GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Accompanying travelers to the national park since 2002

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

National Park Week 2021

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Micah at Old Faithful Inn

Micah sporting his new Junior Ranger patch in the lobby of Old Faithful Inn

Welcome to National Park Week! Every day during April 17-25, 2021, has a special theme related to US national parks. This Saturday features junior rangers, a program focused on school-age kids but open to people of any age. See the NPS site for National Junior Ranger Day for information about a concert and loads of activities throughout the country and virtually from home on April 24. Since this is the shoulder season in Yellowstone between when roads were open for oversnow travel and plowed for regular vehicles, no special activities are happening there this week. Perhaps you have planned a cycling trip before the roads are crowded with cars: bike in the park! At the moment there’s a mix of rain and snow in the park, with temperatures up to 50°F (10°C).

In honor of National Park Week, Granite Peak Publications is making a donation to the National Park Foundation, the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service. As publisher of the Yellowstone Treasures guidebook, we also donate regularly to Yellowstone Forever. These two partners of Yellowstone National Park raise money for education, maintenance, new Canyon viewpoints, and the Yellowstone Wolf Impact Study, among other programs. We also donated two books to the Conservation Northwest auction this week.



Yellowstone Junior Ranger patch

The junior ranger patch for Yellowstone

Photo credits: Suzanne Cane took these photos in 2015. They are featured on pages 16 and 43 of Yellowstone Treasures, updated sixth edition.

Places to stay in the park in 2021

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Old Faithful Inn interior

Old Faithful Inn interior, showing the great fireplace and balconies

Are you planning a trip to Yellowstone this spring or summer? The National Park Service and the park concessionaire Xanterra have made a few announcements lately. Changes afoot this spring and summer include delays in the opening dates for the hotel rooms and cabins, campgrounds that will be closed the entire season, and newly reservable campsites. Of course, the roads have not been plowed for wheeled vehicles yet. The first ones are due to open April 16, weather permitting. Always be sure to check the Park Roads page before you go.

Various lodges and cabins will open during May, but Old Faithful Inn rooms do not open until June 4, Grant Village lodge rooms not until June 18. Most of the restaurants and cafeterias in the park will still be limited to take-out rather than dining in. The gift shops will open on the same schedule as the lodging. See Xanterra’s update page on YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com for more.

Camping

Due to construction, three campgrounds will remain closed for all of 2021: Norris, Tower Fall, and Fishing Bridge RV Park. Here are the opening dates for the four campgrounds you can reserve through Xanterra:

  • Madison Campground – May 14
  • Canyon Campground – May 21
  • Bridge Bay Campground – June 11
  • Grant Village Campground – June 18

bighorn sheep

Bighorn rams at Slough Creek (click to enlarge)

In addition, at three of the seven campgrounds that NPS operates you will be able to make reservations up to six months in advance via Recreation.gov. These three are Mammoth, Slough Creek in the wildlife-rich Lamar Valley, and Pebble Creek Campground (sites 1-16) near the Northeast Entrance. Sites can be reserved starting on March 24, 2021. So our guidebook is wrong in saying the sites are nonreservable. This idea is not popular, since many working people do not have the luxury to plan that far in advance. But the advantage from the park service’s perspective is that perhaps fewer people will arrive unprepared with a place to spend the night.


Photo credits: Old Faithful Inn fireplace from Bat’s Alley, NPS photo; Bighorn rams at Slough Creek, NPS photo taken by Peggy Olliff in February 2015, which you can find on page 204 of Yellowstone Treasures, updated sixth edition.

Wintering away from Wonderland

Categories: On the Web, Through Early Yellowstone, Trip planning, Winter
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Janet Chapple Oakland 2020

Janet Chapple, Lake Merritt, Oakland, December 6, 2020 (photo by Karen Chapple)

Beth Chapple Auburn 2020

Beth Chapple at Flaming Geyser State Park, Washington, November 15, 2020


Let us tell you how our team and our books are doing. The Yellowstone Treasures team is spending the winter close to home, outside Yellowstone, this year. Of course, with the global pandemic perhaps that is no surprise! We are doing fine but living and working from home. Editor Beth is in the Seattle area, author Janet is in Oakland, and geologist Jo-Ann is in Idaho Falls. But Yellowstone is beautiful in the winter. In January 2012, Janet made a particularly wonderful trip, commemorated in the two-part Winter in Yellowstone nugget.


Are you dreaming of Yellowstone and interested in holiday shopping? Independent Publishers Group is offering an amazing 40 percent off sale only through December 13. (Act fast!) They do recommend you order by Thursday the 10th to get delivery by Christmas. Both of these books make great gifts! Be sure to enter the promotional code IPGHOLIDAY40 to get the prices shown.

Yellowstone Treasures, Updated Sixth Edition (2020)

Plan your trip for just $14.97.
Buy now from IPG!
The photo-rich guidebook with 38 revised maps helps you plan and become the tour guide for your group. The paperback won Silver at the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards in both 2010 and 2018.

Through Early Yellowstone (2016)

Get inspired for just $17.97.
Buy now from IPG!
Enjoy adventure travel accounts from 1871 to 1916, with 19th-century art and maps both historic and modern. 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award Honorable Mention in Travel.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Picnics in the Park

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flying pelican over Yellowstone River

American white pelican spotted over the Yellowstone River on May 17, 2020

All entrance roads opened on June 1. So you may be thinking of a visit, but it’s best to do your homework. For the time being, perhaps the whole summer season, there is no sit-down dining anywhere within the park. Instead, you should stock up on supplies at one of the gateway towns (such as West Yellowstone or Gardiner, Montana, or Cody or Jackson, Wyoming). Check in advance; some stores, such as Gardiner Market, will even do curbside pickup. Or buy grab-and-go meals in Yellowstone National Park. Some facilities are already open at Mammoth and Old Faithful Villages. The general stores at Mammoth and Fishing Bridge open tomorrow, June 5. On June 19, the eatery at Canyon Village will open. See this helpful “Operating Hours and Seasons” page on the official NPS website for all the details to help you in planning. And we’d love to hear from you in the comments how these new meal solutions are working for you.

Where will you take the picnic you bring or purchase? Yellowstone Treasures contains descriptions of all the picnic areas in the park. Some of our favorites are those along the Madison River, at Bridge Bay Marina, and at Gibbon Falls. Just be sure to keep your distance from the other visitors. See more about picnics in “Anyone for a Picnic?” by author Janet Chapple.

By the way, spring is a great time to see baby animals and for bird watching. Some of the birds recently seen include the American white pelican, the bald eagle, the osprey, the kildeer, the yellow warbler, and the dusky grouse. Our nugget called “Yellowstone for Birders” tells you where to see these and more. In the picnic areas you are most likely to see ravens, Clark’s nutcrackers, and gray jays, also known as camp robbers!

Photo credit: NPS / Jacob W Frank, May 17, 2020

Phased reopening

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Cow elk with calf

Roads in the lower loop of Yellowstone National Park opened to the public at noon yesterday. Certain restrooms and gas stations also opened up. That means people can drive through the East and South Entrances (from Cody and Jackson, Wyoming), but the popular North and West Entrances are closed.

Keep in mind that the restrictions may seriously hamper any trip you are planning. Please peruse the chart on the NPS “Current Conditions” page carefully. Lodge rooms and sit-down dining will not open in all of 2020; cabins and grab-and-go eating or picnics will be the way to go. It’s possible to try to reserve cabins at Old Faithful starting on June 8, or at Lake or Canyon starting on June 17 or 19, respectively. Camping is possible at Madison from June 15th, as well as in other campgrounds.

This being Yellowstone, the warning out today is look out for those aggressive cow elk!

ALSO, today Gov. Bullock of Montana announced that the state will move to phase two of reopening on June 1. The good news is that “the 14-day travel quarantine for out-of-state travelers and residents arriving from another state or country to Montana for non-work-related purposes will be lifted” on that date. And restaurants can reopen at 75% capacity with social distancing. But the bad news for travelers is that for phase two they still have the same guidelines to minimize nonessential travel. In particular they warn that vulnerable populations and the elderly should continue to stay home.

This year, careful planning and accepting that you can’t just get in your car and go are more important than ever.

Photo credit: NPS/Jacob W. Frank

Keep calm and read on with IPG’s book sale

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IPG Book Sale through May Update May 15, 2020: Today is the official print publication date of the Yellowstone Treasures, updated sixth edition! Because IPG has extended this sale I announced in April through the end of May, you can get the 30% discount off a brand-new book! Enjoy.

We sympathize with what you’re going through, whether you’re sheltering in place or working at an essential job in these risky times. So we’re happy to report that our distributor, Independent Publishers Group, has a 30% off sale on all orders via their website through April 2020. Use the code KEEPCALMANDREADON to get the discount on any of our books on IPG’s store as well as their wide selection, from children’s activities to cookbooks to escapist fiction. IPG supplies you with print or e-books, whichever you prefer.

Our books [link to IPG’s store] work as escapist armchair travel, but with a practical bent, since you can apply what you learn to a future trip. Become the tour guide for your family or other group! As Janet Jones, the cover photographer for the new edition of Yellowstone Treasures wrote me recently:

Yellowstone Treasures is a great way to virtually visit the place Yellowstone fans love.

Yellowstone is closed until further notice

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Were you, as we were, planning a trip to the park this summer? The COVID-19 outbreak means we all need to practice social (physical) distancing, which now means a need to cancel those travel plans. Last week, concessionaire Xanterra announced they are suspending their operations (lodging, campgrounds, dining, and tours) through May 21 (see https://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/coronavirus/). Yesterday, the National Park Service made the unusual but prudent decision in tandem with gateway county health departments that they have to follow suit. NPS closed both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park to visitors until further notice. To quote from the news release: “There will be no visitor access permitted to either park. State highways and/or roads that transcend park/state boundaries and facilities that support life safety and commerce will remain open.” So one thing that is not clear at the moment is what happens to travel on the Northern Range road between Gardiner and Silver Gate. Another question no one can answer yet is, When will the parks be able to reopen?

Please stay tuned to this website, because we will soon have news about the guidebook and a short-term sale. On Friday we announced the publication date for the sixth edition of Yellowstone Treasures on our Media Kit. For now, the best advice is stay home, stay healthy!

Consider spring cycling

Categories: Transportation, Trip planning
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spring cycling Yellowstone

Spring biking with bear spray at Silver Gate (The Hoodoos), March 29, 2017


Updated March 25, 2020: This post should be renamed “Consider spring cycling another year instead.” Xanterra has closed all park facilities through May 21st at least, and as of yesterday, the National Park Service closed both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks until further notice. More in the next post. For nostalgia value and future planning, we will still leave this post up!


Doesn’t this picture inspire you to get outside (well prepared for encountering cold and bears) in Yellowstone National Park this spring? Before the first roads open up again for public travel comes the spring shoulder season for cycling. Here is what our guidebook Yellowstone Treasures has to say about the road you see in the photo, which is about 4 miles south of Mammoth Hot Springs on the Mammoth to Norris Road:

3.7/17.3 The Hoodoos (or Silver Gate) one-way road. Go slowly to find and take the very short, unmarked loop road to the west—a remnant of the 1899 stagecoach road. Park here to look closely at some unusual rocks.

The massive, topsy-turvy blocks of silvery, gray-white travertine, strewn about so haphazardly, are the result of a large landslide from the slopes of Terrace Mountain to the west. No one knows when the boulders slid here. These boulders are not the same as the hoodoos you can see near the park’s East Entrance (see “What’s a Hoodoo?” on page 154). The other official name for this place, Silver Gate, is actually more appropriate.

The Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris road, the northwest segment of the Grand Loop Road (see map), closed to oversnow travel this year on Sunday, March 1st. The planned reopening date for cars for this road and out to the West Entrance is April 17th. So that means that for about two weeks before that, bicycles, including e-bikes, are allowed on certain roads! (They are never allowed on park trails.)

The following road segments may be opened to bicycling each spring:

  • Mammoth Hot Springs to the West Entrance
  • East Entrance to the east side of Sylvan Pass (six miles from the entrance)
  • South Entrance to West Thumb

Keep in mind, though, as NPS says: “Roads will not be free of cars during these times: bicyclists will encounter employees, contractors, plows, and other administrative vehicles on the roads.” You’ll need a helmet and high-visibility clothing. You’ll also want to do your research in advance; Camping for bicyclists is limited to the developed campgrounds located throughout the park. See the park’s Spring & Fall Bicycling and Bike in the Park pages for more.

Credits: Photo by NPS/Jacob W. Frank, in the public domain (see Yellowstone National Park’s Flickr page for more wonderful photos!). Road log section quoted from p. 269 of the 6th edition of Yellowstone Treasures, due out this May.

An unusual geyser basin closure

Categories: Geysers, News, Trip planning
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Steamboat Geyser runoff

Click for a larger image.

A heads-up for anyone traveling to Yellowstone this week: Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone closed on Monday October 7, 2019, to all visitors. The area closure includes the entire basin, entrance road, parking lot, and Norris Geyser Basin Museum. (The Norris Campground and the Museum of the National Park Ranger already closed for the season in September.) The closure is for paving at the junction. The announced closure is for just two days, but weather and other factors could easily extend it.

This picture shows how Steamboat Geyser’s runoff looks during a minor eruption. According to Geysertimes.org, it’s been six days since the last major eruption of Steamboat Geyser, so it’s well within the expected window for its next one. So that is annoying to geyser gazers, but of course this is one of the last possible weeks to do any construction before the winter snows come.

The photo of Steamboat Geyser’s prodigious runoff channel, Norris Geyser Basin, was taken by Beth Chapple on June 28, 2019.

Spring is in the air

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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.