Heading to Yellowstone National Park this weekend? Here’s what to expect as the 2018 Yellowstone summer season kicks off today.
First off: Plan your route before heading out. The Beartooth Highway is only partially open, from Red Lodge to the Wyoming border, so that direct route between Billings and Cooke City is out of the question. If you’re coming in from Billings, you can bypass the Beartooth Highway by heading to Cooke City via the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (U.S. 296). That’s a three-hour drive and not nearly as scenic as the Beartooth Highway, unfortunately. A run through the Beartooth Pass to Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance is a great tradition, but with the Wyoming side of the Beartooth Highway not expected to open until June 1, it’s not possible this Memorial Day weekend.
Second: Plan for the weather. It will be cooler through the Park, particularly in the lower elevations, and the usual late-afternoon rain is in the forecast. Generally, you’re looking at highs in the middle- to upper-fifties, with lows in the middle thirties. We always recommend dressing in layers: a long-sleeved shirt topped with a fleece and/or some warmer rain gear. And, as your mother would tell you, wear decent footwear!
Third: Take advantage of the relatively cheap admission fees to both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. This weekend will be the last for a joint admission fee, as rates will raise on June 1 and you’ll need to pay separate admissions to Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
Fourth: Beware road conditions. The good news is that all Yellowstone National Park roads are opened; the Dunraven Pass, originally slated to open today, actually opened last week. The bad news is that there is construction on some popular and busy Park roads. A stretch between Norris and Mammoth (Roaring Mountain to Willow Park) is under reconstruction, so expect 30-minute delays. Similarly, the road between Fishing Bridge and Indian Pond is being repaired, so expect 30-minute delays.
Fifth: Be warned that not everything is open for the 2018 Yellowstone summer season. You can see here what is open and closed.
Sixth: Be prepared for crowds. This is the traditional opening of the Yellowstone summer season, and this is when crowds descend on Yellowstone. Be prepared for some crowding parking lots at popular geyser basins and the Old Faithful area.