Visitors eager to experience early spring in Yellowstone National Park will be able to travel by car to two of the parks iconic locations starting April 17. The road segments from West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone will open for the season at 8:00 a.m. Friday.
Each spring, Yellowstone National Park plow 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, according to the park’s public affairs office.
Additional road segments in the park will open during May as road clearing operations progress. The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Mont., through Mammoth Hot Springs to the Northeast Entrance, Silver Gate and Cooke City, Mont., is open all year.
As an added incentive for spring visitors, park entrance fees will be waived April 18 and 19 to kick off National Park Week.
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. 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 or on boardwalks through thermal areas may also be difficult for some time. Bears have emerged from hibernation in the Greater Yellowstone Area and are on the hunt for food. If you plan to hike, ski or snowshoe in the park you 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. Visitors are reminded to park in pull-outs and stay in the vehicle when viewing roadside bears. 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 Mammoth Temporary Visitor Center, the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center (VEC) and the Canyon VEC Lobby with information desk will be open daily. The Canyon VEC exhibits and theater will open April 24. For more information, go to http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/index.htm or consult the park newspaper you receive at the entrance station.