Duration: 15 minutes, 0 seconds This video takes online visitors on a tour of the Upper Loop Road to features such as hot spring terraces, geyser basins, waterfalls, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
If you take the time to drive Yellowstone’s upper loop, you’ll have the opportunity to see some of the park’s main attractions, but you will have some decisions to make regarding how much time you will spend at each stop. Hopefully, this video will help you make those decisions.
When you take this drive, you will pass lakes, waterfalls, picnic areas and hopefully wildlife that are not mentioned here. Yellowstone covers 2.2 million acres and it would take a lifetime to see everything this park has to offer. During this video, if this icon appears on the screen, it means there are additional videos that supply more detailed information about those locations. Visit our Inside Yellowstone web page to find those videos.
We’re going to start the tour here in Gardiner, Montana. Check out this old row of store fronts, just like the old west towns you see in the movies. These stores are so close to the park that if you step off the sidewalk, you’re stepping into Yellowstone.
Down here on the right, there used to be an old train station. In the early days almost all of Yellowstone’s visitors arrived by train. Look here, we’re going to drive right through the Roosevelt Arch. It’s welcomed visitors since 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt helped place a cornerstone on this historic structure. Keep an eye out for pronghorn, mule deer, and bison for the next mile or so.
There will be a bit of a delay here while we wait in line to get our entrance pass. A variety of different passes can be purchased at the entrance station. You will receive a map, with your receipt stapled to it, and a park newspaper. Hold on to that map, it will let you exit and enter the park for 7 days.
Read the newspaper as soon as possible. It offers great advice and information. You can find a fee schedule and an online version of the newspaper on the park’s web site.
The canyon up ahead is a good place to watch for bighorn sheep. If you see people on the road with their binoculars out, there is a very good chance that sheep are visible on the cliffs.
The Mammoth Campground is the only campground open all year. This is a great place to go for an evening program.
As you pull into Mammoth be sure to stop at the Albright Visitor Center and check out the museum. Rangers there can answer your questions and offer advice. A self-guided tour of Historic Fort Yellowstone begins just in front of the visitor center. Be sure to look for self-guiding trail brochures in posts at the beginning of many of our trails. In the Mammoth area, you’ll also find a hotel, a store, food services, and a gas station.
This tall hydrothermal feature is called Liberty Cap. It’s just one of the many strange features at Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces. You can explore these picturesque terraces from here, by following a series of boardwalks that take you to some of the more attractive hot springs
When you start seeing terraces to the right, be prepared to pull into the Upper Terrace Drive. This short loop weaves through some neat springs and terraces. If you have a disabled visitor with you, this loop will allow them to tour the terraces from the comfort of your car. It will take a couple of hours to do a quick tour of the Mammoth Hot Springs area.
That’s Bunsen Peak over there. You get a great view of Mammoth from there.
See these rocks?… You know what, pull in here, Daryl. These are the Hoodoos which are old terrace deposits that tumbled down from the terrace above. It’s great fun to hike among the jumbled boulders.
We’re coming up on Golden Gate. Every time they widen the road, they move that 24-ton pillar. The cliffs were formed when hot volcanic ash was welded into rock. There’s a cool historic photo in the wayside exhibit here.
Swan Lake Flat is a good place to see wildlife in the spring and the fall.
By taking a short side road, you can explore Sheep-eater Cliff. It was named for a band of Shoshone Indians. This cliff was formed when basaltic lava flows cooled into columns.
We won’t be pulling into any campgrounds, but you can learn about them by watching our video devoted entirely to campgrounds.
Pull off here for a second Daryl. The stage coaches used to stop at Apollinaris Spring in the old days. It’s fun to imagine stagecoach passengers wetting their whistles here
Be sure to pull in at the Obsidian Cliff exhibit. This great old exhibit is on the National Register of Historic Places. They used columnar basalt in its construction. Native Americans fashioned arrowheads and knives from the obsidian they found near here. It is a form of natural glass. Please remember, it is illegal to remove anything from the park, including obsidian.
See the steam coming out of this hillside. That’s Roaring Mountain. The steam is coming from fumaroles, our hottest hydrothermal features.
If you’ve got an interest in the history of the National Park Ranger, pull in here. The museum is staffed by retired rangers. Hopefully it will give you some insight into the evolution of the modern park ranger.
At Norris Junction turn right into the geyser basin. Here you have the opportunity to explore one of the hottest geyser basins in the world. There are 2 loop walks here; one into the Porcelain Basin and another into the Back Basin where you will find Steamboat Geyser. When in full eruption, Steamboat is the tallest geyser in the world, but it is unpredictable and has gone as long as 50 years between eruptions. This area can take a couple of hours to tour.
Heading east from Norris you will be cutting across the center of Yellowstone’s loop road system. You will have a choice between taking a short 2.5 mile long one-way loop passed Virginia Cascade or continuing on the main road. While Virginia Cascade is a lovely cascading waterfall, if your time is at all short, it might be wise to save some by staying on the main road.
On the main road, you may want to stop at the Norris-Canyon Blowdown. There is no sign, but watch for it as you get to the top of the hill. These trees here were knocked down by a storm in 1984 and then burned in the famous1988 fires. The area appeared to be horribly devastated in 1988, but a quick stop now reveals the truth. Recovery from the fires has been amazing.
This is Canyon Village. The first building you come to, as you pull in, is the Canyon Visitor Education Center. Be sure to spend some time here. It’s rangers can help answer your questions about the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The exhibits focus on Yellowstone’s super-volcano and other aspects of the park’s geology. You’ll be amazed at how interesting the geology exhibits can be. You’ll also find food services, camping, lodging, and a gas station here.
We got here midday so we decided to grab a bite at the grill at the Canyon Store. There is also a cafeteria and a restaurant here.
By taking a short drive south from Canyon Village you can explore the north or south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. You can pick and choose between numerous stops at the canyon.
One of the turns is marked the Brink of the Upper Falls. After a short walk from the parking area, you’ll find a platform built right at the brink of the falls. This is a fun stop and a great place to get a feel for the power of the river.
A bit further south is a turn marked Artist Point. That’s the South Rim Drive. Watch out the right side of the car after taking this turn. The falls there is not very tall, but it’s very pretty. While heading down the Artist Point road, you’ll notice a left turn into Uncle Tom’s Trail. This is a real old trail named after a tour guide from the stage coach days. Here nearly 300 stairs lead down into the canyon. This trail offers a close-up view of the Lower Falls.
In my opinion, you’ll get the best view of the canyon from Artist Point. There is a spectacular view of the Lower Falls which is 308 feet tall and one of Yellowstone’s most famous features. The numerous stops at the North Rim Drive are also visible across the canyon. If you are going to tour both rims, plan on spending at least a few hours here. Many people devote a full day to visiting this area.
After visiting the canyon, you will again pass Canyon Village as you travel north toward Dunraven Pass. On the way to the pass there are pull-outs with great panoramic views. If you notice some white spots in the woods below, you are looking at the Washburn Hot Springs.
This pass is at 8859 feet and this is where you’ll find the first of 2 trailheads for the Mt Washburn hike. We’re going to continue up to the second trailhead, which is about 5 miles further up the Loop Road. There you’ll find Chittenden Road which will take you up to the trailhead. If you don’t want to subject your car to a two-mile washboard road, maybe you should use the other trailhead. Even from the parking lot, the views are outstanding. From the top of the mountain, they are spectacular. The hike to the top of Mt. Washburn is 3 miles each way from either trailhead. A fire lookout is stationed at the top of Washburn.
We’re now on our way back down the mountain, heading toward Tower Fall. These pullouts have a nice view of Antelope Valley. If you’ve got good binoculars or a spotting scope, this is a great place to look for bears or wolves in the distance.
Tower Fall is beautiful so its tiny parking lot is jam-packed in the summer months. An easy walk from the Tower General Store will give you a great view of this 120 foot waterfall. A somewhat longer trail leads to the Yellowstone River.
A very nice little campground is just across the road. I’ve done lots of evening programs in that campground.
Right up here, there’s a series of overlooks above the Yellowstone River. Nice views of the river below and bands of columnar basalt in the cliffs across the canyon, make these pullouts worthy of a quick stop. You might also see some bighorn sheep in the area. Use extreme caution and stay behind the rock walls. We lost a couple people to deadly falls here in recent years.
For some nice panoramic views, stop at Calcite Springs. The area is named for the hydrothermal features in the canyon walls.
This corral on the left offers horseback rides, stagecoach rides, and chuck-wagon steak cookouts. We didn’t show you them but there are two other corrals on the loop, one at Mammoth and another at Canyon. If horses are your thing, there are several locations where you can ride.
Turn left just beyond the corrals and you’ll find Roosevelt Lodge. Teddy Roosevelt camped near here once and the lodge was named in commemoration of that visit. A small general store provides for basic needs.
When my friends visit for the first time, we always stop at the Petrified Tree. A short drive will get you there. Don’t try to do this if you’re driving a motor home or pulling a trailer. There isn’t enough room for you to turn around at the end of the road. Watch for black bear and moose through this entire area.
OK Daryl, it’s coming up right after these trees. Yep, that’s it. The Hellroaring Overlook pullout is very easy to miss but if you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view. There’s a side-trip option at Blacktail Plateau Drive. This one way dirt road meanders through open meadows and ends back near the Petrified Tree. If you’ve got a little extra time, it’s well worth taking. I like to stop and walk across the meadows here.
This little-used trail is a good place to learn about the Northern Range while taking a peaceful stroll along its boardwalk.
I haven’t mentioned our picnic areas yet. There are nearly 50 scattered around the park. If you want to save a little money while you visit, pick up some food at a general store and make your own meals. There are plenty of picnic tables in beautiful locations.
We’re going to pull into Undine Falls for our last stop of the day. Yellowstone is famous for its waterfalls. While we found time so show you a few on this video, there are others we haven’t mentioned. If you like waterfalls, set aside some additional time to visit them.
Coming down the hill back to Mammoth, you can see the hot spring terraces from a distance. The white stone visible on the hillside there is terrace travertine. As you pull back into town, stop in the visitor center again. Now that you’ve spent some time in the park, you’ll probably have some new questions for the rangers. If you tell them about the wildlife you’ve seen, they can pass the information on to other visitors.
I hope this video helps you plan your time on the Upper Loop. It is not a complete list of all the possible stops in this area, but hopefully it will give you some ideas on some of the places you’d like to visit. While you can do the Upper Loop in a day, I think you’d have more fun if you do it in three, or a week, or a month. It is impossible to see all Yellowstone has to offer in a lifetime, but on your next trip to the mountains, spend as much time as possible here.
When you approach a Yellowstone entrance station for the first time, you’re very likely to feel an unusual excitement. It’s the excitement one gets from starting a journey the full nature of which is uncertain. No matter how much you’ve read about Yellowstone, no matter how many videos you’ve watched, you can’t possibly be prepared for what waits for you beyond this gate. It’s that spectacular. Because Yellowstone has so many wonders to offer, we’ve developed a wide variety of tools to help you appreciate those fascinating features.
The ranger at the entrance station will give you a park map and a Yellowstone Today! newspaper. Don’t put them away. These two documents can provide you with the information you need to transform your visit from a drive through a pretty park to a truly meaningful experience. Pull off into a parking area soon after entering the park and study the map. Browse the newspaper so you are aware of exactly what it contains.
When you open the park map, be sure to notice how truly big this park is. The great distances between locations is often overlooked by first-time visitors who plan to visit locations so distant from one another that they spend most of their time driving. Be sure plan your visit with those distances in mind.
Look at this. West Thumb Geyser Basin is 70 miles from Mammoth. At the 45 miles an hour, that will take an hour and a half to drive even if you don’t ever slow down or stop to see elk, or bison, or bears. Don’t plan on doing that trip in just an afternoon.
Pay careful attention to the fact that the major visitor destinations in the park are all labeled. The larger destinations have their own detail maps that will help you get around once you arrive at the location.
The Yellowstone Today! Newspaper is a great source of information that can help you have a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable vacation. It also can provide critical information about the park. It can tell you visitor center locations and hours, where you can find camping and lodging. It can tell you about fishing regulations. It can even provide information about critical issues the park is facing.
The paper also offers information related to visiting specific park areas including a ranger program listing for each area. If you enjoy attending ranger-led talks and walks, be sure to review the program schedule early in your visit so you don’t miss the programs you find most interesting.
Among the more valuable items in your newspaper is the map on the back. It allows you to plan for necessary services and facilities in advance of your arrival at a particular location. As you’re driving the long distances between locations, it’s helpful to know what services you are likely to find once you get there.
The newspaper is put out four times each year so you are sure to get accurate information no matter what season you visit.
If you like reading interpretive exhibits, you won’t be disappointed in Yellowstone. This was a guard house in the Cavalry days. With over 300 wayside exhibits in the park, you will find them around every other turn. Stopping to read wayside exhibits is a great way to learn about the park and to break up the long drives between locations. Watch for wayside exhibit markers along the way.
Taking these stops can make the difference between seeing a pretty park and seeing a spectacular place. The information provided on the waysides will help you understand the spectacular nature of Yellowstone. It is truly an amazing place with many hidden aspects.
At visitor centers you will find rangers ready to answer your questions as well as exhibits that may answer many questions you didn’t know you had. Each visitor center covers different subject matter in its exhibits so you could see all of them without being bored by repetition.
The Grant Village Visitor Center provides information about wildland fire in the park. At the Canyon the visitor center you can learn about park geology. Old Faithful hosts exhibits about the park’s fascinating thermal features. The visitor center at Mammoth Hot Springs provides information related to park history.
All I have to say is, when you see a visitor center, be sure to stop in. You have no idea what they have to offer until you visit.
Oh yeah, for the most traditional method of learning, buy a few books in a visitor center book store.
There are brochures available for self-guiding trails at many park locations. You’ll find them at the trailheads, as well as at all of our visitor centers. These guides not only provide maps that help you find your way around the trail but also provide information that can help you understand the significance of the features you pass along the way.
In addition to the self-guiding trail brochures there are several other printed documents that can help you enjoy your visit. Ask at visitor centers for brochures intended to address your special interests. You will find hiking trail guides for each area as well as brochures that can help you plan your fishing, backcountry camping, or birding outing. If you have an interest in a particular topic, be sure to ask. There may be a brochure related to it.
While in the winter season ranger-led programs are only conducted from the Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful areas, during the summer they’re conducted in many locations around the park. Our website and the park newspaper will provide you with descriptions and times for those programs.
I can’t tell you how valuable I think ranger-led programs are. We spend a lot of time developing programs to help explain the parks features and processes. I would love it if more of you came to our programs to learn about the park. We love this place and we would very much like to tell you why.
If you can’t wait to get to Yellowstone to start using some of these tools, you really don’t have to. You can begin your Yellowstone experience right now, from your home, by using our website. There you will find the current park newspaper and all sorts of maps and guides.
You can learn about the park through online tours, videos, and web pages on a wide variety of topics. If your interests include wildland fire, wolves, or historic vehicles, you’ll find related web content. In fact, you can find information on nearly any Yellowstone topic you can think of.
If you are going to visit us in the near future, be sure to look at the Plan Your Visit section of the website. It’s really very easy to plan your entire trip from the comfort of home. Check out our website at www.nps.gov/yell. Then come start your journey into this spectacular place we know as Yellowstone.
So, let’s recap. How can you learn about Yellowstone? You can do that through maps, and newspapers, and trail guides, and more maps, and more maps, and brochures, and wayside exhibits, and videos, and books. Well you get the idea.
In early May, the park’s hotels and cabins begin to open for Yellowstone’s “summer season.” There are 9 different hotels and lodges in the park. They open one at a time as winter releases its grip. Mid-summer, when all facilities are open, there are over 2,000 rooms.
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins open first. Mammoth Hot Springs is headquarters for both the National Park Service and Xanterra. The Mammoth area has an elevation of 6239 feet and is the lowest location in the park that has facilities.
The Mammoth Hotel is a beautiful hotel that sits across from Historic Fort Yellowstone where the lawn is manicured and century old cottonwood trees providing shade for the many elk and bison that frequent the area. The Mammoth Hot Springs are a short walk away.
The hotel offers some rooms without private baths, restrooms and showers are down the hall. The Mammoth Cabins range from showers nearby to cabins with private shower and a hot tub.
The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins opened in 1999 and are some of the newest facilities in the park. This timber-frame lodge was built to handle the harsh winters of Yellowstone.
The Snow Lodge operates 2 restaurants; the Geyser Grill offers burgers and salads, while the full service restaurant has a lounge and a more extensive menu with no reservations required. All the Snow Lodge rooms and cabins come with private baths.
The Old Faithful Inn is also one of the first to open and one of the last to close. The Inn is a National Historic Landmark that opened in 1904 and has just recently gone through a multi-year renovation. The Old House, the East Wing and the West Wing were all brought back to their historic glory, with a few upgrades.
The Old Faithful Inn is the most requested facility in Yellowstone, so reservations must be made very early. A wide range of rooms are available here, but many people prefer the Old House rooms, most of which do not have private baths. If it is in your budget, try one of the East Wing rooms over looking Old Faithful Geyser.
No matter what room you get in the Old faithful Inn you are sure to have a good time. The Inn’s lobby is a sight to behold; beautiful balconies with historic furniture filling every nook and cranny. There is a deli and gift shop; if you want to eat in the Inn’s dining room make reservations early.
The historic Bear-Pit Lounge can be a good place to get out of the weather or just relax while you wait for a table in the dining room. A coffee cart can be found on the second level balcony. Another secret of the Inn is the front porch that allows for a view of Old Faithful Geyser.
On the opposite side of Old Faithful Geyser you find the Old Faithful Lodge, which is often mistaken for the Inn. Being much smaller, the lodge offers cabins, but there are no rooms in the lodge itself. This facility has also been renovated recently. The cabins are basic, but some have a view of Old Faithful.
Inside the Old Faithful Lodge there is a huge cafeteria, a gift shop and places to get ice cream or hot drinks. A large lobby overlooks the geyser basin affording a great view and providing refuge during sketchy weather. There are more geysers within walking distance of Old Faithful than there are in the rest of the world combined.
Moving over to Yellowstone Lake, you will have a few choices as well: Grant Village, Lake Lodge and Cabins and Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cabins. Grant Village is the newer location and is situated on the West Thumb of the lake, just 19 miles from Old Faithful.
The lodging is in 6 two-story units, each with fifty rooms; all have private baths. Nearby there are also 2 restaurants; one full service, the other offers pizza and pasta. There is a boat ramp, but there is not a marina here.
The only marina on Yellowstone Lake is 20 miles away, near Lake Village. Here at lake you again have a choice between the elegant Lake Hotel and the more rustic Lake Lodge Cabins; they are just a short walk from each other. The Lake Hotel also rents basic cabins.
Lake Hotel is a beautiful yellow colonial structure with lake and mountain views. Construction of the hotel began in 1890. A massive lobby with a sun room over looking the lake is the perfect place to relax. The casual elegance here makes the dining room one of the most popular places to eat in Yellowstone; make reservations early.
While the rooms in Lake Hotel offer some of the more fancy accommodations in the park, a nearby annex building and the hotel’s cabins are more casual. The Lake Lodge Cabins are even more casual.
For many people with knowledge of Yellowstone, Lake Lodge is the place. The beautiful front porch is lined with hickory rockers so visitors can take in the magical lake views. The lodge has a cafeteria and a lounge as well as a gift shop. All the cabins at Lake Lodge offer private baths.
Just about 18 miles from Lake Village, situated near the center of the park, you’ll find Canyon Lodge and Cabins. Behind the main lodge building, that has both a dining room and a cafeteria, there are cabins that are situated along tree lined loops. Two new lodges recently added 80 hotel style rooms; all cabins and rooms have private baths.
Canyon Village has an elevation of 8,000 feet and is just a short distance from the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This Canyon and the 2 large waterfalls here are a must see.
Just 19 miles north of Canyon you will find Roosevelt Lodge and Cabins at Tower Junction. Roosevelt Lodge has a great porch. It is a perfect place to sit and wait for an outstanding meal in the popular dining room. This quaint old lodge is the best place in the park to get a western experience.
Some of Roosevelt’s cabins have private baths while the more rustic cabins are heated by wood, with restrooms and showers nearby. It is a popular place for both anglers and with families looking to go horseback riding.
Roosevelt closes in early September and by mid-November all accommodations are closed until winter.
Once enough snow builds up on the roads, to permit over-snow travel, the park opens for the winter. The only lodging available in the park during the winter season is the Mammoth Hotel and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
Most of the rooms in Yellowstone come without phones and there are no TVs in the park. Mother Nature will provide the entertainment and it is good to get away from the phone, if only for a few days. You can make reservations and get more information from Xanterra Parks and Resorts by going to www.travelyellowstone.com or calling 1-866-geyserland.
Wherever you end up staying in Yellowstone, you will have opportunities to make memories for life. All of the facilities in the park will provide you and your family with a safe and comfortable place to mount your Yellowstone adventure.
Duration: 3 minutes, 34 seconds You can eat in a fancy restaurant, get fast food at a grill, or buy sandwich-makings at a general store to enjoy in a picnic area. The possibilities for meals in Yellowstone are numerous.
As you and your family plan your next trip to Yellowstone, you will need to make some decisions regarding meals. There are over 25 restaurants and grills in the park. If you are willing to make your own meals, we have 52 picnic areas to choose from.
Most of the food choices inside the park are easily accessible with no advance notice. But, some of the larger dining rooms do take reservations for dinner. If you are staying at one of the 9 lodges inside Yellowstone, ask about dinner reservations when you secure your room.
All the dining rooms in the park are nice; they range from the historic Old Faithful Inn Dining Room to the rustic dining found at Roosevelt Lodge. The Lake Hotel Dining Room is the most elegant restaurant, but like all dining in the park, the dress is casual.
Xanterra Parks and Resorts does a great job of offering menus with regional and western flair; all menus can be seen on their website.
If you are adventurous, you may want to reserve a spot for the Roosevelt Old West Dinner Cook-out. It starts with either a horseback ride or an adventure in a stagecoach. Once you arrive at the cook-out site, a steak dinner is served buffet style. Vegetarian meals are also available with advanced notice.
The Old Faithful Snow Lodge Obsidian Dining Room and the Grant Village Lake House Restaurant do not require reservations for dinner during summer months. Cafeterias at Old Faithful, Canyon and Lake Lodge are also on a first-come, first-served basis.
Breakfast and lunch is served at all park dining rooms and cafeterias, except at the Old Faithful Lodge, where a lite breakfast is offered at a nearby bake shop and at Grant Village’s Lake House, where lunch is not served.
Xanterra also operates a number of grills in the park. These are Yellowstone’s version of fast food for those on the run. If you are looking for a quick burger, you will find that here. Most grills are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Away from the lodges in the park, you have some other options for food. Delaware North, which operates the 12 Yellowstone General Stores, offers basic groceries and camping supplies at each of the park locations.
A few of the Yellowstone General Stores also offer grills. These grills have a limited menu, but the food comes fast and hot. You can also get ice cream at many of the park grills and delis.
If you prefer to make your own food, you have 52 picnic areas to choose from. You could also just find a nice spot to watch the world go by while you eat.
You can use cook stoves at any of the picnic areas, but open fires are only allowed at picnic sites with grates. You can get a list of those here on our website or by talking to a ranger at a visitor center.
If you plan on picnicking in Yellowstone, stock your cooler at home or on your way to the park. You will find some of the basic groceries here in the park, but planning ahead is advised.
Early and late in the summer season, which runs from May through October, services are limited. In winter, the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge are the only locations open. Dinner reservations are required for the dining rooms.
All visitors should carry some extra food just in case you are delayed and don’t arrive until late in the evening; the food service are limited at night. So, pack your bags and your appetite and we’ll see you in Yellowstone.
Duration: 5 minutes, 12 seconds If you’re interested in camping, Yellowstone is the place to go. We have 12 campgrounds and well over 2,000 campsites, and that’s not even mentioning the backcountry sites.
Yellowstone has always been one of the most popular camping destinations in America. Today, there are 12 campgrounds and well over 2000 individual campsites in the park. The 5 largest campgrounds are managed by Xanterra Parks and Resorts and the 7 smaller campgrounds are managed by the National Park Service.
The campgrounds operated by Xanterra take reservations while the NPS managed campgrounds are first come, first served. If you plan on visiting Yellowstone in a recreational vehicle, it is best to make reservations. Many of the smaller campgrounds have a limited number of sites for RVs. (1-866-GEYSERLAND)
Only one of the campgrounds in Yellowstone offers water, sewer and electrical hook-ups; the Fishing Bridge RV Park with over 325 sites also has laundry and shower facilities. Located near Yellowstone Lake, Fishing Bridge is centrally located along the East Entrance road. Because grizzly bears frequent the area, Fishing Bridge RV Park is for hard-sided campers only; no tents or tent-campers are allowed. Make reservations early, this campground is full most nights.
The other campgrounds managed by Xanterra all take reservations. Those campgrounds are designed for RVs and tents. Canyon, Madison, Grant and Bridge Bay campsites all can be reserved. The Canyon and Grant Campgrounds offer laundry and shower facilities.
If you plan on camping in Yellowstone but do not have reservations, you need to get here early. The 7 campgrounds managed by the National Park Service often fill daily, but there are usually sites available each morning. It will be important to go to the campground of your choice and secure a campsite as soon as you can. Many campgrounds fill before 11 AM.
Many Yellowstone camping veterans prefer to spend the night before they get to the park in one of the gateway communities in the region. With an early wake-up call you can be camping in Yellowstone by lunch.
When you are deciding which campground you would like to stay in, take in consideration which gate you will be using to enter Yellowstone. Traveling around the park in mid-summer will take longer than you think; the speed limit is 45 MPH or less. Visitors watching wildlife from their cars and road construction can cause significant delays.
The campgrounds located at Tower Falls, Slough Creek and Pebble Creek have fewer facilities, but they are farther from the masses. Lewis Lake and Bridge Bay are the only campgrounds with boat docks; Bridge Bay offers a full service marina.
Check the official park newspaper that you will get when you enter Yellowstone, for campgrounds offering evening programs while you are here.
Once you have a campsite, the adventure begins. You will be free to explore Yellowstone with no time limits. But there are precautions to take. Always keep a clean camp; the entire park is bear country. All food items, including grills and stoves, must be stored with your food inside a vehicle.
Bear proof boxes are provided at many locations for items you cannot store inside. Be aware that several campsites may share these boxes, so consolidate your items to minimize the space they use. If you are in a campsite and a bear approaches, take shelter inside a vehicle; if there is enough time to safely take your food with you, do so. Never feed wild animals. Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear.
Wood and charcoal fires are allowed in sites that have grates, if conditions allow. Your campground host will know the current wildland fire conditions. If you do plan on building a fire, you can collect dead and down wood from the forest for use in the park; if possible collect wood well away from the campground to limit your impact. Always be aware of wildfire dangers. All campfires must be extinguished before you go to sleep or leave your site.
Always be considerate of other campers when in Yellowstone. All of the campgrounds managed by Xanterra, plus the Norris and the Mammoth Campgrounds allow generators between 8am and 8pm; all others prohibit all generators.
The Mammoth Campground is open all year; the remaining campgrounds open and close on a staggered schedule. Madison Campground has the longest season and is usually open from early May to late October.
If you prefer a far more secluded campsite, consider backcountry camping. There are many backcountry campsites for those interested in packing their gear.
If you did not plan on all Yellowstone’s campgrounds being full, there are numerous facilities outside the park. Check the plan your visit link on our website for local Chamber of Commerce numbers. (www.nps.gov/yell)
When coming to Yellowstone, make sure you pack rain gear and warm clothes, even in mid-summer; it can freeze or even snow at any time of the year. Remember, we are here to help you make your trip a success, stop by a visitor center or backcountry office for more information. Its time to rediscover Yellowstone and a camping trip is a great way to start.
Duration: 3 minutes, 6 seconds Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall each of these seasons has much to offer a Yellowstone visitor. To avoid surprises when you arrive watch this video to learn a little about visiting in each season.
As rangers, we often get asked, “What time of year is the best time to visit Yellowstone?” I believe that the park is incredible during every season, but it really depends on what you want to do and see.
If you would like to avoid the crowds, spring is the quietest time of year around here. But you must remember that Yellowstone is at high elevation and while our calendars say spring, it may seem more like winter to some.
Between mid-March and the beginning of May there are few services available, but the roads in the northern end of the park are plowed and spring skiing is popular.
In May, when the park’s interior roads begin to open, the park awakens from a long winter and the large mammals here begin to give birth. The beautiful red colored baby bison arrive first, followed by baby elk and then the emergence of mother bears and their cubs.
As June gets going, it may seem like summer where you live, but some days are closer to winter than summer here. As the snow abates, wildflowers begin to cover the landscape.
This is a great time to visit, but the days can be cold and wet. Many of the hiking trails are still snowed in, but there is good hiking in the north end of the park.
July and August are really the summer months here. Visitation begins to pick-up and the weather finally warms, if you can call it that. Most of the hiking trails and all of the visitor services are open.
These months are great for hiking and camping, but bring some bug spray. If viewing animals is part of why you will come to Yellowstone, get out and about early and late in the day while you are here. Animals can be hard to find on hot days.
August is a great time to see bison; it is their rutting or mating season. Huge herds gather in both Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley; these areas can be good bear and wolf watching areas as well, so get out early. Don’t be surprised if you spend time in bison jams as these beautiful creatures move along the roads.
Fall comes early to Yellowstone and its September days like this that are my favorite; the elk are rutting and if you search hard enough, you may get to see and hear these magnificent creatures.
Bears and other animals become more visible as fall goes on. Early snow and the search for food drive wildlife out of the mountains as they prepare for winter.
That winter comes early and last a long time. By November, park roads begin to close and everything prepares for snow; we should too.
Yellowstone offers incredible cross-country skiing and wildlife viewing in winter. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel are both open for a winter season that last until March.
No matter when you come, you are likely to have a great time. Yellowstone is a special place and all the seasons here are incredible. Pack warm clothes, just in case.
For generations, people have flocked to Yellowstone National Park to experience some of the greatest waters in the Northern Rockies. Today, nearly 50,000 people fish the park annually; some are serous fishermen, while some have never fished before. We would like to think they all experience something special on their trip.
If you plan on fishing during your next trip to Yellowstone, we have a ton of information for you right here on our website, www.nps.gov/yell. You can download the official Fishing Regulations pamphlet along with a copy of the Yellowstone National Park Trip Planner; they are also available at park visitor centers.
Today, there are only two regulation areas: the Native Trout Conservation Area and the Wild Trout Enhancement Area. One of the main goals of managing a healthy fishery here in Yellowstone is to protect the native Cutthroat Trout and its habitat. As they say, “If it has a red slash, put it back.”
Three subspecies of cutthroat can be found here: Yellowstone, Westslope and Snake River finespotted, are all protected, as are Fluvial Arctic Grayling and Mountain Whitefish, which are also native. Brown, rainbow, brook and lake trout are found here as well and the limits on those non-native fish vary by area.
Visitors 16 years old or older will need a Yellowstone National Park Fishing License. You will have three choices: a 3 day pass for $15, a 7 day pass for $20 or a season pass for $35.
Children 15 and younger may fish without a permit if they are fishing under the direct supervision of an adult who has a valid park fishing permit, or they can get a free permit that must be signed by a responsible adult; with this permit, a child can fish without direct adult supervision.
Fishing Permits are available at Visitor Centers, backcountry offices and at Yellowstone General Stores throughout the park and at many businesses in the region.
The season begins the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and runs through the first Sunday in November. Park watersheds open in a staggered fashion. Yellowstone Lake opens June 15th and July 15th is always a big day; that’s the day the middle Yellowstone River drainage opens.
Check your regulations for specific dates and closures. Yellowstone has recently implemented a new barbless hook rule. That should reduce handling time and improve the overall condition of fish. Lead weights are also prohibited, again, check your regulation book.
Some areas are catch and release only and some are fly-fishing only. A few sections of the park, like here in Hayden Valley, are always closed to fishing. There also could be seasonal closures due to drought, bear activity or a number of other factors.
It’s important that you clean your gear before you come to the park and before you change drainages. We need to do all we can to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Check with rangers if you have questions about how you can help stop the spread of unwanted species.
On Yellowstone Lake, lake trout are one of those unwanted species. Regulations require anglers to keep or kill all lake trout caught. These non-native fish are in direct competition with native cutthroat; for anglers fishing the lake, the bounty is limitless.
In other areas of the park, you can spend time fishing a backcountry lake or wading through one of the park’s many rivers. Some of these waters offer the solitude that is hard to find elsewhere. As always, stay alert for bears.
The history of the Yellowstone Fishery is complex and detailed and you can find all kinds of information here on our website. But to fish these waters you’ll have to travel here. So, clean your gear, learn the regulations and I hope your next great fishing story is a Yellowstone story.
Here in Yellowstone, we realize that many people will be traveling with pets. There are a few things you need to consider if that is the case with your family. Pets are allowed here, but there are strict guidelines you will need to follow.
Pets are allowed in public areas, parking lots and within 100 feet of any road. They must be on a leash that is not longer than 6 feet in length at all times. Visitors are not allowed to tie their pet to trees or other objects and leave them unattended. Pet kennels cannot be left outside of vehicles.
If you do leave a pet in a vehicle, make sure you have proper ventilation. If possible, park in a shady spot or plan that part of you visit for early in the day. Although the climate in Yellowstone is cooler than most of the country, vehicles heat-up fast here.
While leashed pets are allowed to accompany their owners to the viewing benches around Old Faithful Geyser, they are not allowed on any other boardwalks or trails. Pets are prohibited from all of Yellowstone’s backcountry, including trails.
We realize that at first glance these rules seem harsh, but they’re for your safety and the safety of your pet. Animals seen harassing wildlife are subject to impoundment and possibly being destroyed or the owner fined.
Yellowstone is the land of bears and wolves and many other things that can prey on domestic animals. Bears and wolves particularly don’t like dogs. While it is possible that your dog may outrun a bear, it is unlikely you could. Bears have been known to follow domestic dogs back to their owners. Wolves see domestic dogs as competition.
Thermal areas, which are located all across Yellowstone, pose a huge threat to your animals. Much of the thermal water in the park is at or nearly at the boiling point. Dogs have a difficult time distinguishing between cool water and hot water. There have been many occasions where dogs have been injured or killed by jumping into hot water here. There have even been instances where owners have lost their lives trying to save a pet.
Be aware that diseases can be spread from domestic animals to Yellowstone’s wild animals and vice versa. Mange, Parvo and Distemper are found in wild animals and can be transmitted to your pet. You must clean-up after your pet. It is required that you carry proof on vaccinations from a veterinarian. Park Rangers may ask to see those documents.
If you can’t leave an animal home, but you would like visit Yellowstone without the worry associated with having a pet in the park, consider one of the local kennels. You will find a list of places that will watch over your beloved animals on our website (www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/kennels.htm). These services are located in communities outside of the park so plan ahead.
If you are going to stay overnight in Yellowstone with your pet, you have some options. Pets are allowed in campgrounds and the same rules mentioned earlier apply while camping. Be aware that food and water bowls cannot be left outside. Checkout our website for more information on safe camping in bear country (www.nps.gov/yell) before you visit.
Pets are not allowed in hotel rooms in the park, but dogs and cats are allowed in some cabins. Check with Xanterra Parks and Resorts for more on availability, fees and regulations (www.travelyellowstone.com). We realize that pets are part of the family and we want you and your family to enjoy the world Yellowstone has to offer, but we also want to protect your family and the park. This is truly an amazing place and if you plan ahead and use caution a trip to Yellowstone is something you won’t forget.
One of the most amazing aspects of Yellowstone National Park is the sheer size of this place. The park consists of 2.2 million acres. To reach the wildest sections of this incredible ecosystem, the National Park Service has developed a 1000 mile trail system. Walking in to this American treasure comes with opportunities and dangers.
To highlights the rewards and to minimize those dangers visitors can take advantage of the many resources available. This website is a good place to start, but maps, books and the Park Newspaper should also be used. When you arrive in the park, ask a ranger at a visitor center or ranger station for the latest updates on conditions and restrictions.
Permits are required to spend the night in Yellowstone’s backcountry. Those permits must be obtained from a ranger station or visitor center in person and no sooner than 48 hours before your trip will begin. There is not a fee associated with these backcountry sites.
There is a fee to reserve sites. Contact our backcountry office by mail. That information can be found in this website’s Backcountry Trip Planner.
There are no permits needed to day hike in Yellowstone, but visitors need to take many of the same precautions that overnight campers take. The entire park is wild and you may encounter wildlife along the way and all wild animals can be dangerous. Park regulations require humans to stay 100 yards from bears and wolves and 75 yards from all other wildlife.
Those distances are just guidelines and to be honest, a grizzly at 100 yards in the backcountry can seem way to close. Be extra cautious and enjoy all wild animals from a distance; if you cause them to alter their behavior, you are too close.
We recommend that hikers carry Bear-Pepper Spray with them in the backcountry. You can learn more about pepper spray by watching the video on the “Trip planner,” page of our website. It is the knowledge you carry with you that is most valuable in this wilderness.
Know what to do to avoid surprising a bear and how to react if you do have a sudden encounter. Hike in groups and make noise while you walk. Clap your hands and talk with your fellow hikers. “Hey bear, hey bear,” is a good way to let the animal that may be over that rise know that you are coming. The point is to avoid surprising wild animals.
Keeping clean camps and lunch spots are a couple more ways to avoid trouble. Never leave food or packs unattended, even for brief periods. Always hang your food and cooking items when not in use. All odorous items and the clothes you cook-in should be hung as well.
If you do spot a bear, back away or reroute around so you don’t disturb it. If needed, turn around or wait until the bear leaves the area. Never run from bears; it could cause them to chase. Remember, all black bears and some grizzlies can climb trees so that is not always an option. Your best choice is to avoid them in the first place.
If you find yourself having a close and sudden encounter, and you can’t slowly back away, quietly stand your ground. Avoid eye contact and quick movements. Bears sometimes bluff charge, but once they realize you are human they veer off. Again, don’t run.
If a bear is about to make contact with you, lie face down with your hands covering your neck and remain still. Avoid any movement until the bear has left the area. When it is safe to do so, leave the area and contact rangers.
Never approach carcasses in the backcountry. If you find bear signs like scat, diggings or other markings in your designated campsite, change your plans. Go to one of the nearby campsites or find a safe place to spend the night if needed. Report the bear activity as soon as possible. Rangers need to know if a bear is frequenting a campsite or trail. The next hiker’s safety could depend on it.
Another way to stay safe in the backcountry is to avoid cliffs and overhangs. Falls and slips injure more people than wildlife. It’s best to stay on designated trails and make sure someone knows where you are hiking and when you expect to return.
All hikers should also be ready for changing weather. Yellowstone is famous for afternoon thunder storms. Ask rangers about any stream crossings you may encounter on the trail you choose to hike. Respect the water, both hot and cold.
By entering this wilderness prepared, you may discover why this park is considered one of America’s most spectacular places. You may find that the reward is in returning safely from a Yellowstone adventure.
Traveling with kids to Yellowstone National Park is one of the most exciting and rewarding adventures a family can take. The park is home to thousands of wild animals and nearly 10,000 thermal features that are sure to amaze almost any young mind and soul. For most families, the connections and discoveries made here can last a lifetime.
But, Yellowstone can be as dangerous as it is beautiful. For this reason, the best trips start with a safety talk. Help your kids learn about the hot water hazards. Much of the thermal water found here is at or nearly at the boiling point. Help your family learn why it is important to walk and not run in the thermal basins. Visitors should always remain on boardwalks and trails where they are available, but hot pools can be almost anywhere in the park, so explore safely.
As you explore, watch for wild animals. Yellowstone law requires humans to stay 100 yards from bears and wolves and 25 yards from all other wildlife. Look for ways to help your kids learn why these laws are in place and how they can help protect the park. Remember, automobiles may be the greatest danger to your family.
Our website is a great place to do some learning before your family gets here. On our homepage there is a link called, “For Kids.” There are puzzles, a scavenger hunt, and other ways to learn about Yellowstone. You can even print some coloring book pages that can be completed at home or on your next trip.
Some of the most exciting ways for kids to learn about Yellowstone are the Windows into Wonderland electronic fieldtrips on our website. These award winning eTrips delve into some basic geology, ecology and history that kids will find fascinating; adults will enjoy these eTrips as well.
In Yellowstone, the opportunity to learn continues. Ask about the Junior Ranger or Young Scientist programs. Both of these programs are sold at the park visitor centers and require the participants to explore and learn some fun facts during their vacation. Even if your kids are not interested in completing the requirements for those programs, introduce them to a ranger; it could open a whole new world for them.
Attend some ranger programs while you are here. Schedules are posted on our website or in Yellowstone Today, the newspaper you will receive at the entrance to the park. These free interpretive programs are offered at many locations each day. An Evening Program with a ranger is a special part of our heritage. Dress warm.
Always pack extra warm clothes when coming to Yellowstone, including hats and gloves. It can snow any month of the year here. Rain gear is a must; if you pack it, it might not rain. If you leave it at home; you’re in for some wet weather. If your kids will need a stroller, you must bring one from home.
Plan ahead by packing some books, games or other items that can keep your young ones interested at night or if the weather gets bad. The hotels in Yellowstone do not have TVs in their rooms. The lodges do not offer game rooms, pools and other things you might find on some trips. Here, it is nature and you that supplies the excitement.
When planning your days here, take into account the long distances between stops. The speed limit is 45 miles per hour or lower in the park. The mountainous roads are narrow and this place is bigger than most people realize. Carry snacks, water and games in the car, just in case you get delayed by construction or animal traffic jams. Take advantage of restrooms when you see them.
To learn about more of the activities offered in the park check here on our website or with your hotel when you make reservations. Your family could spend time on a boat, on a horse or fishing along the shoreline of an alpine lake.
Yellowstone is a place where kids can discover their world and themselves while developing a relationship with nature. All of us, including kids, tend to protect the places we love. Our National Parks are being preserved for future generations and it just may be time that your family brings your next generation to their Yellowstone.
Duration: 4 minutes, 22 seconds Most people visit Yellowstone from their cars. When they stop, it is at one of the park highlights which is crowded with visitors. The wise visitor sets aside some time for a longer dayhike.
Here in Yellowstone, we like to believe that we have some of the best hiking in the country. The park has 1000 miles of trails, 15 miles of boardwalks and 92 trailheads. There is something for every level of hiker or explorer. Some folks like the short easy strolls found near one of the park’s locations, like here at Canyon; while other people like to test their abilities on the longer or more strenuous trails.
If you like the more populated trails, try the boardwalks. They are found in the many thermal areas that are located throughout the park. These raised sidewalks weave through some of the most amazing geologic scenery found anywhere in the world.
You can find maps of these areas here on our website or you can pick them up at a visitor center once you arrive in the park. You can also find them in boxes located near the entrance to many thermal areas. We ask for a 50 cent donation for each map.
If you feel a little more adventurous or like to get off the beaten path, there some great day hikes here. You should start by talking to a ranger at a visitor center. Ask some specific questions about the hikes you would like to take. The rangers will know or can found out about bear closures, stream crossings and other up to date information pertaining to a specific trail.
Visitor centers also offer free day hike pamphlets that will give you an idea of some of the more popular hikes. These free guides are separated into seven different regions. Pamphlets also have a map and some information about that specific area or trail.
The Yellowstone Association also sells a “Dayhike Sampler,” at the bookstores that are located in park visitor centers. They cost 50 cents and have 21 hikes listed. This is also a good place to get more detailed maps or hiking books about Yellowstone.
Most of the more remote hiking in the park begins at one of the trailheads. Most people day hike in and out from the same trailhead. Few of Yellowstone’s longer trails are loops. When parking at a trailhead, store any valuables you leave in the car out of sight.
Always be prepared for changing weather when hiking in Yellowstone. We often get afternoon thunderstorms and it can snow any month of the year. Carry raingear, food and water with you. A good hat and gloves are always nice to have in your pack. Sunscreen, bug spray and a first-aid kit can make a long day more enjoyable.
Make sure your boots are broken in before your trip and remain on the trial as you hike, even if the trial is wet; this trail is wider than it should be. The less impact we have as visitors here the better. If you encounter horseback riders on the trail, step to the downhill side of the trail and let them pass.
Most hikers here like to carry Bear Pepper Spray with them. It is used as a last resort if you have a bear encounter, but it could save your life and the bear’s life. It is not a good idea to hike in Yellowstone if you have not talked to a ranger about bear safety.
Try to hike with someone and make some noise as you move down a trail. Try clapping your hands or singing, it really works. Letting wild animals, including bears, know you are coming ensures you don’t surprise them. A sudden encounter is the most dangerous way to meet an animal.
Be sure you stay within your limitations. Remember, you need to get back to the trailhead by dark. Let someone know what trail you are hiking and when you expect to be back. You can do this by talking to someone at your hotel or calling a family member back home. Don’t forget to check-in after your hike.
If you would like to spend the night in Yellowstone’s backcountry, you will need a permit. They are available at backcountry offices throughout the park. Watch our video on backpacking for more information.
The wild world of Yellowstone awaits. Whether you just want to stroll through a geyser basin or climb a mountain peak, this place can inspire and challenge you. Developing a relationship with Yellowstone National Park just may be one of the most important things you will ever do.
Duration: 5 minutes, 33 seconds It is obvious that the hot water of Yellowstone's thermal features is dangerous but far more people have been killed by exposure to the cold waters of the parks lakes and rivers.
One of the greatest resources in Yellowstone National Park is Yellowstone Lake. Its 141 miles of shoreline make it the largest alpine lake in North America; it is also one of the most beautiful places in or country.
With all this water, you would think that the park would be one of the best places to boat in the country and it can be, but boating is limited and can be dangerous here. The climate in Yellowstone keeps our rivers and lakes extremely cold and the storms that roll across the Yellowstone Plateau make this place unpredictable. That combination is unforgiving.
All rivers and streams in Yellowstone are closed to boating except a section of the Lewis River between Lewis Lake and Shoshone Lake. Non-motorized boats are allowed to use this section of river so people can access Shoshone Lake, which is one of the largest backcountry lakes in the contiguous United States. The canoeing and kayaking here is only for the most experienced and best equipped boaters.
All of Yellowstone’s lakes are open to non-motorized boats except Sylvan Lake, Eleanor Lake and Beach Springs Lagoon on the East Entrance road and the Twin Lakes, which are between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction. Boating in any thermal area is prohibited regardless of water temperature.
The canoeing and kayaking on Yellowstone’s lakes is amazing if you take the necessary precautions. We recommend paddlers stay close to shore and avoid long open water crossings. On Shoshone Lake, boaters should cross only at the narrows when traveling from the south shore to the north shore or back. Due to frequent afternoon thunderstorms, early or late in the day offer the calmest water.
Paddling the eastern shore of Yellowstone Lake is extremely treacherous due to the long fetch and the storms that approach from the west. Launching here at the Grant Village access is considered the safest place to begin a paddling trip on Yellowstone Lake.
If you plan on bringing a motorized boat to the park, they cannot be longer than 40 feet and you only have 2 options: Yellowstone Lake and Lewis Lake. Boats can only be launched or recovered from a designated boat launch ramp. They are located at Bridge Bay Marina and at Grant Village on Yellowstone Lake and the Lewis River Campground on Lewis Lake.
A Yellowstone boat permit is required for all vessels, including float tubes that are used for fishing; park fishing permits are also required for people wanting to fish. Motor boats must be registered in the state of principle use. Motorized permits are only available at the South entrance, Grant Village, Bridge bay and occasionally at Lewis Lake. Non-motorized permits are available at many of the park’s backcountry offices.
All boats must be have a US Coast Guard approved Personal Floatation Device or PFD for each person on board. Motor boats over 16 feet in length must also have an accessible type IV PFD which can be thrown. All children 12 or younger must wear their PFD when the vessel is underway, unless they are in an enclosed cabin. Really, everyone should wear a life vest when boating in Yellowstone; they can only save you when you wear them.
All motor boats that use gasoline, except outboards, need flame arresters to prevent backfires; they are standard on most new boats. Boats need running and navigational lights. White anchor lights must be used when under anchor in times of poor visibility.
Other safety equipment required includes USCG approved fire extinguishers and proper ventilation for gasoline engines in boats with a permanent fuel tank. Boats under 26 feet must have one B-1 fire extinguisher. Boats over 26 feet must have two B-1 or one B-2 extinguisher on board.
Wash your boat before you get to Yellowstone and when you leave one of Yellowstone’s lakes, to prevent the transfer of invasive and non-native species. Tell the rangers at Bridge Bay or Grant Village where you boated last to be sure you don’t bring these unwanted guests to the park.
Camping or sleeping on your boat on Yellowstone’s lakes require a backcountry permit and is only allowed in designated campsites or anchorages. For boaters, those permits are only available at the South Entrance, Bridge Bay and Grant Village. For more information about backcountry permits, contact our Central Backcountry office at 307-344-2160.
There are other water related dangers to consider when exploring Yellowstone. Of course there is the hot water that you need to be aware of. Talk to children about the dangers associated with thermal waters before your trip.
Stream and river crossings are always dangerous here. The water is cold and often moving fast; ask a ranger about those before your hike.
There always seems to be more questions to ask. We are here to help you safely travel through Yellowstone. Don’t forget warm clothes and we can’t wait to see you here. It’s your park and it’s time to explore.
Yellowstone offers some good bicycling opportunities for visitors to explore, but you will need to do some preparation and planning. The majority of the park’s road system is narrow and windy and often busy with automobile traffic. While bicycles are allowed on all of the public roads in the park, extreme caution must be used.
On roads, the same traffic laws that apply to motorized traffic apply to bikes. Yellowstone has over 300 miles of roadway with elevations that range from 5,300 ft to 8,860 ft. The National Park Service recommends bicyclist wear helmets and reflective clothing while traveling in Yellowstone. During periods of low visibility, bikes must be equipped with a white light in front and a red light or reflector in the rear. Riding bicycles abreast on public roads is prohibited.
Bicycle groups traveling through the park may not exceed 15 bikes per cluster; clusters must be at least ½ mile apart. Groups and individuals that plan on camping in Yellowstone should make reservations before they arrive by contacting Xanterra Parks and Resorts (307-344-7311 or 1-866-GEYSERLAND). All National Park Service managed campgrounds are on a first-come, first-served basis and they often fill early in the day. There are a limited number of hiker/biker campsites available in most park campgrounds.
One of the best times to ride on the park roads is in the spring. There is a period, usually early April, depending on conditions, before motorized traffic is allowed in the park that bikes are allowed to travel between West Yellowstone, Montana and Mammoth Hot Springs. Stay alert, because administrative traffic is also allowed during this period and wildlife, including bears, may be in the road.
If you can’t be here in April and you still plan on biking on the public roads in the park, it is best to get out early in the day; traffic will increase as the day goes along. Always be prepared for changing weather while biking in Yellowstone; it can snow anytime of the year.
Away from the public road system there are good opportunities for bicyclists. Mountain bikes are best in these areas. The Old Gardiner Road is a gravel road that begins just behind the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and ends at the park’s North Entrance. This is a one-way auto road, but bicycles are allowed to travel in both directions. A short service road that is open for bicyclists and hikers can be accessed from here.
Located between Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Junction, Blacktail Plateau Drive is another one-way automobile road that allows bicyclists to travel in both directions. Use caution whether you are traveling by auto or bike in these areas.
Routes that are open to hiking and biking exclusively are limited in Yellowstone, but there are some opportunities. North of Mammoth, bikes are allowed on an old railroad bed that follows the Yellowstone River just outside Gardiner, Montana to Reese Creek at the park’s northern boundary. South of Mammoth, bicyclists can ride the old Busen Peak road between Golden Gate and Joffe Lake.
Just inside the park’s West Entrance, bicyclists can travel from the Riverside trail to Barns Road. This trail gives access to a section of the Madison River.
A few miles north of Old Faithful, bikes are allowed on the Fountain Freight Road. You can access this road from either end, just north of the Lower Geyser Basin or just south of the Midway Geyser Basin. You can park your bike and access Fairy Falls from here.
In the Upper Geyser Basin, which includes Old faithful, bikes are allowed on the paved path between the Old faithful Lodge and Morning Glory Pool. A short trail from Daisy Geyser to Biscuit Basin is also open to bikes. Bikes are not allowed on the boardwalks, but there are several bike racks where you can park your bike while you explore.
Just South of Old Faithful Village, the Lone Star Trail follows the Firehole River to a backcountry geyser of the same name. Check at the Old Faithful Visitor Center for information regarding Lone Star Geyser; bikes are not allowed beyond the geyser.
Near Lake Village, bicyclists can access Yellowstone’s Natural Bridge. The trail begins near Bridge Bay Marina. Bikes are also allowed on an old roadbed that runs between the Lake Hotel and the main road.
Between Canyon Village and Tower Junction, hardy bicyclists may want to ride to the top of Mount Washburn. Access is from the Chittenden Road Trailhead and it climbs nearly 1500 feet in just over 2.5 miles. The view from Mount Washburn is spectacular. Bikes are not allowed on the trail from Dunraven Pass to the mountain’s summit.
Near Tower Falls bikes are allowed on the Old Chittenden service road that runs between the Tower Falls campground and the Grand Loop Road.
All other service roads and trails in the park are closed to bicycles. Always check at a park Visitor Center before you venture out. Park trails can close due to bear activity or other dangers at any time; always follow any posted closures and be alert for bear activity.
If you didn’t bring a bike, you can rent one from Xanterra Parks and Resorts at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge (307-344-7311 or 1-866-GEYSERLAND), though they must remain in the Old Faithful area. Rentals are also available in some of the local communities; West Yellowstone, Montana and Cooke City, Montana are the closest towns that offer bike repair shops.
Check here on our website for current conditions or email us at (http://www.nps.gov/yell/contacts.htm) if you can’t find what you are looking for. When you arrive you can get a Bicycling in Yellowstone Pamphlet from any of the park’s visitor centers. Remember you are responsible for knowing where you are and the rules that apply in that area. Yellowstone is a great place to explore and we can’t wait to see you here.
Did You Know?
Prior to the establishment of the National Park Service, the U.S. Army protected Yellowstone between 1886 and 1918. Fort Yellowstone was established at Mammoth Hot Springs for that purpose.