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Memorial Day trip

Auburn, New York
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Memorial Day trip

OK, I need help!! We decided last month to fly into Salt Lake City and rent a minivan to camp in and visit Grand Tetons and Yellowstone May 25-June 3. We have done this many time (Alaska, Olympic National Park, Yosemite to name a few). We love to explore and to hike and to do it on our own schedule. My problem is I have not been able to get excited about this trip. Here are a few reasons why 1) not sure about the cold and wet weather (we had a long hard winter here and I'm worried this will be the same, 2) worried about the bears (that is why we are sleeping in the van and are not back packing this trip)- we hiked to Enchanted Valley in ONP and camped 3 nights on the tral, we saw signs of bear but never saw one, I wasn't worried then, but now I am. 3) It shows there are trails and roads closed in Canyon area, we were looking forward to that area, 4) Worried all roads won't be open due to weather and we will be limited to where we can go, 4) Having to plan each nights lodging, usually we just find places as we go. So far we have Friday May 25th and Monday May 28th booked. We were planning on doing the first come campsites but I just realized that some don't open till June and I've been reading they are hard to secure a site anyways. Most likely we will have to go out of the park to sleep. ( I am monitoring the reservation site hoping for cancellations) Please help me to get excited!! I know many of you love Yellowstone. Am I over thinking this? Thank you!! We love Southern Utah and have been there many times this will be our first time to Yellowstone. I'm tempted to change out plans and head south, DH wants to give Yellowstone a try.

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Salt Lake City, Utah
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for Salt Lake City, Lake Powell
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1. Re: Memorial Day trip

I'll let the YNP experts address your concerns about visiting there over Memorial Day. But I do have to say that switching to the parks in Utah at this late date would not be a great idea. The parks in Utah will be packed over Memorial Day. Finding a place to camp without advance reservations will be a big challenge. They will be just a difficult at the fcfs campgrounds in YNP.

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Utah
Utah
United States
Georgia
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for Atlanta, Savannah
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2. Re: Memorial Day trip

"1) not sure about the cold and wet weather (we had a long hard winter here and I'm worried this will be the same,"

4) Worried all roads won't be open due to weather and we will be limited to where we can go

We were planning on doing the first come campsites but I just realized that some don't open till June "

Why did you plan to go to such a high elevation location so early in the year to camp?

You say you've done Alaska the same way. At the same time of year?

#2 - I agree. I've done it once and not again for the same reason.

#3 - There's some sort of construction/ maintenance going on every year in YNP. This year, a lot is being done at Canyon.

"Please help me to get excited!! I know many of you love Yellowstone. Am I over thinking this? "

No. Planning wise, you have been under thinking this trip.

I wouldn't do it because I'm not a fan of winter camping. Look at the weather forecast. Nights are 32 degrees and below for your dates. That's not my idea of fun, but others enjoy it.

One option is to spend the first part of the vacation in the Tetons and then move up into Yellowstone. Here are the camping options for GTNP -

https:/…camping.htm

Far less driving in Jackson Hole than YNP and you can spend more time doing things than just driving to see things.

Be sure to take bear spray with you when hiking.

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Boston...
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3. Re: Memorial Day trip

While it might be cold, it will also be nice because you will be there before the peak summer crowds. You should be excited! Think of all the baby animals you could see and wildlife that is out at this time of year! I wish I could go earlier, but I have kids in school.

There are several campgrounds in GTNP that are open mid-May. I remember one of the experts saying that Gros Ventre rarely fills up early in the day.

https:/…camping.htm

I would try to get reservations for as many nights as you can in YNP before you leave for your trip. They already look pretty full to me. I would not want to worry about finding a place to sleep in YNP, but that is just me. Its such a big park and I wouldn't want to be driving around looking for a place to stay all day when I could be sightseeing.

If you are worried about the cold, why not spend a few nights in a hotel or cabin or something to break up the camping? Why camp the whole time if you are sick of the cold? Just a thought...it might allow you to enjoy the trip more knowing you have a warm place to sleep and shower some nights. It will be cold when you are there!

Billings, Montana
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for Yellowstone National Park
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4. Re: Memorial Day trip

My suggestion if you can't get a campsite inside Yellowstone Park is to get campground reservations for a campground at West Yellowstone (west entrance) for exploring the southern loop of Yellowstone Park and campground reservations for a campground at Gardiner (north entrance) for exploring the northern loop of Yellowstone Park.

Gardiner (north entrance) is at the lowest elevation of the park at 5,314 feet. It is in a drier area of the park so while it can get cooler at night it won't be like inside the park. There are two private campgrounds in Gardiner- Rocky Mountain RV Park and Yellowstone RV Park.

https://www.rockymountainrvpark.com/

https://www.rvparkyellowstone.com/

There are some "economical" hotels in Gardiner. We stay at the Yellowstone River Hotel during our April and October trips. We will probably try Black Bear Inn next October.

http://www.yellowstonerivermotel.com/

blackbearvacationrentals.com/the-black-bear-…

West Yellowstone (west entrance) has multiple private campgrounds right inside town. While the elevation of West Yellowstone (6667 feet) isn't that much lower than Madison Campground (6806 feet and14 miles inside the park from West Yellowstone) it would allow you to have a reserved campsite. If you google "West Yellowstone + RV Campgrounds" you will get a list.

West Yellowstone has a few "mom and pop" motels that are more economical. They don't have much curb appeal but are clean and comfortable rooms.

Any campground on the east side of the park is going to be colder in May and June due to the high elevation. Bridge Bay (which I've tent camped during Memorial Weekend many times) is a little over 7,700 feet. Canyon Campground is a little over 7,900 feet in elevation. That is why they get so cold at night and why you run a good chance of waking up to a good amount of snow in the morning. Been there.....done that.

I've also tent camped at Madison Campground over Memorial Weekend and have had rain and light snow (1-2 inches). I actually hate tent-camping in the rain more than in the snow, even if the temps are cold. I wouldn't have any problem sleeping in a mini-van as long as I had a good sleeping pad for underneath me, a good sleeping bag and extra blankets for at night.

There will only be 3 First-come, First-served Campgrounds open in Yellowstone Park during your trip (Norris, Mammoth, and Tower)......that is why it will be hard to get into one. The demand will be high especially Tower as it is the closest to Lamar Valley until Slough Creek and Pebble Creek campgrounds open in mid-June. Of those 3 campgrounds, you will have the best chance of getting into Mammoth Campground as it has 85 campsites. Mammoth is at a lower elevation (6239 ft) and is in a very dry part of the park so it doesn't get as cold. It's so close to Gardiner (5 miles) that I would recommend just getting a reservation for a campground at Gardiner for peace of mind if you want to stay in the northern part of the park.

All of the roads inside Yellowstone Park will be open during your trip. If for some reason, it snows and the plows can not keep up with the snow, the park will temporarily close that road until they are done. The road sections typically temporarily closed will be the road sections that go over a high pass like Dunraven Pass and Craig Pass. I wouldn't let the chance of a road temporarily closed the end of May/beginning of June be part of the decision of whether or not I should still go on the trip. Temporarily road closures due to snow can happen in the summer months too. It happened to me on June 13th last year. Yellowstone Park is a large park.....it can be snowing in one part of the park and just fine in another part of the park.

Wildlife viewing has been fantastic so far and will undoubtedly continue the rest of the month and into June. Its a great time to be in the park.....you just need to be prepared for colder temps at night and plan accordingly.

Deb

Edited: 12 May 2018, 22:30
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Georgia
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for Atlanta, Savannah
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5. Re: Memorial Day trip

"... saying that Gros Ventre rarely fills up early in the day."

GV rarely fills up at any time of the day - during peak season.

GV will be available but the other camping options in GTNP should be available to reserve as well. If not, GV is there - and it's at my favorite location in the park = near Moose and Dornan's.

jackson, miss
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6. Re: Memorial Day trip

I don’t know anything about camping so I can’t help you there. But I do know something about the time of year that you have chosen to go. Last year I did a last-minute memorial day trip and had to cobble together last minute hotel reservations. Everything worked out fine and we had a wonderful trip. We did just the Tetons over a long weekend it is a wonderful time of year. I find the temperatures are cold at night and quite cold in the morning but it warms up pleasantly during the day. I did a trip report last year for my Teton trip which you can find under by screen name if you want to see what all we saw over memorial day. It is a great time of year to see all of the Park babies and it generally is before the big crowds. I think you will have a great time and I encourage you to go.

Jackson, Wyoming
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7. Re: Memorial Day trip

You live in a town of nearly 30,000,000 people not terribly far from the country's largest city, you're gonna drive through high volume traffic to a busy airport, fly across the country, rent a minivan and do more driving here with thousands of people from all over the world. After your time here you you're gonna do it in reverse all over again.

Bears should be WAY down the list of concerns for a trip to Greater Yellowstone. The most dangerous part of any HIKE is driving to the trailhead, period. Get a hold of irrational emotions, mitigate your risks with bear spray and COMPLETE knowledge of what to do when around Apex Predators. Relax and have a great trip.

We are forecast to have up to 20" of snow in the Absaroka Mts. this weekend.

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8. Re: Memorial Day trip

Stop worrying. You have picked as good a time as any to visit Yellowstone. The roads will be open (if they do close it will only be temporary) and crowds won't be as bad as peak summer.

Low temps may be around freezing, but daytime temps historically average about 63 degrees, so it's not exactly winter camping. Even though there is always the possibility of snow in June, even in July or August, the probability of it happening during your vacation is actually quite low. It is wise to bring layers and be prepared for any and all types of weather while visiting Yellowstone, regardless of when you visit.

Yes, bears live here. But they are very unlikely to cause you any harm as long as a few basic precautions are taken. The probability of death or injury from a car wreck on the way to Yellowstone is much higher than the probability of death or injury from a bear while camping.

While many people think it ideal to stay inside the park, there are just as many who prefer to stay outside the park for various reasons. And even though it may be difficult to find first come campsites inside Yellowstone, there are several nice developed campgrounds outside of the park near West Yellowstone that are likely to have something available if you prefer to travel without reservations (You can always make a reservation if waiting til last minute makes you nervous). There are several campgrounds in the town of West Yellowstone, if you prefer or at least don't mind being town. If you prefer to be out of town, there are also several campgrounds within 10 miles of West Yellowstone. There are two KOA's on Highway 20, 6 and 8 miles from town, and I've never seen both of them at capacity over Memorial weekend. There is the Madison Arm Resort, a privately owned campground on a Forest Service lease on the south shore of Hebgen Lake. There are also three developed Forest Service campgrounds, one at Baker's Hole, one at Rainbow Point, and one at Lonesomehurst.

Stop worrying, think positive, and enjoy your vacation.

Edited: 14 May 2018, 02:06
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Madison
Madison
Wisconsin
Hebgen Lake
Hebgen Lake
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West Yellowstone, MT
Georgia
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9. Re: Memorial Day trip

Excellent post!

This should be added to Top Questions for camping options near YNP!

Auburn, New York
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10. Re: Memorial Day trip

Thank you so much!! You all are such awesome cheerleaders! I'm looking forward to coming home 100% in love with YSNP and GTNP !! I am very excited now, thanks. I was able to book May 26-27 at Fishing Bridge so now we have 25-28th (4 nights) reserved in the park. I will keep checking for more openings but I'm also looking into Gardiner for the 29-30th to explore that area. Then I think we will head to GTNP, after reading jackdog31 trip report I think we need a few more days there to explore. My heart is warmed by all your great advise!! Thank you again.

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Gardiner
Gardiner
Montana
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