Location - 2020 yellowstone/tetons

I would look in the Location forum, but as a temp, I am locked out. So, until I’ve actually been billed - we are planning a trip next year. A few pointers on good times to visit, locations to stay and general knowledge would be welcomed. I’ve been to yellowstone twice, tetons once. I was hoping to find a base in or near the tetons to venture forth from. My wife will be a sight-seer, while I have no qualms about hiking to back-county locations. Thanks in advance.

Mike, I’ve been to that area several times over the years. As I recall most of our family trips were during spring to fall time frame. We have always stayed at the Signal Mountain Lodge / Facility. For me it gave quick access to scenes I wanted to photograph both sunrise and sunset…:sunglasses:

Hi Mike
I have stayed at Signal Mountain in the condos - very good location as Paul says. If you are camping, however, not so good in my opinion. In that case, we stay up at Colter Bay. Farther away from some stuff but not so bad because you are close to the road junction. Colter Bay has tent camping and RV camping on a first come first serve basis but they also have what they call the “trailer park” That place takes reservations and has full hookups. Somewhat close together but so close to the lake and the facilities it is well worth it. Only difficulty is getting a reservation. I can’t remember how far ahead you have to reserve but whatever it is - try to do it on that day or close to it.

Late spring to early summer is a good time to visit because you have the opportunity to photograph the baby animals, wildflowers are blooming, and in GTNP the Tetons have snow on the peaks.
Autumn is my favorite time of year - fall color in the landscape, the elk are in rut, and all the big mammals have shed their shaggy winter coats.
Mid-summer is very busy in both parks. If you are out photographing and dawn and dusk you can avoid most of the hordes, but you’ll likely still be sharing the iconic locations with several other photographers.

Hi Mike. As someone who guides in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem occasionally (I’m also a part-time resident), I think the most important thing with timing is what your photographic goals are. The others have already mentioned spring and fall, but your preferred subject matter should probably dictate the time of year when you visit.

Spring is best for general wildlife activity, with mid-May to early/mid-June being the peak time for predators, baby animals and migrating/nesting birds. If you have specific goals like the elk or moose rut, then mid-late September is best. And that coincides with the peak of the fall color, so it’s a great time to explore for landscape photography. Winter, alternatively, also offers a nice mix of landscapes and wildlife, but wildlife activity is diminished and it’s much tougher to get around much on your own due to road closures.

I would say fall is the one time of year that the Tetons are a “better” destination than Yellowstone (this is totally subjective, but I’m thinking from the standpoint of the great mix of wildlife and landscape photo opportunities down there), so that’s a time when you may want to be based longer in/near the Tetons.

However, I don’t recommend using your Teton base as a launching point for Yellowstone. Pick a different spot closer to or inside YNP for exploration in that park. Otherwise, it’s just too much driving. If wildlife is the goal, in Yellowstone you want to choose something either centrally located in the park (e.g., Canyon), or somewhere along the north or northeast entrances (Gardiner, or Silver Gate/Cooke City). Keep in mind that if you go before Memorial Day Weekend, Dunraven Pass will still be closed in YNP, so the drive from the NE corner will be much longer for points south in the park.

Also, only stay in West Yellowstone or at Old Faithful if thermals are your primary goal in YNP. The more productive wildlife areas are generally north or east, so it’s a long drive in and out of West each day.


Thanks to all. Max, I never thought about my “photography goals” - being new to photog, I was just thinking wildlife and plants. Has me thinking, now, what do I want to accomplish photographically along with enjoying both parks. Fall and spring are my favorite times, but I think I would lean towards fall for this trip. Elk, possibly moose in full antlers, possibly bugling, with the fall leaves would be perfect for me. Also, it would entice the wife to see more!! Got to make her happy too. Again, thanks now I have the beginning of a plan and potential locations.