Bears, blooms, baby animals, and more await in the season of rebirth
Yellowstone National Park
on May 8, 2018
Elk, bison, and pronghorn calves are born in April and May. You might even spot bear cubs wandering with their moms, especially in the Lamar Valley area.
Ahh, spring. The ice thaws. The snow melts. And the winter dig-out begins.
Come March, Yellowstone’s custom snowcoaches, those sturdy vehicles used to transport winter visitors, go back into storage. Crews get to work clearing snowpack from the park’s 322 miles of main and secondary roads, plus 125 acres of parking lots. And staff readies the park’s lodges to welcome visitors for another season.
Yellowstone’s roads begin reopening in late April in a rollout that typically ends in late May. Similarly, the park’s nine lodges gradually reopen, starting with Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins on April 27 and ending with Roosevelt Lodge Cabins and Lake Lodge Cabins on June 1 and June 10, respectively.
Prepare for unpredictable weather and dress in layers. Temperatures fluctuate from 30 to 60 degrees in the daytime and can drop into the teens at night.
Here are some top reasons to consider a spring visit to Yellowstone National Park:
Elk, bison, and pronghorn calves are born in April and May. You might even spot bear cubs wandering with their moms, especially in the Lamar Valley area. But take note: Mothers are protective of their young. Recalls Virginia Miller, lead instructor at the nonprofit Yellowstone Forever organization, visitors once got trapped in their cabin at Mammoth Hot Springs by a mother elk who had sheltered her baby under the porch. “Every time they tried to step outside, she charged them. Finally, a security guard chased them off.” The moral: Look before you exit.
Waterfall Central is in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where the Yellowstone River sports three gushers. Prime among them is Lower Falls. At 305 feet high, it’s almost twice the height of Niagara Falls. In a typical spring, 63,500 gallons of water per second surge over the precipice, compared to just 5,000 gallons in the fall. Nearby are the smaller Upper Falls and Crystal Falls. Time it right, and you’ll see giant ice floes roaring under Fishing Bridge in the park’s Lake area, thanks to the spring thaw on Yellowstone Lake.
The best opportunity for seeing bears is in springtime. Male grizzlies come out of hibernation in mid-to-late March; females with cubs emerge in April to early May. That’s when they wander to lower elevations in search of winter-killed carcasses of elk and bison.
“They’re also poking around eating flowers,” Miller says. “As summer comes, they go up higher. Food sources dictate where they hang out.”
All of Yellowstone is bear country, so practice bear safety: Stay 100 yards away from the animals, stay alert, and carry bear spray.
The spring bloom generally doesn’t occur until June. But bloomers like the striking sagebrush buttercup sprout early. And flowers like Monkey Flower, which favors the warmer geyser basins, add accents of pink and yellow to the landscape.
Special programs geared to spring visitors include the four-night Spring Wolf & Bear Discovery package, which includes guided hikes. It’s part of the Lodging & Learning partnership between Xanterra, the park’s concessionaire, and Yellowstone Forever, which provides a guide. Among other options: the four-night Wild About Yellowstone package and the five-night Total Yellowstone Package – Spring.
How to Explore
With nine unique lodging options, including the renowned historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Yellowstone National Park Lodges allows you to have the ultimate park experience. Staying in the park is the best way for visitors to experience all it has to offer, including the exciting wildlife watching. Once the day-visitors leave, Yellowstone remains for the in-park overnight guests alone. Yellowstone National Park Lodges offer tours and activities guided by Certified Interpretive Guides that help create memorable experiences. For more information on lodging, tours, and vacation packages, visit yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311.
For a multi-day visit of Yellowstone, consider the six-day guided walking tour from Country Walkers, “Montana & Wyoming: Yellowstone,” or the six-day walking tour from VBT, “Yellowstone & Grand Teton: Walking America’s First National Park.”
For more than 39 years, Country Walkers has provided active and immersive travel experiences on five continents. They offer two distinct ways to explore: scheduled, small-group Guided Walking Adventures and independent Self-Guided Walking Adventures. On tour, guests enjoy superb local cuisine, first-class guides, fine accommodations, and authentic cultural and natural encounters. Visit countrywalkers.com or call 800-234-6900 for more information.
VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations is the value leader in active biking vacations and has been rated among the “World’s Best Tour Operators” by the readers of Travel + Leisure for six years. VBT offers more than 55 deluxe, small-group bicycling, walking, and barge & sail vacations in 29 different countries and 10 U.S. states. Unlike other companies, VBT also includes round-trip international airfare from more than 30 U.S. cities and select Canadian cities for all overseas vacations. Visit VBT.com or call 800-245-3868 for more information.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from the Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.