This Week in Yellowstone will be a good one! Both Dunraven Pass and the Beartooth Highway are opening (weather permitting/check conditions), wildlife watching will continue to be incredible, and snow may fall over the three day weekend. In this edition, I also look at a bear attack that both shocked and horrified park visitors and tell you what trails I am hiking right now. If you are coming this week, be patient with the weather, your fellow park visitors and any other delays you may encounter- you are in Yellowstone!
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BIGGEST NEWS OF THE WEEK
Dunraven Pass is Opening!!
Connecting Tower to Canyon, Dunraven Pass is one of the more scenic stretches of road in Yellowstone, which is quite something to say. Nearly every section of road in the park is unique and beautiful. Reaching high above the well-trodden destinations of the lower lands of the park, Dunraven Pass routes you skyward, proving absolutely stunning panoramic views and sweeping landscape vistas.
The road hasn’t been open in two years and I can promise that people will be clamoring to drive it. I will be just as excited and it is warranted. However, please remember that not everyone will be driving at your speed, so use the pullouts when desired. Let those people riding your tail be in a rush and slow down and take in the awesomeness that you’ll see here.
I was going to walk up the road earlier this week to bring a sneak peek to you all, but the road has been closed to hikers and bikers because of bear activity. This should be a hint to you all. Actually, I will flat out say it. The road is an incredible spot to see bears and since it has been closed for two years, I imagine the bear sightings near the roads, especially the first few days or weeks, could be quite something.
Please be aware that this weekend’s weather will more than likely impact the ability to drive this road on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Maybe even Tuesday. Things should be calm by Wednesday and allow everyone to gaze at the grandeur of the area from way up high.
About That Bear Attack
What bear attack, you ask? Last week, a grizzly boar killed a young grizzly in front of the shocked crowds that had stopped to watch the animals. The boar, an older male, charged at the rumored to be three year old bear and pummeled it, leaving it gravely injured. Park officials moved in and euthanized the bear.
Immediately, people began to call the other bear a murderer and verbally attack it online, spewing some pretty hateful things about a wild animal. I get emotions were high and seeing a bear kill another bear is truly hard to watch. But it is nature. This is what bears do. This is what Yellowstone was, is, and hopefully always will be. As sad and emotionally difficult as some events may be, this is 100% natural and not out of the ordinary.
Like many in the park this spring, the grizzly that was killed and I got to know each other. I watched this bear flipping rocks for hours just north of Norris. I watched it in the rain, mud, sun and snow. I looked on as it leisurely roamed, as it stood on logs and looked around, as it disappeared into the forest. Hundred of people watched it. Probably more like thousands and each of us was in awe at the marvelous bear. Which is why having it die is hard to deal with.
It is difficult to see an animal die. Well, for most of us. Especially one where so many people received so much joy from encountering while driving along the park roads. It is a sad moment for many and by no means let anyone take away your sadness. Just know that while the bear had a short life, the life it lived was one in a natural setting, where the interference of humans was negligible. It wasn’t shot or hot by a car. It wasn’t fed repeatedly and had to relocated a bunch of times. It lived and died in the park by causes that had probably killed many of its ancestors. It was a grizzly bear in the Rockies and died as it lived, in the wilds of Yellowstone.
The trails, they are a drying. Well, after this weekend is over. Hiking this weekend will be a bit nasty and if you must go out in the rain and/or snow, I strongly suggest sticking around the boardwalks. The trails will be a little muddy.
Once the wet weather passes, finding a trail can be a tricky decision. I am still partial to the trails in the Northern Range for a few reasons. One is that many of these trails are open and not in bear management areas. Two, the have been drying out for weeks now and other trails in other areas have still be super muddy or snowy. Three, the wildlife spotting on these trails has been great.
Mountain top trails are not for novices right now, but the lower trails are giving incredible rewards. One trail that is really fun is the Lava Creek Trail that runs from near the Mammoth Campground up to Undine Falls and back. It is scenic, giving great views of Bunsen Peak and the Gardner River, as well as rewarding your effort on the hike uphill with a unique view of the well-known roadside stop of Undine Falls. Bunsen Peak is accessible, somewhat, but you will encounter snow. You can also reach this top part of the falls by parking at the Lava Creek Picnic Area and walking across the road to the signed trail.
A few more recommendations from me are the Slough Creek trail to at least the first meadow, Osprey Falls from the Bunsen Peak Trailhead, or the Lost Lake Loop behind Roosevelt Lodge. These will deliver both good hiking miles and incredible experiences. As always, the trails around the boardwalks of the geyser basins are stunning.
After this week, I will really be diving into hikes that are can’t miss for this time of the year, but for now, the ones I am mentioning are in good shape and a few of my favorites.
Can it stop snowing now?
Just kidding. Snow in the mountains is always welcome, even if it continues and doesn’t melt out in June or July. The snowpack is nice and healthy right now and is starting to melt out a bit. The rivers are more murky and we have yet to see the true runoff of the winter and spring’s worth of snow fill the rivers. Right now, the snowpack is fantastic and if you find yourself frustrated by it, ask yourself if you’d rather be experiencing forest fires or extreme drought right now. Also, remember you are well over a mile above sea level and in the Rockies!
Here is the current snowpack map:
WEATHER FOR THE COMING WEEK
If you are hoping for sunny skies the Memorial Day weekend, you may want to look elsewhere. A storm that will bring snow to the higher elevations and rain to the lower elevations of the park will be moving through the region until Tuesday or so. Then, the sky will part and the sun will return. Highs during the sunny times won’t be super warm, but compared to snow it will feel amazingly warm.
This is the weather.com forecast for the four closest areas that are currently drivable in the park- West Yellowstone, Gardiner, 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
Anticipate road closures this weekend and know that the potential for both Dunraven Pass and the Bearooth Highway, both freshly opened for the season on Friday, to intermittently close over the weekend. The passes of the park could be a little messy over the weekend, but aside form that the roads won’t be too bad.
As I mentioned, the Beartooth Highway and Dunraven Pass, the road connecting Tower to Canyon, are scheduled to open on Friday the 27th. Both openings are exciting and if you haven’t driven either road yet, definitely add it to your list to do when you can.
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?
Reservations will be needed to get a site in the park. All open campgrounds inside the park had been at capacity for most of the previous week and will be full this weekend. If you can’t find a campsite, there are some sites out of the NE, E and North Entrance that may be open.
It is still pretty bonkers out there for wildlife watching. Up on the northern range around Slough Creek, wolf watchers have been watching the pups being carried around to a secondary den. The bears are still all over the place, the bighorn sheep ewes are hanging out near the Yellowstone Picnic Area, and marmots are lounging on warm rocks on sunny days. The bison sightings have been great too! Do not skip the drive from Roosevelt Junction to Pebble Creek. If you do, you will dramatically reduce your chances of numerous wildlife encounters.
Elsewhere in the park, wildlife watching has been great too. Out the East Entrance, bighorn sheep, black bears and grizzly bears have all been spotted. Out in Hayden, grizzlies have been seen, as have elk and some bison. Same with the harlequin ducks, blue herons, eagles, osprey and sand hill cranes. Around the geyser basins, be on the lookout for the occasional bear sighting, numerous bison sightings, and a few elk wandering around. Speaking of elk, if you want to see them, head out the North Entrance and drive to Paradise Valley. Large herds have been hanging out right near the road.
Drive Chief Joseph or the Beartooth Highway
Reached most quickly from the park outside of the Northeast Entrance, few roads in America can rival the experiences one will have on a sunny day on either of these scenic highways. The Beartooth Highway runs for 69 miles to Red Lodge and reaches over 10,000ft in elevation, giving world-class views at the dozens of viewpoints and pullouts along the paved highway. Mountain goats are commonly seen here, while grizzlies are known to frequent this massive mountain wonderland.
If you’d rather leave Cooke City and drive to Cody, the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway is also a stunner. Passing high viewpoints and crossing over a dizzying canyon on a two lane bridge, the road meanders and showcases the mountains in a way you’ll never forget. If you do this drive, consider hitting up Cody and coming back into the park through the East Entrance. It will blow you away with the geological wonderland of Wyoming.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Chances are, at least one person in your life has been telling you to drink more after over the last few year. If you listen to them, keep doing so. If you haven’t followed their advice, start doing so on your trip to Yellowstone. Seriously. The elevation will get to most of you reading this and while it may be minimal, it will still push your body quite hard. Because of this, I cannot stress bringing a water bottle with you at all times and making sure you are drinking at least 40oz of water when in the park for a day. Sure, you’ll have to pee a ton, but finding a bathroom is better than battling the fatigue, dizziness, frustration, swollen fingers and other side effects that come from differing levels of dehydration.
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Curious about something not mentioned in the post?
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