America’s first National Park is giving quite the gift to the American public for 2016’s National Park Week. While most parks will be giving are entrance to their parks, numerous events and awesome Junior Ranger programs, Yellowstone National Park is opening road to a few of the most picturesque destination in America. According to a National Park Service press release, Canyon and Old Faithful will once again be open to car travel, starting Friday, April 15th at 8am. From West Yellowstone and Gardiner, Montana, visitors to the World’s original National Park can see a few sites that inspired protected lands.
After a long winter, visitors to one of my favorite sections of land in the world will soon be able to watch the gorgeousness of an Old Faithful eruption and then drive out to witness the stunning beauty of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Honestly, this is one of my favorite times of the year. Combined with wolf watching in Lamar Valley, exploring mammoth Hot Springs and hiking in the snow-free sections of the park, the opening of these roads means Yellowstone is back and ready to inspire a new generation of modern day outdoor enthusiasts. Each spring, Yellowstone National Park is responsible for clearing snow and ice from nearly 200 miles of main roads, 124 miles of secondary roads, as well as 125 acres of parking lots inside the park and even 31 miles of the Beartooth Highway outside the park’s Northeast Entrance in preparation for the summer season. While some roads in the park will remain closed, the two roads that are opening will grant you access to the best geysers and sights in the park. As I sit and type this, I am debating calling in sick to head out to Yellowstone and see this for myself. That is how awesome this news is.
Now, I love Yellowstone and can’t think of a greater reason to head to America’s first National park. This is where it all began and where you need to visit as the National Park Service turns 100 years old. With the opening of the roads, visitors are sure to find smaller crowds, amazing views and the best wildlife watching experiences in the world. If you can, take a trip here this weekend and week. You know you want to go.
After having been to Yellowstone over 25 times, I have put on the miles, stopped at nearly every gas station, rest stop and scenic area from Seattle, Washington to Gardiner, Montana. I have stayed in the campgrounds, eaten at the restaurants and experienced the lodges. I know Yellowstone, I know the drive and I want to share it with you. The information I give has no hidden agenda. I want to give you the best trip to Yellowstone from Seattle as possible and this guidebook can do that.
Free Entrance April 16 through April 24
Spring in Yellowstone National Park is an excellent time to experience the park’s abundant wildlife and spectacular scenery. Starting Friday, April 15 at 8:00 a.m., the road segments from West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone will open for the season allowing visitors to travel by car to two of the park’s iconic locations.
From April 16 through April 24, entrance fees to the park will be waived in celebration of National Park Week. This annual celebration honors National Park Service sites and programs in communities nationwide.
What to expect in Spring
Each spring, Yellowstone National Park clears snow and ice from 198 miles of main road, 124 miles of secondary roads, 125 acres of parking lots inside the park, and 31 miles of the Beartooth Highway outside the park’s Northeast Entrance in preparation for the summer season.
Additional road segments in the park will open during May as road clearing operations progress. To see opening dates, road construction and delays, and current road status, visit the Park Roads webpage at: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm.
Spring in Yellowstone brings unpredictable weather including cold temperatures, high winds, and falling snow. Even cleared sections of roads can be narrow and covered with a layer of snow, ice and debris. Visitors should use extreme caution when driving as road clearing operations can be ongoing at any time throughout the park. In the case of extreme weather conditions, temporary road closures are also possible with little or no advance warning.
Due to the snow, walking on trails or on boardwalks through thermal areas may also be difficult for some time. Bears have emerged from hibernation in the Greater Yellowstone Area and are on the hunt for food. If you plan to hike, ski or snowshoe in the park, stay in groups of three of more, make noise on the trail, carry bear spray, and know how to use the bear spray. Yellowstone regulations require visitors stay 100 yards from black bears, grizzly bears, and wolves and 25 yards from all other large mammals. Visitors should park in pullouts and stay in vehicles when viewing roadside animals. The best defense is to stay a safe distance from wildlife and use binoculars, a telescope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look.
Very limited visitor services will be available during the next several weeks. The Albright Visitor Center, the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center (VEC), the Canyon VEC lobby with information desk, and the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center will be open daily. The Canyon VEC exhibits and theater will open April 30. For more information, consult the park newspaper distributed at entrance stations or visit http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/index.htm.
Travelers should be aware of specific construction projects and possible delays occurring this season. Construction on the section of roadway from ¾ miles north of Roaring Mountain north to the Moose Exhibit, 4.7 miles to the north may begin mid-May with 30-minute delays possible. From June 1 to September 11, this section of roadway will be closed 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. with a full closure in effect 10:00 p.m. September 11 to 7:00 a.m.October 7. A travel detour via Dunraven Pass, from Canyon to Tower will be available during the closure.
Thinking ahead to Summer
It is never too early to start planning summer trips and we want to help visitors set realistic expectations. Visitation in 2015 saw a 17% increase with a record-breaking four million visits to Yellowstone. With the National Park Service celebrating its centennial year and continued lower gas prices, Yellowstone expects to see another high visitation year. Expect long lines at entrance stations, crowding in parking lots, and more people in thermal basins and at popular sites throughout the park. The park is asking visitors to pack their patience when planning a trip to Yellowstone this summer.
About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 411 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.