On June 13, 2022, Yellowstone National Park experienced the worst flooding in recorded history. Said to be a 500-year flood the rushing waters took out the North Entrance Road between Mammoth and Gardiner. Also, part of the Northeast Entrance Road between Soda Bute and Pebble Creek Campground was wiped out as well as other sections of road in the Southern Loop sustained damage.
The National Park Service decided to close the entire park while they figured out the extent of the flood damage. This left thousands of people with canceled vacation plans, not knowing what to do.
With damage estimates and repairs ongoing, people were scrambling to find places to see and things to do with Yellowstone National Park closed. Thankfully the Yellowstone Ecosystem is much more than just Yellowstone National Park.
Many people decided to make the obvious choice and head to Grand Teton National Park since they didn’t get the rain we got in Yellowstone. Unfortunately, Grand Teton and Jackson Hole are already so congested taking in more tourists isn’t the best idea. While many people made the trek South others decided to head North to Glacier National Park which was also having its own weather troubles with a winter storm dumping feet of snow on them.
Both these choices could be ok but there are so many other places in the area that are not crowded at all that would make the park closure more enjoyable than heading to Grand Teton or Glacier.
Places Other Than The Park to Visit Near West Yellowstone
Even though West Yellowstone wasn’t hit with any flooding having the park closed and people leaving the area has taken a financial hit on the community. Yellowstone National Park is the main draw for West Yellowstone, but there is plenty to do in the area to keep you busy for a few days or longer.
- Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center – See Live Bears and Wolves! Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center offers visitors to the Yellowstone area an opportunity to observe, understand and ultimately appreciate grizzly bears and gray wolves. All the animals at the center are unable to survive in the wild an serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts.
- Playmill Theatre – An amazing small town theatre with huge talent, great costumes, and shows! The cast is always energetic, not only doing the play, but the pre-show, intermission, and ready to talk to you after the show.
- Yellowstone Aerial Adventures-Zipline Park – Spend a day zipping through the heights at Yellowstone Aerial Adventures-Zipline Park.
- Horseback Riding at Diamond P Ranch – Ride into the mountains to see the beautiful rolling range of the surrounding ranches, Hebgen Lake, the Continental Divide, West Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park. The trails are full of pristine beauty and their horses are sure footed.
- ATV Rentals – Rent and ride Montana ATV Trails in West Yellowstone. The West Yellowstone ATV trails are among the best in the world.
- Wild West Rodeo – West Yellowstone Rodeo is held just outside of the town of West Yellowstone Montana near the Idaho Border. We have performances 5 to 6 days a week from the middle of June to the end of August.
- IMAX Theater – At six stories tall, our 60′ x 80′ screen is the only certified Giant Screen Theatre in a twelve state area. The six track sound system and 4k digital projector guarantee a theatre experience you’ll never forget.
- Drive to Ennis, Virginia City, and Nevada City – Madison County, Montana is where you will find the “ghost” towns of Virginia City and Nevada City.
- Quake Lake and Visitor Center – On August 17, 1959, the Hebgen Lake Earthquake, measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale, triggered a massive landslide that moved at 100 miles per hour. In less than 1 minute, more than 80 million tons of rock crashed into a narrow canyon, blocking the Madison River and forming Earthquake Lake.
- Explore Island Park – Island Park is considered to be a paradise for lovers of the outdoors in Idaho. Located within close proximity to Yellowstone National Park, there are numerous things to do in the area, including activities in both summer and winter. With outdoor activities abound in Island Park, visitors can find opportunities for mountain biking, horseback riding, fly fishing, canoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and much more. One of the state’s best kept secrets, Island Park’s historic landscape is home to a variety of outdoor adventures, as well as natural scenery that’s worth bringing a camera for.
This is just a small sample of things to do with the park closed and there is so much more to see and do than just go into Yellowstone National Park. What things have you done in the area that aren’t on our list above? Leave us a comment below.
Yellowstone National Park Re-Opens to New System
At 8 a.m. Wednesday, June 22, Yellowstone National Park will begin allowing visitors to access the south loop of the park. The south loop is accessed from the East (Cody), West (West Yellowstone), and South (Grand Teton/Jackson) entrances.
Accessible areas include Madison, Old Faithful, Grant Village, Lake Village, Canyon Village and Norris. As part of reopening planning, park staff have engaged over 1,000 business owners, park partners, commercial operators and residents in surrounding gateway communities to determine how to manage summer visitation while the north loop remains closed due to flood damage.
To balance the demand for visitor access, park resource protection and economic interests of the communities, the park will institute an interim visitor access plan. The interim plan, referred to as the Alternating License Plate System (ALPS), was suggested as a solution by gateway communities during major public engagement with the park this past week.
Park managers and partners have agreed this system is the best interim solution to ensuring the south loop does not become overwhelmed by visitors. The National Park Service will actively monitor the license plate system and is concurrently building a new reservation system that will be ready for implementation if needed.
Alternating License Plate System (ALPS)
- Public vehicle entry will be allowed based on whether the last numerical digit on a license plate is odd or even.
- Entrance will be granted based on odd/even days on the calendar.
- Odd-numbered last digits on license plates can enter on odd days of the month.
- Even-numbered last digits (including zero) on license plates can enter on even days of the month.
- Personalized plates (all letters, for example “YLWSTNE”) will fall into the “odd” category for entrance purposes.
- Plates with a mix of letters and numbers but that end with a letter (for example “YELL4EVR”) will still use the last numerical digit on the plate to determine entrance days.
- Entrance station staff will turn away vehicles attempting to enter the park when the odd/even numerical digits do not correspond to the odd/even calendar date for entrance.
- Current commercial use operators with active commercial use permits will be permitted to enter regardless of license plate number. This includes commercial tours and stock groups.
- Visitors with proof of overnight reservations in the park will be permitted to enter regardless of license plate number. This includes hotels, campgrounds, and backcountry reservations.
- Commercial motorcoaches will be permitted to enter regardless of license plate number.
- Motorcycle groups may enter on even dates only.
- Essential services like mail and deliver, employees and contractors may enter regardless of license plate number.
The interim license plate system will ensure that visitors have access to the park during this period of high demand. Park managers and staff will monitor the license plate system and impacts on resources, infrastructure, operations, and staffing, and may adjust or implement a reservation or timed entry system, if necessary, after three to four weeks.
“Less than six days ago, Yellowstone National Park was hit with devastating floods,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our teams and partners, we are prepared to reopen the south loop of Yellowstone. It is impossible to reopen only one loop in the summer without implementing some type of system to manage visitation. My thanks to our gateway partners and others for helping us work out an acceptable temporary solution for the south loop while we continue our efforts to reopen the north loop. As we go through the reopening process, we will monitor the system’s effectiveness and work together to make adjustments that may be necessary. We will also reopen new sections of the park as repairs continue to be made. It is critical for visitors to stay informed about this interim system as we evaluate its effectiveness. They should plan ahead and be patient with us as we are still managing significant recovery while moving into this operational phase.”
North Loop Re-Opens – Alternating License Plate System Suspended
Yellowstone National Park to reopen north loop July 2 and suspend Alternating License Plate System, 93% of roadways will be open
Yellowstone National Park will reopen the north loop on Saturday, July 2, to all visitors. In addition to roads in the south loop, visitors will now be able to access:
- Norris Junction to Mammoth Hot Springs
- Mammoth Hot Springs to Tower-Roosevelt
- Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon Junction (Dunraven Pass)
Visitors can access the south and north loops via the East Entrance (Cody, Wyoming), West Entrance (West Yellowstone, Montana), and South Entrance (Grand Teton/Jackson, Wyoming).
“We’re pleased to reopen the north loop of Yellowstone to the visiting public less than three weeks after this major flood event,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “We have attempted to balance major recovery efforts while reopening as much of the park as possible. We have greatly appreciated the tremendous support of the Department of the Interior; National Park Service; Federal Highway Administration; and our congressional, community, county and state partners.”
Federal Highway Administration engineers have completed final bridge and road safety inspections. Temporary repairs to the wastewater systems have been evaluated and will accommodate day use on the north loop.
The park cautions the public that high water remains in many waterways and to be aware of backcountry closures in the north loop due to hazardous conditions or damaged trails and bridges. Visit Yellowstone’s Backcountry Situation Report for details.
Services in the north loop will include general stores at Tower and Mammoth Hot Springs, and gasoline in both locations. Additional services may open in upcoming weeks. Visit Operating Hours and Seasons for details.
North and Northeast entrances
The North Entrance Road (Gardiner, Montana to Mammoth Hot Springs) and Northeast Entrance Road (Cooke City/Silver Gate, Montana to Tower-Roosevelt) remain closed to visitor vehicular traffic while temporary repairs are completed. Visitors may access the park on foot through these entrances in order to recreate (fish and hike) in areas not identified as closed. The park will evaluate authorizing bicycle use through these entrances up to damaged road sections in the near future.
Park staff are working with commercial guides and outfitters in Gardiner and Cooke City/Silver Gate to further expand park access where possible. Yellowstone has reopened a 23-mile segment of the Beartooth Highway (from US-212/WY-296) junction to the ski hill parking lot), providing visitors access to this world-class scenic roadway.
Reconnecting the park to Gardiner and Cooke City/Silver Gate remains Yellowstone’s highest flood recovery priority. These communities are open with access to the park as described above.
Alternating License Plate System suspended
Yellowstone implemented the Alternating License Plate System (ALPS) upon reopening the south loop June 22, 2022, to ensure visitor traffic did not overwhelm the south loop. The interim system worked very effectively at moderating traffic within the park, however, with the opening of the north loop and 93% of the road system open, ALPS will be suspended effective July 2. Visitor entrances from East, West, and South will return to normal entrance procedures. Park staff will continue monitoring visitor use data, traffic counts, and the condition of infrastructure over the upcoming months to ensure visitor usage is not overwhelming capacity. The ALPS may be reinstituted if this becomes the case.
Backcountry (Visit Backcountry Situation Report for details)
Most of Yellowstone’s southern backcountry will open to overnight use on Friday, July 1, however some trails and campsites will remain closed for repairs due to flood impacts, high water and bear management closures.
A large portion of the backcountry in the north remains closed as damage assessments continue. Many northern trails have been severely damaged and bridges washed away. Additional backcountry in the northern part of the park will reopen as repairs and final damage assessments are completed.
Visitors traveling to the park must stay informed about the current situation, changes in visitor entry requirements, and road conditions. The public should also use extreme caution in areas of high water.
Visitors should regularly monitor updates from the park on new openings or closures as recovery efforts continue.
The National Park Service has done an amazing job in getting the park back open in such a short time. It’s sad that so many people took the knee jerk reaction to the flooding and canceled their trips this summer. Businesses in Gardiner, Silver Gate and Cooke City have been hardest hit since the North and Northeast entrances have remained closed due to the washed out roads. But even West Yellowstone has seen a hit to their economy as tourist activities in town are way down.
Not only is there so much to see in Yellowstone National Park, the whole Yellowstone Ecosystem is full of wonderful places to visit.
If you have ever thought of taking a trip to Yellowstone but were worried about it being too crowded this is the year to come! Attendance is way down and the park is amazing more so than ever with less people. Come check it out!