October is the start of the off-season in the Tetons and Yellowstone. While the weather is quickly turning colder at this time of year, it can be a delightful time to visit. The changing seasons are beautiful, and the dwindling crowds are also nice.
Many of the outdoor activities easily done in the summer start to become more difficult in October – due to colder temperatures, less daylight, and increasing snowpack at the higher elevations. Yet it can also be a fantastic time to hike at the low to mid elevations.
In this article, I will first go over many of the weather and conditions factors to consider when planning a visit to Jackson Hole and/or Yellowstone in October. Then, I will go over some of the average temperatures and weather information for the area in October.
Weather is variable, but sometimes really nice
In October, the weather can range from warm, sunny days to cold, snowy days and everything in between. You definitely want to plan for all types of weather at this time of the year, and to pack many layers for outdoor adventures.
Pacific low pressure systems start to impact the area more frequently in October, bringing both rain and snow. The lower elevations will start to see their first snowflakes at this time of year, but accumulations are typically light and short-lived.
On average, measurable precipitation falls on 7-8 days during October at the lower elevations. Generally speaking, October is a wetter and more active month than July-September, but a drier month compared to winter and spring.
By this late in the year, thunderstorms are uncommon but not unheard of. I have seen respectable thunderstorms occur in October at the leading edge of low pressure systems (and even once in early November in 2018). I would guess that on average we see one thunderstorm day in October in any given year.
Periods of high pressure with sunny days are still common at this time of year. During periods of clear weather, temperature swings can be large with cold mornings giving way to pleasant afternoons.
In the Jackson Hole valley at about 6,400ft of elevation – average highs range from the mid 60s in early October to upper 40s in late October. Average lows range from the upper 20s in early October to around 20 in late October.
At 10,000ft of elevation (using data from Jackson Hole Ski Area), average highs range from the low 40s in early October to upper 20s in late October. Average lows range from the upper 20s in early October to upper teens in late October.
Higher elevations start to become snowy
Over the course of the month, snowfall and snow depth will increase at the higher elevations. As we get later into the season with colder temperatures and less daylight, less of snow that falls will melt up high. This is especially true on north-facing and shaded aspects.
The later you get in the season, the more difficult it becomes to access some of the high elevations passes, such as Paintbrush Divide and Static Peak Divide. However, many of the subalpine lakes above 9,000ft. in the Tetons are still accessible if you are prepared to deal with some light snow cover.
Snowfall and snowpack in the Tetons and Yellowstone in October varies significantly from year to year. In some years, frequent snows arrive early (such as this year, 2019). In other years, I’ve seen it stay warm with minimal high elevation snow cover through mid October.
On average, the upper portion of Jackson Hole Ski Area at an elevation of 9,500′ receives about 30″ of snowfall in October. The average snow depth at this elevation is 5″ in mid-October and increases to 13″ by October 31.
To keep up with early snowfall, check out the daily weather and snowpack summary from the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center that starts on October 1st every year. This is an invaluable resource to track snow depth at various locations.
For example, take a look at the daily report below from October 13, 2019 (the day of this posting):
Tracking Current Snow Conditions
We have had experienced colder and snowier conditions than usual for this early in the year across NW Wyoming so far in 2019. Using the data above, we can see that snow depth at 9,580 ft at Jackson Hole Ski Area is 9″.
However, snow depth at a similar elevation at Grand Targhee on the west side of the Tetons is 17″. Quite a bit more! If I were hiking today, this information would lead me to choose something on the east side (i.e. the Grand Teton NP side) of the Tetons where snow depth is less.
Also, we can look at the Jackson Hole Mid-Mountain station and see there is 1″ of snow on the ground at 8,180 feet, and also 1″ of snow at the top of Snow King above the town of Jackson.
At Surprise Meadow (9,5000′) near Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes in Grand Teton National Park – snow depth is 4″. If I wanted to hike to these lakes, this information would tell me to expect some snow, but that it’s manageable with the proper (i.e. waterproof) footwear.
Surprise/Amphitheater Lakes is a relatively straight-forward hike. However, any hikes involving snow cover with steep drop-offs/exposure would require taking different precautions and gear – such as microspikes and trekking poles.
Heading up to Yellowstone? While current snow data is hard to come by, there is an excellent network of Yellowstone webcams that can give insight to current conditions across different areas of the park.
In Jackson Hole and the Tetons, Mountainweather.com also has an excellent list of webcams across the region as well as current weather conditions.
Beautiful time of year with good fall colors through mid-month
Sure, hiking and other activities may become more difficult at the higher elevations. But October is a spectacular time of year to visit the Tetons and Yellowstone.
The changing seasons lead to stunning contrasts in the scenery as fall colors linger in the valley and snow arrives at the higher elevations. Brilliant blue skies are common during periods of high pressure as well.
Good fall colors typically persist through mid October, with the best color occurring right around the start of the month. Beyond October 15, most of the trees will be bare except in the town of Jackson where the color change occurs later.
Significant decrease in crowds
Crowds began to decrease gradually after Labor Day, but they really start to drop off in October. Areas that are over-run with tourists in the summer become much quieter at this time of year.
This is the main reason why I really enjoy visiting Yellowstone in October. The weather might be colder and there will be less facilities available, but if you’re looking for solitude, this is the best time to visit.
Good wildlife viewing
Wildlife becomes very active at this time of year in preparation for winter. Elk are still in their fall rut, as are moose. Black bears and grizzly bears are active as they fatten up for the winter.
If you’re hiking, you’ll want to be more aware of the increased wildlife activity. I give moose a wider berth at this time of year, as they tend to be more aggressive in the fall. Enjoy viewing animals from a distance, but be aware and make noise while out hiking.
Days are getting short
Daylight really starts to decline in October, but on the plus side Daylight Saving’s time doesn’t occur until early November now. Nights are longer than days by this point of the year, though, now that the Fall Equinox has already occurred.
On October 1st (2019), sunrise occurs at 7:20am and sunset occurs at 7:04pm. On the 31st, sunrise occurs at 7:57am and sunset occurs at 6:15pm. In other words, quite a bit of daylight is lost over the course of the month.
One advantage to the shortening days. For sunrise, sunset, and golden hour photography, you don’t have to get started as early or stay out as late as you would in the summer.
Park facilities start to shut down
Most of the park facilities, lodges, and restaurants begin to shut down in October in both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. If you’re planning on a post-hike meal out, you’ll most likely have to head back into town (with only a couple of exceptions).
Visitor center hours also start to become more limited in the fall, and some visitor centers will shut down all together.
Most of the roads in the parks will stay open through October, but there are a few exceptions. The Dunraven Pass Road in Yellowstone National Park closes around October 15th each year. Most notably, this cuts off access to Mt. Washburn, and access between Canyon and the Lamar Valley.
Beartooth Pass also closes just northeast of Yellowstone around October 15th.
Elsewhere, many roads in the parks close at the beginning of November.
Off-season specials begin in Jackson
If you’re passing through or visiting the town of Jackson in October, be sure to look for off-season dining and lodging specials. November is truly the low season in Jackson when many restaurants offer 2-for-1 specials, but some begin offering these specials in October as well.
Pick up a copy of the free Jackson Hole Daily Newspaper in town to look for specials.
Also, keep in mind that some restaurants will shut down for the off-season starting in October. Be sure to make sure your restaurant of choice is open before visiting, to avoid disappointment.
Average October Temperatures
|Location||Average High||Average Low||Record High||Record Low|
|JH Ski Area||36.3||23.6||65||0|
Average October Temperatures by Date
|October 1||October 16||October 31|
|High 48 |
|Old Faithful||High 60|
|JH Ski Area||High 42|
Average October Precipitation
|Days of Precipitation||Total Precipitation||Total Snowfall|
|JH Ski Area||–||–||30.4″|
Average October Snowfall and Snow Depth at Jackson Hole Ski Area
|Oct 1 |
|Oct 16 |
|Oct 31 |