Greater access to Yellowstone National Park is scheduled to arrive Friday, when park officials plan to open the north and west entrance roads for wheeled traffic.
Visitors eager to experience early spring in Yellowstone’s interior will be able to travel by car through the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, and West Entrance at West Yellowstone, Montana, to Norris, Madison, Canyon and Old Faithful.
As an added incentive for spring visitors, park entrance fees will be waived April 21-29 as part of National Park Week. The week-long annual celebration is designed to encourage people to visit one of America’s 397 national parks in order to reconnect with nature and their heritage. A seven-day pass to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks is normally $25 for a private, non-commercial vehicle.
Visitors should be aware that spring in Yellowstone is very unpredictable and often brings cold temperatures, high winds and falling snow. Even cleared sections of roads can be narrow and covered with a layer of snow, ice and debris. Therefore, visitors should use extreme caution when driving as road clearing operations can be ongoing at any time throughout the park.
In the case of extreme weather conditions, temporary road closures are also possible with little or no advance warning. Due to the snow present in the park’s interior, walking on trails including those along the Canyon Rim or on boardwalks through thermal areas may also be difficult or impossible for some time.
Bears have emerged from hibernation in the Greater Yellowstone Area and are on the hunt for food, so hikers, skiers and snowshoers are advised to stay in groups of three of more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray. Yellowstone regulations require visitors to stay 100 yards from black and grizzly bears at all times. The best defense is to stay a safe distance from bears and use binoculars, a telescope or telephoto lens to get a closer look.
Very limited visitor services will be available during the next several weeks. The Visitor Education Center and the Snow Lodge Geyser Grill at Old Faithful open for the season on April 20, as do the Canyon Adventure Store and the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center. Gasoline will be available inside the park using 24-hour pay at the pump stations at Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Junction, Canyon and Old Faithful. The Yellowstone General Store, clinic, post office, campground and Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth Hot Springs are open all year.
Each spring, Yellowstone National Park crews clear snow and ice from 198 miles of main road, 124 miles of secondary roads and 125 acres of parking lots inside the park as well as 31 miles of the Beartooth Highway outside the park’s Northeast Entrance to prepare for the summer season.
This year, construction projects will include ongoing bridge repair along the northeast road at the Lamar River Bridge, with possible 30-minute delays expected, along with new road repair between Tower-Roosevelt Junction and Chittenden Road and new parking lot repair at Canyon Village, both of which will include nightly closures.
The park’s East, South and Northeast entrances will follow suit in the month of May as road clearing operations progress.
Updated Yellowstone National Park road information is available 24 hours a day by calling 307-344-2117, or on the Web at http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/roadclosures.htm