Coming to Yellowstone this week? Be ready for some rain, then the return of some warmth around the region. Bears are active and so are the wolves. Hiking trails are opening, elk are having babies, and popular overlooks are now accessible. If you are headed to the park this week, be ready for a memorable trip, stay appropriate distances from ALL wildlife, and be courteous to your fellow travelers. We are all fortunate and lucky to be able to experience this amazing place! This week, I also share a fantastic hike for this time of the year, as well as give you a great tip on how to avoid crowds at the well-known locations. If you are coming here this week, be ready for awesomeness!
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BIGGEST NEWS OF THE WEEK
About that Bison Goring
You have no doubt heard about the first bison goring of the year. You have probably also seen the false reports that the woman died. You have also more than likely read a bunch of articles for comments mocking the woman, even going so far to laugh at her pain. This is 100% uncalled for, even if what she did was indeed quite ill-advised. She got gored. Badly. She got tossed 10 feet into the air and had to be rushed to the hospital. She definitely learned her lesson. Let’s stop piling on the holier than thou attitude on someone who made a terrible mistake that was almost deadly.
Yes, the victim has no excuses. They got too close to wildlife and they paid the price. The incident, like 99.99% of all wildlife encounters that go wrong in Yellowstone, could and should have been avoided. We should be using the incident to once again remind all that approaching wildlife of any size is not allowed in the park. However, this incident is part of a larger trend I have been witnessing among park visitors over the last decade.
Generally, human behavior around Yellowstone’s wildlife is quite good. In fact, some may argue that it is the best it has ever been. After all, with four million visitors in the park, incidents like this are incredibly rare. People aren’t feeding bears from their car. People are generally extremely well-heaved. It is important to recognize that. People are not approaching wildlife in fields as much. However, I have noticed that there is still a disconnect when encountering an animal on the trail. I recently called someone out in Mammoth for walking close to an elk (they were four feet away) and he told me that he was on the trail so it is ok. The same thing happens with bison on trails and boardwalks. Just because you are following the rules of the trail and staying on areas approved for hiking does not mean that the wildlife obeys the same rules. It is easy to sit and read this and say “yes, that makes total sense,” from the comfort of your own home, but it is harder to do when one becomes overwhelmed by the unique experiences of the park.
Finally, I have also been hearing reports that not one single person in the crowd of people watching the woman from Ohio get too close to the bison said anything to her. If this is true, this is incredibly sad. If you truly care about the park, the animals and your fellow humans, you will do all you can to ensure that an incident does not occur. Standing in silence and disbelief does not help a situation. Always say something when you see a rule being broken. There is no excuse not to.
I sincerely hope that this incident helps raise awareness that bison encounters can potentially turn south in a hurry and that major damage will occur to you when breaking these rules.
NEWS ROUND UP
Dunraven Pass Dazzles Visitors: No real link about this, but I can’t suggest driving the newly opened section of road enough. The new section of road is magnificent and the pullouts are so great.
Beartooth Highway Remains Closed With 4-6 Feet of Snow: https://unofficialnetworks.com/2022/06/03/beartooth-highway-closed-snow/
Elk With Calves Are Extremely Dangerous: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/safety.htm#elk
Swimming and Soaking Areas Still Closed: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/swimming-soaking.htm
Boar Grizzly Kills Cubs of the Year: Male bears (boars) kill cubs. It is sad, but it happens. They do this so they can mate with the female (sow) and pass along their genetics instead. It is part of life as a bear and while difficult to deal with, it is 100% natural.
HIKING NEWS AND UPDATES
The trails are definitely opening up! While the weekend rain will leave some trails a bit muddy, a large swath of hiking trails are now totally doable. The trails I strongly recommend right now are: Grand Prismatic Overlook and Fairy Falls, Osprey Falls and Bunsen Peak, Hellroaring, Slough Creek, the Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail, Beaver Ponds, Artist Point to Point Sublime, and Mystic Falls.
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 way above average right now, meaning that those of you reading this hoping to summit some mountains on your trip will be encountering some pretty nasty conditions. Things will balance out in the coming week, but the snowpack this week doesn’t look to be diminishing all too quickly. Which is good news. Last spring and summer, the snowpack vanished far too fast and the regions rivers dropped to extremely low levels. Hopefully, that does not happen again this year.
WEATHER FOR THE COMING WEEK
This weekend will be mostly wet, mostly in the afternoon and evening. Morning showers will occur, but the majority of the precipitation looks to be falling in the afternoon hours. Hopefully, that stays true. After a bit of cool air drifts through the region (bringing snow in the higher elevations), temperatures start to climb, signaling what could be the start of the warm weather. That won’t happen until Tuesday or Wednesday, though.
This is the weather.com forecast for Yellowstone, West Yellowstone, Gardiner, Norris, 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 roads should be in pretty great condition for the majority of the coming week. The weekend weather may potentially close the highest elevation sections of road for a little bit, but the storms shouldn’t be as dramatic as the previous few weeks, where numerous closures occurred. The weather will more than likely keep the Beartooth Highway, outside of the park near Cooke City, closed through the weekend, but the other road ways should mostly be open. The only closures I can see potentially occurring this weekend will be Sylvan Pass to the East Entrance, the section of road between Old Faithful and West Thumb, as the newly opened and renovated Dunraven Pass. As always, anticipate possible road closures due to inclement weather and dangerous driving conditions.
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).
Planning on camping in the park this week?
As of June 3rd, 2022, there are six campgrounds open in Yellowstone National Park. The open campgrounds are Bridge bay, Canyon, Fishing Bridge RV Park, Grant Village, Madison and Mammoth. Four more campgrounds in the park will be opening in a few weeks time. BE AWARE THAT CAMPGROUNDS ARE FILLING UP!!! If you arrive without a reservation, the chances of finding a campsite in the park are very unlikely. Most campsites are reserved far in advance, so it is recommended that you make reservations as early as you can. All dates are subject to change.
The wonders of wildlife watching continue this week. Last week had visitors seeing bears and wolves frequently out toward Lamar Valley, while bear sightings also occurred throughout the park. As always, if you are looking for the absolute best wildlife watching right now, drive between Roosevelt Junction and out to Pebble Creek. Past Pebble Creek to Cooke City and Silver Gate, there have been many reports of consistent moose sightings. Definitely drive a few extra miles to see if they are out there.
Last week and once again saw half a dozen bears, a few wolves and even a badger den right near the road, where the badger would go hunt and bring back ground squirrels for the young still in the den.
I also have been having fantastic luck with wildlife sightings going over Dunraven Pass, especially around the canyon area. Now that the road is open after two years of closures, it makes driving between Lamar and Hayden Valley much shorter and even more scenic, with great potential for some world-class animal sightings.
Hayden is fine right now, but remains inconsistent with sightings. Things will continue to pick up out there, but I would keep expectations low. The harlequin ducks are still lingering around LeHardy Rapids, while eagles and osprey are commonly seen above the rivers and creeks, either flying or perched upon tree tops. Out near Sylvan Pass, the bear and bighorn sheep sightings have been pretty consistent, so I highly recommend driving that route if the weather is decent.
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
Fairy Falls and the Grand Prismatic Overlook
I know. I am recommending a spot that is already quite popular. But you know what? It is popular for a good reason. The trail to the Grand Prismatic Overlook and Fairy Falls is one of the quintessential experiences in Yellowstone and is sure to amaze visitors both young and old.
The trail to the Grand Prismatic Overlook gradually climbs 105 feet over 0.6 miles from the Fairy Falls Trailhead to a view point that looks down on Grand Prismatic Spring and the Midway Geyser Basin. While some love the view of Grand Prismatic from the boardwalk, the best view to fully appreciate the amazing pool is from this overlook. This is legitimately one of the absolute best views in the park and should not be skipped. One tip I have for the absolute best viewing is to go during the heat of the day, when the steam will be the least. Cold mornings and evenings will leave the pool covered with steam and will limit visibility a bit.
If the hike here is too short, consider adding on the trek out to Fairy Falls. Located along the same trail system, Fairy Falls is a scenic waterfall that shows off the backcountry beauty of Yellowstone. The entire route to the falls and back, including the overlook, is less than four miles total. An Added bonus for hiking to Fairy Falls is found by continuing along the trail, past the falls to the Imperial Geyser. The total for this hike will be around 7 miles with just 375 feet of elevation gain, including the hike up to the Grand Prismatic Overlook.
TIP OF THE WEEK
How to Avoid Crowds at Popular Locations
We are now officially in the season of popular spots getting crowded. Parking spots will be hard to find. Solitude at these well-known destinations will also be difficult to located. However, that doesn’t mean that avoiding people is impossible. It just takes some rearranging of your schedule.
Most visitors to the park use the daylight hours, between breakfast and dinner, to drive around and experience the well-known wonders of Yellowstone. In the spring, fall and winter months, this typically gives you experiences with just a handful of other people on the boardwalks of the region. In the summer, this all changes. If you don’t mind being around your fellow humans, keep doing this and enjoy the day, as a few people around should not ruin the experience.
However, if you want to have places like the Grand Prismatic Overlook, Artist Point and even Old Faithful mostly to yourself, arrive very early in the morning or after 7pm. The sunset doesn’t occur in Yellowstone right now until around 9pm, but most visitors to the park have already left the park or settled into camp by 7 or 8pm. That gives you an hour or two where the masses have migrated elsewhere and emptied out from the most popular spots. This is when I typically visit these spots in the summer and highly recommend that you do the same. Plus, why not catch a sunset at the world-renowned destinations?
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