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

All posts tagged park entrances

Good news, bad news about visitors to Yellowstone

Categories: News, Transportation
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fox north entrance Yellowstone

This fox was spotted tracking a snowshoe hare from atop the Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance earlier this month.

Let’s take a breather from the national news scene to look at the amazing popularity of Yellowstone Park in 2016. The National Park Service office has recently announced record visitation for last year: 4,257,177 visitors came through the gates, up nearly 4 percent over last year’s record. Their January 17th press release attributes much of this huge influx to the number of commercial tour buses—12,778 last year. It’s wonderful to know that people from all over the world are able to travel and enjoy Yellowstone’s wonders, but limits on numbers or timing of visits probably need to be set up to conserve natural resources and keep the park beautiful.

Since the NPS is obliged by law to preserve the parks “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people”—as well as to conserve their natural resources—officials are pondering ways to carry out these sometimes opposing obligations. Way back in May of 2011, I developed a plan for a shuttle system on the west side of the park. Unlike a park such as Zion, which essentially has one central road, the figure-eight system of park roads in Yellowstone does not lend itself well to shuttles, but having only the most-traveled west side accessible by shuttle and creating incentives to encourage able-bodied visitors to use them would help the congestion.

As someone who has enjoyed the park for over three-quarters of a century, I don’t want us to love it to death!

—Janet

Photo credit: Yellowstone Forever, @ynpforever Twitter feed, January 6, 2017

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Over four million visitors enjoyed Yellowstone in 2015!

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The National Park Service has announced that Yellowstone Park has just had another record year. Nearly 600,000 more people passed through the park’s five entrances in 2015 than in 2014, a total of 4,097,210.

As always, the West Entrance was the most popular, and more people visited in July than in any other month, with August and June just behind in numbers.

The NPS attributes this year’s popularity to lower gas prices, stepped-up marketing by Montana and Wyoming tourist bureaus, and the NPS’s own “Find Your Park” program. In addition, beginning last year, to encourage visitation, all families that have a fourth grade student may enter any national park without paying an entrance fee.

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Heads Up: Free Park Admission

Categories: On the Web, Trip planning
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park entrance sign

As you enter the park heading south on U.S. 191, you are greeted by this sign and Black Butte.

This Saturday, September 27, 2014, is National Public Lands Day. That means that not only the U.S. national parks, but also lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service waive their fees to visitors so you can get out and appreciate the beauty of our parks and refuges for free.

Not only are fees waived, but thousands of volunteers help out on this day every year. According to the National Public Lands Day website:

In 2013, about 175,000 volunteers worked at 2,237 sites in every state, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.
NPLD volunteers:

  • Collected an estimated 23,000 pounds of invasive plants
  • Built and maintained an estimated 1,500 miles of trails
  • Planted an estimated 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants
  • Removed an estimated 500 tons of trash from trails and other places
  • Contributed an estimated $18 million through volunteer services to improve public lands across the country

The photo above, taken by Leslie Kilduff, can be found on page 33 of the guidebook’s fourth edition.

Three cheers for volunteers! And enjoy your Saturday in a park or refuge.
—Beth, editor of Yellowstone Treasures

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Park closes for pre-season break

Categories: Transportation, Winter
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As of this morning all interior Yellowstone roads are closed, with the exception of the lowest elevation road—the one between the North and Northeast Entrances, which is kept open all winter for the convenience of residents of Gardiner and Cooke City. Not incidentally, it also gives access to wolf watchers and Mammoth terrace observers. The park is always open to non-motorized travel, but there are no accommodations, stores, or restaurants. Only the Mammoth campground remains available all year.

The park’s outlying communities, especially West Yellowstone, can now get ready for the winter season, which begins on December 15th. The same quota for snowmobiles (318 per day) will be in effect this coming season as last, and 78 snowcoaches may enter daily. For an informative and well-written article about the past, present, and future of winter travel in Yellowstone, see:
http://www.newwest.net/snow_blog/article/snowmobiling_in_yellowstone_past_and_present/C458/L41.

The article has one small error that I can’t resist pointing out. It implies that you could not reach Yellowstone by train until 1908. The writer, who seems to be a resident of West Yellowstone, means that trains did not reach there until then. Actually, the Northern Pacific Railroad reached to within a few miles of the park’s North Entrance in 1883.

How about this for winter fun? Take a train to Gardiner, then a cog railroad to lift you the thousand feet or so to Mammoth Hot Springs, and then see some of the park at your pleasure: choose snowshoes, skis, snowcoach, or snowmobile. I’m a dreamer. Passenger trains quit running, even as close to the North Entrance as Livingston, in the 1970s.

For updated information on road conditions and closures, the park recommends you call (307) 344-2117.

2010

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Yellowstone news of early winter: report on skiing and wildlife

Categories: On the Web, Trip planning, Wildlife, Winter
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Things are off to a slow start this year [2009], with snow cover just sufficient to open the roads to over-snow vehicles on December 15. As of Dec. 27, Old Faithful and the West Entrance had 15 inches of snow on the ground, the East Entrance had 14, and Mammoth only 3. The new official (but temporary) plan allows 318 snowmobiles and 78 snowcoaches to enter Yellowstone per day.

Jim Holstein, a Yellowstone tour guide, reports that although skiing at Big Sky north of Yellowstone is great, he is anticipating a very slow January in the park itself. Even the wildlife are staying in the upper elevations, and it “has been the slowest start for wildlife that we have had in the Northern Range in the 19 years I have been guiding.”

Just outside the East Entrance, one of the oldest downhill ski centers in the U.S., dating from the 1930s, has re-opened after having been closed since 2004. There’s where you can catch the lift at the Sleeping Giant Ski Area, or you might go across the road to use the cross-country trails at Buffalo Bill’s summer home, Pahaska Tepee.

Inside the park, visitors can now cross Sylvan Pass. As of December 22, after rangers used howitzers to help prevent avalanches from blocking the 8500-foot (2600 m) pass, it was opened to over-snow vehicles and ambitious skiers. Winter use of this entrance has created controversy for years due to the high cost of keeping it open for relatively few visitors.

Here is good winter news for Yellowstone’s beleaguered bison: Horse Butte near Hebgen Lake just west of the park will be permanently closed to cattle grazing. In recent winters “bison have been needlessly hazed from Horse Butte back into the park with helicopters, horses, ATVs, and snowmobiles. A lot of time, resources and your taxpayer dollars are unnecessarily wasted along the way,” according to Matt Skoglund in his “Guest Opinion: Gallatin National Forest presents gift to Yellowstone bison.”

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