When is a great time to spot wildlife? Wild animals can be found in ecosystems like deserts, forests, rain forests, plains or grasslands. Often wildlife is hidden and difficult to spot. Here you will find the right time and areas where the chance for a wildlife sighting is much higher.
Where animal sightings happen, depends on habitat preferences, weather and seasonal cycles of movement. Still, it's often a matter of luck but you can increase your chances by following our monthly guide. Read our full guide below and find out which animal can be seen in which months and season (spring - summer - autumn - winter). And if you want to make the most out of your wildlife visit, consider this incredible private tour: Private Yellowstone Wildlife Tour (With extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and professional tour guides.)
April - Early June (Spring)
Most animals can be spotted in or near the valleys. It's the time for baby bison, baby moose, baby bear, baby elk and many more. Also a good time to spot wolves and grizzly bears. Grizzly sightings occur mostly at night, dawn and dusk. A great grizzly bear spot in spring is the shores of Yellowstone Lake. Gray wolves are often seen in Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley.
Mid-June - July - August (Summer)
Bears and other animals leave the valleys and head for higher areas in June/July. But still, visitors often report bear sightings throughout June. Later in July and August the chances to spot grizzlies or black bears in the valleys are very low. However, bison are still there, starting to rut in early August. Warm, great weather but also peak tourist months.
September - October (Autumn)
Animals return to the valleys. Elk rut throughout September. The fascinating rut can be witnessed up-close in Mammoth Hot Springs, near the northern entrance. Together with amazing fall colors it’s one of the best time to view or photograph almost every animal including elk, moose, bighorn as well as wolves and grizzly. Visitor wise it gets slightly less busy in September after Labor Day weekend. However especially weekends are still busy. In late September/early October the crowds start to dissipate.
November December- January - February - March (Winter)
Winter, a magical time and least crowded. Most animals are in or near the valleys. Some can be spotted near the steaming geyser basins. Winter is the best time to view wolves. You can also observe bison, elk, bighorn and others. Another great time for photographers, since animals are easier to spot against the snow. Grizzly bears can't be spotted, since they hibernate in winter until mid-March. The list with open facilities during winter and the overview with the warming huts are extremely useful. One thing you should always consider doing when visiting in the winter, is a snowmobile tour. That's an amazing experience! Find more useful winter tips on the official NPS website: NPS - Visiting Yellowstone in Winter and check out this great video on YouTube: Yellowstone - Winter in the Park
Must-Know Yellowstone Winter Facts and Tips
- Solitude: Winter is a silent time in Yellowstone. No tourist crowds and no packed areas. It’s not even busy at the popular spots. Example? Watching the geyser eruptions at Old Faithful in winter means standing there with only a handful of others. In the summer there are hundreds of visitors at the same time.
- Wildlife: Winter is by far the best time for wildlife viewing: You can spot bison, wolves, elk, and bighorn in the valleys (Lamar Valley), near the road, or some even at the geysers at Old Faithful. The higher areas are just too cold for the Yellowstone mammals in winter. Viewing wolves? You’re lucky to spot one in the summer months. In the winter, it’s not unlikely to spot a pack of wolves!
- Entrance and Roads: The only open entrance to private vehicles in winter is the North entrance in Gardiner (read our entrances descriptions). From Gardiner you have 2 choices: A) Drive the only accessible winter road to the Northeast Entrance (Cooke City) through Lamar Valley and spot amazing wildlife or B) Drive to Mammoth Hot Springs, which is like the base for winter activities. From there, you can book a snowmobile or snowcoach which drives you to Old Faithful (the only other place with open lodging in winter inside the park). You’ll spot plenty of wildlife during this ride. The alternative in the South: A guided tour from Jackson. With guided tours, you get into Yellowstone almost anywhere in winter. We recommend these excellent guys: Full Day Snowmobile Tour from Jackson Hole. The best lodging in Jackson: Inn on The Creek (via booking.com with price guarantee).
- Lodging and Facilities: In the winter months most hotels and lodges are closed. Within the park, you can stay at two places: Mammoth Hot Springs and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Otherwise, we suggest to stay in Gardiner and drive to Cooke city through Lamar Valley as described above. Both towns have excellent lodging and facilities, even in winter. Check the lodging links in our ‘Entrance Section’
Time of Day
The best time of day for wildlife viewing is either dawn or dusk: Animals usually feed during the early morning and in the evening. That's why they're often more visible at these times as they're up and moving around. In general dawn is even superior: Be at the valleys just before at sunrise and stay until 9 AM. It's also less crowded. However, dusk is also great, particularly for elk viewing in Sept. Sunrise - Sunset Yellowstone
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
Yellowstone National Parks gets heavily crowded in the peak summer months. If you plan a summer visit, book your hotel well in advance.
The most crowded months are June, July and August: Congested roads, overflown parking lots and the popular places are packed: Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs. The month of May is still moderate visitor wise. However, it gets very busy on Memorial Day. Later in September visitation starts to drop off after Labor Day weekend. However, it's still busy, even more so on weekends. In late September the crowds start to thin out. In October it's getting a lot quieter again.
How to avoid the crowds during peak months? Arrive early! The rush hour in YNP starts between 9 and 10 AM. Get up as early as possible! Another way is to dodge the crowds is by staying late: The main attractions are packed between 10 AM and 4 PM. Get there later, as it doesn't get dark before 9 PM anyway. Another big advantage when arriving early or staying late: You'll get to see more wildlife at dawn or dusk (see above). Extra tip: Check the official NPS Webcams a few days before you arrive during certain daytimes.
There is one word which is true for Yellowstone's weather: Unpredictable! Temperature drops and rain can happen almost any time in spring, summer and fall. Thunderstorms in summer are common in the afternoons. Bring layer of clothes and always rain gear.
If you'd like to avoid snow completely, then don't visit before May/June. It still can snow in June at some places but it will melt very quickly. By late May the valley floor is usually snow free. In higher elevations you may still see some snow in late May and June. That's important to know if you go hiking. After the summer you can expect the first real snow in October. As a local expert says: 'You can count on snow on the ground in Yellowstone by Halloween!'. However, never let the snow stop you from coming. October is an excellent month: Quiet and still so much wildlife to spot! In spring late April and May are our preferred months, regardless of the snow. Just keep in mind that until late April it still can feel like winter!
Yukon has equally stunning aspects to offer, both in the cold and the hot months. It depends on what appeals to different individuals. Below is a guideline to help you decide when to visit.
November-April (winter/spring): The average temperature in Yukon during the day in winter is high of -13.3C in January to 6.4C in April. During the night in winter, it is a low of -22C in January to -4.6C in April. Average hours of daylight one can expect to get is 4.5 hours in December to 15 hours in April. Winter is a very constitutive part of the Yukon lifestyle, making it one of the most interesting times to visit. The Northern Lights are undoubtedly the top attraction during the winter nights. During the day one can go on dog sledding, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and snow shoeing among many activities. Spring in Yukon is breathtaking with migrating birds returning and wildflowers blooming.
May-October (summer/fall): The average temperature in Yukon during the day in summer is high of 20.5C in July to 4.3C in October. During the night in summer, it is a low of 7.7C in July to -3.1C in October. Average hours of daylight one can expect to get is 20 hours in July to 10 hours in October. The Yukon summer is typically warm and dry. It has long hours of daylight known as the midnight sun. Long days mean lots of wildlife activities that one can witness. June - August is the best time if you want to canoe the river. The short fall season from late August is breathtaking with cooler days and spread of vibrant colours across the landscape.
Summer is the ideal time for viewing the stunning wildlife Yukon is harbouring which is 4 species of amphibians, 36 fish species, 66 mammal species, 227 bird species, 1238 plant species and over 6000 species of insects! The key to successful wildlife viewing is being spontaneous and always keeping an eye out. There are specific places, however, where one can go to spot wildlife.
The Northern Lights, the highlight of Yukon, can be seen as long as the nights are dark and without clouds. Therefore the winter months are perfect to spot this mesmerizing phenomenon. Roughly from September to April. However, with any natural phenomenon, the Aurora Borealis shows up without any precision or timetable when the weather conditions are favourable, usually on clear nights only. Time of day: Your best chance of seeing aurora borealis is around local midnight.
Monthly Weather / Climate
Weather for Yukon Territory - Whitehorse (switch between C° and F° at the top of the page)
The National Park is open year round although most hotels close during the monsoon season from late June to the end of September. Best time for a visit is the dry season and especially the end of the dry season when Bengal tigers, elephants and other wildlife gather around the waterholes.
The boiling hot season lasts from March/April to May with temps above 40°C which gets even worse due to the high humidity. Monsoons can occur from June to end of September which makes safaris in Chitwan almost impossible. Rivers are flooded. More stable weather during the winter months from October to March although showers can occur. Pleasant day temps and freezing cold nights from mid-October until February.
Highlights - Wildlife
Wildlife spotting is outstanding late January and February when the towering grass, several meters high gets annually cut by the villagers for their own use. October to December is also an excellent time because of the increased chance to spot tigers, elephants, and other wildlife as they gather around the waterholes. Sloth bears are rare to spot.
The Bengal Tigers population is increasing due to the enormous efforts of the rangers to prevent poaching. There are an estimated 235 tigers in entire Nepal nowadays.
Spotting One-Horned Rhino
Very popular is elephant riding which generally lasts 1 1/2 hours to spot rhinos. The best time for it is early morning, the second tour and late afternoon. The advantage of the second tour they already may know where they are grazing.
Best Time for Birding - Migration (almost 550 species of birds occur in Chitwan)
- September to November
- February to April
Brown bears are in the area from mid-spring until October. Usually, the salmon run takes place from mid latest end of June until the end of July but can be August as well. The salmon run is not predictable. The sockeye salmon is swimming and jumping upstream to spawn before they die. Brown bear viewing is best between July and September. During the salmon run, you can spot the highest concentration of bears hunting for red salmon along the Brooks River and Falls. You may spot 20 to 50 bears along the falls. Usually, in June and August is less food is available. Anyhow, you always may spot bears just fewer.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
In July expect crowded conditions at the viewing platforms. There is a limit of 40 people watching the bears for maximum one hour controlled by rangers. September is much better with fewer tourists. Time of day suggestion: Stay overnight at the lodge or the campground. Then you can get to the platforms between 5 and 7 PM when the day visitors already left. Livecam: Brooks Falls Bears Livecam
In late spring, summer and early fall it's often rainy, overcast. Especially in the summer months, the weather is unpredictable. Summer temperatures range from 30˚ to 80˚ Fahrenheit (-1˚ to 27˚ Celsius). Winters are drier and colder.
Seasonal Bear Activity Overview
- Mother and Cubs and mating season – Mid-May to mid-July
- Salmon Runs – July to mid-September
- Bears Resting – Mid-September to mid-October
- Bears digging a den before November
- Bears Hibernation – November until March
- Up to four cubs are born in mid-winter
- Bear fighting – April to Early May (higher slopes)
Kangaroo Island is a year-round destination, although the seasons are quite different. Summer is beautiful warm therefore, Kangaroo Island is pretty busy and high priced. It's vice versa in the winter. It frequently rains, but the island is not overrun. Expect more precipitation from April to October. Continue reading to figure out which season you may prefer.
Weather and Crowds by Season
- Spring ( September-November)
Goanna basking in the sun
Day temps in September are on average around 15°C. Rain decreases in October. Temps increase and reach 20°C in November. Camping is still chilly in the night with one digit temps. The wildflower season starts.
- Summer (December-February) Peak Season
It's the most popular season with the best weather conditions. The downside almost everything is fully booked and high priced. The temps are on average around 25°C at daytime and 12°C in the night. These are the warmest and driest months of the year.
- Autumn (March-May)
The crowds thin out except for Easter. The island gets its tranquility back, and wildlife can be observed. The little penguins start nesting. Rain increases already around April, instead, less wind, which causes a calm sea. Day temps in March and April are above 20°C and below in May. Nights are already cool around 10°C.
- Winter (June-August) Low Season
Temps are pleasant for winter around 14°C at daytime and 7°C in the night. It frequently rains, but on the other side, clear and sunny days occur. It's the coldest and wettest time of the year. Echidnas may hibernate at this time of the year, depending on the temps. Besides, those who are visiting KI to see wildlife, winter is the best choice. There are abundant food, and the newborn kangaroos, koalas, and wallabies typically use this season to emerge from their mother's pouches. Whales can be spotted from the shore from May to September. Winter helps keep the sometimes-exorbitant prices of staying on the island much more manageable. Traveling in the off-peak season also leads to lower overall visitor numbers, which adds to the feeling of peace and solitude that can be had at any number of places on KI.
Quick Facts When to Spot Wildlife in Their Natural Habitat
- More active at dusk or they are nocturnal like the possums
- If it's hot koalas and kangaroos, prefer to rest in the shade
- Koalas are more active during the breeding season from October to March
- Goannas may be spotted basking in the sun
- Echidnas can be spotted throughout the year if it's not too cold during winter
How to Get to Kangaroo Island
You can get here either by plane with Qantas from Adelaide (in 2018 flights were offered from Melbourne during summer) or by ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw in the north-east. The ferry ride takes roughly 45 minutes. If traveling by plane, we recommend renting a car to explore the island independently.
Top Tip and Accommodations on Kangaroo Island
Usually, Kangaroo Island is an expensive destination to visit, especially when adding the prices for transport to the island and back to the mainland plus your accommodation for your stay. Kangaroo Island is too huge and has too many attractions, hikes, and wildlife. Staying at least two, even three nights is highly recommended. We spent here almost a week. Important is the location; you can either camp in the National Park or stay close to the entrance and visitor centre like at Western KI Caravan Park & Wildlife Reserve. Consider if you stay in Kingscote, it's a 100 km drive one way. Another option next to the Flinders Chase National Park is the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat. One thing is for sure; you will experience wildlife in abundance in this remote accommodations on Kangaroo Island.
The best time for Christmas island is depending on the moon calendar. In last phase of the moon shrinking in winter the red crab migration is taking place. You can spot millions of crabs moving around the island.