Google Mapping Errors for Yellowstone During Winter and Spring

In winter or spring when some Yellowstone roads are closed, Google maps shows alternate roads outside the park, even if you are planning a summer trip.
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In winter or spring when some Yellowstone roads are closed, Google maps shows alternate roads outside the park, even if you are planning a summer trip.

Planning a trip to drive through Yellowstone National Park? It’s possible you may run into a few hiccups in your decision-making, especially if you’re trying to map your route in the winter or spring when seasonal road closures will affect your route.

Here are a few helpful hints when mapping out your trip through the park.

Keep in mind that most of Yellowstone’s roads are closed for much of the winter. This is likely to throw a wrench into your ability to map out your trip on the internet if you’re doing so between October and early June, since Google Maps will reroute you around the outside of the park to avoid the road closures. Don’t worry though. All of the roads are open by mid-June allowing for easy driving through the park.

Google Map Error during winter and spring for Yellowstone Trip Planning

During winter and spring, Google will route you outside the park, resulting in longer trips. This example from West Yellowstone to Cody routing north around the park is 293 miles (5 hours).

During winter and spring, Google will route you outside the park, resulting in longer trips.

Going south around the park shows 428 miles (7 hours and 45 minutes). But, going THROUGH the park during tourist season would only be 136 miles.

Download a Park Map with Mileage

Want to estimate your drive time through the park? Yellowstone’s speed limit is 45 mph on the main roads, but slows down to 25-35 mph by the road junctions, in the village area and in a few other dangerous spots. For a rough estimate, double the number of miles on that segment of the road to get the number of minutes the trip will likely take, assuming you don’t make any stops. Example: 136 miles x 2 = 272 minutes or 4.5 hours.

Another thing to keep in mind when estimating travel time is “bison and bear jams,” back-ups in traffic due to animals in the road or next to it. These wildlife-viewing hold-ups are likely to add another 15-45 minutes to the trip.

Keep tabs on Yellowstone news, which may affect traffic on www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm.

And if all else fails, remember those old-fashioned books of maps—atlases I think they used to call them? Well those are pretty effective at planning routes too.

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