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Climate guide for hikers: Yellowstone National Park

  • Jun 5, 2017

If you're a hiking enthusiast, one of the nation's most ideal destinations is Yellowstone National Park, a 2.2 million acre wilderness filled with breathtaking and rugged scenery, expansive wilderness and an array of spectacular and mesmerizing wildlife, from bald eagles to grizzly bears, the National Park Service detailed. And with hiking trails spanning more than 900 miles within the park, you can rest assured that you'll see plenty of captivating sites, cultivating a lifetime of memories in the process.

As with hiking at any destination, one thing that can adversely impact your trip, if you're improperly prepared, is the weather. While your PRW3100Y-1 can help inform you about atmospheric conditions while you are on the trip itself, it is important to have at least a basic understanding of the climate at your destination of choice, so that you can pack and prepare accordingly.

So what is the climate like at Yellowstone? What kind of weather conditions can you expect, say, in the dead of winter or height of summer? Let's take a look:

Understanding climate
First, it is helpful to recap exactly what the term climate means, as it is sometimes incorrectly conflated with weather. Climate, as explained by NASA, refers to average weather patterns in a certain geographical location over time - typically a period of many years. Weather, on the other hand, takes a short-term purview, and pertains to atmospheric conditions on a daily basis.

For this reason, climate guides point to the weather that visitors to a certain location will likely experience at a given the time of year. They are by no means a guarantee that such conditions will in fact occur. Only weather forecasts are able to give a more accurate idea. Yellowstone, for example, according to the NPS, can experience rapidly changing weather conditions on a daily basis, and this isn't necessarily reflected in the climate data. Still, understanding climatic conditions is useful to help you understand what to wear and the kinds of conditions that you will be facing.

The climate of Yellowstone National Park
As reported by The American Southwest, Yellowstone National Park is famed for its harsh climate, particularly in terms of cold snow. Winters are extensive, with sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall common, and it is possible to see wintry precipitation even in the summer. Despite this risk, summers can include warm and sunny weather. Here is a seasonal breakdown:

Winter
Winters are infamous in Yellowstone, with lengthy periods marked by extremely cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. Indeed, The American Southwest noted how the nation's coldest weather is routinely observed at Yellowstone during the winter months. The NPS explained that the average annual snowfall for the park stands at 150 inches, although this can vary considerably from year to year. The NPS noted that temperatures as low as -66 degrees Fahrenheit have been observed in Yellowstone, although the average daytime high in January, according to U.S. Climate Data, stands at around 24 degrees Fahrenheit. Overnight lows, on average, flirt with 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you are winter fanatic, it is still possible to hike in Yellowstone, U.S. News & World Report explained. Just be sure to bring all the necessary supplies - thermal sleeping bags, hats, gloves, a waterproof coat and boots, a source of heat for camping and so on. 

Spring
As with many other places across the nation, spring can bring wildly changeable conditions to Yellowstone, with the weather oscillating between winter and summer like conditions in a matter of hours. According to Ultimate Yellowstone Park, accumulating snow is not uncommon in May, so be sure to pack warm and waterproof clothes if you head to the park in the spring. Still, warm weather can also occur, so anticipate a mixed bag. For reference, U.S. Climate Data reported that average highs struggle into the mid-40s Fahrenheit in April, before moving up to slightly above 50 degrees Fahrenheit in May. 

Summer
Summer is the busiest time of year at Yellowstone in terms of visitors, with U.S. News & World Report that tens of thousands of guests descend on the park on a daily basis, between the months of June and August. Still, if you don't mind crowds, summer boasts arguably the best weather conditions for hiking. Temperatures, as reported by the NPS, average on the warm side - in the 70s Fahrenheit, with pleasantly refreshing temperatures in the evenings. A warm coat and sleeping bag may still be needed at times, as temperatures can still drop into the 30s Fahrenheit. 

Autumn
Much like spring, fall in Yellowstone brings highly variable conditions. September and early October can be warm, while late fall tends to skip straight to winter with the risk of snow, Ultimate Yellowstone Park explained. The average high temperature in October, as detailed by U.S. Climate Data, is 48 degrees Fahrenheit, and this falls dramatically to around 33 degrees Fahrenheit in November. Given the climatic range in the autumn, if you decide to head to Yellowstone during this season, bring clothing and equipment for all conditions. And of course, don't forget your Casio Pro-Trek Triple Sensor watch!

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