Interior roads to Yellowstone National Park begin reopening at 8 a.m. Friday. This season’s opening will be a bit different. That’s because heavy snow in the park means some features are not yet ready to open. Most notable of those is the Norris Geyser Basin.
Rangers say there is just too much snow in that area for safe access. There are other precautions to keep in mind for springtime visits to Yellowstone. No opening date is set. You can check for Norris and other park conditions here: Current Conditions - Yellowstone National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) [nps.gov]
“We’re telling a lot of people to remember a lot of it is weather dependent, we’re still getting snow, so, be careful, pay attention, and be prepared,” said Terese Petcoff, the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce Executive Director.
It is also worth noting that not all interior park roads are opening Friday. The road from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful and from Mammoth to Madison and Canyon is opening now. On May 5, the road from Canyon to Lake to the East Entrance will open. On May 12, the roads from Old Faithful and Lake to the South Entrance will open and on May 26, the road over Mount Washburn opens up. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see this spring.
“The wildlife has been phenomenal. This year as compared to other years I just think is spectacular. Lots of wildlife activity. I know that the first red dog was spotted not too long ago too,” said Petcoff.
“So we have a grizzly bear that’s been coming in and feeding on a bison carcass at Blacktail Pond, and he’s usually there every morning and evening. We also have a black bear den that’s visible near the petrified tree turnoff, and she’s got two little cubs. Also, there’s been some wolf sightings in the Lamar Valley right now and last week we were very lucky and had a Mountain Lion that was visible for three days,” said Chris Hoff, owner of the Yellowstone Wild Gallery.
Top attractions like those animals are really important for businesses in Gardiner who suffered through last summer when June flooding wiped out roads and cut off access to the park until November.
Hoff said, “I’ve been here, this’ll be my ninth season of having the gallery here in Gardiner. And it seems like every other year we have something go wrong and have a bad season, then we have a good season. So, we’re hoping this year is a good season to make up for last year.”
Park officials said that a number, in fact almost all of the popular springtime trails are closed right now. The trails are closed because of the heavy snow that has blanketed the northern part of the park this season.
People are also reminded to watch the forecast. Park officials said there's snow in the forecast almost every day for the next week. That could lead to some temporary closures of the newly reopened roads. You can check road conditions and status here: Park Roads - Yellowstone National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) [nps.gov]
Something else to keep in mind is that there are very limited services inside the park at this time of year. You can get a list of what is and is not open here: Operating Hours & Seasons - Yellowstone National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) [nps.gov]
Another reminder is to carry bear spray. Due to the severe winter, there was a lot of winter kill of animals and bears are out feeding on those carcasses.
Those who might want to cross the Beartooth Highway to visit the park will need a little patience. That road is not due to open the Friday of Memorial Weekend at the earliest.