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Tips for Visiting Yellowstone During Peak Times

Tips to avoiding crowds at Yellowstone include visiting less-traveled boardwalks such as the West Thumb Geyser Basin. (Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia Commons)
Tips to avoiding crowds at Yellowstone include visiting less-traveled boardwalks such as the West Thumb Geyser Basin. (Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia Commons)
July 18, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Reports on the GOP platform to be unveiled in Cleveland this week call for selling off some U.S. National Park lands, but it's not clear if that would make the crowds any smaller.

Visiting Yellowstone National Park in the summer is an American vacation classic, and that also means you won't be the only person standing in line waiting to see Old Faithful.

2016 marks the 100-year anniversary for U.S. National Parks, and Yellowstone expects to top last year's record-breaking 4 million visitors.

Kelsey Dayton, a freelance outdoors writer and a columnist for the on-line news site Wyofile, normally avoids the park unless it's April or October. She concedes her family's recent summer trip initially sounded more like punishment than a holiday.

"Before we even went, I kind of started thinking about like ways we could get away from the crowd, and I was skeptical that it would work,” she relates. “But when we were there it kind of was like, 'Oh, this can be done.’ You can kind of have some breathing room and still see this really popular park."

Dayton says the best way to avoid the rush is to go during non-peak hours, before 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m.

She says she and her family breezed through the west entrance after dinner, and upon arriving at Old Faithful, had the geyser almost to themselves.

Other tips include getting off the boardwalks and onto trails, where fewer people venture. She adds fishing is another way to find more space because most people don't bring wading gear or get permits.

Dayton says checking out less-traveled boardwalks that many people drive by, such as the West Thumb Geyser Basin and Norris Geyser Basin, offers a chance to see thermal features without crowds.

Dayton echoes the park's public relations’ slogan to "Pack Patience," and she says don't forget sandwiches.

"And be kind of prepared in the sense things that like you might get stuck in traffic, things might be moving slow, “ she says. “We brought snacks and there wasn't the stress of being also hungry and annoyed and stuck in the car."

Dayton adds reserving lodging in advance, in campgrounds or hotels outside the park, can also reduce stress.

She says as much as she was dreading the summer trip, Yellowstone is such an amazing place it reminded her why so many people want to visit.

Eric Galatas/Scott Herron, Public News Service - WY