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Tips for Visiting Yellowstone During Peak Times

One tip for avoiding crowds at Yellowstone is to seek out lesser used boardwalks such as West Thumb Geyser Basin. (sgarton/Morguefile)
One tip for avoiding crowds at Yellowstone is to seek out lesser used boardwalks such as West Thumb Geyser Basin. (sgarton/Morguefile)
July 21, 2016

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. – 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.

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 columnist with the Wyoming news site Wyofile, normally avoids the park unless it's April or October and says her family's recent summer trip initially sounded more like a punishment than a holiday.

"Before we even went, I kind of started thinking about ways we could get away from the crowd, and I was skeptical that it would work,” she admits. “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 when they arrived at Old Faithful they had the geyser almost to themselves.

Other tips include getting off the boardwalks and onto trails, where fewer people venture.

She adds that 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 that, like, you might get stuck in traffic, things might be moving slow,” she states. “We brought snacks and there wasn't the stress of being also hungry and annoyed and stuck in the car."

Dayton adds that 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.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MT