Yellowstone Roads - Are They Melting?

Firehole Lake Drive, a side road to the Grand Loop Road, was closed for a few days due to the asphalt "melting." A 16-mile portion of the Grand Loop is also being repaired and plans are to move the road.
Damage to Firehole Lake Drive. Photo by NPS

Firehole Lake Drive damage. Photo by NPS

Above: Firehole Lake Drive damage. Photo by NPS

Update Monday, July 14: Road crews have finished the road repair and Firehole Lake Drive has now reopened to park visitors.

Thursday, July 10, Firehole Lake Drive closed because the asphalt has turned into a “soupy mess,” said park spokesman Dan Hottle.

Firehole Lake Road is a 3-mile one-way side road off the Grand Loop located between the Old Faithful geyser and Madison Junction. Geothermal heat radiating from underground was 30 degrees hotter than usual on Thursday. Combined with the summer sun, the heat has melted the asphalt.

Hottle noted that the road problems do not mean the volcano is showing signs of an impending eruption. "The supervolcano is not going to blow," he said.

Yellowstone hopes to reopen the road within a week. During that time, park visitors will not have access to the White Dome Geyser and Firehole Lake but they are just a tiny portion Yellowstone's thermal features, so the closure should not affect attendance at the park.

Below is a video of the road on June 14, a few weeks before the closure. The section of road at 0:20 shows the same area that is pictured at the top of this article, but we can see no damage here.

(To see the best video resolution, click on the gear symbol in the lower right of the video while it is playing)

Potholes and buckling are not new hazards to asphalt roads that spend half the year under snow and ice. But Yellowstone's roads have additional challenges. Much of Yellowstone sits on top of a giant caldera from a super volcano. The magma chamber underneath expands and contracts in a "breathing" motion. Add to that, 1,600 small earthquakes each year, and acidic sprays from nearby geysers. It's a miracle that the roads function as well as they do.

Although the photo of the damaged Firehole Lake Road is making news, more notable road repair is happening on the Grand Loop Road between Mammoth Hot Springs and the Norris Geyser Basin. A 16-mile stretch of road receives constant beatings from thermal features. Within the next five years, the Park Service plans to relocate this part of Grand Loop Road that takes visitors past Frying Pan Spring. "That area of the road is always buckled up and being repatched and repaired, so we're moving it away from the thermal area," Hottle said.

For status of Yellowstone roads, visit the NPS Park Road page at or call 307-344-2117.




Road Construction after Labor Day 2014

Road Closings in Yellowstone After Labor Day 2014

Two sections of Yellowstone National Park's Grand Loop Road will be closed for construction - Old Faithful to West Thumb, and Mammoth to Norris.

Firehole Spring on Firehole Lake Drive in Yellowstone

Firehole Lake Drive off Yellowstone's Grand Loop

Firehole Lake Road is a 3-mile, one-way road off the Grand Loop between Old Faithful and Madison. Geysers & hot springs are visible from the road & boardwalk. Watch the time-lapse video of the drive.

Grand Loop Drive from West Thumb to Lake Village

Yellowstone's Grand Loop - West Thumb to Lake Village

This 21-mile stretch of the Grand Loop Road from the West Thumb to Lake Village travels along the side of Yellowstone Lake with hotels, visitor centers, and a geyser basin boardwalk.

Spring bicycling from West Yellowstone in April

Yellowstone Roads Open Exclusively to Cyclists in Spring and Fall

Yellowstone roads are open to bicyclists in spring and fall while they are closed to motorized traffic.

Map of road construction in Yellowstone in 2020

2020-2022 Yellowstone Road Construction

Three major road projects in 2020-2022. A complete closure between Tower Fall and Chittenden Rd, plus delays at the North Entrance and Fishing Bridge to Indian Pond.

Bison on the road near Yellowstone National Park

Win a Yellowstone Vacation Plus a Road Trip to the Park

Enter through Feb 23, 2021 to win an adventure starting from one of four cities and ending with a 3-day guided tour and lodging in Yellowstone.

Firehole Falls. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

Firehole Canyon Drive to Waterfall & Swimming Area in Yellowstone

Firehole Canyon Drive is a 2-mile, one-way road off the Grand Loop south of Madison. The drive has a waterfall overlook and swimming area. Watch the time-lapse video.

Elk grazing in Rocky Mountain National Park

Denver, Colorado to Yellowstone Road Trip

Explore three national parks and one national monument on this breathtaking, 1,300-mile road trip that starts in Denver.

Black bear crossing the road in Yellowstone. Photo by NPS Jim Peaco.

Yellowstone Bear Jams on Roads

When Yellowstone National Park visitors behave appropriately around roadside bears it's a positive experience for both bears and people.