November is upon us in Yellowstone National Park. The interior roads have closed, and most amenities have shuttered their doors until mid-December. Snow has fallen, blanketing the park not only with a blanket of white but also with calm after a busy summer and fall season. While many will see the road closures and incoming snow as a sign to not visit the park, November is a pretty awesome time to visit. Since there is not a lot of information on what to expect during a November visit to Yellowstone National Park, I took it upon myself to answer some of the bigger questions. If you have more questions, please do not hesitate to reach out!
Also, I have written guidebooks to Yellowstone for wildlife watching and hiking, as well as providing tours on the trails all year long. If you’d like to, consider picking up a book or booking a tour. It’d be much appreciated.
What Is Open in November in Yellowstone National Park?
Honestly, not a lot is open in Yellowstone during November. At the end of October, the park’s interior roads close, leaving only one section of road drivable to visitors. The entrance at West Yellowstone is closed, as is the east entrance, and the south entrance. The only way to enter the parks is through the north entrance in Gardiner or the northeast entrance at Silver Gate/Cooke City, which is roughly 52 miles of road.
That means the main thermal features, like Grand Prismatic, Old Faithful, and the Paint Pots are inaccessible. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the falls, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone Lake, and Norris Geyser Basin can also not be reached. The only areas of the park that can be reached by vehicle are the road between Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs, Mammoth, and Roosevelt Junction, and Roosevelt Junction to the northeast entrance at Silver Gate/Cooke City.
The park visitor center in Mammoth will be open daily, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The only day it will be closed will be Thanksgiving Day. The gift shop next to the gas station may be open, but they have yet to post their hours online. If I get information on this, I will provide an update.
Gas is available at the two gas stations in the park, located at Roosevelt Junction and Mammoth Hot Springs. Do not expect any other amenities at these gas stations, as they are self-service only. Gas stations with more amenities can be found outside the park in Gardiner, Montana, and Cooke City, Montana.
Will Yellowstone National Park Be Crowded in November?
The short answer is no. November is the least visited month for Yellowstone National Park. The average number of November visitors over the last 20 years is 15,353 or roughly 512 people a day. The highest visitation number over the last two decades is 33,144 in 2021 or roughly 1,105 people a day. The lowest number of November visitors is from 2003 when 7,967 came to the park, or roughly 266 people a day.
While 2021 was a huge jump, the numbers dropped back down to normal in November of 2022. Just 17,687, a little over half of the visitation numbers for November of 2021, came. I would imagine that the 2023 visitation numbers for November will be similar to the average.
Weekends will be the most busy days of the week, and weekdays will typically feel empty. This trend of visitation holds all month, except for the week of Thanksgiving.
What Can You Do When Visiting Yellowstone In November?
While summer visits give a myriad of options for activities, November is a very relaxed month in the park. Since pretty much all amenities are closed up, your options are limited to two things: Driving and looking for wildlife, or wandering trails outside.
The good news? Wildlife watching is incredible in November. This is when the bighorn sheep enter their mating season, giving you a chance to see males ram into each other head first. This is also when the elk and other ungulates start to move down into the lower lands, giving moose sightings, as well as a chance to see wolves try their luck at bringing down an elk. You’ll be able to watch bison in the snow and maybe even get a glimpse of the bears before they finally dive into their dens for the winter. Honestly, wildly watching in November has given me some of my best memories. If you’d like to know where you can have the best chance of seeing animals in the park, definitely consider picking up a copy of my wildlife-watching guidebook to Yellowstone. It is available in digital and paperback formats.
If sitting in your car or scanning at a pullout for wildlife doesn’t sound fun, hiking in November can be wonderful. Since the snow isn’t usually extremely deep, many of the trails in Yellowstone’s northern range can still be wandered, albeit with some effort. Trails will also be less frequented than any other month of the year and you may be 100% alone the entire time. Bring extra food, water, clothing, traction devices, and gear, as well as bear spray.
What Are The Trail Conditions In Yellowstone For November?
If you are heading to the park in November and are hoping to hit a trail or two, I would come prepared for snowy trails. Snowshoes are likely needed, while cross-country skis could be useful if the snow is deep enough. That said, I have rarely had enough snow to have a good time cross-country skiing in the park in November, but often needed and enjoyed snowshoe adventures. One useful resource is the Backcountry Situation Report for Yellowstone National Park. However, it is not as updated in the winter as I would like and therefor should only be one of many ways to find out what trails are like. I would also stop in at the visitor center and ask about a specific trail, and even send me a message if you want to know.
If you bring snowshoes and traction devices, you should be good to go on quite a few trails. Trails like Hellroaring, Lost Lake, Lamar Valley, Slough Creek Road and Trail, and the Yellowstone River Overlook Trail via Specimen Ridge are a few of my favorites for this time of the year. Coincidently, I also offer hiking tours on each of these trails throughout the winter, with snowshoes provided.
How convenient, right?
What Is The Weather Like In Yellowstone in November?
This may be the trickiest question to answer. The weather can be all over the place. The one consistent thing is that the temperatures should get colder throughout the month. Snow should also accumulate more and more each week. However, November is a bit more inconsistent, and recent years have seen some weeks with warm temperatures and quickly melting snow.
I should mention that the elevation in Yellowstone is going to be about 6,000 feet above sea level. You’ll be in the mountains, even if you are in Lamar Valley. Be prepared for winter weather, as a normal fall in Yellowstone is what most places around the country experience during their coldest days of the winter.
Temperature-wise, expect daytime temperatures to be around the 30s or low 40s and lows to be in the teens to single digits. It isn’t unheard of for a November in Yellowstone to have multiple days of single-digit high temperatures with sub-zero windchills. You may also be here and have a day when it is 60 degrees and sunny with no wind. The only real advice I can give you is to bring layers and be ready for anything.
For an up-to-date look at the snowpack in Yellowstone, I strongly recommend the “Yellowstone Climate At A Glance” website. It not only has a map showing snow depth but also provides links to the weather forecast for numerous areas in and around the park, as well as current temperatures.
What Are The Typical Road Conditions For November In Yellowstone?
Yellowstone National Park does a great job of keeping the roads drivable throughout the winter, and November is no exception. After snow storms, plows are deployed to keep the road as safe as possible. However, that does not mean that the roads will be perfect.
The roads are not going to be free of snow and ice for the majority of the time. They will more often than not be slick spots along the drive, and cars consistently slide off the road throughout November through March. If you do not know how to drive in snow and ice, and you also do not have a vehicle with at least all-weather tires with good tread, you will probably have some difficulty getting around. The roads are windy and hilly and more often than not, you will not be driving at the speed limit. Nor should you, it is better to be slow and safe than fast and reckless.
You can check on the road conditions at the Yellowstone National Park website, but the specifics are typically not included in their report. If you want to know how they are, feel free to send me a message and I’ll do my best to let you know.