8 things to know before going to Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park attracts over 4 million tourists annually, with approximately 70% visiting in June, July, and August. Campgrounds, trails, eateries, and highways are full.

Visit in shoulder season

Though you must be flexible, some NPS campsites are released two weeks in advance, so last-minute travelers may still gamble. The park's final campground to fill up is Indian Creek south of Mammoth Junction.

Book accommodation well in advance

In April and May, check the NPS website for the road-opening timetable in the southern part of the park, which opens on a staggered schedule until Memorial Day. Lewis Lake and Grant Village campsites open in early June.

Check that the roads are open

Yellowstone requires respect as a wild, untammed region. The park kills visitors every year from grizzly bear attacks to hot spring falls. 

Keep your distance!

Before trekking off the boardwalks into Yellowstone's wilderness (which we encourage), buy and learn how to use bear spray. In regional and gateway towns, outdoor shops sell spray and you can rent it within the park, so there's no need not to bring one.

Carry bear spray

Practice Montana/Wyoming pronunciation, especially for phrases like creek (pronounced crick) and coyote (KAI-ote, not kai-O-tee), to fit in. Pronounce Slough Creek Slew Creek to impress local fly fishermen.

Practice your Western pronunciation

Young people and digital addicts should know that Yellowstone has limited cell-phone coverage, primarily in Mammoth, Canyon, Grant Village, Old Faithful, and Lake Village.

Be prepared for limited cell phone reception

Yellowstone's most stunning sites draw crowds and crowded parking lots, but with a little effort, you can typically get a private view. Calcite Springs Overlook in Tower-Roosevelt is usually reached by a crowded roadside parking lot.

See the most popular sights from a different perspective