Yellowstone Closes North & Northeast Entrances Due to Intense Winter Storm
Written by Andrew-Rossi on December 21, 2022
All entrances into Yellowstone National Park closed to all traffic – regular and oversnow – during Wednesday’s snowstorm, a reminder that the new roads are only temporary solutions.
An intense, multi-day winter storm began pummeling the Rocky Mountain Region starting Tuesday night. In addition to freezing temperatures, the first day of the storm was accompanied by significant snowfall, particularly in northwest Wyoming.
At 5:59 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 21 – the first day of winter – Yellowstone send a text via its road alerts notification system. “Due to hazardous road conditions,” the message read, “please use extreme caution on the Temporary North Entrance.” The park even urged visitors to “consider delaying travel in the park” through the North Entrance.
Less than an hour later – 6:24 a.m. – all choice was removed. The Temporary North Entrance was closed to all regular and oversnow traffic.
At 6:52 a.m., the Northeast Entrance temporarily closed. Less than an hour later, the South Entrance closed at 7:46 a.m. due to “extensive drifting.”
Winter closures are fairly routine in Yellowstone National Park due to the unpredictability and intensity of high-elevation snowfall. However, such closures might be more frequent for the North and Northeast Entrances, ironically due to the floods of June 2022.
The established routes from the North and Northeast Entrances were destroyed during the thousand-year flood events of June. Miraculously, temporary roads for both entrances were paved and open to regular traffic by the end of October 2022.
But, from the very beginning, park officials have been clear – these new roads are temporary solutions. When the new Temporary North Entrance – the New Old Gardiner Road – opened in October 2022, Yellowstone superintendent Cam Sholly emphasized that the road might not be the permanent route.
In his opening remarks, Sholly indicated that planning for the permanent road corridor between Gardiner and Mammoth began in early November 2022. While the new corridor will be a permanent fixture for the park’s future, it will need improvements – like reducing and lessening sharp curves – if it’s to become “the” North Entrance road.
This week’s winter weather is a valuable learning experience for Yellowstone officials, the park’s maintenance staff, and future contractors. The North and Northeast Entrance routes stay open year-round – any new route will have to ensure staff accessibility and visitor safety, even in the worst winter storms.
Thankfully, the Temporary North Entrance reopened at 9:04 a.m. However, drivers were warned to expect adverse weather conditions, blowing snow, and sizeable drifts.
There’s at least a 30% chance of snow in Yellowstone National Park every day until at least Jan. 1, 2023, and possibly many days after. So while this may be the first winter closure of the North and Northeast Entrances, it certainly won’t be the last.