Yellowstone is my favorite National Park. It’s an amazing place of strangely beautiful geysers, mud pots and travertine formations; canyons and waterfalls created by a pristine river; and animals that freely roam over 2 million acres of park. Even more amazing is that most of the park is inside a 40 mile wide caldera with a huge expanse of magna laying just 3 to 9 miles below the surface of the earth. At least a dozen large eruptions have occurred over the past 18 million years, spewing ash and lava, creating and changing the landscape in the western states.
We thought that we would miss some of the crowds by visiting the park in September. We were wrong. :-D The last time we visited the park was 10 years ago and things have changed. There are more people and many of them are camping. Five campgrounds that are managed by Xantera do not have any first come/first serve sites. The other seven campgrounds are managed by the park and the only way to get a site is to arrive early in the morning and wait in line until someone checks out. On previous visited we could go from campground to campground, seeing the sights along the way, and still find a campsite at the end of the day.
We spent five days in the park and camped for one night at Bakers Hole, a national forest campground, located outside the park and north of West Yellowstone, the next night inside the park at Madison after someone canceled their reservation, two nights at Norris after waiting in line and one night at Mammoth by waiting in line again. The situation was made even worse because four campgrounds, two managed by Xantera and two managed by the park, were already closed for the season. Anyone with a large RV should make reservations early or plan on staying outside the park.
Five days is not enough time to see the park but we still had a great visit. The boardwalks and paved trails which protect both the fragile features and the visitors from harm, make the major sights of the park fairly wheelchair accessible. It’s only a coincidental accessibility though so there are sections of boardwalk that are too steep or have steps and paved paths with large ruts. Backtracking and assistance is often necessary. The park has a good online accessibility guide and a paper guide is available at the visitor centers.
Another change since our last visit is that most of the one-way, short loop roads are now closed to all motorhome traffic. There are still many things to see along the main roads and most of the parking lots have long spaces for RVs. These lots can fill quickly and it can be very difficult to find a space for a RV over 30’. Visitors with large RVs should stay outside the park and use their towed vehicle to sightsee.