The gates officially opened at 8 a.m. with roads open from West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris, Canyon, Madison and Old Faithful.
There will be minimal services open (you can see a full list of 2011 opening and closing dates here): the Old Faithful Visitor Center, the Albright Visitor Center, the Mammoth General Store, the Geyser Grill at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and the Yellowstone Adventures Shop in Canyon. You will be able to buy gas using 24-hour pay at the pump stations at Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Junction, Canyon and Old Faithful. However, no hotels are open (though, remember, the Mammoth Campground is open year-round, and there are hotels/motels open in West Yellowstone and Gardiner), and the food choices are limited. And there’s still plenty of snow on the ground, as evidenced by the photo at the top of this story: it’s a screencap from the Old Faithful Parking Lot webcam today. The Park Service says snow tires are required.
Admission will be charged today. However, admission will be free for a week beginning on Saturday: It’s National Parks Week.
The rest of the roads in the Park will open in stages. Next slated to open on May 6: the road between Canyon, Fishing Bridge and the East Entrance. That will be a challenge, given the amount of snow that’s fallen recently and set to fall this coming weekend.
After that, the next scheduled opening on May 13: the South Entrance to Grant, West Thumb, Lake and Old Faithful, as well as Tower Junction to Tower Fall. Finally, on May 27 the Dunraven Pass (Tower to Canyon) is set to open, the last road opening in the Park. This is all predicated on the weather cooperating, of course.
The National Park Service also maintains some roads outside Yellowstone. On May 13 Highway 212 between Cooke City and the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (Highway 296/Sunlight Basin) intersection, over the Colter Pass, is slated to open. Finally, the Beartooth Highway is slated for the traditional Memorial Day weekend opening on May 27.
Again, all this is predicated on the plows being able to clear the roads. There’s still a lot of snowpack still on the ground, so the challenges should be many.
RELATED STORIES: Yellowstone Set to Open Friday; Snow Still An Issue