Guerilla tactics for new Yellowstone visitors

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 19:34:48 02/16/16

In Reply to: June 9-12 posted by Erin K


Believe it or not, I once put together a multi-media interpretive program on avoiding crowds in Yellowstone that I delivered in Rocky Mountain National Park's offseason "Saturday Night Live" series (later known as the Lyceum Series).

I'm going to suggest a number of things you can do to maximize the potential for maximum family enjoyment on this upcoming trip. Actually, you are already engaging in one of the most important activities, which is thorough research.

1.) This is really a big deal, particularly given your family demographics. Once you have collected a boatload of information about Yellowstone, and have become the "family Yellowstone National Park subject matter expert", you need to give your husband and daughters a sense of what there is to do and see in Yellowstone. Then, as a family, the four of you should try to develop a prioritized list of sights to see and activities to engage in.

2.) This is keyed to item 1 above. Please do yourself a favor, and do not fall into the trap of over-planning. Part of the beauty of Yellowstone, one of the aspects that sets it apart from most other parks, is its serendipitous nature. You never know when you are going to come around a curve in your vehicle, and see some oh so photogenic critter nearby. You don't want to be torn between making a photo stop and "staying on schedule".

3.) Crowd avoidance: Know that the Old Faithful area draws the largest crowds in the park. Right behind it is the Canyon area, particularly the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. If possible, visit these two areas either early or late in the day, when the crowds are diminished. The Mammoth area probably ranks Number 3, in terms of crowds, although in recent years, the other major geyser basins (Midway, Fountain Paint Pots, Norris) and the Tower Fall area all get quite crowded during "prime time" (10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.). If you opt to do a day hike, know that the most popular short hikes are now quite crowded during "prime time". I have been astounded at the throngs of vehicles parked at or near the south Fairy Falls trailhead in recent years. You can time your meals in such a way as to mitigate some of the crowd impact.

4.) Develop a strategy for coping with any bad weather days. There are plenty of options, particularly if you can get some sort of consensus from the family.

5.) One strategy for saving money is to substitute the cafeterias (Canyon, Lake Lodge, and Old Faithful Lodge) for dining rooms. They offer decent food for a lot less expense.

6.) Don't get sucked into ancillary attractions in or near the gateway communities. This is your very first trip to Yellowstone. You will be there during some of the best critter-viewing time of the year. Bison babies will be everywhere with their protective moms. Newborn elk calves will be hidden in the tall grass or sage. Predators know that, so they will be trying to find them. That in itself can create some amazing viewing! Sure, there is the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Casey Anderson's Montana Grizzly Encounter on Bozeman Pass, and rafting opportunities on a variety of rivers. Save those as potential alternatives if the weather gets dicey. Otherwise, save them for a future trip, and concentrate on features within the park.

One more post coming on geography and climate.


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