Yellowstone National Park
Long before any recorded human history in Yellowstone, a massive volcanic eruption spewed an immense volume of ash that covered all of the western U.S., much of the Midwest, northern Mexico and some areas of the eastern Pacific. The eruption dwarfed that of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 and left a caldera 30 miles wide by 45 miles long. That climactic event occurred about 640,000 years ago, and was one of many processes that shaped Yellowstone National Park--a region once rumored to be the place where hell bubbles up. Geothermal wonders, such as Old Faithful, are evidence of one of the world's largest active volcanoes. These spectacular features bemused and befuddled the park's earliest visitors, and helped lead to the creation of the world's first national park. Fur trappers' fantastic tales of cauldrons of bubbling mud and roaring geysers sending steaming plumes skyward made their way back east.
Several expeditions were sent to investigate, opening the West to further exploration and exploitation. In 1871, Ferdinand Hayden led an expedition that included artist Thomas Moran and photographer William H. Jackson. They brought back images that helped convince Congress that the area known as Yellowstone needed to be protected and preserved. In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law declaring that Yellowstone would forever be dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.
A permit is required for all vessels (motorized and non-motorized including float tubes) and must be obtained in person at any of the following locations: South Entrance, Lewis Lake Campground, Grant Village Backcountry Office, and Bridge Bay Ranger Station. Non-motorized boating permits are available at West Entrance, Northeast Entrance, Mammoth Backcountry Office, Old Faithful Backcountry Office, Canyon Backcountry Office, Bechler Ranger Station, West Contact Station, West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce and locations where motorized permits are sold. A Coast Guard approved wearable personal flotation device is required for each person boating.
Boat permits issued in Grand Teton National Park are honored in Yellowstone, but owners must register their vessel in Yellowstone and obtain a no-charge Yellowstone validation sticker from a permit issuing station.
Jet skis, personal watercraft, airboats, submersibles, and similar vessels are prohibited in Yellowstone National Park.
All vessels are prohibited on park rivers and streams except the channel between Lewis and Shoshone Lakes, where only hand-propelled vessels are permitted.
Rentals and Guided Boat Trips
Outboards and rowboats may be rented (first come, first served) from Xanterra Parks & Resorts at Bridge Bay Marina on Yellowstone Lake. Xanterra also provides guided fishing boats which may be reserved in advance by calling (307) 344-7311 or 1-866-GEYSERLAND (439-7375).
Other commercial businesses are permitted to offer guided services for canoeing, kayaking, and motorized boating.
Contrary to popular belief, Yellowstone National Park is not one of the hotspots in North America for watching a great diversity of birdlife. What it does offer is an array of birds unique to the area of North America. Lucky visitors might spot a trumpeter swan, sandhill crane, osprey, bald eagle, peregrine falcon or common loon.
Visitors may bring their own bikes to Yellowstone or rent them upon arrival. Xanterra Parks and Resorts rents bicycles in the park. If you plan to bring your own bike, remember it is subject to the same traffic rules as automobiles. Bicycling is permitted on established public roads, parking areas, and designated routes. Bikes are prohibited on backcountry trails and boardwalks. Contact the park for recommended bicycling routes and safety tips.
There are many visitor centers accessible by car throughout the park. Visitors can also enjoy the scenic John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Park concessioners also lead guided tours through the park.
Of Yellowstone's 12 campgrounds, seven are operated on a first-come, first-served basis by the National Park Service. For more information on these sites, visit nps.gov/yell.
Five of the campgrounds, encompassing more than 1,400 sites, are operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts and may be reserved up to one year in advance. In addition, Fishing Bridge RV Park has more than 300 RV sites, some with full hookups, and others with sewer and water only. Generators are allowed. This RV park is restricted to hardsided vehicles only. For campsite or RV park reservations, or for more information, visit YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com or call (866) GEYSERLAND (439-7375).
Backcountry camping trips are another camping option. Note that a Backcountry Use Permit is required for all overnight trips in the backcountry. The permit is valid only for the dates, locations, and party size specified. All Backcountry Use Permits must be obtained in person and not more than two days in advance of your departure. When you obtain your permit, you will receive important information on current trail and campsite conditions, hazards, and any restrictions or closures. Permits are available at visitor centers or ranger stations. Call (307) 344-2160 for more information.
There are many climbing opportunities at the park. Since it is so big, make sure you are aware of seasonal closures before planning your climbing trip.
Yellowstone National Park is managed to protect cultural and natural resources and outstanding scenery, and to provide for visitor use. Fishing has been a major visitor activity for well over a century. Because of this history, fishing continues to be allowed and can complement, and in some cases even enhance, the park's primary purpose to preserve natural environments and native species.
The fishing season begins the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend (usually the last weekend in May) and extends through and includes the first Sunday in November.
The following link provides many details regarding fishing at Yellowstone: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/fishing.htm
Yellowstone National Park, encompassing 2.2 million acres, is one of America's premier wilderness areas. Most of the park is backcountry and managed as wilderness. Over 1,100 miles (1770 km) of trails are available for hiking. However, there are dangers inherent in wilderness: unpredictable wildlife, changing weather conditions, remote thermal areas, cold water lakes, turbulent streams, and rugged mountains with loose, "rotten" rock. Visiting wilderness means experiencing the land on its terms. If you choose to explore and enjoy the natural wonders of Yellowstone, there is no guarantee of your safety. Be prepared for any situation. Carefully read all backcountry guidelines and regulations.
There are numerous trails suitable for day hiking. Begin your hike by stopping at a ranger station or visitor center for information. Trail conditions may change suddenly and unexpectedly. Bear activity, rain or snow storms, high water, and fires may temporarily close trails. At a minimum, carry water, a raincoat or poncho, a warm hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a first aid kit. It is recommended that you hike with another person. No permit is required for day hiking.
Do note that a Backcountry Use Permit is required for all overnight trips in the backcountry.
The park is home to several historic lodges and buildings. Park rangers and concessioners lead tours that focus on a variety of cultural and historical topics. Visitor centers are also a great place to learn about park history.
Horseback riding is best in spring or summer. Available at Mammoth, Tower-Roosevelt, and Canyon.
Visitors can use picnic areas throughout the park. Signs along the roadway indicate picnic areas. Every picnic area has tables, most have vault toilets. You can use camping stoves and self-contained charcoal grills to prepare food at any picnic area. Fires are permited only in picnic areas with fire grates. Only one picnic area--Madison--has water. Camping is not allowed in any picnic area.
Swimming is allowed in some areas. Swimming or bathing is prohibited in hydrothermal pools or streams where water flows entirely from a hydrothermal spring or pool. Where swimming is allowed, swim at your own risk.
More plants and wild animals live in Yellowstone, in their natural habitat, than anywhere else in the lower 48 states. Animals you may spot during your trip include elk, bison, moose, otters, trumpeter swans, black bears, grizzly bears, wolves, and coyotes.
A winter visit to Yellowstone National Park will give you lasting memories of snowy landscapes, steaming geyser basins, and incomparable wildlife viewing. Skiing and snowmobiling are the most popular.
Park concessioners operate lodging and provide other services, including evening programs, snow-coach tours, guided ski and snow-shoe tours, guided snowmobile tours, and wildlife bus tours. Detailed information is available at the visitor centers, warming huts, and front desks of hotels or by calling Xanterra Parks & Resorts at (307) 344-7311.
The winter snowmobiling season in Yellowstone National Park ends around mid-March.
Summer: Daytime temperatures are often in the 70s (25C) and occasionally in the 80s (30C) in lower elevations. Nights are usually cool and temperatures may drop below freezing at higher elevations. Thunderstorms are common in the afternoons. Winter: Temperatures often range from zero to 20F(-20 to -5C) throughout the day. Sub-zero temperatures over-night are common. The record low temperature is -66F (-54C). Snowfall is highly variable. While the average is 150 inches per year, it is not uncommon for higher elevations to get twice that amount. See Winter Daily Reports.
Spring & Fall: Daytime temperatures range from the 30s to the 60s (0 to 20C) with overnight lows in the teens to single digits (-5 to -20C). Snow is common in the Spring and Fall with regular accumulations of 12" in a 24 hour period. At any time of year, be prepared for sudden changes. Unpredictability, more than anything else, characterizes Yellowstone's weather. Always be equipped with a wide range of clothing options. Be sure to bring a warm jacket and rain gear even in the summer.
The nonprofit Yellowstone Association educates Yellowstone National Park visitors by offering trip planners, books, videos, and guided classes through Yellowstone Park by its field institute. The Yellowstone Association is located in Yellowstone National Park and promotes preservation of Yellowstone National Park through its educational Park Store bookstores, publication of books, and funding provided to Yellowstone through membership and sales of educational materials to park visitors. Since 1933, the Yellowstone Association has been the National Park Service's official partner in education in Yellowstone National Park.(406) 848-2400
Xanterra Parks & Resorts is the in-park source for national park reservations at Yellowstone. They are the primary in-park concessioner for Yellowstone, offering accommodations, dining, gift shops and activities throughout the park. Xanterra is a proud steward of the park and is committed to helping visitors find their ultimate Yellowstone experience, while working to protect and preserve the park for the future.
Additionally, Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts operates Yellowstone General Stores, located near major park attractions. The stores are convenient places to rest, refuel and enjoy one-of-a-kind Yellowstone shopping to find something unique to bring home. Each location offers a selection of groceries, camping supplies, souvenirs and Native American-inspired collectibles. For more information, call Yellowstone General Stores at (406) 586-7593 or visit yellowstonepark.com.(866) 439-7375
North Entrance - Near the gateway community of Gardiner, MT, the North Entrance is the only park entrance open to wheeled vehicles all year. November through April, the North Entrance provides the only access to Cooke City, MT. Beyond Cooke City the road is closed to wheeled vehicles November through April. The road from Mammoth to Norris is open to wheeled vehicles from the third Friday in April through the first Sunday in November, and to tracked oversnow vehicles from the third Wednesday in December to Monday of the first full week in March.
West Entrance - Adjacent to the town of West Yellowstone, MT, the West Entrance is open to wheeled vehicles from the third Friday in April through the first Sunday in November, and to tracked oversnow vehicles from
Commercial airlines serve the following airports near Yellowstone National Park all year: Cody and Jackson, WY; Bozeman and Billings, MT, and Idaho Falls, ID. The West Yellowstone, MT airport is open from June to early September.
Bus service from Bozeman, MT to West Yellowstone, MT via Highway 191 is available all year. Bus service directly from Idaho to West Yellowstone is limited to the summer months. Commercial transportation from Bozeman, MT to Gardiner, MT is available during the winter and summer seasons. Commercial transportation to the park from Cody and Jackson, WY is available during the summer season. Contact local Chambers of Commerce for specific carriers and schedules.
Train service is not available to Yellowstone National Park. The nearest train depots are in southeast Idaho, Salt Lake City, Utah, and northern Montana. Contact Amtrak for specific schedules.