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How To Make Your Trip to Yellowstone a Breeze

Tips to avoiding crowds at Yellowstone include visiting before 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m. (Kim Keating/USGS)
Tips to avoiding crowds at Yellowstone include visiting before 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m. (Kim Keating/USGS)
July 21, 2016

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

The U.S. national parks system is celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2016, and Yellowstone expects to top last year's record-breaking four million visitors. Kelsey Dayton, a columnist with Wyofile, said she normally avoids the park unless it's April or October. Her family's recent summer trip sounded more like punishment than a holiday.

"Before we even went, I kind of started thinking about ways we could get away from the crowd,” Dayton said. "I was skeptical that it would work. 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."

According to Dayton, the best way to avoid the rush is to visit during non-peak hours: before 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m. She said her family breezed through the west entrance after dinner, and when they arrived at Old Faithful they had the geyser almost to themselves.

Dayton also recommended getting off the boardwalks and onto trails where fewer people venture. Fishing is another way to find more space because most people don't bring wading gear or get permits, she said.

Dayton said 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 echoed the park’s logan, "Pack Patience," and she said don't forget sandwiches.

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

Reserving lodging in advance, in campgrounds or hotels outside the park, can also reduce stress. As much as she was dreading the summer trip, Dayton said Yellowstone was such an amazing place, it reminded her why so many people want to visit.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - ID