• An aerial view of Old Faithful erupting taken from Observation Point with the Old Faithful Inn to the side.

    Yellowstone

    National Park ID,MT,WY

Your Safety

Yellowstone is a wilderness filled with natural wonders that are also potential hazards. There is no guarantee of your safety. Regulations are strictly enforced to protect you and the park's resources.


This page provides the basic rules at a glance. It is not comprehensive and should be used only to obtain a familiarity with some of our important rules. You will find additional rules defined in more detail on our Rules & Regulations Main Page and Laws & Policies.

Avoid These Situations

Your visit may be marred by tragedy if you violate park rules. Law enforcement rangers strictly enforce park regulations to protect you and the park. Please help keep our contacts with you pleasant by paying special attention to park regulations and avoiding these problems:

  • Speeding (radar enforced)
  • Driving while intoxicated (open container law enforced)
  • Off-road travel by vehicle or bicycle
  • Traveling off boardwalks or designated trails in hydrothermal areas
  • Improper storage of food
  • Camping violations
  • Pets off leash
  • Littering
  • Swimming in thermal pools
  • Removal or possession of natural (flowers, antlers, rocks, etc) or cultural features (artifacts)
  • Feeding wildlife
  • Spotlighting (viewing animals with artificial light)
  • Boating and fishing violations
  • Failure to remove detachable side mirrors when not pulling trailers
  • Willfully remaining near or approaching wildlife, including nesting birds, within ANY distance that disturbs or displaces the animal.
  • We advise visitors not to handle wolf scat. Humans could possibly ingest Echinococcus granulosus eggs (the tapeworm responsible for Hydatid disease) from handling wolf scat.

 

 

Do Not Approach Wildlife!
If any wild animal changes its behavior due to your presence, you are too close. Do not approach wildlife, no matter how tame or calm they may appear to you in the moment. Always obey instructions from park staff on scene.

You must stay at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all other large animals - bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes.

BISON
Big as they are, bison can sprint three times faster than humans can run. They are unpredictable and dangerous. No vacation picture is worth personal injury. Your best view may be from inside a hard-sided vehicle. Every year visitors are gored and some have been killed.

BEARS
Visitors are required to keep all food and garbage stored in a bear-proof manner. When viewing bears along roads, use pullouts and stay in your car.

When hiking, be alert for tracks and sign and stay in groups of three or more people. The best way to avoid a bear is to take all necessary precautions to avoid surprise encounters. If precautionary measures fail and you are charged by a bear, you can still usually defuse the situation. Bear pepper spray is a good last line of defense and it is effective in more than 90% of the reported cases where it has been used. Become familiar with your pepper spray, read all instructions, and know its limitations. Bear pepper spray must be instantly available, not in your pack. But, remember, carrying pepper spray is not a substitute for vigilance and good safety precautions. Review both our backpacking page and our bear encounters page for important information on this subject.

  • If you have a surprise encounter with a bear, do not run. Slowly back away.
  • If a bear charges, stand your ground and use your bear spray. It has been highly successful at stopping aggressive behavior in bears.
  • If a bear charges and makes contact with you, fall to the ground onto your stomach and "play dead."
  • If you are injured by a bear (regardless of how minor), or if you observe bear or bear sign, report it to a park ranger as soon as possible. Someone's safety may depend on it.

COYOTES quickly learn bad habits like roadside begging. This may lead to aggressive behavior toward humans. Never approach or feed a begging coyote.

RAVENS have learned to unzip and unsnap packs. Do not allow them access to your food. Do not feed any animals. It harms them and it is illegal.


Attention Anglers and Boaters
Yellowstone National Park's fishing season opens the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and closes the first Sunday in November. Details are available on our fishing pages. Permits are required for the use of boats or float tubes.

Backcountry Permits
Permits are required for overnight backcountry use and may be obtained in person up to 48 hours in advance from any ranger station. Rangers will provide information on weather, trails, and other conditions. See our Backcountry Trip Planner for online details.

Bicycling
Bicycling is permitted on established public roads, parking areas, and designated routes. There are no bicycle paths along roadways. Bicycles are prohibited on backcountry trails and boardwalks.

We strongly recommend that safety gear, including helmet and high visibility clothing, be worn by all bicyclists. Park roads are narrow and winding; most do not have a shoulder or shoulders are covered by gravel. During April, May, and June, high snowbanks make travel more dangerous. Road elevations range from 5300 to 8,860 feet (1,615 - 2,700 m). Relatively long distances exist between services and facilities.

Motorists frequently do not see bicyclists or fail to give them sufficient space on the road. Drivers sometimes pass on hill crests, blind curves, or in oncoming traffic. Vehicles, especially motor homes or those towing trailers, may have wide mirrors posing an additional hazard. For more information about bicycling in Yellowstone, visit our bicycling pages or ask at a visitor center.

Fallen Trees
Following the fires of 1988, thousands of dead trees, known as snags, were left standing in Yellowstone. These snags may fall with very little warning. Be cautious and alert for falling snags along trails and roadways, and in campsites and picnic areas. Avoid areas with large numbers of dead trees. Again, there is no guarantee of your safety.

Firearms
A new law regarding firearms in National Parks is in effect as of Feb. 22, 2010. See Laws and Policies for more information.

Pets
Pets must be leashed. They are prohibited on any trails, in the backcountry, and in thermal basins. Pets are not allowed more than 100 feet from a road or parking area. Leaving a pet unattended and/or tied to an object is prohibited. Please review our pets page for details and private kennel locations.

Traffic
Yellowstone has more than 350 miles (564 km) of roads. Most are narrow, rough, and busy. Some sections are steep with sharp drop-offs. Drive cautiously and courteously. Slow moving vehicles must use pullouts to observe wildlife or scenery and to allow safe passing by other vehicles. Watch for animals on the road, especially at night.

Bicycles and motorcycles present special hazards. Drive defensively and wear seat belts. Yellowstone has a mandatory seat belt requirement for all passengers. Be especially cautious of ice and road damage. Cool temperatures may occur at any time of the year. The maximum speed limit is 45 mph (73 km per hour) unless posted otherwise.

High Altitude
Visitors with a cardiac or respiratory medical history should be aware that most park roads roads range between 5,300 and 8,860 feet in elevation. We recommend contacting a physician prior to your visit. Be aware of your physical limitations and drink plenty of fluids to forestall the dehydrating effects of the parks dry climate. Stop and rest frequently.

Picnic Areas
Overnight camping is not allowed in any of the park's picnic areas. Fires may be built only in fire grates available in picnic areas at Snake River, Grant Village, Bridge Bay, Cascade, Norris Meadows, Yellowstone River, Spring Creek, Nez Perce, and the east parking lot of Old Faithful. Please visit our picnicking page for more information.

Important numbers to know while visiting
Emergency, dial 911
Park Information, 307-344-7381

 

Scalding Water Can Ruin Your Trip

Yellowstone's thermal features, rare among the earth's wonders, are extremely fragile. Boardwalks and trails protect you and preserve delicate formations. You must stay on boardwalks and designated trails. Scalding water underlies most of the thin, breakable crust. Pools may be near or above the boiling temperature and can cause severe, possibly even fatal, burns.

Keep your children close to you at all times; make sure they understand the danger.

Pets are prohibited in thermal areas.

Swimming or bathing in thermal pools or streams, where water flows entirely from a thermal spring or pool, is prohibited. Where swimming is allowed, swim at your own risk. Thermal waters may contain organisms know to cause infections and/or amoebic meningitis, which can quickly be fatal. Obtain more information at any ranger station or visitor center.

Did You Know?

Fire in Yellowstone Pineland in 1988

The 1988 fires affected 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park. Five fires burned into the park that year from adjacent public lands. The largest, the North Fork Fire, started from a discarded cigarette. It burned more than 410,000 acres.