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It is Wonderland. Old Faithful and the majority of the world's geysers are preserved in Yellowstone National Park. They are the main reason the park was established in 1872 as America's first national park—an idea that spread worldwide. A mountain wilderness, home to grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison and elk, the park is the core of one of the last, nearly intact ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone.
Yellowstone National Park is open to motorized oversnow (snowcoach and snowmobile) travel. Visitors can now travel the park's roads to Old Faithful and Canyon on commercially-guided snowmobiles and snowcoaches from the North, West, South and East Entrances. Those with proper permits can also participate in the Non-commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program.
The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs and on to Cooke City, Montana, outside the park’s Northeast Entrance is open to wheeled vehicle travel all year.
The Geyser Grill, the Bear Den Gift Shop, and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center open for the season on December 15, 2015. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and the Obsidian Dining Room open on December 20, 2015. The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, dining room, and gift shop is open for the season.
The Yellowstone General Store, medical clinic, campground, post office and the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs are open all year, as are the 24-hour gasoline pumps at Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Junction.
Communities surrounding Yellowstone are open year-round, and local businesses offer a wide range of winter recreation opportunities. Extensive information and assistance for planning a visit to Yellowstone during the winter can be found here.
Park staff members will continue to monitor road conditions and weather forecasts that can have an impact on roadways and guided oversnow travel operations. Weather during the winter season is extremely unpredictable in Yellowstone and road closures or delays can occur with little or no warning. Visitors should come prepared, carry personal emergency survival equipment in their vehicles, and dress appropriately for outside activities in extremely cold weather.
In 2015, there were 4,097,710 “visits” to Yellowstone National Park, up 16.6% from 2014, making it the highest visitation year on record. The number of “visits” is always greater than the actual number of individuals who came to the park because people may enter and leave the park repeatedly during a stay in the area.
42.5% of the total visitation came into Yellowstone through the park’s West Entrance in 2015, which also saw the greatest percentage increase in visits among the park’s five entrance gates, up more than 21.2% from 2014 levels.
The increase in visitation to Yellowstone this year brought an increase in demands on park staff, facilities and resources. Long lines to enter the park, traffic jams, and the resultant frustration of visitors and staff undoubtedly affected the visitor experience.
“Last year’s visitation tested the capacity of Yellowstone National Park,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk. “We are looking at ways to reprioritize in order to protect resources, to provide additional ranger programs, and to keep facilities clean.”
Congress just provided an increase in funding for national parks in 2016, and that is going to help meet some needs related to increased visitation. Congress is also considering separate Centennial legislation which could provide additional temporary increases and permanent authorities that will encourage philanthropy, volunteerism, and allow us to directly improve services.
“We will be asking park visitors to pack their patience for the upcoming summer season, as we expect more record breaking numbers in 2016, the National Park Service Centennial year,” said Superintendent Wenk.
FYI: Even though the animals of Yellowstone seem tame they are still wild. Feeding the animals is not permitted in any way, and all visitors must keep 100 yards away from wolves and bears, and 25 yards from other animals.
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