Leaves are changing, there’s a chill in the air, the Elk are bugling, rates are lower and crowds are smaller. Fall has arrived, winter is just around the corner. This is a great time to visit Yellowstone. We plan many of our Yellowstone tours for the Fall season for the above reasons.
However; weather can be a bit unpredictable this time of year like it was for a tour I guided last September. We scheduled two or the 10 days for visiting Yellowstone. On the first day the weather was a beautiful; day 2, not so much! Fortunately, I was watching the weather forecast during the days leading up to our scheduled time in the park and was anticipating the change. Knowing that the second day would be sketchy I made the decision to visit the planned areas in one day. This made a very long day but we got it done and everyone was happy.
On this particular tour, a change in weather wasn’t enough, a fire at Jackson Lake on the first day jumped the road closing the south entrance to the park. All traffic was redirected to other entrances with the majority choosing to go through the west entrance, which happened to be the entrance we needed to exit for our overnight accommodations in West Yellowstone. This added an extra 90 minutes to an already long day. The weather started to change by the time we checked in to our hotel. It snowed four inches that night. On day two we visited Gibbon Falls and Norris Geyser Basin, which we weren’t able to fit in the first day. It was a cold snowy, misty morning making the scene a little eerie. I thought it looked pretty cool.
Things don’t always go according to plan but I try not to get upset about unexpected delays and bad weather. As I see it, I’d much rather be sitting on a road in Yellowstone than on the 15, 405, or 91. BTW, there’s a part two to this story of how the weather affected this tour that I’ll save for another day. It has a happy ending.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s best to plan for the unexpected and for all conditions when visiting Yellowstone. This applies to pretty much every place we visit in the west.
Yellowstone 2017 Fall Closing Dates
October 10: Tower Fall to Canyon (Dunraven Pass), Beartooth Highway (US 212 to Red Lodge, Montana).
November 6: All roads close at 8 am except the road between the North Entrance and the Northeast Entrance
2017-2018 Winter Opening Dates
Conditions permitting, roads will open to oversnow travel by snowmobile and snowcoach at 8 am on the following dates:
December 15: West Entrance to Old Faithful, Mammoth to Old Faithful, Canyon to Norris, Canyon to Lake, Old Faithful to West Thumb, South Entrance to Lake, Lake to Lake Butte Overlook.
December 22: East Entrance to Lake Butte Overlook (Sylvan Pass)