This week in Yellowstone should be a little wet, a little wild, and a lot of awesome. In this edition, I take a look at the Memorial Day visitation numbers, as well as share about the name change of a mountain in the park, celebrate the reopening of the Beartooth Highway, share the best hikes for right now and even tell you how to deal with a bison jam. If you are visiting the park this week, expect some chilly temperatures and some incredible wildlife watching in the northern part of the park. Almost all campground will be opening this week, so if you are headed out, have a reservation, pick up a copy of may wildlife watching guidebook, and be ready for the trip of a lifetime!
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BIGGEST NEWS OF THE WEEK
Memorial Day Attendance Down 34% in 2022 compared with 2021
Last week, Yellowstone announced the visitation statistics for Memorial Day weekend and the news shocked many. The total amount of entries over between Friday and Monday was 28,572. Over the same time period in 2021, Yellowstone saw 43,416 entries. Most of the blame falls on a ridiculously strong storm in the area that shutdown roads in and out of the park for hours, days and even weeks. Some will say that high gas prices were also to blame, but that claim is unsubstantiated and more than likely incorrect, as visitation now seems to be on par with previous years.
The weekend is typically the kickoff to summer visitation and tends to serve as a barometer for how the rest of the summer will go. This will not be the case in 2022. Summer is Yellowstone’s busiest season. Millions of people visit the park in June, July and August. If you plan to travel to Yellowstone this summer, be aware that the most used entrance gate, by far, is at West Yellowstone, seeing almost double the entires of other gates. The North and South gates are next in popularity, followed by the East and Northeast.
NEWS ROUND UP
Yellowstone’s Mount Doane name has been changed to First Peoples Mountain: One of the many troublesome names in Yellowstone has been change. This is good news and hopefully the beginning of many name changes.
Expect Long Delays Entering from West Yellowstone: Every morning this week, wait times at West Yellowstone have been at least over 30+ minutes for an hour or two. If you are entering the park from this side, either get there before 8 or after 11. Otherwise you will be sitting in traffic. If you find yourself encountering a long line, make the most of it and support the businesses in West Yellowstone. Remember to skip the McDonalds and support a local business.
The Beartooth Highway is Open for 2022, Again: After opening for a few hours and then shutting down for 12 days, the scenic highway is once again open!
HIKING NEWS AND UPDATES
First, ALWAYS CARRY BEAR SPRAY AND KNOW HOW TO USE IT!
Nearly all hiking trails in Yellowstone are open and aside from the ones with the highest of elevations (Avalanche Peak, Mount Washburn, etc…) they should be mostly snow free. Last week I hiked up Bunsen Peak and had limited snow on the trail until the last quarter mile. The temperatures this week should help with that. I will be going more into detail on my hike recommendations in the coming weeks, but if you need a suggestion, please message me!
My biggest hiking suggestion right now is to head anywhere there is a waterfall or river view. The water is absolutely ranging right now and seeing it at the start of and during runoff is truly spectacular. Three good hikes right now for views and potential wildlife will be the Slough Creek Trail, Hellroaring, and the Ribbon Lake- Artist Point Loop.
If you would rather find another hike on your own, the park has a somewhat updated report of trails in the park that can be useful. Be aware that information during this time of the year is sporadically updated and not always accurate. Therefore, it is best to error on the side of caution.
The snowpack is still huge, as consistent warm temperatures have yet to reach the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. We shouldn’t see a ton of melt-off most of this week, but warm temperatures look to be here for good starting on Wednesday. What does this snowpack mean for your visit? Well, unless you plan on hiking in the high mountains or driving over the Beartooth Highway, not much. It will mean higher rivers and more powerful waterfalls, as well as being more scenic. Most importantly, the high snowpack right now means that the fire season may be less than in previous years. So all in all, great news!
Here is the current snowpack map, which excludes the Tetons:
WEATHER FOR THE COMING WEEK
This weekend will be messy, with rain possible pretty much park wide. The higher elevations may even see some snow. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday could be quite chilly, then heat will return by Thursday and Friday of next week.
This is the weather.com forecast for West Yellowstone, Gardiner, Norris, Mammoth Hot Springs and Cooke City. While these locations don’t specifically cover the entire Yellowstone region, the forecasts give a great idea of what to expect all around the region. As always, weather can and does change fast in the park, so always be prepared for anything, even snow in the summer.
ROADS AND CAMPGROUNDS
The road should be mostly fine this week. Intermittent closures may occur on the highest of passes in the park, but they should be temporally if they occur at all. As of now, the day with the worst road conditions looks like it will be Tuesday.
Please remember that when driving in the park, speeding is not only illegal, but dangerous to you and wildlife. Animals can and will jump out in the road anywhere at any time. Cars may be stopped on the road around blind corners. Please, please please observe speed limit signs, use pullouts if you are the slow car and causing a backup and do not stop on the road.
For up-to-date information call (307) 344-2117 for recorded information, or sign up to receive Yellowstone road alerts on your mobile phone by texting “82190” to 888-777 (an automatic text reply will confirm receipt and provide instructions). Anticipate possible road closures due to inclement weather and dangerous driving conditions.
Planning on camping in the park this week?
This week will see the opening of Pebble Creek, Slough Creek, Indian Creek and Lewis Lake Campgrounds. Indian Creek will open on the 10th, while the remaining campgrounds I just mentioned will open on the 15th of June. Bridge bay, Canyon, Fishing Bridge, Grant, Madison, and Mammoth are all currently open, as well. Norris will be closed for all of 2022 and the park website has a mysterious TBD about Tower.
If you are planning camping and don’t have reservation, make it now if you can, or expect to not find anything in the park open.
The wonders of wildlife watching in Yellowstone continue!
Right now, the absolute best wildlife watching action is going to be between Mammoth and Cooke City, including the Tower Falls area. There are tons of bears, fantastic wold sightings, bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn, badgers and all the bison you could want. I know people still keep saying they see things in Hayden Valley, but Lamar and the areas around it are consistently the most active spots in the park, right now.
Elsewhere, wildlife watching has been good. Bear sightings have been reported all over, just not as consistently as around Lamar. Baby elk are also staring to be seen around Mammoth, our near Madison and even out of the park near Gardiner. Eagles and osprey continue to dot the tops of the trees along the rivers, but seem frustrated at the high water levels.
Want to know the park like a local wildlife expert? I wrote a guidebook with the best tips and best locations for wildlife sightings on your Yellowstone trip. Pick up your digital ebook or paperback copy now! Ebooks are just $5.
EXPERIENCE OF THE WEEK
Gibbon Falls is a nice roadside spot between Norris and Madison and one that I always recommend. The waterfall is super pretty, the walkway is nice and gives great views, and and any stop here is usually enjoyable. While this is a gorgeous place, there is another way to see this scenic spot that few people do. Just south of the pullout for Gibbon Falls, there is the Gibbon Falls picnic area.
Once parked, make your way down one of the many footpaths to the river. From here, walk the path as far as you can. When the water is high, like it is right now, you can just barely get within sight of the waterfalls, it is worth it though, as you will be gaining a new appreciation for both Gibbon Falls and the Gibbon River. Keep in mind that this adventure is not on a real park trail. It is not maintained or frequent too often. Please keep more pristine than when you arrived, picking up any trash you see. Also, do your best to stay on the easy to follow path to limit the human impact on this pretty and overlooked area.
TIP OF THE WEEK
For many park visitors, seeing a bison, especially for the first time, is an amazing experience. Hell, after 30+ years of coming to the park, I still get very happy when I see one of these massive ungulates roaming the wild prairie.
There are two schools of thought here. One is to stop and let them have their way. After all, it is their home. This route could mean sitting for hours, as bison will occasionally just lay down and rest on the pavement. This is not the preferred way.
The best way, which has been recommended to me by Yellowstone Rangers, is to slowly approach the animal, stopping your vehicle only to let them move directly out of your way. Bison are very smart, and will eventually take the hint that the giant thing next to them wants them to move. Doing this carefully and slowly, without honking your horn or coming in contact with the animal, will encourage the bison to move off the road for you. This will also help the bison jam diminish for other stuck cars.
If you are uncomfortable with this and are the first in line, pull off at the next pullout and let someone else take the lead. If you are in a bison jam and the car ahead of you is splitting the herd of bison, do not allow a lot of space between your cars. If you drop too far back, the herd will congregate on the road once more. Finally, if you see a bison jam on the other side of the road, do not stop. Even slowing down to take a quick picture for a second can lead to a long bison jam in both directions.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Curious about something not mentioned in the post?
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