Spring is here and spring is near in Yellowstone! Because of varying elevations and temperatures in the park, the spring season can start anywhere from mid-March all the way through June. Every year, without fail, there are particular signs that let us know spring is indeed in the air. If you happen to see or hear of any of the indicators listed below, you know that winter has begun to give way to new life.
1. Bears Wake Up
The first sightings of grizzly bears emerging from hibernation usually begin around mid-March and continue throughout the spring for grizzlies and black bears alike. With the excitement of seeing this top predator back in the park also comes the responsibility to keep yourselves and bears safe. Here are a number of ways that you can be bear aware in Yellowstone National Park.
2. Moving Mountains…of Snow
Snowplows are out in force throughout the spring to clear a winter’s worth of packed snow. Each year, park crews do an incredible job clearing roads so that visitors can enjoy spring and early summer travel to some of the park’s most popular destinations. Watch this excellent video that showcases this mammoth annual undertaking.
3. Baby Animals!
Baby bears, bison, elk, and more stretch their legs and explore their new worlds while also staying close to their mothers. Bison calves, often referred to as “red dogs,” are the first of the bunch to arrive in late April to mid May. Learn more about baby animals in Yellowstone.
4. Birds Come Back
Migrating birds begin to make their way back to the Yellowstone region as early as March. Listen closely for the unmistakable guttural calls of sandhill cranes in April. You will undoubtedly hear them before you see them. Also be on the lookout for electric blue mountain bluebirds beginning in March and the ever popular Harlequin ducks at LeHardy Rapids in May.
5. Spring Cycling
Each year in late March or early April park roads open up for cycling to destinations like the Norris Geyser Basin, Madison Junction, and West Thumb Geyser Basin. Though there is no public vehicle access during this time, snowplows and park administrative vehicles use the roads frequently. With volatile weather and limited services, those ready for this adventure should be well prepared for all conditions.
6. Waterfalls Roar and Rivers Rush
The sound and power of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River is never greater than in late spring where peak snowmelt runoff dumps 63,500 gallons of water over the falls per second.
7. Fly-fishing Fever
Fly-fishing season begins in Yellowstone in late May. Yellowstone is a world-class fishing destination (the scenery is not too shabby either). Be sure to check out our fly-fishing tips before heading out and casting your fly.
8. Yellowstone Goes Green
As in many places around the world, Yellowstone is awash in various hues of lush green in mid to late spring. Though most mountain peaks are still capped by snow, the park’s valleys are abundant with life. The spring season in Yellowstone is admittedly short, but spectacular.
9. Velvet Elk
Look closely at the park’s bull elk this time of year and you will see a sort of velvet material covering over their antlers. This thick, fuzzy coating is all part of the annual antler growth process. Bulls shed this velvet in August in preparation for the fall rut season. Learn more about Yellowstone’s elk population.
10. Yellowstone in Bloom
The appearance of wildflowers at the park’s lower elevations is yet another sure sign that spring has arrived. Because of the difference in elevation and temperatures throughout the park, different species of wildflowers will bloom throughout spring and summer. Want to see and learn more about the park’s magnificent array of wildflowers, take our Meandering Through Wildflowers course starting in early July.
11. BONUS: Hikers Are Hiking
Its time to break out your hiking boots and hit the trail! There will likely be some mud and snow on the ground in March and April. Trails begin to become more accessible in early May in the park’s Northern Range. Check out our Staff Member’s Favorite Hikes for some ideas and inspiration.