Planning Your Memorial Day Weekend Yellowstone Visit

Mother Nature has not been kind to visitors in Yellowstone National Park so far this year. Snowstorms overnight have complicated travel: A foot of new snow fell overnight on Sylvan Pass on the park’s East Entrance Road, and six inches of new snow was recorded at Canyon Village. This has resulted in some temporary weather-related road closures on some park road segments.

First off: A rockslide has temporarily closed the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Junction. Rocks and debris were discovered early Saturday morning, covering a section of road at the entrance to Blacktail Plateau Drive, about eight miles east of Mammoth Hot Springs. The road is not expected to reopen to travel Saturday.

The closure affects access to the Park from the Northeast Entrance and Cooke City: because this link of road was the only stretch connecting the Lamar Valley with the rest of the Park (remember, the Dunraven Pass is closed), access is impossible. Cooke City residents still have access to Cody via the Chief Joseph Highway. It also makes access from Cody difficult, to say the least: you’ll either need to drive north via Billings to the North Entrance or all the way south to Riverton, Grand Teton National Park and the South Entrance.

While much of the debris covering the road was cleared by 9 a.m., park managers remain concerned about the threat posed by a large amount of loose rock and dirt above the roadway, which could easily dislodge and fall. Engineers with the Federal Highway Administration are being brought in to assess the condition of the road.

Barricades have been set-up on both sides of the slide area. The road is currently open for emergency travel only. It is unknown when the road may be safe to reopen to travel by area residents, visitors, and park employees. The cause of the early morning rockslide is unknown.

Second: the Craig Pass, on the Grand Loop Road connecting Old Faithful and West Thumb, is open. Snow and melting ice forced its closure over the past few weeks, but the road has been cleared to the point where it’s open. Still, with two feet of snow falling in the area overnight, some delays are inevitable.

Third: the Dunraven Pass and the Beartooth Highway remain closed. Normally Memorial Day is the big opening of the Beartooth Highway, with folks congregating on the Beartooth Pass and Top of the World Resort. As you already know, the Beartooth Highway won’t be opening until June 3, as crews work to clean up heavy snow on the Beartooth Pass. That’s having a cascading effect on other road openings in the Park: Because National Park Service crews are busy working on the Beartooth Highway, they’re not clearing out other sections of the Park that need clearing — and that means a two-week delay in the opening of the Dunraven Pass between Canyon Village and Tower Fall. The scheduled opening date now is Friday, June 10, weather permitting.

The East Entrance is open only from 8 p.m.- 10 a.m., And we’ve written about the potential delays at Sedge Bay on the road between Fishing Bridge and the East Entrance, as road crews attempt to repair problems caused by erosion.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of openings on tap. Today the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center, Norris Geyser Basin Museum & Information Station, Madison Information Center, Museum of the National Park Ranger and Grant Village Visitor Center open for the season, while the Grant Village Lodging, Grant Village General Store and Restaurant opened yesterday. You can see a full list of 2011 opening and closing dates here.

Image by Dan Hottle, courtesy of the National Park Service.

RELATED STORIES: Opening of Beartooth Highway Delayed; Cooke City/Chief Joseph Highway Link Now Open; Sylvan Pass Closed Indefinitely; Snow Causes Other Damage in Yellowstone; Snow Still Factor in Slow Yellowstone Spring, as South Entrance Opens Tomorrow


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