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

All posts tagged roads

Late Season Visits to Yellowstone Park, 2013

Categories: Trip planning, Wildlife
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You can count on fewer people on the roads and at all the major features in Yellowstone now that most schools have begun. Here’s what a mid summer eruption of Old Faithful Geyser looked like from Observation Point— a delightful short hike above Upper Geyser Basin. From now until the park closes for its autumn break, you won’t find those tremendous crowds, even around the world’s most famous geyser. (Click on the picture to see the crowds circling the geyser.)

Old Faithful from Observation Point

Bears are now fattening for their winter hibernation, bull elk are rounding up their harems and bugling to show their dominance, and bison are in their rutting season. Nights are already beginning to be colder, and it could snow at any time. Remember, Yellowstone’s minimum elevation is about 6,200 feet (1,900 m).

All park roads and most facilities are open into early November every year (barring a possible closure due to fire). Road closure dates have not yet been announced as of late August.

Campgrounds close between September 2 and November 3, hotels and cabins between Sept. 22 and Oct. 20.

For NPS-operated campgrounds, see:
http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/camping-in-yellowstone.htm.

For Xanterra-operated campgrounds, hotels, and cabins, see the Xanterra website or call 307-344-7311.

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Spring begins in Yellowstone Park

Categories: News, Trip planning
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Hooray! Most of Yellowstone’s roads are open as of today [April 26, 2013], and you can even find places to have a meal. Besides that, the Old Faithful Geyser Webcam is beginning to show predictions of eruptions. However, there are no campgrounds, hotels, or cabins available until next week, except for the Mammoth Campground, which stays open all year.

Geyser gazers can begin their yearly vigils at such wonderful but unreliable geysers as Fan and Mortar, Oblong, Fountain, and—dare we hope?—Giant.
For the opening schedule of all facilities see:
Opening and Closing Dates of Facilities.
For webcams directed toward Old Faithful and elsewhere see: www.nps.gov/yell/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm.

 

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Yellowstone’s most popular roads to open this Friday

Categories: News, Transportation
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The National Park Service has announced that, with the help of snowplows from West Yellowstone and from Wyoming, the roads between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction and from West Yellowstone through Norris to Old Faithful Village will open on schedule Friday, April 19, 2013. It looks like other Yellowstone roads will also open as had been planned before the sequestration funding cuts forced Dan Wenk, Yellowstone’s superintendent, to announce delays of two weeks for most Yellowstone roads.

An added bonus for people who can visit any park early this season is that admission will be free to all from April 22 through 26 in celebration of National Parks Week.

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Yellowstone’s roads to open on time after all

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Private funds have come to the aid of Yellowstone Park’s beleaguered superintendent, who had announced a two-week delay in the spring opening of the park’s roads. The Cody Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson Town Council have raised the needed cash to assist the park by plowing roads through the East and South Entrances beginning next month.

Early vacationers will be able access Old Faithful from the west and north beginning April 26, 2013, and Canyon from the east on May 3. In addition, the South Entrance should open as originally planned on May 10. The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway will open June 14. No announcement has yet been made about the opening of the Beartooth Highway.

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Only in America: Business comes to the rescue in Yellowstone

Categories: Transportation, Winter
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Every spring Yellowstone is faced with a big job: plowing the hundreds of miles of roads that have been closed since November while many feet of snow piles up. The goal is to open the entrance roads gradually, starting in mid April, so the park spends more than a month and hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the roads ready.

However, this year’s sequestration budget cuts [2013] threaten to disrupt this pattern, and Superintendent Dan Wenk of Yellowstone decided that opening two weeks later than usual would be one of his needed cutbacks. But business owners and their organizations in the Wyoming gateway towns of Jackson and Cody are not going to sit back and let this happen. By yesterday, Jackson groups had raised the funds to pay for plowing near the south gate, while those in Cody, Wyoming, have met almost half their goal to open the east gate. The state of Wyoming is providing equipment and personnel to help plow park roads, and business groups will pay back the transportation department for whatever it costs the agency to use its own workers on the federal roads.

There is no word yet as to just when the roads will be ready for auto traffic, but we’ll no doubt be learning about that soon.

Hooray for private business looking out for not just their own interests but those of the many folks who have planned early spring vacations in America’s first and greatest national park!

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More tips for a great vacation

Categories: Trip planning
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6. Be aware that Yellowstone’s roads are slow, often full of potholes, and that some are currently undergoing construction.
7. Plan to be on the roads early and late in the day. Avoid crowds by traveling on the main roads between 10 am and 5 pm whenever possible.
8. Take binoculars or a spotting scope as well as your camera, especially for animal watching.
9. Prepare the kids: watch videos, read from Yellowstone Treasures and other books about the area or about the animals, tell them how different it will be (wild animals, staying outdoors, no TV). Let them do some of the planning.
10. When at Old Faithful Village, be sure to see the Visitor Education Center and check at their ranger desk for eruption times for the five predictable geysers in addition to Old Faithful Geyser. Seeing them and beautiful hot springs near them can be really rewarding.

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Wolf count up this year

Categories: News, Wildlife, Winter
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I’ve just learned [12/14/2011] that a study being completed this week by wolf experts and volunteers has found that the number of wolves living in Yellowstone is up this year to about 120 as opposed to 97 counted last year. This is good news for the many eager wolf-watchers, who have always found it easier to see them in winter.

And tomorrow is the day the park opens again after the annual early-winter hiatus, when snow accumulates, roads are not plowed for cars or groomed for over-snow vehicles, and the park is left very nearly in its natural state for about six weeks.

Coincidentally, I haven’t posted anything in that time, but it’s not because I have forgotten about Yellowstone. I’m turning over a new leaf as the park reopens and have resolved to write at least once a week. And I’m delighted to say—I get to visit again this January! Soon I’ll write more about that and what’s occupied me so fully in recent weeks.

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Yellowstone closing for the autumn break, 2011

Categories: Trip planning, Winter
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As Hallowe’en excitement draws to a close, I’ll pass on to any of you thinking of visiting Yellowstone soon that you have only one more week before almost all the roads close for the autumn break. From 8 am Monday, November 7, until December 15, the roads will be closed except for the one across northern Yellowstone from Gardiner to Cooke City, Montana.

The winter season, when the Mammoth Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge reopen and many roads will be prepared for snowcoaches and commercially guided snowmobiles, stretches from December 15 through March 15. This is a good time to make travel and accommodation reservations for the winter experience of a lifetime.

The National Park Service limits allowing 78 snowcoaches and 318 snowmobiles per day to enter the park will continue in effect this season.

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During recent weeks I’ve been concentrating all my efforts on two long-term writing projects.

One job I’ve given myself this fall [2011] is determining what changes I want to make in the upcoming reprint of Yellowstone Treasures. People do not always know that everything is constantly changing in the park, from realigned stretches of road to new geysers that pop up and old ones that change their behavior. My goal is to keep the guidebook as up-to-date as possible with almost-yearly reprints and new editions about every four years.

The other time-consumer is polishing all the parts of another project I’ve been working on for about three years with a colleague. This one is a translation from the French of the account of a visit to Yellowstone in 1883 made by the prolific Belgian travel writer, Jules Leclercq. Getting this fascinating account published requires a lot of small changes to our manuscript in order to comply with the university press’s guidelines, along with preparing information to be used in promoting the book. It will be called Yellowstone, Land of Wonders: Promenade in North America’s National Park. But don’t hold your breath—it won’t be available for more than a year.

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My ideas for a Yellowstone shuttle system

Categories: Transportation
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Yellowstone Park needs a shuttle system!

Although I know that the National Park Service has in the past considered inaugurating shuttle service in Yellowstone to alleviate road congestion and cut down on carbon emissions, perhaps the following plan has not yet been broached. I suggest that only the west side of this vast park could be well served by such a system. Here is my plan for a way we could accomplish this.

I believe that providing a convenient shuttle service would greatly relieve summer congestion and would be used willingly by many visitors. Shuttle usage would be voluntary, and private vehicles and tour buses would continue to be allowed on the roads along with the shuttles. If the shuttle service were to be modeled after those at Yosemite, Bryce, and particularly Zion National Parks, it would be free. Having recently visited Zion and Bryce, I enquired how the system is paid for and was told that the equipment is owned by the National Park Service but operated by a concessionaire (at Bryce it is McDonald Transit Associates). Park entrance fees cover the expenses of running the shuttles.

Shuttle particulars proposed for Yellowstone

Shuttles could serve visitors along the roads between Mammoth in the north of the park and Old Faithful in the south central part. On this route are the majority of interesting hydrothermal features, as well as many other features of interest and hiking trailheads. All visitors who come in private cars, if they stay more than a day or two, usually want to visit much if not all of this region.

My plan would serve visitors who leave their vehicles overnight or for several nights at Mammoth, West Yellowstone, or Old Faithful, or in the campgrounds at Norris or Madison. New parking areas might be required in some of these areas and could charge a reasonable fee for their use, something on the order of five to ten dollars per day. This parking fee could help to cover the cost of the shuttle system. The shuttle itself would be free and useable by any visitors or staff. Thus, people could go into and out of the park on the same day or, if staying in the park, could take belongings with them on the shuttle for several days’ use while staying in park facilities.

Since no travelers who come from far away would want to carry all their belongings around while touring by shuttle, shuttle travel would have to be coordinated with the concessionaires at Mammoth and Old Faithful and with the management of private lodgings in West Yellowstone. In other words, visitors would leave most of their belongings at one of the three locations, in hotel/motel rooms if staying in the same place for several nights. Or if, for example, they wanted to stay one night in Mammoth or West Yellowstone and then stay a night or more at Old Faithful and return for their cars, baggage storage rooms could be provided at the motels and some space on the shuttles could be used for smaller baggage.

Ideally, simple lunch rooms would be built by the NPS and run by the park concessionaire at Norris and Madison, utilizing part of the already-disturbed land in the present large parking lots.

To make this plan work, I would propose that shuttles run at least every twenty minutes and for twelve hours per day between the end points, maybe from 9 am to 9 pm seven days a week. They should operate from mid June through mid September. A fleet of at least thirty electric, hybrid, or propane shuttles would be needed. There should be two round-trip routes: Mammoth campground to and from Madison Junction and West Yellowstone to and from Old Faithful Village, with correspondence at Madison. This system would require several dozen drivers. The shuttles would be large vans holding twelve to fifteen passengers. They would stop at every point along the roads that has something of general interest. Granted, this would mean a lot of stops, but the stops would mostly be very brief. Lesser-known features along the roads, such as the panoramic view at Swan Lake above Mammoth or the Chocolate Pots south of Norris Junction, should be included in the stops made by the shuttles.

Most people would want to spend an hour or two at the major geyser basins but could easily time their visits to have a minimal wait for the next van, if they were spaced twenty minutes apart. Covered shelters with some seating would be needed at shuttle stops.
Here is an example of potential pick-up/drop-off points between Mammoth and Norris:
Mammoth Campground
Mammoth Hotel
Upper Terrace Drive
Bunsen Peak and other trailheads near Rustic Falls
Swan Lake Flat panorama
Sheepeater Cliffs side road
Indian Creek Campground
Apollinaris Spring and picnic area
Obsidian Cliff
Mount Holmes trailhead
Solfatara trailhead
Grizzly Lake trailhead
Clearwater Springs
Roaring Mountain
Norris Campground
Norris Geyser Basin

A similar list of stopping points would be set up between other major places of interest or village areas with campgrounds or accommodations, where cars would be left. A total of 30 to 35 stops might be made between Mammoth and Old Faithful. In addition to the regular shuttles that make many stops, express shuttles would ferry staff and visitors to and from their vehicles at the end points three or four times a day.

This system might eliminate more than half of the cars that use the roads between Old Faithful and West Yellowstone and Mammoth, saving fuel and cutting congestion on the roads, and improving the air quality and the overall Yellowstone experience.

2011

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