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

Precipitation in Yellowstone—but not at the best time

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Although the Beartooth Highway and Dunraven Pass opened on time yesterday (May 22), cold and rainy weather is the norm right now in Yellowstone.

There was less snow than normal again this winter, following a decades-long trend, but the park service announced a rain-caused trail closure on Wednesday. Recent heavy rain and snow caused a rock and mud slide across the Brink of the Lower Falls trail, and the popular trail is closed until conditions dry out and the trail can be cleared. Yellowstone Canyon District Ranger Tim Townsend said, “Right now the entire slope above the trail is still wet and unstable, making it unsafe for crews to work in the area.”

From page 185 of Yellowstone Treasures, here’s the thrilling view you will not be able to access until the trail is rebuilt.YT_pg185_2015-05-23 at 4.18.34 PM

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Yellowstone Wallet Alert!

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Like most everything worthwhile in our world, visiting Yellowstone—and the Tetons—will take more out of your wallet this summer. Entrance fees have remained the same for the past nine years. Fees are charged per vehicle.

About vehicle passes

Beginning June 1, 2015, visiting Yellowstone for one to seven days goes from $25 to $30 per passenger vehicle. Grand Teton National Park will have a separate pass for $30. This is a major change, since previously one fee provided visitors with a seven-day entrance permit for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. But people visiting both parks will now be able to save $10 by purchasing a $50 two-park vehicle pass, also valid for one to seven days.

Motorcycles can enter Yellowstone for $25 for one to seven days or both parks for $40, and
individuals (by bicycle or on foot, for example) will pay $15 for Yellowstone or $20 for both parks.

An annual pass for Yellowstone will be $60. This pass offers visitors in the local area an option that is less expensive than the $80 Interagency Pass. Interagency Pass rates remain the same: Annual ($80) and Senior ($10). Military passes and Access passes (for people with permanent disabilities) will remain free.

Free park admission

There’s still one way for people living near Yellowstone to save money. Fee-free days in the second half of 2015 will be:
August 25: National Park Service’s 99th birthday
September 26: National Public Lands Day
November 11: Veterans Day

About backcountry passes

Backcountry pass fees are going up this year from Memorial Day to Sept. 10. These fees apply per night for all individuals 9 years of age or older. Backpackers and boaters will pay $3 per person, per night, up to a total of $15 per night for groups of 5 or more. Stock users will be charged $5 per person, per night.

You can purchase an annual backcountry pass for $25, and the fee for advance reservations remains $25.

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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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Vote for Your Favorite National Park Lodge—and Mine

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Editor Beth alerted me to a USA Today poll of their readers’ favorite lodges. Looking at the list of twenty to choose from leads me to fond memories of those eight lodges where I’ve stayed over the years. It also reminds me of about six or seven I would still love to visit. Well, I have to admit I started making a list of places I want to go, many of them national parks, when I was eleven or twelve—and I still have that little notebook.

You can easily guess what lodge I will vote for—the one I like to consider my second home, Old Faithful Inn.
OFInn_2015-03-23

Another correlation that interested me was to see whether the poll included all the sixteen lodges in Christine Barnes’s beautiful 2002 book, Great Lodges of the National Parks. Answer: No. A good many of those in the book are not in the poll, but the poll offers ten others not in the book. Those in both lists are the Old Faithful Inn, the Ahwahnee, Crater Lake Lodge, El Tovar, Bryce Canyon Lodge, Grand Canyon Lodge, Glacier Park Lodge, Many Glacier Hotel, Paradise Inn, and Yellowstone’s Lake Hotel. Ms. Barnes includes other great lodges in her second volume, published in 2012.

Just for fun, I took a personal poll of the ones I’ve stayed in so far. I came up with seven besides Old Faithful Inn. Coming in a close second to OFI would be Death Valley National Park’s Furnace Creek Inn.
Oasis at Furnace Creek Inn DSCN04501168

The Inn sits above an amazing oasis, a terraced garden with palm trees, a small cold stream, and a little pool with water, all from a spring in the hillside. It has a gorgeous, big swimming pool, and its excellent dining room and comfortable rooms are where I would rather relax than in any place else in all the months when much of Yellowstone is closed, especially March and April.

The others I’ve enjoyed are Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake Lodges in the Tetons, El Tovar in Grand Canyon National Park, the Ahwahnee in Yosemite (although this one needs a second visit from me, because it was not fully open when I was there), Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park, and what the concessionaire now calls Lake Yellowstone Hotel. I can’t happily accept that name, because its historic name is Lake Hotel (and the lake’s name is Yellowstone Lake, not Lake Yellowstone). My unsubstantiated theory is that some PR person a few years back decided lengthening the name and reversing its words had more cachet.

One other way I enjoy the lodges in the Great Lodges book is to extend my wish list. When I last visited the Grand Canyon I was too late to reserve a room in the Grand Canyon Lodge. But I was too early (before its opening on May 15th) to see the North Rim and its lodge, which isn’t on these lists. Other times I was also too late when I tried to reserve at Crater Lake Lodge and the Lodge at Bryce Canyon. In Glacier Park I’d love to stay at either Glacier Park Lodge or Many Glacier Hotel, and if I visit Mt. Rainier I’d stay in the Paradise Inn.

Place your own vote by March 30th at this USA Today website.

Photos are by Jens Paape (Old Faithful Inn, page 75 of Yellowstone Treasures) and the author.

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The Half-Way Group of Yellowstone Beauties

Categories: Thermal features, Trip planning
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Post three on my favorite hot springs, showcasing four more springs

It’s high time I featured the hot springs of the must-not-miss geyser basin called Midway. A short distance north of Upper Geyser Basin—where Old Faithful Geyser is located—and a similar drive from the capacious Lower Geyser Basin, is an area that was called Hell’s Half-Acre back when the park was new. Those were the days when the hot wonders of Yellowstone seemed to put travelers frequently in mind of hell and the devil.

Today’s visitors climb the boardwalk (accessible with assistance) up from the Firehole River to a remarkable caldron of steaming sky-blue water below a deep opening in the buildup of countless layers of geyserite rock deposited over the centuries.

Our pictures show a small part of Excelsior Geyser’s edge as it looks today (first photo) and an eruption in 1888 (second, black-and-white photo), almost the only decade when this tremendous geyser is known to have erupted—as high and wide as 300 feet (90-plus meters).

DSC_0437

Excelsior photo Haynes

Two small but lovely pools appear along the boardwalk as you leave Excelsior’s edge: well-named Turquoise Pool (first) and sometime-geyser Opal Pool (second), which is inclined to drain completely at times.

SCane_2013_Turquoise Pool copy

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The final attraction you will pass, Grand Prismatic Spring, by itself takes up almost two acres of space, giving the lie to the old popular name for this whole basin. Not only its size but its coloring is incomparable. Yellow, orange, and brown bacterial mats encircle the central pool’s blue and green, and prodigious runoff creates gentle brown terraces leading away from the pool. On a sunny summer day, the blue of the water reflects delightfully in the pool’s steam.

GrandPr.Spg

Our picture was taken as we walked along the edge, but a quick look at Google Images will show you numerous shots of the whole pool taken from the air and from the hills to the west and east of the basin.

When you’ve seen Grand Prismatic Spring you will understand the dismay caused by a German tourist crashing his drone into this irreplaceable Yellowstone treasure during the summer of 2014. His careless act (and others like it) led to a total ban on drones in all national parks.

Visiting Midway Geyser Basin provides an experience like none other in the world.

The historic picture of Excelsior Geyser erupting, which you can also see on page 64 of Yellowstone Treasures, was taken in 1888 by Frank J. Haynes (courtesy of National Park Service, Yellowstone); Excelsior’s edge, Grand Prismatic Spring, and Opal Pool (in 2010) by Bruno Giletti; and Turquoise Pool by Suzanne Cane.

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Canoeing and kayaking in Yellowstone

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Yellowstone Lake with deer

Yellowstone Lake at West Thumb

Have you ever imagined seeing the lakeside hot springs of West Thumb Geyser Basin from the water? A new article by Kurt Repanshek, “Fleeing Yellowstone & Grand Teton Crowds by Sea Kayak,” tells you how to go on a guided kayaking tour to do just that.

You can also bring your own boat and explore lakes beyond Yellowstone Lake. From the Travel Tips section of Yellowstone Treasures, here are some of the regulations about nonmotorized boating. It’s permitted on all park lakes EXCEPT Sylvan and Eleanor Lakes, Twin Lakes, or Beach Springs Lagoon.

Boating permits, required for all boats and float tubes, cost $10 (annual) or $5 (7-day). They can be
obtained at any of the following locations:

  • South, West, and Northeast Entrance Stations
  • Lewis Lake Campground
  • Grant Village Backcountry Office
  • Bridge Bay and Bechler Ranger Stations
  • Canyon, Old Faithful, and Mammoth visitor centers
  • West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center.

Boats are not allowed on rivers and streams, except that hand-propelled vessels may use the channel between Lewis and Shoshone Lakes. Only non-motorized boats are allowed in the most remote sections of the three so-called fingers of the lake: Flat Mountain Arm, South Arm, and Southeast Arm. This is primarily to protect the nesting pelicans, terns, and seagulls. Boating is a great way to see birds!

—Beth, Editor and Publisher

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

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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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Roads closing for winter break in Yellowstone

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All Yellowstone Park roads except the all-weather road between Gardiner and Cooke City in the northern part of the park will close Monday, November 3, 2014, at 8:00 am. And just in time, too: On Sunday and Monday, October 26 and 27, there was up to one foot of snow in some places and a few drivers were stranded until snowplows could reach them. A dusting of snow remained at Old Faithful in late afternoon on Tuesday (10/28), as I just saw on the Old Faithful streaming webcam.

December 15th will be the day most roads will be ready for snowcoaches and snowmobiles.

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You could ski in Yellowstone Park this winter!

Categories: Through Early Yellowstone, Trip planning, Winter
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As the leaves begin to turn and we begin to think ahead to the holidays, it’s also time to plan that Yellowstone winter trip you’ve been hoping to take. Having been lucky enough to visit four times in the winter, I can tell you there is nothing like it in the world!

To whet your appetite, here’s a paragraph from a historic winter wonderland story that dates back to the bitterly cold February of 1887, when there was no hotel at Old Faithful. The story tells of Yellowstone Park guide and intrepid skier Billy Hofer’s experiences in the Old Faithful area as he skied around the park on a wildlife-counting tour for Forest and Stream magazine. What Hofer calls “shoes” are the 9-foot-long skis he made for himself.

Hofer wrote: “The morning of the 21st [of February] . . . I visited the whole of the Upper Geyser Basin, going out past the Castle to Iron Creek, which was open, crossing it twice on a snow bridge without getting off our shoes. Along this stream down to the Specimen Lake and Black Sand Geyser there were many bare spots with bright green grasses, and several water plants growing in the warm water and earth, some even showing flower buds. The bright green mosses and plants looked doubly green beside the white snow. All along this creek was to be seen the usual number of ice forms. One in particular was very life-like. It looked like an Esquimau, dressed in white bear robes, with a bundle of sticks in his arms. He had a woe-begone expression on his face, as though in trouble because he had so little wood.”

Happy skiing (or snowshoeing)!
On snowshoes by the Firehole River

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Announcing the Visiting Geyserland e-book

Categories: Geysers, Thermal features, Trip planning
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Janet Chapple’s new e-book of geyser basin walking tours of Yellowstone National Park is now available from Amazon, Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble, eBooks.com, and more . . .

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