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

All posts tagged lodgings

Beth (left) and Janet Chapple posing with Lower Falls at Artist Point

After a lovely stay in the home of Yellowstone Treasures geologist Jo-Ann Sherwin in Idaho Falls, author Janet, our friend Mike, editor Beth, and her husband Niklas spent five nights in the park this year. We packed half a dozen different coolers and brought the food for all meals, with Jo-Ann and her friend Kathy’s help and company in cooking dinners such as chili and pad Thai. The only time we entered a store at Canyon, we found the crowds a bit nerve-racking. Here are some highlights of our visit.

On our first full day in the park we had the good fortune to witness Great Fountain Geyser. We realized from the prediction on the signboard we would need to drive around Firehole Lake Drive a second time, and then it worked out perfectly. The benches were full for Great Fountain’s thrilling show, and nearby White Dome erupted as well for us shortly afterward.

We went to several of Canyon’s beautifully expanded overlooks. Janet could use her walker on the nicely graded path to Lookout Point. Other members of our party took advantage of the half-mile walk from our cabin to Grand View as many as three times during our two-night stay! We found that early and late daylight hours were best for avoiding crowds.

On July 2, Niklas and I hiked from a Grand Loop Road turnout to see Black Sand Pool, Punch Bowl Spring, and Daisy Geyser, predicted for 4:30 pm plus or minus 20 minutes. It was breezy with nearby thunderstorms that happily did not come near. We were still approaching when Daisy started to erupt in its famous diagonal way at 4:09 pm. Only three other people witnessed the eruption with us. On the way back we sought out Demon’s Cave with its dangerous overhanging ledge, but it looks like people have thrown sticks in over the years.

We admired all the easily accessible waterfalls on our route. Besides Lower and Upper Falls of the Yellowstone at Canyon, that means Gibbon Falls, Kepler Cascades, Virginia Cascade, and Lewis Falls. At Lewis we walked along the bridge and also admired the downstream meadow and view of the mountains across the road to the south.

The morning we were moving from Old Faithful Inn to the Canyon Lodge cabins was our best chance to see Mammoth Hot Springs, we decided. The road closure this season between Tower and Canyon made us have to repeat a road segment instead of going around the upper loop road, but we stopped at different points, such as Gibbon Falls on the way north and Apollonaris Spring on the way south (more about that cold spring in a future blog post). At Mammoth the fun parts were walking the boardwalk stairs down from our parking at the Upper Terrace Drive to see Cupid and Canary Springs from various angles and then picnicking on the grass outside the chapel.

Places to stay in the park in 2021

Categories: Trip planning, Wildlife
Comments Off on Places to stay in the park in 2021

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.

Yellowstone is closed until further notice

Categories: News, Trip planning
Comments Off on Yellowstone is closed until further notice

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!

Winter 2019 trip report

Categories: Trip Reports, Winter
Comments Off on Winter 2019 trip report

Having returned from my 2019 winter trip to Yellowstone about a week ago, I’m still visualizing the beautiful snow-covered landscapes I was recently privileged to pass through. And for a present-day Californian (but raised in Montana), it was a particular delight to watch it snow.

I realize that now, in my mid eighties, it is unlikely that I’ll go again in winter. As it happened, we were in the middle of the government shut-down, but, thanks to the concessionaire Xanterra, which covered the cost of grooming the roads as well as furnishing their usual pleasant rooms and good meals, we had no trouble getting around.

For potential visitors a little or a lot younger, I would still highly recommend that you go! The friends who joined me were able to handle the snowy trails around Upper Geyser Basin and Fountain Paint Pots.

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel with snowcoaches in winter

This was my fifth trip there in winter. Incidentally, I’ve been asked how many times I’ve been to Yellowstone altogether, and it must be in the dozens of times by now.

You need to leave your car in Mammoth. That’s where you cease to encounter plowed roads, since the park has a policy of simply grooming the other snowy roads, making them suitable only for snowcoaches, snowmobiles, and a few cross-country skiers. If you don’t know what a snowcoach is, take a look at this picture from 2012. Rather than the triangular tracks we used to ride on, the coaches now have very large, low pressure tires. The ride is quite smooth.

Phone numbers for Xanterra are (866) 439-7375 and (307) 344-7311. You would have to be extra lucky to find available rooms between now and winter closure, this year on March 3rd, but think about planning way ahead for next winter.
Keep in mind that you can’t see all the park in winter—except maybe on skis. The groomed roads are limited to Mammoth to Old Faithful, Norris to Canyon, and West Yellowstone to Norris. They do try to keep the road from Mammoth out the Northeast Entrance to Cooke City plowed. Here is the link to the map showing what roads are plowed, groomed, and closed: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm.

I can’t resist crowing a bit: the snowcoach drivers and other Xanterra personnel were quick to let me know that they use and treasure my guidebook, Yellowstone Treasures, now in its fifth edition. In fact, when I sat behind the driver in one coach, he admitted to being a little nervous that he might get something wrong in his commentary. (He was superbly capable.) At the end of our trip, but before I left the snowcoach, he asked a colleague to pass the bound copy of the book (the one that Xanterra drivers share and use regularly), through the driver’s window for me to sign. I had never before seen a copy with a library-type binding!

—Author Janet Chapple

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

Good news for visitors to Mammoth Hot Springs

Categories: News, Trip planning, Winter
Comments Off on Good news for visitors to Mammoth Hot Springs

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

This Is When You Really Need “Yellowstone Treasures”

Categories: Trip planning
Comments Off on This Is When You Really Need “Yellowstone Treasures”

Mud Volcano winter

Mud Volcano area in winter. As of today Yellowstone is still covered in snow; most travel by car starts April 21, 2017.

March—while you may still be wishing for spring—is a great month to plan a summer or fall trip to Yellowstone. Here are some ways that Yellowstone Treasures can help you plan, especially if you haven’t been to the park before.

First, if your time is going to be limited to two or three days, in the book’s introduction (pages 17 and 18) there’s a list of Best Sights. An enthusiastic Amazon.com customer last June wrote: “Ms. Chapple’s rating of one star for those sights that were ‘worth taking the time for,’ or two stars for those you ‘must see’ really helped us plan our two day stay. . . .” (But—if at all possible—I highly recommend that you stay a week or even more. You won’t regret it.)

Yellowstone has become so popular—with over 4.2 million visitors last year—that almost all the in-park cabin and hotel rooms are already booked. I have to blame this mostly on the large bus tours that book blocks of rooms a year or more ahead, knowing they can fill up their tours with no trouble. This leaves us individuals and families who plan later in the year with little recourse but to book rooms in gateway places like West Yellowstone, Moran, Cody, Cooke City, and Gardiner. You can, of course, book a space in campgrounds or in the only RV camping spot, if you are so inclined.

Fortunately, the gateway towns have lots of accommodations. You will find phone numbers and email addresses for the chambers of commerce of all the gateway towns in the back of YT, as well as how to contact the park concessionnaire, Xanterra (or Yellowstone Park Lodges). Also, see our Yellowstone Links for the chamber of commerce websites in those places. Online resources such as Booking.com can be a great help with finding rooms outside the park.

A chapter near the beginning of Yellowstone Treasures tells you all about the five different entrances to the park and what you’ll see on their approach roads. The bulk of the book (pages 38 to 301) is what you’ll use before you go, while you’re there, and for reference when you return home. It’s full of detailed maps made and kept up-to-date by my incomparable mapmaker, Linton A. Brown. Here is one from page 200 of the guidebook.
Yellowstone Treasures map

Happy planning!

Photo credit: Janet Chapple, 2012.

Nature cooperates with Yellowstone!

Categories: News, Trip planning, Winter
Comments Off on Nature cooperates with Yellowstone!

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!

What’s New, Fun, and Interesting in Yellowstone This Summer?

Categories: Geysers, Trip Reports, Wildlife
Comments Off on What’s New, Fun, and Interesting in Yellowstone This Summer?

Entering Yellowstone from the North Entrance may be a little tough going and not aesthetically pleasing for most of this year [2015], since there’s a humongous construction project going on to completely revamp the entrance area at the little town of Gardiner. But five miles and a thousand feet up the road to the south is Mammoth Hot Springs, and, in addition to seeing the springs along the Upper Terrace Road, I recommend spending an hour or so at the redone Albright Visitor Center. It has excellent hands-on dioramas of all of the park’s bigger mammals and kiosks for park orientation on the first floor. In the basement level, completely accessible with a new elevator, are great historical displays and the restrooms. For more about this see the Yellowstone Insider’s recent article.

One of Upper Geyser Basin’s most popular sites is the wonderfully regular Riverside Geyser. It almost always erupts every six to six-and-one-half hours. Here is the eruption I caught on my all-too-short visit to the park in mid June.


You can hear (1) a geyser gazer transmit by FRS radio the time of eruption to the Old Faithful Visitor Center, (2) the excited crowd,(3) the swishing of the main eruption, and (4) the rumbling of the side spouter that always accompanies Riverside’s eruptions. It always erupts quite a bit longer than this little video, which was edited for Granite Peak Publications by Jens Paape.

You can reach Artemisia Geyser’s beautiful pool and formation in one of two ways.Artemisia Geyser One is by walking beyond Riverside Geyser about half a mile up what used to be the main road and is now a rather rough trail past Morning Glory Pool (page 95 in Yellowstone Treasures) or by parking at Biscuit Basin and crossing the road to reach the other end of the trail from Morning Glory Pool. Up the hill in the distance in my picture is Hillside Springs, which old-time stagecoach drivers called Tomato Soup Springs.

I did not see any grizzly bears on this trip, but there are now enough of them in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem so that visitors are seeing them quite frequently. The national media covered the recent very unusual event where a grizzly climbed on the hood and sides of an occupied car, leaving some scratches but giving the occupants of the car the thrill of their lifetime and their own video.

One thrill of this visit for me was being assigned for three nights to what has to be the best room in the Old House of Old Faithful Inn (Room 229). It was inside the farthest east of the five dormer windows that span the third floor front of the inn. Two mornings I awoke to a swishing sound, opened the side window, and there was Old Faithful Geyser erupting for my private enjoyment!

For fishermen and others interested in what is happening with the fish in Yellowstone Lake these days, take a look at the Great Falls Tribune’s story about the good news regarding the struggle against illegally introduced lake trout.

Yellowstone Park is opening up again!

Categories: News, Trip planning
Comments Off on Yellowstone Park is opening up again!

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

Vote for Your Favorite National Park Lodge—and Mine

Categories: Bio, On the Web, Trip planning
Comments Off on Vote for Your Favorite National Park Lodge—and Mine

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.