In our own backyard: Vacationing in Yellowstone

By Daniel Florence

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Aug. 4 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

Just north of the Canyon area is Mount Washburn, home to bighorn sheep and beautiful wildflowers in the summer. The 10,243-foot-high peak can be reached fairly easily from the trailhead at the end of Chittenden Road, which is located roughly midway between Canyon Village and Tower-Roosevelt.

Fishing is allowed in most areas of the park, but be aware of regulations and limits. Leaded tackle is not allowed, and a Yellowstone National Park fishing permit is required for anyone age 16 or older. Barbless hooks must be used at all times, and native species are catch and release only. Non-native fish, such as brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout and lake trout, can be kept in certain areas but must be released in other areas. The native cutthroat in particular is prized by anglers as a good sport fish, but is strictly protected from harvesting due to its dwindling numbers within the park. A PDF pamphlet on Yellowstone fishing regulations can be found at http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/fishdates.htm.

Motorized boats are allowed on Yellowstone Lake and Lewis Lake, and non-motorized boats such as kayaks, canoes and float tubes are allowed on most of the park’s lakes with a few exceptions. The only easily accessible lakes are Yellowstone, Lewis and Shoshone — the others essentially require you to hike in with your boat. Recreational activities that involve towing, such as water skiing, wakeboarding and parasailing, are not allowed, nor are personal watercraft. A permit is required for all vessels and can be purchased at offices near the lakes and elsewhere in the park.

When to go

Most public roads in Yellowstone are open from May 1 to Nov. 1. The National Park Service website features a road information page (http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/roads.htm) that contains up-to-date details on road construction and seasonal closures.

Winter can be an exciting time to visit as well. Although many roads are closed, snowmobile and snowcoach tours are available from private operators, and the park can also be accessed via snowshoe or cross-country skis as well. A list of winter transportation providers is available at http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/wintbusn.htm.

Where to stay

A number of lodging options are available within the park, including tent and RV camping, private cabins, lodge rooms and luxury suites. Cabins, hotel rooms and a number of the campsites are operated by Xanterra Parks and Resorts and can be reserved ahead of time online (http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com) or by calling 1-866-439-7375. Try to make reservations as early as possible, especially if you plan on staying during summer months, as facilities fill up quickly.

There are several campsites within Yellowstone that cannot be reserved ahead of time, and are therefore excellent for last-minute trips. These include the Mammoth, Norris, Lewis Lake, Pebble Creek, Tower Fall, Slough Creek and Indian Creek campsites. Your best bet for these is to arrive as early as possible on a Monday or a Tuesday, if possible. Checkout is by 11 a.m., but many campers may leave before then. If you arrive in the late afternoon or on a weekend, you may find the only spots left are at the more remote, less-shady campgrounds, or there may be none left at all.

For Utah residents, West Yellowstone, Mont., Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Island Park, Idaho, offer the most easily accessed out-of-park lodging. West Yellowstone offers the quickest daily access to the park, as the west entrance is literally one minute east of town. Island Park is a half hour southwest of West Yellowstone and is somewhat smaller with more cabins and fewer hotel options. Jackson has substantially more lodging available than either but is close to an hour and a half away from the south entrance of the park. If you don’t mind the drive, you can enjoy the scenery of Grand Teton National Park on your way to Yellowstone. Just remember that many of Yellowstone’s attractions are an hour or more further from the south entrance, so you will be spending a considerable amount of time in the car.

Dan Florence is a semiconductor marketing engineer, humor blogger, photographer and a bunch of other impressive stuff. Drop him a line at dan@danoftheday.com or visit danoftheday.com.

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