stay under any of the weight limits that I know of and still have a bike and camping gear.  My bike and gear for my next trip weigh about 33.5 pounds, my bike and gear for the Southern Tier weighed 38 pounds.  That included cooking and camping gear.  So even with my soft case and some cardboard packing I can get below 40 pounds with one rig.  The other would be over 40, but with a just few items in a carry on bag (or even a bag small enough to count as a personal item), the checked baggage would be under 40 pounds.  If you are allow 50 pounds it would be really easy.

Also you could buy some items on arrival if you were over on weight.  I met a Japanese guy who bought most of his gear upon arrival including the bike.  It was crappy walmart grade stuff but he was having a great time any way and only had a few hundred dollars tied up in gear that he was planning to leave behind.

All moot if you prefer to motel it, but I don't think that the "can't" statement is accurate.  Nothing wrong with don't want to though :)

Offline neil

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2012, 05:30:30 am »
Thanks
This tour is for CTC holidays. The Cyclists Touring Club is almost the equivalent of Adventure Cycling and CTC holidays offer about the same number of tours as Adventure Cycling and led by volunteers. We do get a number of Americans on these tours and I'm welcoming a cyclist from Oregon to Slovenia this September
I'm not averse to camping, in fact I tandemmed for 7 months around America with a tent 15 years ago. In this case however people like fixed accommodation so that's what I am offering.
Thankyou very much for the suggestion of a route, I'll have a look at it. Personally if I had 17 days it would be Montana or Norway.
  Thanks again
     Neil

Offline valygrl

Re: When is the best time to visit Yellowstone
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2012, 09:51:06 am »
Hey I met CTC guys in Yellowstone in 2003!

As to when - reconsider late August.  Every time I've been in Yellowstone in Sept I've had some snow.

Anyway - listen to Jamawani.

And for inspiration, this is what his Day 8 looks like, near Cooke City.