Seasons, Fees & Conditions
Nature never closes for the season, so why should Yellowstone? While onset of colder temperatures and heavy snowfall cause changes in the park’s road conditions, operating hours and activity calendar, Yellowstone is open to visitors all year round. The standard park entrance fees are $25 for a private noncommercial vehicle, $20 for a snowmobile or motorcycle, and $12 per each visitor on foot, bike or skis, aged 16 and older. Fees are good for a seven-day entrance to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Check the park’s website for additional information on special passes and commercial fees.
Additionally, the park requires permits for certain activities, including commercial filming and photography, fishing, boating, backcountry access, research and weddings. In some cases, companies that provide guided recreational tours will pre-arrange permits for visitors who hire their services.
Hot Springs & Geysers
Old Faithful is perhaps the most famous geyser in the world, and is widely recognized as a symbol of Yellowstone National Park. But, iconic as it may be, it is just one part of a large system of geysers and hot springs located in the park. In fact, more than half of all geysers in the world are located in Yellowstone, which sits on a giant caldera created by violent volcanic activity 640,000 years ago. Another hydrothermal marvel is the Grand Prismatic Spring.
Wildlife is a major attraction in Yellowstone. It is one of the few places in America where you can see the buffalo roam — the Yellowstone Bison Herd is the oldest and largest public herd in the nation — and also one of the last natural ranges of the grizzly bear in the United States. Free-ranging herds of elk also live in the park. While wildlife viewing can be thrilling, the park has specific guidelines that protect animals and visitors alike.
Rule number one: keep your distance. People should remain a minimum of 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and 25 yards away from all other wildlife. A roster of videos on the park’s site serve as cautionary tales to anyone who would think to get too close.
Integral to the founding of Yellowstone — and therefore to the development of the national parks system — the park’s many waterfalls have been a source of awe and inspiration for generations of visitors. Perhaps the most iconic are the upper and lower Yellowstone Falls, located in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, but there are many, many others. Backcountry explorers should make a point of touring the park’s southwestern Cascade Corner, located in its Bechler administrative district. The district’s preponderance of waterfalls — particularly along the Bechler River Trail — make it a must-see destination for fans of white water.
Educational Programming & Nearby Museums
As the first park established in the national parks system, Yellowstone has a historic legacy to uphold. That history is honored not only through its park staff’s tireless conservation efforts, but also though its educational partnerships. Youth-centered programs like the Junior Rangers and Expedition: Yellowstone! treat the park as a classroom in which school-aged children learn about both the natural and cultural history of the area.
For an expanded look at the Yellowstone region’s history, visitors can check out a number of nearby museums, including the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. The center houses five museums and a library devoted to the history of the American West on a 300,000-square foot complex in Cody, Wyoming.