Top Things to do In Yellowstone During the Months of March, April and May
After a long Yellowstone winter, the awakening of spring brings with it several new arrivals, the emerging of established wildlife and vegetation veterans, and a whole bunch of excitement for the warmer season that lies ahead. For Yellowstone National Park, April marks the beginning of the staggered opening of the park to visitors who have waited for this day to arrive, and April and May usher in thousands of new residents of the park with the birth of several different wildlife babies. Let’s look at some of the top things to experience in Yellowstone during these spring months.
Get a Jump on the Spring Season
For the truly adventurous who are willing to brave the unpredictable elements (come prepared for winter like conditions of cold and snow) , in late March or early April (specific dates are not predetermined as weather , park roads between the West Entrance at West Yellowstone, MT and Mammoth Hot Springs open to walking/jogging, bicycling, roller blades/skies or other non-motorized public travel, before the anticipated official mid-April opening of the park to vehicle travel.
The 2020 spring season opening dates (weather permitting) are as follows:
· April 17: West Entrance to Madison Junction, Madison Junction to Norris, Norris to Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris to Canyon Village, Madison Junction to Old Faithful.
· May 1: East Entrance to Lake Village, Canyon Village to Lake Village
· May 8: South Entrance to West Thumb, West Thumb to Lake Village, Old Faithful to West Thumb, Tower Junction to Tower Fall
· May 22: Canyon Village to Dunraven Pass/Chittenden Road
· Note: The road between Tower Fall and Chittenden Road is scheduled to be closed until April 2022.
Wildlife Viewing and the Arrival of New Offspring
This time of year is filled with the debut of several of Yellowstone’s favorite residents – the calving of bison and elk, the emerging of grizzly and black bear and their cubs who were born during the winter in their dens, birth of pronghorn twins, wolf and coyote puppies born in a den between March and April and emerge in May, bighorn sheep babies in May or June, and many other newborns that arrive at this time of year. And, because of the higher elevations are still very cold and snowbound, wildlife are concentrated in the valleys and meadows for a greater chance to see wildlife this time of the year.
The arrival of elk calves in the spring is also a time when grizzly bear are in predatory search of newborn elk and in places like Swan Lake Flats as you near the Bunsen Peak Trailhead, real life survival of the fittest is on display as you can often observe this sometimes difficult to watch life in the wild play out.
However, nature has provided for these newborns and their ability to be up and about in a very short period is truly amazing. Bison calves are on their feet almost immediately and can keep pace with their mothers within two hours of birth. Elk calves are walking within an hour of birth and gradually increase in speed over the next few days. Pronghorn young can walk within 30 minutes and can spring at high speeds in just a few days.
With the park’s awakening and grizzly and black bear emerging from their dens, you have a good chance of spotting these iconic symbols of Yellowstone. It is also a time where you should be very cautious when out hiking and adventuring as they will aggressively defend their food sources and seek to provide for their cubs.
Hiking and Waterfall & Wildflower Viewing
Yellowstone is known for having over 300 waterfalls throughout the park, and many of them can be easily accessed with a short hike to a viewing location. Spring is accompanied with mountain snow run off and rivers and streams are surging with water. Watching the water plunge over the brink of a waterfall at this time of year is even more spectacular than at other times of the year as the extra water falls with greater intensity, fans out for greater display effects, and produces a more powerful sound and force that can be felt in your chest when you can get close to these beautiful displays of nature. Here are a few of the waterfalls, by road section, that are usually accessible (may need to cross some snow in route to certain waterfalls) and within reasonable hiking distance this time of the year.
· Canyon Village to Fishing Bridge: Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls
· Madison to Old Faithful: Firehole Falls roadside along the Firehole Canyon Drive, Fairy Falls accessed about 1 mile after the trail to Grand Prismatic Springs for a total of 2.5 miles, Mystic Falls about 2.5 miles accessed from Biscuit Basin
· Old Faithful to West Thumb: Kepler Cascades, a roadside waterfall shortly after leaving the Old Faithful area
While these are just of the few of the waterfalls that are in the park, they are easily accessible and quite enjoyable to view at this season. In May the wildflowers are starting to bloom displaying their brilliant colors that can create a canvas like landscape with the possibility of beautiful photos with vibrant colors.
Enjoy the Iconic Features without the Crowds
April and May are not the high visitor periods of the park, and the ability for easy access to the major iconic venues of the park can be very enjoyable not having to battle the crowds of summer for a more up close and personal experience.
· The various Geyser Basins with their hot water evaporates faster and converts to steam increasing its surface area to display more earnestly and boldly the cloud of vapor in the cooler air. The famous Old Faithful geyser located at Old Faithful, and the also famous Great Fountain Geyser located at Firehole Lake Drive are extra special when viewed up close, an experience usually difficult to achieve during the crowded months.
· Tour Old Faithful Inn and enjoy relaxing in front of the mammoth sized fireplace after having explored the unique and rustic architecture and fascinating history of that awe-inspiring edifice of early 1900 construction.
· The Grand Prismatic Springs array with all its colors, seen at ground level or from the overlook, provides view of largest hot spring in the United States.
· Walk the unique travertine terraces board walk of Mammoth Hot Springs and contemplate the enormity of this small mountain created of these gigantic hot springs.
Kick off to the Yellowstone Fishing Season
Each year the Yellowstone National Park fishing season starts Memorial Day weekend. A permit, available at locations in and outside the park, is required with fees: 3-day permit $18, 7-day permit $25, and a season permit $40. At the beginning of the fishing season when many of the rivers and streams are running high from spring runoff and not fishable, the even water levels of Madison, Gibbon, and Firehole Rivers all fish well with hungry trout ready to attack your fly.
Come and Explore Yellowstone in the Spring
Spring in the park is one of the best times to visit Yellowstone when all things living seem to awaken, emerge and blossom to provide the adventurer with some of the choicest opportunities and for memorable experiences in this sanctuary of wildlife and wilderness. And yes, come prepared for the changing and often unpredictable weather conditions as Yellowstone country can experience significant weather and temperature swings in a short period of time.