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Yellowstone National Park South Entrance, Yellowstone visitation

Spending The Fourth of July in Yellowstone National Park

With the Fourth of July approaching, Yellowstone National Park wishes to remind visitors that fireworks are not allowed in the Park.

Once more, just to be sure: fireworks are not allowed in the Park.

Indeed, according to a Yellowstone press release, fire conditions are especially critical at this juncture:

Park fire danger is HIGH. Wildland fire managers increased the wildfire danger rating to high on Monday, June 27. High fire danger means fires can ignite easily and spread at a fast rate. Four fires have ignited in the park so far this summer. Two were human-caused and two were lightning-caused. The lightning-ignited Bluff fire started Tuesday, June 28 and is estimated to be five acres. It is burning east of Canyon Village in a remote area and will be allowed to play its natural role in the ecosystem.

Visitors are also reminded that campfires are only permitted in designated fire rings in Yellowstone’s developed campgrounds and in select backcountry sites.

Now, just because you can’t set off fireworks in Park boundaries doesn’t mean you can’t visit the Park. On the contrary! No holiday is misspent in Yellowstone National Park, especially the Fourth of July.

If you’re really jonesing for fireworks, for instance, most of Yellowstone’s gateway communities (West Yellowstone, MT at the West Entrance; Cody, WY an hour away from the East Entrance) will be hosting fireworks. Plan accordingly, especially if you’re staying in a hotel or campground; every gateway fireworks ceremony is scheduled for late in the evening, and it’s a long drive back. Further, there will be a new moon that night, which means it’ll be extra dark in Yellowstone.

Although there are ongoing construction projects on sections of the Grand Loop Road, they will be halted all Fourth of July weekend (from 5 p.m. July 1 to 7 a.m. July 5). When driving through Yellowstone during the Fourth of July, be sure to keep to the speed limit and plan ahead for traffic jams—either caused by wildlife or by congestion.

As always, you should keep a safe distance from wildlife (25 yards away from deer, elk, bison, and likewise animals; 100 yards away from wolves and bears).

Visitors are also encouraged to take the Yellowstone Pledge, or at the very least follow its guidelines, to make sure you and your fellow visitors have an enjoyable, safe experience.

If you’re unsure how you should celebrate the Fourth in the Park, you should consider doing the following:

1. Breakfast at the Old Faithful Lodge Bake Shop
There are two reasons we love the Old Faithful Lodge Bake Shop. One, it’s quick. And two, the adjacent lounge gives you one of the best views of Old Faithful Geyser. Especially recommended if it’s congested on the Old Faithful boardwalk.

2. Take the Firehole Lake Drive
Firehole Lake Drive, just north of Midway Geyser Basin, is really the only area of Yellowstone where you can see geysers from your car. And we mean really see, not just glimpse out the window as you speed by. From long-heralded majesties like Great Fountain Geyser and White Dome Geyser to quiet surprises like Firehole Spring and Pink Cone Geyser, Firehole has something for everyone. And while you can just drive through, there are portions where you can get out and get a closer view of features from the boardwalk.

3. Visit Fountain Paint Pots
Located quite close to Firehole Lake Drive, Fountain Paint Pots is one of our favorite basins. Comparatively small, it nonetheless packs a punch. Take, for instance, the titular feature, the Paint Pots, a veritable cauldron of churning, pink-white mud, or nearby Red Spouter. Fountain Paint Pots is also home to one of our favorite geysers, Clepsydra, which is Greek for “water clock.” Fair warning: it gets pretty congested by mid- to late morning, although the crowds generally cool down around evening time.

4. See the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
We’d like to imagine that, even without Yellowstone’s superb collection of geysers, it would still be a national park today, in large part due to the splendor of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Although there will be construction ongoing on parts of the North Rim, favorable views are still available to visitors on both rims.

5. Eat at a Lunch Counter
Tucked away in most of Yellowstone general stores are the lunch counters—unadvertised restaurants that specialize in easy, quick satisfaction. Sure, it’s not the same as stopping in a dining rom, but can you really argue with a gooey, buttery grilled cheese sandwich, served with a side of fries and a pickle slice or two? We didn’t think so. Although, as mentioned, there are lunch counters in most of the Park’s visitor areas, we recommend hitting up the Canyon counter or the one in the old Hamilton store in Old Faithful or the one in Grant Village.

6. Visit West Thumb Geyser Basin
West Thumb Geyser Basin is a great place to visit when you’re looking for a little peace, compared to the bustle in other basins around the Park (especially the Upper Geyser Basin or Midway Geyser Basin). It’s also great if you’re planning on finding fireworks outside the Park but want a nice breather. On the Fourth, we suggest stretching your legs, admiring Fishing Cone and Abyss Pool, and taking in the tranquility and peace of Yellowstone Lake.

7. Dinner at the Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room
The Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room is your place for Fourth of July fare. We’re talking barbecue, grilled meat, burgers, baked beans, hearty portions… they’ve got it all.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

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