GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Books accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

All posts tagged roads

I.
Today is the first day you can drive into the park from the North or East Entrance. What’s more, those of us stuck at home can now get predictions of the daytime eruptions of Old Faithful Geyser on the NPS website.

But, if you are anything like me, you are mostly celebrating that the time for your summer trip to this wonderful park is drawing nearer. Just one thing that may give us pause as we contemplate the sights we are anticipating seeing: the crowds are likely to be amazingly large.

Here are links to a University of Montana report (2.7 MB pdf file) on 2016 crowding in that state’s two national parks and a shorter summary of the report, emphasizing Yellowstone, by Sean Reichard of YellowstoneInsider.com.

II.
If you should happen to be one of the people driving into Yellowstone this weekend, you may want to take part in tomorrow’s Earth Day Walk for Science at Old Faithful. This echoes the Washington, DC, Walk for Science. As an ever-curious non-scientist, if I lived anywhere near the park, I would certainly want to participate in that.

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Someone on the website Quora just asked about visiting Yellowstone in October, so here’s what I came up with while surfing the National Park Service website for Yellowstone:

Facilities open in October are:
Lake Hotel and Cabins to Oct. 9
Mammoth Hotel and Cabins to Oct. 10
Old Faithful: Snow Lodge and Cabins to Oct. 16; Inn to Oct. 9; Lodge and Cabins to Oct. 5

All campgrounds close in September, except the one at Mammoth Hot Springs, which is open all year.
Almost all roads are open until November 7; Dunraven Pass and Beartooth Pass close on October 11.

Since the weather always turns cold and snowy more and more during October, visitors need to be prepared to dress warmly and could need snow tires in some areas. All thermal areas and most wildlife can be seen (bears are just beginning to think about hibernating), but visitor center hours are limited, some dining facilities are closed, and ranger programs have already ceased in September.

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Great bike-riding opportunity this month!

Categories: News, Trip planning
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Some of the plowed roads in Yellowstone are open for just a short time every year to bike riders. This great opportunity to enjoy the road from West Yellowstone to Mammoth car-free lasts until April 15th, when the other park roads gradually open to motorized vehicles. You can enjoy the quiet, the animals, and all the beauties of the northwest part of the park on two skinny wheels. Click here for all the details. Note that the road from Madison to Old Faithful is closed at this time for bear management.

The same privilege is offered by Glacier National Park in northern Montana, another paradise. But Going-to-the-Sun Highway requires really ambitious bike riders with good brakes!

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Nature cooperates with Yellowstone!

Categories: News, Trip planning, Winter
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Just this morning I’ve found for the first time this fall that the National Park Service webcam at Old Faithful is showing snow covering the Old Faithful / Upper Geyser Basin area. It is interesting to notice where the black sinter-covered ground still shows—these are areas where the subsurface is warm enough to melt snow no matter what the air temperature may be.
UGB_Webcam_11_4_15am

This is nicely coordinated with the closing of all Yellowstone roads to wheeled traffic, except for the all-season road between Gardiner and the Northeast Entrance near Silver Gate and Cooke City.

There are seven webcams of different parts of the park accessible at the NPS webcams page.

If your winter Yellowstone visit reservations are not yet made, call concessioner Xanterra at: 307-344-7311 NOW!

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Those noisy contraptions can now enter Yellowstone Park!

Categories: History, Transportation
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It’s August 1, 1915.
“Hooray! Today we can finally drive our new automobile into Yellowstone National Park.” Something like this must have been shouted between the open-topped cars lined up to pass through the North Entrance Arch on the first day it was legal to “motor” through the park. [Turns out we showed you that arch in our July 28th post.]

It’s true that a man named Henry G. Merry from nearby Horr, Montana had decided thirteen years before, in 1902, to “pilot the car [a Winton] to the fort and talk things over with the commandant,” according to Merry’s son’s account many years later. Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 10.40.57 AM
You see, the Secretary of the Interior and superintendent Colonel John Pitcher had agreed that year that automobiles must be banned from the park due to the terrible condition of the roads and the danger of frightening the horses. But Merry went anyway—and was told he was under arrest and would have to pay a penalty. However, according to son Edward T. Merry: “When my father asked what the penalty would be, the officer very seriously replied, ‘You will have to take me for a ride in this contraption.’” But soon Merry was ushered out with a warning never to try it again.

Officials knew they would eventually have to improve the roads enough for cars to use them, and eventually this was done. Exactly one hundred years ago today the new era began. Fifty Fords, Buicks, Wintons, Haynes, and others entered the park. Within a year it was obvious that horses and autos were incompatible on the bumpy, narrow roads, and of course, the horses lost the contest.

[My source for this story was The Yellowstone Story, Volume II, by Aubrey L. Haines, pages 264 to 269. The late 1890s Winton touring car is courtesy of Wikipedia commons.]

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Follow-up on summer 2015 road construction

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North entrance arch

Photo by Leslie Kilduff, page 252 of Yellowstone Treasures.

While the construction near Gardiner around the North Entrance Arch will be ongoing right up to the centennial of the National Park Service on August 25, 2016, there is a total road closure at night you need to be aware of if you are making a trip this summer.

The section of the Grand Loop Road from Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris Junction is closed to all travel every night, from 11 p.m.-7 a.m., seven days per week. Also, expect 30-minute delays when traveling between Norris and Golden Gate.

As always, current road information is available by phone: 307-344-2117.

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Heads-up on summer road construction

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For anyone who’s planning a trip to Yellowstone in the next couple of months, the good news is that the Isa Lake bridge between Old Faithful Village and the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake is opening this Thursday, June 11, after total reconstruction. Landscaping projects will be ongoing until about September 10 causing some delays, but at least you will no longer have to take a big detour to go between those two popular points.

All summer, however, there will be delays up to 30 minutes between Mammoth Hot Springs and the Norris Campground. I’m going to try to avoid that stretch except for once during my time in the park (June 11 to 16).

The total revamp of the Gardiner area around the North Entrance Arch will also be going on for the indefinite future—that is, they are hoping to complete the first phase of it in time for the celebration of the centennial of the National Park Service on August 25, 2016. Here’s where to find more information about this project.

Current road information is available by phone: 307-344-2117.

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Yellowstone Park is opening up again!

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Roosevelt Cabins

Roosevelt Cabins to open June 5, 2015

Yellowstone’s roads and facilities are about to open to cars for the season. First will be the roads to Old Faithful from Mammoth and West Yellowstone and the Norris to Canyon road, all on April 17, 2015. Gradually the other roads will be ready: on May first you can drive from the East Entrance to Lake and Canyon and last (this year) will be Craig Pass between Old Faithful and West Thumb, where a new bridge is being built at Isa Lake.

The facilities open gradually, too, beginning with Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hotel on May first. The last to open will be Roosevelt Cabins on June 5. Campgrounds also open gradually, although the Mammoth Campground is open all year. You can find all the details on this page: “Opening & Closing Dates of Facilities.”

Credit: NPS Photo by David Restivo

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Pilot Peak, Wyoming

Categories: History, Park environs
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View of Pilot and Index Peaks, accompanying the guidebook section on the Beartooth Highway.

View of Pilot and Index Peaks, accompanying the guidebook section on the Beartooth Highway.

Just outside the Park’s Northeast Entrance are a prominent pair of peaks in the northern Absaroka Range known as Pilot and Index. You can get a great view of them from a short side road off the Beartooth Scenic Byway, which covers the 70 miles (113 km) from Red Lodge, Montana to the entrance. “Pilot, the pointed one, is a glacial horn; four glaciers carved its pyramidal shape” (Yellowstone Treasures, page 195). Read more about the beautiful Beartooth Highway in the guidebook, pages 190-195.

The first ascent of Pilot Peak was on August 12, 1932, by Hollis Mees and Robert McKenzie. They amazingly did the climb without climbing gear. It’s now known as a difficult climb because of the loose rock. You can see footage of Mees and McKenzie’s ascent in this video:

By the way, we have been collecting some interesting Yellowstone videos, mostly of geysers, on our YouTube channel here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF0XW_RT5rtr4vJ3MVoaDoQ/feed

–Beth Chapple, Editor

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Yellowstone Park Opens to Over-snow Vehicles Today—But Wait . . .

Categories: Trip planning, Winter
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Today, December 15, is when the winter season officially begins in Yellowstone. This means you should be able to travel in snowcoaches or with commercially guided snowmobile groups starting now.

But the snow cover is so limited between West Yellowstone and Old Faithful, that the National Park Service is allowing “only commercial snowcoaches with rubber tracks or large oversnow tires” on that stretch of park road, according to today’s Jackson Hole News and Guide.

If I were so lucky as to be going to the park this winter, I would make my plans for mid January through the end of February, when snow conditions are much more likely to be good. Here’s where you can read about my unforgettable January 2012 luxury winter trip.

Of course, you can also make all the arrangements yourself through Xanterra (307-344-7311) or a private concessionaire.

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