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bigbadbear Apr 18th, 2008 11:33 AM

crowds in Yellowstone NP?
reading the "reviews" here it seems if I don''t wake up at the crack of dawn to get in I'll be stuck behind 5 million it THAT bad???

maj Apr 18th, 2008 11:37 AM

When are you going and where are you staying?

I think most of the reviews are about getting up and out early because that is usually a better time if you are looking for animals (although we've seen them at all times of the day).

bigbadbear Apr 18th, 2008 11:41 AM

I don't have a plan yet...just doing a little reading and everything I read said that...I thought the usual for the kids (14 and 12)

gail Apr 18th, 2008 12:49 PM

No - traffic jams are almost always animal related, not people. If a herd of bison want to cross the road, no one argues with them, and they move at their own speed. That does tend to create both a traffic jam of cars unable to pass and people taking photos.

We visited Yellowstone and GTNP 2 summers ago at peak vacation time - drove around in rental car with our 2 teens. You drive the loop roads, stopping where you want. Only parking lot that made me get a sense of crowds was at Old Faithful and a Park Center with food at lunchtime. Except for that, we pulled into smallish lots or off the side of the road, did a little walking, and never felt like there were 5 million people. Even had several picnics at places very short walks in off road where it was just us, our food and the picnic ants.

If you get up at the crack of dawn you will see more animals - but only after you scrape the frost off your windows (not kidding)

sylvia3 Apr 18th, 2008 01:20 PM

Huge park, plenty of room everywhere but certain restaurants at noon!

rm_mn Apr 19th, 2008 06:03 AM

Get off the main highway and Yellowstone is empty. We hiked up Mt. Washburn and much of the way it was just the wife and me with perhaps another couple or 2 in sight. We hiked in to Lonestar Geyser and most of the way it was just the wife and me on the trail. We waited for the geyser to erupt and at one time the crowd got terrible large, 10 people if I remember correctly.

Yellowstone has an area of about 2 million acres and visitation of about 3 million people a year. That's 1.5 people per acre, spread out over 12 months and most people only stay a few days at most. Lots of empty space for you to have to yourself if you want.

doohickey Apr 19th, 2008 12:34 PM

Hi bigbad,

YNP gets most of its visitors between June 1 and Aug 31. They come from all over the US and the world. Weekends have the largest bulge in tourism because locals are there, too, showing their out-of-area friends around.

The entrance gates have the most crowds probably at about 10a-11a (for the I'm-on-vacation late risers).

The best advice I can give (as a local) is to take a box lunch that you can get from any deli or hotel restaurant or take in your own cooler and self-prepared lunch. We ALWAYS do the latter. That way you can go at your own pace and eat just about anywhere you want away from any maddening crowd.

Btw, I personally like to avoid Yellowstone in the summer just because of the big bump up in visitors. But then that's only because I can go in winter, spring and fall when there are far less folks. If my only choice was to go in summer, well then, that's what I'd do and I'd make the best of it :)

Whenever you go - have fun!


Travelkitty Apr 19th, 2008 06:10 PM

As someone else mentioned, if you want to see Yellowstone without crowds, get off the main loop roads. If you park and actually walk the trails, you're unlikely to see many (if any) people.

bob_brown Apr 19th, 2008 06:28 PM

Lone Star Geyser is a very, very nice walk along the upper Firehole River as the trail meanders through pine forest.

The route is very flat, in fact I have seen people on bicycles ride along to trail.

The geyser itself blows about every 3 hours. The usual eruption when I was there comes in two phases, so don't leave after the first episode.

The trail up Washburn is very nice and from the viewing tower on top you can see seemingly forever on a clear day. The day I was there, we could see the Tetons looming faintly to the south.

On the right bank of the Yellowstone River, the trail along the brink of the canyon is a good way to escape the mobs. You can walk along from near the parking area for Uncle Tom's Trail to a point near the parking lot for Artist's Point.

I understand that some of that road may at times be closed for construction near Artist's Point.

Out in the geyser basins, the crowds thin out after Old Faithful. However, a fairly good group usually assembles for eruptions of Castle and Grand Geysers.

I recommend both of these very highly. The only problem is that for Grand Geyser, the eruption window is 4 hours with about 40 minutes on either side of the mid point being the time of the greatest probability. However, the safe bet is to allow a wider window than 80 minutes if you want to ensure that you see the most spectacular of the big geysers.

Castle also has a lot to show its visitors. The eruption including the steam phase after the water phase can go on for 50 minutes.

The best part of course is the initial surge of steam propelled water as it comes gushing out of the cone.

The prettiest geyser is Riverside. It erupts with a beautiful arc of water playing over the Firehole River. It is fairly remote and few people attend its eruptions, relatively speaking.\

If you really want a beautiful evening, go for a visit to most of any of the big geysers and watch them erupt under the light of a full moon. We did that one night about 2AM and caught both Riverside and Grand doing their thing. There were no clouds in the sky and the moon was within one day of being full.

Absolutely enthralling.

We were not the only ones there either. Perhaps 40 to 50 other people were out for a late night stroll.

wanderluster Apr 20th, 2008 07:54 AM

No it is not at all *that* bad.
And your kids are the perfect
ages, they will love it.
We took ours a few years
ago when they were a bit younger
than that and while they
enjoyed it, I'm sure this
next trip will be much better.
Be sure you visit
Gtand Tetons National Park,

Clousie Apr 20th, 2008 08:58 AM


I had EXACTLY the same question when we were considering Yellowstone several years ago. When I read about making dinner reservations at Old Faithful Lodge several months ahead, I almost changed our plans.

However, we didn't change them, and had a WONDERFUL, basically uncrowded, visit at Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

As has been mentioned, as soon as you walk a very short distance from parking lots, the people disappear. Eating a lunch outside where you can see some of the geyers, even from a distance (I always call it "a table with a view")won't put you inside a restaurant at noon with the tour bus crowds.

Early morning, or even better moonlight walks, will also give you a feeling for the environment without many people.

GO FOR IT! We're very glad we did.

algalli Apr 20th, 2008 09:56 AM

We were in YP in mid June last year and it was fine. We stayed 2 nights at Yellowstone Lake Hotel and 2 nights at Monmouth Springs. Getting up early is the best time to see the animals. Crowds were never a problem although we did not know that yellowstone Lake Hotel requires reservations and we could not get in. We ate well never-the-less. It was my 4th time in Yellowstone and I will go back again and again.

wildblueyonder Apr 20th, 2008 02:32 PM

Yep, we were also in Yellowstone in mid-June (but 2006) and had no problems whatsoever with traffic/crowds. We stayed in the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and could've had the geyser to ourselves if we'd wanted to. We went to Norris Geyser basin early evening and found nobody else there, which was fabulous! Mornings were 'busier'.

Yes, you should get up early for the wildlife. Unfortunately, we never did and therefore had to go to W Yellowstone to see the bears and wolves in captivity - something we could do here. Lots of buffalo though (which did tend to stop the traffic) - and a few coyotes (is the plural coyote?)

It's great; you'll love it!

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