It’s the day many of the faithful have been waiting for: the Yellowstone 2015 summer season opens today, as the West and plowing at Mammoth Hot Springs open to car traffic at 8 a.m., with access to Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
As an added incentive for spring visitors, park entrance fees will be waived April 18 and 19 to kick off National Park Week. Today’s forecast is in the 50s; it will be a little chillier the rest of the weekend, but there’s no snow in the forecast. There was indeed snow in the Park this past week; the photo above shows plowing at Mammoth Hot Springs this week (courtesy National Park Service).
The opening comes after Yellowstone National Park crews spent weeks clearing 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. The Beartooth Highway is closed to car traffic but is open to bikers.
Some services will also open this weekend. This page lists when roads open for the Yellowstone 2015 summer season, while this page lists services and their open/closed status. 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.
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.