Taking advantage of what's available

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 12:07:16 03/07/16

In Reply to: Excursion request: First time visit April 21-24 posted by Kevin


Your timing is going to preclude participation in many of the activities you are looking at.

You will be in southwest Montana right after the downhill ski season and snowmobile season have wrapped up. (There will still be some snowmobiling going on in places like Lionshead/Two Tops outside West Yellowstone and up above Cooke City, but the odds of finding a guide operation still operating are slim.)

Within Yellowstone, the Xanterra horse operations will still be a month to a month and a half away from starting.

What goes on within Yellowstone in late April is primarily (1) wildlife watching, (2) hydrothermal feature exploration/enjoyment in the basins accessible by the roads that have opened, and (3) lower elevation hiking in select areas.

The wildlife watching is the marquis attraction in April and May. You don't have to hoof it off the road to find the critters. They are heavily concentrated in the lowland areas on the Northern Range, waiting for the winter snow to melt out of the high country, and green-up to commence. Some of the ungulate population, like blacktail and whitetail deer, elk, and pronghorn will still be migrating back into the park. Some will still be outside the North Entrance. Others will be strung out between the North Entrance and Lamar Valley.

The predators, particularly black bears, grizzly bears, and wolves will be more visible than usual, because their food is confined primarily to the lower elevation areas (where the roads are).

Day hiking will likely be decent in the north end, particularly around Gardiner and Mammoth. East of Mammoth may or may not be OK, depending on the weather and spring snowstorms between now and then.

Down south, around the geyser basins, there are usually a lot of areas closed to hiking before Memorial Day Weekend for bear management reasons.

If you are feeling adventurous, drive from Norris to Canyon, check out the Falls, and park along the road by the closure for traffic heading south. Walk down to the north end of Hayden Valley. It's about 2 or 3 easy miles along the road, which should be plowed by then. You will likely see a few administrative traffic vehicles come by, so be vigilant. If you have the time and energy, continue on for a few miles into Hayden Valley. It will be an amazing experience. Even in a fairly warm year, there will still be a lot of snow out there. Definitely carry pepper spray. There are griz galore in that part of the park.


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