Yellowstone to reopen as of July 2 — with some exceptions
Fourth of July weekend travelers rejoice: 93% of the Yellowstone National Park's roadways will be reopened as of this Saturday, July 2, for the first time since devastating June flooding and landslides caused widespread damage within the park, officials say. Yellowstone's north loop will reopen along with the recently reopened south loop roadways, allowing vehicular traffic throughout the park. However, the park's north and northeast entrances from Montana will remain closed due to ongoing repairs to flood-induced road damage.
“We're pleased to reopen the north loop of Yellowstone to the visiting public less than three weeks after this major flood event," park Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement posted to the park's website.
For more TPG news, deals and tips delivered each morning to your inbox, subscribe to our daily newsletter.
Yellowstone's return to normal operations
Access to the north loop means vehicles can get to nearly all of the roadside sights for which the park is famous, including the Mammoth Hot Springs viewpoint and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone overlook in the north, plus Old Faithful along the south loop. Visitor services along the north loop and the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth Springs will reopen this weekend as well, and general stores and gas stations at Tower and Mammoth Hot Springs will be ready for business on Saturday. The Mammoth Hot Springs hotel, however, remains closed until further notice.
Entry procedures will return to normal operations at the park's east, south and west entrances. The north and northeast entrances are still closed to vehicle traffic (although visitors coming by foot are allowed northern entry).
Since the park's roadways will be almost fully reopened, Yellowstone will discontinue its recently instituted Alternating License Plate System. The program was designed to limit traffic by only allowing entry to cars with even or odd license plate numbers on alternate days. However, park officials said that the ALPS process may be reinstated if traffic and park capacity become an issue this summer.
Beginning Friday, July 1, most backcountry trail access and overnight camping will be open for use for foot and horse traffic, with trails along the north loop roadways opening on July 2. However, some trails and backcountry areas may remain closed due to flood damage and high water levels. Check on the latest conditions of specific trails on the Yellowstone website or at ranger stations within the park.
Lodging and campgrounds (with some exceptions) in the south loop of the park are now open for visitors with reservations but expect the sites to be fully booked throughout the summer. For last-minute trips, consider lodging in the many gateway towns around the park entrances, where hotels, motels, campgrounds and RV parks are plentiful (and usually cheaper than those within the park).
Related: A guide to visiting Yellowstone Park
Park officials still urge caution
While most of the roadways have reopened, park officials still urge travelers to use caution when hiking or camping in Yellowstone's extensive backcountry areas due to flood damage and dangerously high water levels along rivers. Much of Yellowstone's northern wilderness access will remain closed as the park further assesses the harm in remote areas. The park reports many trails in the northern areas have been "severely damaged" by mudslides, flooding and erosion, while some bridges have been completely washed away.
Yellowstone officials expressed hope "that some closed trails may reopen later this summer." Visitors are strongly encouraged to check with ranger stations and visitor centers to get the latest conditions on specific areas and trails (particularly if they plan to wander farther from the main roadside areas).
Meanwhile, two tourists were gored by bison in the park in the past couple of days in separate incidents after visitors didn't give the animals proper space.
"Bison have injured more people in Yellowstone than any other animal," according to the park website's safety page.
Bison may look fuzzy and cuddly, but Yellowstone officials are reminding visitors that the animals "are unpredictable and can run three times faster than humans." The park advises travelers to "always stay at least 25 yards away from bison." Remember that the extensive park flooding may cause the bison to be a little extra erratic as they are forced out of their regular grazing areas.
Similarly, the park has closed some backcountry areas for "bear management" in order to ensure the park's grizzly and black bear population has enough visitor-free space to roam.
As with every summer, park officials are warning visitors that crowds and traffic are expected to be very high. This is especially true on weekends and holidays, including the Fourth of July. Pack your patience on any summer trip to Yellowstone, and leverage these TPG tips for visiting busy national parks this summer.
Related: The best times to visit Yellowstone