Driving, Yellowstone National Park
Maximum speed to drive in the park is 45 miles per hour, or even shower where posted. Drive carefully, many accidents happen each year. Please use pullouts to watch wildlife or pull off on the shoulder of the road. I would recommend that you avoid driving at night, or if you have to be out drive even slower at night, when wildlife are difficult to see. Many animals are killed when cars hit them after dark. Also remember that this is a large park with 142 mile loop road that forms a figure eight. I would recommend that if you are going to be in the park for a number of days and wish to explore many different areas, that you reserve campsites or rooms in the various areas of the park so that you will not spend so much time driving from place to place. And remember driving off road is not permitted.
When driving around the park you will undoubtedly see animals. Two problems arise from that. First, many visitors will want to slam on their brakes and take a better look. You may be caught in a traffic jam of people that are just sitting in the middle of the road looking at wildlife.
The other problem is that when the animals decide to cross the road you will have to give them the right of way. You may find that they are in much less of a hurry than you are. Don't even think of pushing them they may weigh as much as your car.
Once again, beware! These are wild animals and many have had their young in spring. There is nothing worse than trying to approach a mother with a calf or cub.
In the photo below you can't see the gent, but he tried to sneek up on the moose and didn't realize she had a calf with her. I was yelling at him that she had one. Well, it is a good damn thing he had a fallen log and tree to escape behind, although, he did not escape gracefully either. She still wanted to charge him even after he crawled away in the grass.
All I could do was shake my head and was prepared to pull his lifeless body hopefully to the car to get him to the ranger station. He was lucky this time, all that didn't happen. Of course this was before cells phones.
Also, beware at driving at night. These creatures roam at night and that means, they roam at night on the roads too. They are huge and probably out weight most vehicles. So be sharp and drive slowly please!
We were on motorcycle. People kept stopping for pictures of buffalo. And they would stop in the middle of the road. A motorcycle is about the size and running about the speed of a bear running full out. We look like a threat to the buffalo. We have no protection from the buffalo. When you stop in the middle of the road to take one more stupid picture of another stupid buffalo you put the lives of anyone on a bike behind you at risk! It was more than frightening to have them eye me as I had to sit perfectly still hoping he believed I was just a rock. There was one woman who did this to me in her SUV that if I could have I would have slapped her!
Yellowstone National Park is one place where you truly do have to watch not only where you are going but also have fast you are driving. Wildlife is literally all around you and they use the road corridors too. Part of the park's popularity is due to these very special creatures wandering around but that means extra responsibility for us as visitors. You need to be particularly careful early morning and evening as that is when most animals are most active. Bison are oblivious to cars. I guess they would do nearly as much damage to your car as you would do to them. Just the same, slow down, take your time, and take some photos....while stopped.
At the moment the road between Madison Junction and Norris is closed due to roadworks on a new bridge, until further notice. Hopefully it'll be finished by Spring 2010. Otherwise if you are staying in West Yellowstone and you want to go to Canyon, Tower or Mammoth, you have to go all the way round instead of being able to use the 23 kms that are closed off. Don't forget to check the parks website before deciding on a place to stay. Fortunately I did but still had to do the 173 kms instead of 57 kms from Madison to Mammoth and at park speed limits that's around 4 1/2 hours.
As is the case in most National Parks, gas is hard to find. In a park as large as Yellowstone there are only 6 locations at the present time. They are all of the "Sinclair" brand name and are located at the following locations.
- Old Faithful
- West Thumb
- Fishing Bridge
- Canyon Village
- Mammoth Hot Springs
You may have to schedule some of your daily planning around where you will be but for the most part these stations are located in most places you will want to be traveling. In short though if you're below half tank and you see a station, get gas because you may not notice the ones later and running out of gas would be a foul way to spend an afternoon.
The very scenic Beartooth Highway is an extremely scenic road that is the most beautiful way to get from where we were staying in Silver Gate to where we flew out of, Billings Montana. But that only works when the road is open. Sadly, though it was just the first week in September, there was a bit of snow that closed down the road. It is a high elevation area, so even if Silver Gate gets naught but a dusting, there could be feet of snow just up the road. I was so disappointed, I had really been looking forward to ending our trip on this road that has been touted as one of the U.S.'s most beautiful byways.
We did manage to see a smidgen of the road which included sunrise on Pilot and Index Peaks. That kept me from being completely distraught as it was really just a breathtaking sight.
Road Closings are posted on signs in the park just before you exit through the Northeast Entrance.
Your driving down the road.....enjoying the scenery, suddenly TRAFFIC JAM. Yep it's bison in the road again. These guys are often just taking their sweet time just meandering down the road. Not even just crossing it, but going for a little stroll right down the middle. Like they are divas and this is their catwalk. Be careful. Stay IN the car. You get out. You just cause more traffic. And you don't want to get to close. Any closer than 25 yards is against the law. (100 yards for bear) Believe me, you'll see many many more of these guys. This advice also applies to elk, deer, or whatever other animal comes wandering onto the road.
And obey the speed limit, maybe even go a little slower than the speed limit, you don't know when something could dart out into the road. This especially applies at nighttime when animals are much harder to spot. Hundreds of animals are killed each year because of careless drivers, please don't be one of them. What's the rush anyway?
You are not on a superhighway or the autobahn, so slow down!!! Since there are many cars in the park as well as wildlife walking near the road, it's prudent to be aware of your surroundings (no speeding, traveling while intoxicated, etc.).
Question .... : a car heading west (60 miles an hour ) is about to crash into a medium size buffelo. the weather is cloudy , the wind is 30 miles an hour to the south east . Who WILL SURVIVE ....
unless your driving a tank .... YOU WILL GET HURT !!!!
this is very important .... so many times i found myself trying to avoid hiting a buffelo that happend to cross the road .....
they dont give a *** .... 4 them its just an asfalt field ... be carfull .
take a look , a buffelo hurd crossing the road ...
Driving is the best way to get around Yellowstone, but one should always be careful doing so. Mountain roads are winding, steep, and can be dangerous, especially in bad weather. It can snow in the higher elevations here year-round. Animals of all kinds are also frequenters of the roads, another reason to be cautious and to drive the speed limit at all times. Please be safe driving here for yourself, for other people, and for the animals.
If your not use to driving in the mountains, go easy 10% grade is steep and snow can fall here year round.