Best time to travel to Yellowstone National Park

Elks in Yellowstone National Park

The Elk rut is one reason that draws so many visitors to the park every year during September, and early summer bring elk calves

Best time: September–October | May–June


Elks have the largest population in Yellowstone, compared with other large mammals. Over 15,000 elks can be found in the park. They are a little smaller than moose with a weight of around 300 kg and height of 1.5 m at the shoulder. Bulls' antlers grow in spring and drop the next year around March or April.

Summer and autumn are great seasons to see elk in Yellowstone in large quantity. During winter the elks migrate to other places and refuges. The most popular time for elk watching is the mating season that occurs in fall, from early September to mid-October.

The peak of the rut usually falls on September. The call of the elk is an outstanding sound that attracts thousands of visitors. This is the time when elks gather in mixed herds. A large number of females watch several bulls showing their availability and power. Usually, they fight with each other and these battles can be really violent. They crash their antlers and push each other. The weaker bull gives up and goes away. During the rut you can watch elk in the northern ranges of the park, in Mammoth Hot Springs, and Madison River.

The calves are born in May and June. They are considered the cutest baby animals in the park.

Practical info

When is the best time to see elk calves in Yellowstone?

The best time to see Yellowstone's elk calves is in May and June. Elk calves are born during this period, and viewing them is an adorable sight to behold. Photographers will enjoy this period since there are not many tourists in the park. Yellowstone National Park is home to the largest population of elk, with over 15,000 elks roaming the park. Elks are distinct for their antlers, which grow during the spring and shed the following year around March or April, Show more

How many elks are estimated to be in Yellowstone National Park?

More than 15,000 elks are believed to call Yellowstone home, making them the park's largest mammals population. Elks are smaller than moose, standing about 1.5 meters shoulder high, and weighing around 300kgs. Their antlers can also be distinguishing because they grow each spring and shed around March or April of the following year. Show more

Where are the best places to observe elk during the rutting season?

The best places to watch elks rut in Yellowstone National Park are the Northern Ranges, Madison River, and Mammoth Hot Springs. The rutting season occurs between early September and mid-October. During this period, elks come together in mixed herds to mate, and several bulls compete to win over the female elks. These battles can be violent, with the weaker bull often conceding and leaving the mate to the victor. Show more

How violent can elk mating battles get?

Elk mating battles can be violent, especially during Yellowstone National Park's rutting season. The bulls violently fight and push against each other, trying to attract the female elks by impressing them with their capabilities. These fights are full of aggression and could result in severe injuries. Tourists need to keep a reasonable distance from these animals as they can become aggressive without any warnings. Show more

What other animals can be seen in Yellowstone during the fall season?

In addition to elks, Yellowstone National Park is home to diverse wildlife. Visitors can expect to come across pronghorns, bighorn sheep, black bears, grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes, beavers, and otters, among other animals. The fall time between September and October is ideal for spotting these animals since there are not many tourists in the park. However, since these animals inhabit different parts of the park, tourists need to check with park rangers on the best places to see them. Show more

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