Douglas Scott | Nov 4th, 2021

This Week in Yellowstone: November 5th to November 10th

This Week in Yellowstone is one of change. After the weekend ends, we see the closure of interior park roads and a drastic drop-off for visitation. This will be your last chance until spring to drive to places like the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic and Yellowstone Lake. Even now, with the roads open, there is a calmness that has washed over the region. This week is honestly one of my favorite weeks to visit the park, so if you are in the area, make a visit over the weekend and enjoy one last adventure in the main part of the park.

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BIGGEST NEWS OF THE WEEK

Interior Park Roads to Close

UPDATE: ALL PARK ROADS WILL BE CLOSING AT 7PM ON SATURDAY NOVEMBER 6TH. THE NORTH ROADS, BETWEEN GARDINER AND COOKE CITY, MONTANA WILL REMAIN OPEN, WEATHER PERMITTING..

The only real story this week of immediate importance are the road closures occurring at 12:01am on November 8th. Just after midnight this coming Monday, the only road visitors to the park will be able to drive is the section of road between Gardiner and Cooke City. 

During this time, many of the amenities in Gardiner and Cooke City will be closed down, as they are taking a much needed break before the winter season starts. If you find yourself visiting this part of Yellowstone after the weekend, expect minimal dining and lodging options in both small towns. Things will be open, but nowhere near the same amount as the summer months. Plan ahead and you’ll be fine. 

Unfortunately, word of these closures isn’t always well-known and each year many visitors to the park who stay at West Yellowstone get extremely discouraged. If they want to drive into the park, they will need to drive up to Bozeman, which takes nearly two hours, then over to Livingston which is another half hour and then an hour south on Highway 89 to Gardiner and the North Entrance. This is a 167 mile one way drive that will easily take three hours. Just to enter the park. To reach Lamar Valley will be another hour’s drive. This would be an 8-hour round trip drive with next to no stops. Hopefully, if you are visiting the park once the roads are closed, you aren’t staying near the West, South or East Entrances. Next week, if desired, I’ll try to remember covering a few fun activities if you happen to be out in West Yellowstone. 

The interior roads of the park will reopen for over-snow travel, snowmobile and snow-coach at 8 am on December 15. That will allow people who have booked a tour to be able to enter the park from the West Entrance to Old Faithful, go from Mammoth to Old Faithful, Canyon to Norris, Canyon to Lake, Old Faithful to West Thumb, South Entrance to Lake, Lake to Lake Butte Overlook, East Entrance to Lake Butte Overlook (Sylvan Pass). I want to reiterate that you WILL NOT be able to drive a personal vehicle into the park interior during this time. 

The next time you will be able to drive your car on any road except the northern stretch between Mammoth and Lamar Valley will be April 16, 2022, when some interior roads start to reopen. It won’t be until May 14th that all park roads are scheduled to reopen.


OTHER NEWS

While there are some other small stories taking place in and around the park right now, news about Yellowstone has come to a standstill. The coolest thing I saw about the park this last week is a short video about the installation of bear boxes. Featuring volunteers from the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), the video gives a great glimpse of how the park works to keep both people and wildlife safe at campgrounds. Give it a watch here: https://twitter.com/YellowstoneNPS/status/1455551641625657346?s=20 as it is pretty cool to learn about and see. 

I also took my last trip of the year into the interior last week. It is always an emotional trip, knowing that the sights, sounds and smells I experienced won’t be repeated until next year. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to see a grizzly near the mud volcano area, which may have been my last bear sighting of 2021. I was able to have the entire Artist Point Overlook of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to myself, I also wandered Norris Geyser Basin, which I had mostly to myself.


WEATHER FOR THE COMING WEEK

If you love colder weather, and snow, this weekend is for you! Sunday looks to be snowy all over the park with lows dropping to the teens in spits inside and outside the park. Friday will be the best day before the road closures, with Saturday being decent and Sunday not so fun. Monday at Cooke City and Gardiner will be cold, but should be good enough for great views of fresh snow on the mountains. The full forecast is as follows: 

This is the weather.com forecast for the three closest towns to the park- Gardiner, West Yellowstone and Cooke City. While they don’t specifically cover the entire region, these 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.


WILDLIFE WATCH

If you are able to get into the interior this weekend and roads aren’t closed due to the potential snowfall in the area, your best chance of bear sightings will be in three places. The first is out near Sylvan Pass, where a sow and a cub have been wandering around for the past few weeks. A grizzly has also been lingering around the Mud Volcano area of the park the last week or so. There have also been numerous bear sightings continually around the Petrified Tree area and Lamar Valley, but those have been more hit and miss than the other locations. 

Wolf sightings are still occurring, but have been less frequent. I will say this until I am blue in the face, but if you want to see a wolf, I always have the best luck on the north side of the park. If you see lots of cars congregating at a pullout, definitely stop. 

One thing I enjoyed seeing this past week was the congregation of the pronghorn near Gardiner, Montana and the Roosevelt Arch. 

Want the best tips and locations for wildlife sightings on your Yellowstone trip? I wrote a book for that very purpose! Pick up your digital ebook or paperback copy now!


ROADS AND CAMPGROUNDS

UPDATE: ALL PARK ROADS WILL BE CLOSING AT 7PM ON SATURDAY NOVEMBER 6TH. THE NORTH ROADS, BETWEEN GARDINER AND COOKE CITY, MONTANA WILL REMAIN OPEN, WEATHER PERMITTING..

As I mentioned at the top and in the biggest news of the week, the park interior roads will be closing at 12:01am on November 8th. The only road you will be able to drive on in the park will be the stretch along the northern park, from Gardiner, Montana to Cooke City, Montana. All other entrances will be closed to the public. You can probably walk or bike in on the other roads, but the nearest attractions are a long ways away from the South, East and West entrances to the park. 

Weekend snow could cause closures on roads in the park. I’d expect the snow storms in the region to shut down Craig Pass, Sylvan Pass and maybe even the road between Norris and Canyon. Obviously, this only applies to the potential snow forecasted this weekend. After the 12:01am on Monday, all the roads in the interior will be closed anyway. 

For up-to-date information consult the map above, 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? 

Only two campgrounds are open in the park right now. They are Lewis Lake and Mammoth. Lewis Lake will be closing on November 7th for the year, so after Saturday night, the only campground open in Yellowstone will be the campground at Mammoth. Neither campground has been filling up to capacity over the last week and this trend should continue until the busy season starts again in 2022. If you are hoping to camp in the cold, you can check the status of campgrounds in the park online here.


HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

The Solitude. With the park’s record visitation year winding down, a calmness is now easily found at all corners of the park. Everything, from Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic, to well-traveled trails only have a handful of people.

Once the interior park roads have closed, I highly recommend heading to the Lava Creek Picnic area, crossing the road and hiking to the other side of Undine Falls. Most will view this waterfall from the roadside stop just west of the picnic area, but hiking the short trail to the north side of the creek and falls is a memorable and scenic spot for the offseason. You will not only have fantastic views of the falls, but you can also walk a little further and gaze down toward Mammoth in the near distance. If it is clear, Sepulcher and Electric and Bunsen Peak can be spotted. Be aware that this trail is also used frequently by the wildlife of the park. Make sure if they are near to give them the proper viewing distances.


TIP OF THE WEEK

Drive safe and don’t forget to change all your clocks this weekend! The time change will mean earlier sunsets in the park and shorter daylight hours. I know this tip is lame, but it is an important one. The time change means that the sun will set close to 5pm on Sunday and Monday, making shorter hiking experiences. 

The lessening daylight hours also mean that more than likely, you’ll be driving the roads in the dark. If this is the case for you, please drive safely. Animals will be using the roads more and more to travel and accidents will increase. Slow down in day and nighttime driving and do your best to avoid areas like Paradise Valley after sunset. Deer cross the roads non-stop and they are next to impossible to avoid at times.


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Curious about something not mentioned in the post? 

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