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My Yellowstone National Park Story

We consider ourselves as experts on traveling west from the Big Horn Mountains to Yellowstone National Park. I was born in Helena, Montana in the early 1960’s. The same year of my birth, my family moved to the suburbs of Chicago. However, my grandparents were still in a small town just outside of Billings, Montana (Columbus, MT). Our family would take a vacation every two years to visit grandma, grandpa, my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We always stopped at Wall Drug, Black Hills, and Yellowstone National Park.

After my husband and I married we continued to travel west. On our first trip, we traveled in our own vehicle with our two children and my parents in their RV.  We loved every place we stopped, but Yellowstone was the best place of all!  We continued to travel west to Yellowstone for five more trips.  Then, when my husband retired from his first job, in 2009, we spent twenty days of a thirty day trip in Yellowstone National Park.  Not only did we stay in Yellowstone National Park for twenty days, we did it in a tent!  It was truly an amazing adventure.  Through all of our trips to Yellowstone, we have learned many tips to make our travel there successful.

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Tips for a Successful Trip in Yellowstone National Park:

  1. Campgrounds  -Yellowstone National Park has twelve campgrounds, seven are operated by the National Park Service.  You will need to reserve as early as you know you will be visiting.  Some campgrounds are reserved a year in advance.  There are some campgrounds that are on a first come, first serve basis.  If you choose to go first come first serve, you will need to get there early in the morning and wait to see if anyone is leaving and stake your claim fast!
  2. Tent Camping – This can be a fun experience, but can also be a bit scary too.  We spent almost four weeks tent camping in the park and never had an issue with bears.  However, there were three other campgrounds that were visited by bears when we were there.  If you are not staying in a completely hard sided camper you will need to remove any and all items that may attract bears.  Items include pots, pans, dishware, condiments, toiletries, garbage, suntan lotions, well you get the idea!  They have “Bear Boxes” in campgrounds that allow pop-up and tent campers to place all these items for safety.  If you would prefer you can keep all these items in your car.
  3. Protection – Invest in Bear Spray!  It could be the best investment you ever made.  Just having it will make you feel more secure.
  4. Dining – There are twenty-nine restaurants in Yellowstone National Park.  We visited about 10 of those and all that we visited were amazing!  My favorite dishes were the Buffalo sirloin and Elk Empanadas.  Our visit was at the end of June and beginning of July.  We never had an issue getting a table at a restaurant, sometimes there was a short wait.  There are also 52, beautiful picnic areas in the park.
  5. How to Dress – From personal experience, I can honestly say you will need to pack both warm weather and cold weather clothing.  The terrain of Yellowstone is varied from mountains to the plains and the weather in Yellowstone, can be unpredictable.  If you are visiting lower elevations in June-August the average temperatures during the day will range from about 70-80 degrees during the day and much cooler at night.  Many nights will fall below freezing.  If you are visiting the higher altitudes it will be cooler during the day and may even snow.   We were there in July and it snowed on several occasions.  In addition, it is a common occurrence to have an afternoon thunderstorm.
  6. Services in Yellowstone- There are several areas in the park that offer paid showers and coin laundry.  In addition, there are groceries sold at many of the stores though-out the park.
  7. Fishing in Yellowstone – If you are sixteen and over you will need to purchase a Yellowstone National Park Fishing License.  These are available at most of the stores in the sporting section.  The cost at the time I posted this was $18.00 for a three-day fishing permit, $25.00 for a seven-day permit, or $40.00 for a season permit.
  8. Wildlife – The most common animals you will encounter in the park are elk and bison.  However, keep your camera ready!  While we were in the park we saw bear, wolves, coyotes, badgers, moose, antelope, and bighorn sheep.  If you end up in a traffic jam, it is most likely an animal sighting.
  9. Molesting the Animals – This sounds amusing, but it is no laughing matter to the park rangers.  They take this seriously!  You should never get out of your car to get closer to an animal for a picture.  In addition, do not whistle, shout at, click at, clap, throw something, or snap to get an animal’s attention.  DO NOT FEED the animals! This is for your safety, as-well-as the safety as all those around you.  Although not common, animals will attack if they feel threatened and it has happened in the past.
  10. Cell Phones – The reception in the park is spotty at most and covers about 50% of the park.  Coverage is best in the most popular areas such as Old Faithful, Mammoth, Grant Village, and Tower-Roosevelt area.  The Yellowstone website states they are going to upgrading the cell towers in the future to help with this issue.

If you have any questions about the area, please feel free to Email Me

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