March brings the end of the over-the-snow travel through Yellowstone’s interior roads. Sunday, March 15th (weather permitting) is the last day you can still travel via snowmobile or snowcoach tour into areas like Canyon and Old Faithful.
This is a unique time of year when the public can enter but only for non-motorized traffic. You can enter by bicycle, roller skis and roller blades, or other non-motorized travel. Or you can walk or jog using your own feet. The roads between the West Entrance at West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs will open as conditions allow from late March (generally the last Friday in March) through the third Thursday in April, depending on weather. The West gate does not start charging entrance fees until it re-opens for vehicle travel. So you can blade, bike or hike in at no charge.
Warmer temperatures and lengthening days produce warm, sunny afternoons that transpose to beautiful sunsets. Wildlife abounds close to roads and rivers and there is a photo waiting to be taken around each corner. Imagine sitting on a bench watching Old Faithful erupt with the sun warming your face and beautiful, snow-covered mountains in the background. Spring and early summer bring some of the best wildlife spotting opportunities of the year.
Another great spring time activity might be "Spring Geyser Gazing". Why not take your frogs and tadpoles and plan a special trip to the Bathtub or the Flounder together? Geyser gazing definitely has its own jargon! And, there is no better time to do a little geyser gazing than during the spring when boardwalks and trails are free from summer crowds.
In the spring bears come out and many reported sightings will be noted. During this time bears will scavenge for winter-killed elk and bison carcasses, road kills and carcasses more recently killed by wolves and cougars. Roads into Yellowstone’s interior begin opening in mid-April with the west entrance and access to Madison Junction, south to the Old Faithful area, north to Norris and then east to Canyon.
In early May, the roads from Canyon to Lake junction and then all the way to the East Entrance will open. One week later, you can complete the loop around Yellowstone Lake as the remainder of the roads open from Lake junction south to West Thumb, and then north to Old Faithful. You can also enter from the south entrance coming up from Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming area. May brings bison calves and bison jams on the roadways. Bison begin calving in mid-April and by May you can start to see hundreds of bright reddish-brown calves among the bison herds. The bison gather in traditional “nursery” areas such as Fountain Flats just north of Old Faithful or in areas along rivers such as Lamar and Hayden Valleys.
Early evening is a great time to sit and watch as the calves shake off their late afternoon naps and almost frantically begin to run and jump. Near the end of May, the bison herds will begin their slow exodus from nursery areas in search of emerging grasses in higher mountain meadows.
West Yellowstone lodging properties and tour companies offer early-season specials and packages in spring.
*thank you to Steve Stoddard for this picture