In my almost 15 years of regularly visiting Yellowstone National Park, I’ve learned that change is the only constant in this dynamic place.
Volatility is literally baked into the landscape. The Yellowstone hot spot—a plume of magma from the planet’s core that sits closer to the crust here than in most other places on Earth—fuels the earthquakes, geysers, and hot springs that continually reshape the region and ensure that visitors never experience the same park twice.
That’s one reason why it’s key to have freshly updated info like what you’ll find in the latest edition of Frommer’s Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks.
Even if you know to expect a state of flux, Yellowstone can still surprise you, as I learned in the summer of 2022.
(Grazing bison in the Lamar Valley at Yellowstone Natioal Park | Credit: Gestalt Imagery / Shutterstock)
For my first research trip for this edition of the guidebook, I decided to hit the eastern and northern parts of Yellowstone in early June. That timing turned out to be a lucky break, as I was able to drive the beautiful Chief Joseph Scenic Byway from Cody, Wyoming, into Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance, cruise the rich-in-wildlife Lamar Valley, and stay in one of my favorite park hotels, the rustic Roosevelt Lodge and Cabins.
I drove out via Mammoth Hot Springs and the charming gateway town of Gardiner, Montana.
Only one week later, rare weather patterns converged to create a massive 500-year flood across the northern stretches of Yellowstone.
The roads I’d just traveled became impassable as the swollen Yellowstone, Gardner, and Lamar rivers tore away huge chunks of pavement. Park officials carefully evacuated stranded visitors at Roosevelt Lodge. A large section of the national park shut down just as the summer high season was picking up, and the towns of Gardiner, Cooke City, and Silver Gate were temporarily cut off from the rest of the world.
(Damage to Yellowstone National Park's North Entrance Road caused by flooding in June 2022 | Credit: National Park Service / Jacob W. Frank)
As the flood waters receded, park rangers and administrators jumped on the task of surveying and recovering from the damage with admirable dedication and speed.
But the job was huge, and there was no way around major disruptions to park operations for the rest of the season.
Like so many park visitors who’d planned trips last summer, I found myself scrambling to rescue my own itinerary for another round of research.
Rearranging things was no small feat, as park hotels typically need to be booked months ahead of time, and nobody, from the park to concessionaires, was quite sure when roads, lodges, and entire park sections would reopen.
It took a lot of phone calls and sketching out revised driving routes to avoid shuttered roads, but I managed to replan my careful arrangements in time for a late June visit.
(Mountain biking at Grand Targhee Resort near Jackson, Wyoming | Credit: Kevin Cass / Shutterstock)
With part of my Yellowstone itinerary on hold, I approached neighboring Grand Teton National Park via a western route I hadn’t seen before, and discovered attractions I otherwise would have missed.
I was able to sneak in a night at Grand Targhee, a downhill skiing/mountain biking resort on the less-crowded but equally stunning western side of the Tetons. My experiences with the lift-served biking and kid activity park made it into the guidebook.
I had more time to linger in Jackson, Wyoming, where I savored a few new finds, such as the “high-elevation cuisine” of Coelette and a soak at Astoria Hot Springs. They're both in the new guide, too.
(Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in Wyoming | Credit: Pung / Shutterstock)
I made another trip to Yellowstone in September, this time with my husband and two young kids. By then, most of the park infrastructure had come back online.
Though crews were still working on the rerouted North Entrance Road, we came in from the West Entrance and cruised the lower half of Yellowstone’s figure-eight loop road.
My 2-year-old napped through Old Faithful’s eruption; my 5-year-old swam in Yellowstone Lake and earned a Junior Ranger badge at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
As much as the park changes, the magic of a visit is always the same.
I came away from my research with what we think is the most up-to-date and useful guidebook around. I also ended up with a renewed appreciation for the ever-changing, always awe-inspiring Yellowstone National Park.
Frommer's Yellowtone & Grand Teton National Parks by Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan is available now in paperback and e-book versions at bookstores and from online booksellers.