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News you can use about traveling to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming with kids or friends.

overview map of Yellowstone

Click for larger map.

As the snow starts to melt, the roads in Yellowstone National Park will be plowed and cleared in readiness for letting cars and trucks back in. (Of course, the road from the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through the park to Cooke City, Montana is open all year. But notice that travel east of Cooke City via the Beartooth Highway is not possible from late fall to late spring.) Here are dates to use in your planning this spring.

2019 Winter Closing Dates

Roads will close to oversnow travel by snowmobile and snowcoach at 9 pm on the following dates:

  • March 1: East Entrance to Lake Butte Overlook (Sylvan Pass)
  • March 3: Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris
  • March 5: Norris to Madison, Norris to Canyon Village
  • March 10: Canyon Village to Fishing Bridge
  • March 15: All remaining groomed roads close.

2019 Spring Opening Dates

Conditions permitting, roads will open to regular (public) vehicles at 8 am on the following dates:

  • April 19: West Entrance to Madison Junction, Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful, Norris to Canyon Village.
  • May 3: East Entrance to Lake Village (Sylvan Pass), Canyon Village to Lake Village.
  • May 10: South Entrance to West Thumb, Lake Village to West Thumb, West Thumb to Old Faithful (Craig Pass), Tower Junction to Tower Fall.
  • May 24: Tower Fall to Canyon Village (Dunraven Pass)
  • May 24: Beartooth Highway

Credits: The image is the overview map on pages 1-2 of Yellowstone Treasures. The helpful National Park Service Park Roads page provides the dates listed here and a live road map you can use to find out which roads you can drive on today.

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This summer in Yellowstone National Park

Categories: Park environs, Trip planning
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Recently we had an email conversation with a reader who wrote in via our contact form. With his permission, we are reproducing it here, lightly edited. You may find it helpful when planning your own trip.

1937 Yellowstone Bus Everett Washington

1937 Yellow bus from Yellowstone Park, on display at Historic Flight Foundation, Everett, Washington

July 23, 2018
Hi Janet,

I am reading your book Yellowstone Treasures. It’s very nicely written and packed with tons of information. Thank you from a first-time visitor like me.

I will be traveling for the first time to the park in the first week of August with my family and friends. The location we chose to stay in that was affordable is outside the west side of the park. I am coming over from Canada.

I will be staying for five days. Is this time enough? I have divided the park in 4 segments, and each day I will be entering the park from the west. Is this approach right? What are some of the things that I must absolutely need to know? Does the park have wheelchair facilities? My friends’ parents are in their 80’s and won’t be able to do long walks. Does the park have rentals for golf-cart-type vehicles?

I will really appreciate your guidance and help. Thank you in advance for your response.

Warm regards,
Sameer


Recommended Walks in Yellowstone July 26, 2018
Dear Sameer,

Thank you for your kind comments about the guidebook. I put your questions to the author, Janet, and she asked me to write back to you.

There is never time enough to see everything, unless you stay all summer! However, the most essential sights are on Yellowstone’s west side. Be sure to allow one or two days for the area between Norris Geyser Basin and the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, where there are so many fabulous thermal features to stop for. “My other personal favorites are the Mammoth Hot Springs area and the Lamar Valley,” says Janet. Don’t try to see everything since you need to allow time for travel and meals. Rather than seeing all your four segments, maybe choose two or three? If you do want to see the east or south sides of the park, look for lodging in Cody or Dubois, Wyoming, since those can be cheaper than lodging in the park or Jackson.

You will be in the park at its busiest time, so expect bumper-to-bumper traffic on some of the roads. If you can start very early in the mornings, you will do yourselves a favor. It’s always a good idea to check the official NPS Park Roads page the map showing current road status and for the closing dates of various roads. Another way to beat the crowds is to bring picnic food and drinks in a cooler for your lunches and snacks. Yellowstone Treasures tells you about the picnic areas.

You also asked if the park has wheelchair facilities and if the park has rentals for golf carts. The visitor centers at Old Faithful, Canyon, and Mammoth will loan you wheelchairs, or you can rent them at the medical clinics (Old Faithful, Mammoth, and Lake). See the NPS Wheelchairs & Mobility page for more information. But there are no golf-cart vehicles. One of the most rewarding short walks is around Black Sand Basin, the nearest short side road to Old Faithful Village, and of course Yellowstone Treasures has a list of more short walks on pages 366-68. And be sure to check the guidebook’s maps for the wheelchair symbol on trails and restrooms.

Another option to look at for your friends’ parents is one of the many yellow bus tours (see Xanterra’s Land Adventures page).

Enjoy your trip!
Beth Chapple

Editor and Publisher
Granite Peak Publications

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Separate entrance fees for the two national parks

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View of Mount Moran with balsamroot wildflowers in Grand Teton National Park


After the proposal to raise the admission cost for Yellowstone and other US national parks (see the blog post on “Proposed fee changes for national parks”) was met with outrage, the raise was made somewhat more reasonable, but with one big change. You used to be able to get into both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks with one fee for a week, but the combined seven-day entrance pass to the two neighboring national parks ended on May 31.

As of June 1, here are the costs for a seven-day entrance pass for each park.
o Private, non-commercial vehicle, $35
o Motorcycle, $30
o Individual (by foot, bicycle, etc.), $20

Depending on your plans, it may make sense for you to buy the annual pass for Yellowstone at $70 or the annual pass for all federal lands for $80. And if you have a fourth grader in your family or you are a US citizen or permanent resident over the age of 62 you have even better passes available to you. For more information, visit the Fees & Passes page on the NPS website.

–Beth Chapple, Editor and Publisher

Credit: Photo by Beth Chapple, June 20, 2017.

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Here is my answer to the 6/11/18 question on the Quora website: What are some sights to see in two days at Yellowstone National Park? (BTW, Two days is not nearly enough for a place as large as Yellowstone.)

Grand Prismatic Spring, the same one that is featured on the cover of “Through Early Yellowstone”


The century-long-and-then-some favorites are the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River with its two great waterfalls and Old Faithful Geyser. But before or after the always-predictable Old Faithful eruption take the Geyser Hill walk with or without an interpretive ranger and enjoy lovely hot springs and the possibility of other geysers going off. The other most remarkable sight near Old Faithful (a few miles north of it) is Midway Geyser Basin, but you *must* get there early or late in the day to find parking.

Be ready to stop as you drive between these major attractions, since there are pleasant surprises (sometimes including wildlife) all along the roads.

Photo credit: Grand Prismatic Spring in Midway Geyser Basin, taken by Bruno Giletti, can be seen on page 65 of Yellowstone Treasures, updated fifth edition.

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Getting ready for the summer season

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Kudos to Sean Reichard for keeping us up-to-date on various Yellowstone issues!

First, I was glad to learn from yellowstoneinsider.com that Superintendent Dan Wenk will not be leaving Yellowstone soon, as reported recently. He has been doing an excellent job. I was privileged to meet him during a January 2012 Tauck Tour of the Park.

Today, I learned from Sean that as of June first, 2018, not only will the fee to enter either Yellowstone or Grand Teton go up from $30 to $35 (good for one week), but one can no longer buy a joint annual pass to both parks.

At least, we can be thankful that after strong negative reaction from the public, the fees did not rise to the originally proposed $70.

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What are those pairs of numbers in the road logs of Yellowstone Treasures?

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Elk crossing Madison River, September 2016.

Recently two readers wrote to ask what the numbers next to so many entries mean. As author Janet Chapple wrote in her nugget called “The Features of Yellowstone Treasures,” “Some people get confused about how to use the mileage markings in the road logs in my book. I explain these in the Introduction [on page 17]. They show the distance from an entrance or major junction as well as the distance from the other direction, since a visitor may be traveling either way when consulting the guidebook.”

Here’s one letter we just received on April 1, 2018.

Hello,

Just purchased Yellowstone Treasures and still trying to figure what to visit in June this year and which trails to hike. I have one question, which I still can’t find the answer to while following the book.

You have numbers in front of some trails, like 0.0/20.5 “Yellowstone National Park boundary” on page 33 or 0.9/19.6 Dailey Creek Trailhead, and many others.

What do these mean? How should I use them in planning the trip and the places to visit?

Thanks,
Ross

Well, much of the guidebook is written as a road log, which means the author and her husband Bruno Giletti actually drove the roads to find out how far from the major road junctions or villages each trailhead or picnic area is located. To follow this explanation best, look at pages 286-87 in your book or open this link to the “From Norris Junction to Madison Junction” book excerpt. Each chapter in the guidebook starts with the junction or park boundary given as 0.0, like this:

0.0/13.4 Norris Junction. . . .

From there it’s just under 4 miles (3.9 mile) to the Artists’ Paintpots, so that paragraph starts:

3.9/9.5 Side road to parking for Artists’ Paintpots . . . [with icons that show you this is a recommended hike and there are restrooms]

But suppose you’re doing the chapter in the other direction, because you entered the park at the West or South Entrance and are coming from Madison Junction. Then you can see that the hydrothermal area is 9.5 miles from that end of the road (the second in the pair of numbers). See the map to confirm that Artists’ Paintpots is about a third of the distance from Norris to Madison (and for a recommendation that you look across the road in Gibbon Meadows for wildlife such as elk or bison).

We don’t really expect everyone to be zeroing their trip meter in the car every time they come to an entrance or a junction (though you could!). And people even use the book when they are riding on a bus tour. So the mileage indicators serve to show you the order of the sights and help you plan approximately how long it will take to get places. For example, if you are heading north to Norris, you know it’s just 0.6 mile after the Artists’ Paintpots to a picnic area.

When you are planning your trip don’t forget you can also use the driving distance chart on pages 20-21 to figure out how much you could get to see in a day. Hope that helps!

Photo Credit: The photo of elk is by Suzanne Cane. We use it on page 41 of Yellowstone Treasures, updated fifth edition.

—Editor and Publisher, Beth Chapple

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Is It Spring Yet? and What To Expect on Yellowstone’s Roads This Summer

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Once upon a time, a friend of mine who lives in Switzerland offered to meet me in a Yellowstone springtime to take pictures for my guidebook. He wrote that April would be a good time for him. But no, I wrote back, in April many roads are still closed, and the chances of more snow are still quite great. The park is totally closed for road plowing and other maintenance until mid April, and most facilities don’t open until some time in May.

Today we are four days past the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, but this Old Faithful Geyser webcam still is what I found this morning on the Old Faithful webcam.

You will understand why spring is so late in Yellowstone, if you factor in that most auto-accessible areas in Yellowstone are at 7,000 to 8,000 feet (about 2,100 to 2,400 meters) in altitude. This spring the park roads will begin reopening on Friday, April 20th, when the West Entrance to Madison Junction, Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful village, and Norris to Canyon Junction roads will open. Higher stretches of road open throughout May, with the last being the Northeast Entrance / Beartooth Highway opening on Friday, May 25th, for Memorial Day Weekend.

This summer season you can expect construction delays of up to thirty minutes on the five-mile stretch between Apollinaris Spring and Roaring Mountain (Mammoth to Norris road); on some parts of the rim roads and trails at the Canyon of the Yellowstone; and along the East Entrance Road between Indian Pond and Fishing Bridge.

Year-round, for Yellowstone road conditions, take a look at this NPS park roads website. Or you may receive Yellowstone road alerts from the National Park Service on your mobile phone by texting “82190” to 888-777; an automatic text reply will confirm receipt and provide instructions.

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Good news for visitors to Mammoth Hot Springs

Categories: News, Trip planning, Winter
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Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel with snowcoaches in winter


I had learned a couple of years ago that the historic hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs would be closed during the winters of 2016-17 and 2017-18 for major reconstruction. Now plans have changed, according to the Public Affairs Office; right now you can reserve rooms for winter visits, starting on December 15th, with the dates similar to those for the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins. Visit Xanterra’s Winter Lodges page or call 1-307-344-7311 to book your room.

Starting in fall 2018 through winter season 2018–19 you will find the hotel closed again for further work on the interior, but I expect the related cabins, the dining room, and the casual Terrace Grill will be open.

Incidentally, in recent summers I’ve found meals in the pleasant hotel dining room—located across the street from the hotel proper—to be excellent. So far, this dining room has not required advance reservations, but that could change.

Photo credit: Jim Peaco, National Park Service, December 12, 2012

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Road Closure in Fall 2017

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Map from the guidebook’s Mammoth to Norris road log

In the most recent edition of Yellowstone Treasures you’ll find this note: “Construction on the Norris to Mammoth road is scheduled to continue through 2018.” Here is the latest report on the construction.

Since June 11, the Norris to Mammoth road has been closed nightly from 10 pm to 7 am (excluding Saturday nights). The word is to expect 30-minute delays in the daytime when driving between Roaring Mountain (the magenta dot east of the road on this map) and the Indian Creek Campground (the tent icon down a short side road, almost opposite the Sheepeater Cliff picnic area). According to trip reports on the Facebook group Yellowstone Up Close and Personal, the daytime delays are usually not as long as 30 minutes.

The important news is that from September 10 (10 pm) to October 6 (7 am), this section of road will be closed to all traffic (day and night). During the closures, people will be able to detour over Dunraven Pass (between Tower Fall and Canyon).

Norris and Indian Creek Campgrounds, at opposite ends of the road segment, are remaining open during the season. During the road closure you will not be able to see Apollinaris Spring, nor Obsidian Cliff, nor will you be able to hike the Mount Holmes Trail. You can still hike the Bunsen Peak Trail from the north.

Remember to check the National Park Service’s Park Roads page before you head out.

CREDIT: Linton Brown revised this map for Yellowstone Treasures, Updated Fifth Edition (2017). You can find it on page 277.

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This quote by lbrock21 accompanied a five-star Amazon review of the Kindle e-book on August 25, 2014. Readers are finding several advantages to getting a travel guide in electronic format, including saving weight while traveling. We released the updated fifth edition of Yellowstone Treasures in three e-book formats on June 30, 2017: ePub, Kindle, and PDF. All three offer live links to other parts of the book and sites on the Web, along with helpful full-color maps. Many e-book stores also offer the opportunity to get a free sample.
Yellowstone Treasures 5th edition cover

Readers find both the list of maps in the Table of Contents and the “54 Recommended Short Walks in Yellowstone” table to be handy, because they are organized by road log section in the same order as the guidebook. For example, if you find yourself at Canyon, you can see that all seven recommended walks on the chart can be found on the map on page 179 (a map completely revised for 2017).

Because the new Yellowstone Treasures ePub and Kindle versions have text that flows differently on every e-reader, they benefit from fully hyperlinked indexes that will get you to each topic or image. A quirk of the ePub is that text flow works best in portrait view for this e-book.

The PDF, on the other hand, retains the page numbering of the print book, so you can find topics by page number. Links go from the text nearby, not the page numbers. Look for the hand cursor. For example, on page 318 it says “a hydrothermal explosion such as the one that formed West Thumb Bay (see pages 138-39).” You can either put 138 into the page search box at the top (in Adobe Reader, for example) or click/tap on the words “West Thumb Bay” to get to the same place, where Janet explains how it’s a small caldera.

Here are a couple of tips that will help you get around with Yellowstone Treasures on different e-readers. In the ePub on the iPad, you can double-tap on an image or map to enlarge it. On the Kindle or Kindle app for iPad instead, you spread two fingers apart to zoom in, and then tap the x in the corner to close the image and continue.

As Ann Kristin Lindaas wrote us in April 2016 from Norway,

“I have already bought the print book and I really enjoy it. Essential for planning my days in Yellowstone! I will be traveling the US for about a month in September and I’m hoping to bring electronic versions of most of the books I’ve bought.”

Here’s to enjoying books in whatever form you choose! Cordially, Beth Chapple, editor and publisher.

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