Doing trip planning in winter for a Yellowstone National Park summer vacation? 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.
Helpful Route Planning 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 online maps such as Google Maps will reroute you around the outside of the park to avoid the road closures. Don’t worry, though. All of the park roads are open by end of May allowing for easy driving through the park.
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 as they were known? Well, those are pretty effective at planning routes, too. REI sells a great Trails Illustrated map of Yellowstone, which is super helpful.