This Week in Yellowstone National Park: May 6th through May 12th, 2022

This Week in Yellowstone National Park: May 6th through May 12th, 2022

This Week in Yellowstone, more roads open, another campground is available for memorable nights, and the Old Faithful Inn can once again be wandered. Bears are active and commonly seen, while the wolves have been continuing to put on a show. Snow and rain will fall, but spring is just around the corner, as demonstrated by the return of baby bison. If you are headed to Yellowstone this week, be ready for awesomeness! 

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BIGGEST NEWS OF THE WEEK

More Park Roads to Open Friday, If Weather Cooperates

On May 6th, 2022, Yellowstone National Park will open two more sections of road. If the weather allows it to happen. If all goes to plan, the East Entrance to Lake Village, known as Sylvan Pass, and the stretch between Canyon Village and Lake Village is scheduled to open for the year. Hopefully, the weather works out so those in the Cody area can have a chance to drive into the park soon. 

The opening of these roads is weather dependent and this coming week’s weather is sketchy at best. Be prepared for road closures, especially Sylvan Pass. Wildlife watching out in these newly opened sections will probably not be too great, as there is still quite a bit of snow around. However, I have been wrong about this before and both stretches of road are known for having some pretty great wildlife watching opportunities. As the snow melts and things become more consistent, I will be providing cool spots to stop and enjoy along these roads, but until then, head that way if you can and see the wonders of the newly opened roads.


QUICK NEWS TO KNOW

Hunting Impacted Wolf Behavior and Damages Research Opportunities: This is a must-read for all interested in Yellowstone’s wolves, their future and the impact of hunting around the park in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Not quite uplifting, but why would you expect it to be? 

Elk Calving Season Warning: In a press release from YNP, a warning has been issued to be extra cautious around elk, as it is nearly time for them to have their babies. They are quite protective and can cause serious damage and injury. 

How to Use Bear Spray: The Yellowstone website has a great resource for bear spray, including a video on how to properly carry and use it. Please give this page a read and a watch before heading on the pathways around the park. 

Old Faithful Inn To Open: After being closed all winter, the Old Faithful Inn is scheduled to open to the public this week. If you haven’t yet walked inside the wondrously wooded structure, do it. Few buildings in the world as as cool as this one. For a bonus, head up to the second floor patio to watch an eruption!

Madison Campground Opens: On May 5th, the 278 site Madison Campground opened to the public for the season. Follow the link to check for available campsites.


HIKING NEWS AND UPDATES

If you love mud and post-holing in snow, this week of hiking is for you! Aside from the trails between Roosevelt and Mammoth, most of your hiking opportunities will still be limited to boardwalks. Unless you are ready for a slog. Don’t get me wrong, hiking right now in the park is great fun, but is definitely not for everyone, especially with the incoming snow and rain for the week. The trails around Lamar and to Hellroaring will be decent, as will the Garnet Hill Loop, but I would still expect some mud in many spots. 

Honestly, right now, unless mud hikes sound fun, I strongly suggest hiking on closed sections of roads, as well as all the thermal area boardwalks. Crowds are mostly minimal on the boardwalks, letting you take your time to enjoy them without feeling rushed. One of my suggestions for a fun, short hike for this time of the year is down at Old Faithful. While seeing the eruption of the world-renowned geyser is great from the boardwalk, the view of it erupting from the upper viewpoint is truly unique. The hike up there may be difficult for some, but at less than two miles round trip, the trek is worth it. Expect some steep sections, snow on the trail and some mud. But do not let this deter you. Seeing Old Faithful erupt from the lookout is a rite-of-passage to further adventures deeper into the gems of the park. 

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.


SNOWPACK UPDATE

Looks like I was guilty of a “sky is falling” mentality a few months back. Sorry about that. In March, I was totally sure the snowpack was doomed unless a miracle happened. The miracle was April, when the snowpack bounced all the way back up to just below 100% of normal around the park. Yes, a few areas are still in the 80% of normal range, but most for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystems snowpack is look quite decent. With more snow coming this week, things should continue to be good. 

Here is the current snowpack map:


WEATHER FOR THE COMING WEEK

As I type this it is 70 degrees in the gateway town of Livingston, but that will change soon. This weekend, expect rain and snow throughout the park, and anticipate that the moisture will continue through the week. There will be sun breaks and decent days, but the higher you get in the park, the more you will increase your likelihood of encountering falling snow. Such is May in the Mountain West. 

This is the weather.com forecast for areas in and around the park. 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 will be mostly fine this week, despite the snow and rain. I anticipate little to no closures and if they do occur, it will be on the stretch from Mammoth to Norris, Norris to Canyon and at Sylvan Pass. It might be just one section. It could be all three. You may encounter some slush on the road ways, as well as some rocks that have tumbled down the steep slopes next to the roads, but it should be manageable and fine. As always, remember to drive slow and observe ALL posted speed limit signs. Over the weekend, I witness dozens of cars driving at least 60mph on park roads. This is how you drive off the road, hit another car, hit a person or an animal. 

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? 

Great news! Yellowstone now has two open campgrounds with more scheduled to open in the coming weeks. Starting today, Madison Campground is open for stays, as is Mammoth. Mammoth has 85 campsites in it, many of which are currently open, while Madison has a whopping 278 sites.


WILDLIFE WATCH

What a week for wildlife watchers in the park. Wolves on and near the road, bear sightings all over the place. Baby bison bouncing around on the prairies and the return of numerous migratory birds. I have even heard of otters frolicking near Lamar Valley again. Things are really starting to pick up! 

Your best bet for wildlife watching this coming week will be between from Gardiner to Cooke City and Gardiner to Norris. Both of these spots have seen consistent bear sightings over the last week, as well as newborn bison. While other areas of the park will also have animal sightings, these two stretches of road are where you will have the best odds to see more than just a bison or elk in the distance. By all means drive all the roads and search for wildlife, but know that your sightings will be less frequent or dependable. That could change this week, but with the weather the way it is forecasted to be, it seems like a pretty safe bet too stick to these spots to see the most animals. 

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.


TIP OF THE WEEK

See Something, Say Something

Recently, a professional photographer in Yellowstone witnessed a woman getting closer than the recommended 100 yards away from a grizzly bear. The photographer took pictures of her and posted the images online, rattling on about how poorly behaved visitors are. I sent them a DM on social media and asked if they said anything to the woman as she left the roadway to walk toward the bear. The photographer said “no.”

When I was photographing the same grizzly later that day, I heard three voices yelling loudly at a man who was climbing down a hillside for a better view of a grizzly about 75 yards away from the cars. The voices came from employees of the park and said as much to the man, who eventually scampered back up the hillside, avoiding eye contact with everyone as he hopped in his car and left. 

I later asked follows on twitter the following question. “You see someone start to approach wildlife in Yellowstone National Park. What do you do?”

Here is how they responded: 

We all have a responsibility to not only protect our fellow humans, but to do what is best for the wildlife of the park. That means we can’t just sit back and watch as someone approaches wildlife. We should not remain silent or document the encounter, just in case the person is attacked so we can put it online and get lots of views while calling the person names. The encounter will potentially lead to not only an injury for the person, but increases the chance that the animal involved will be killed. We need to speak up, be a steward of the land and work to educate all you encounter. Always.

Potentially uncomfortable engagements aren’t fun, but they are necessary. Will you stop the person? Maybe not. Will the person you are talking to threaten you with violence? Maybe. I never know how my encounters with other people will go, but it will always go better for them and for the animal if they redirect their attention at me instead of getting too close to a bison, bear or any other creature around. It is a risk we all must take to ensure that rules are followed.

You don’t even have to be mean about it. Sometimes, I walk to the person and ask them to come back to a safe viewing area. I tell them I would hate it if a ranger saw them and that they get kicked out of the park for their behavior. Usually, it works well and we all leave with a smile on our face and the knowledge that the wildlife remains safe.


WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Curious about something not mentioned in the post? 

Send me an email or message on social media and let me know how I can help. 

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