Yellowstone is a popular destination for road bicyclists, and bicycling is allowed on maintained public roads, in parking areas, and on designated off-pavement bike routes. Bicyclists should note, however, that most of the park’s highways are winding, narrow, and possess little to no shoulder. Bicycling is strictly prohibited on the park’s boardwalks and backcountry trails.
Bicyclists should always be alert for vehicles and wear helmets along with highly visible clothing. Many motorists, especially large RVs with limited visibility, do not notice bicyclists on the road. Bicyclists should note that park drivers occasionally pass on blind corners or in oncoming traffic, which creates an additional hazard for riders. Additional information about biking in Yellowstone is available at park visitor centers.
In order to accommodate the growing number of visitors each year, individuals are only allowed to camp a total of fourteen days between June 15th and September 15th and no more than thirty total days in any given year. To protect wildlife and campers, food, garbage, cooking utensils, and toiletries must be stored in a locked vehicle or in a solid, airtight container. Backcountry users must contain these items (when not in use) in a bear bag at least ten feet above ground and five feet away from any trees.
Amid Yellowstone’s geysers and thermal features are several areas comprised of crumbling loose rock. For this reason, rock climbing is prohibited in Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon, and rangers highly discourage climbing in all other park regions.
While creating a charred black landscape, the 1988 fires also formed a new hazard for park visitors. Known as snags, thousands of dead trees were left precariously perched on Yellowstone’s hills, ready to tumble without a moment’s notice. Although many of these snags have already collapsed, a few dead trees remain standing. Visitors should always be alert for snags, particularly on roadways, backcountry trails, and in picnic areas and campgrounds. The park does not guarantee your safety and is not responsible for any negative incidents involving snags. Use your own best judgment.
Although visitors may transport unloaded firearms through Yellowstone with a special permit when the weapons are cased and kept out of sight, loaded and operable firearms are not permitted (including state-permitted concealed weapons). Any ammunition for unloaded firearms must also be stored away from the weapons.
Visitors are reminded to be respectful of others and follow “Leave No Trace” ethics. If you bring something into the park, be sure to pack it out. Littering is not only unsightly, but it is also strictly prohibited. Throwing coins or any other object into mud pots, geysers, and thermal pools is also subject to a stiff fine.
Motorcycles and ATVs
All motorcycles, motorbikes, and power scooters must be licensed, and operators must possess a valid driver’s license. These vehicles are required to stay on park highways at all times, and backcountry ATV and motorcycle use is prohibited.
Be a respectful park visitor, and leave as little impact on Yellowstone’s landscape as possible. It is against the law to remove or destruct any park feature. Refrain from picking any flowers, removing even the smallest rock, or pocketing any part of Yellowstone. The park is not for personal possession; it is a national treasure that law requires all to share.
Yellowstone’s picnic areas are designated for just that picnicking. Overnight camping is prohibited in these areas. Most of the park’s picnic grounds feature pit toilets, but visitors should plan ahead as none offer drinking water. Fires are only allowed in the fire pits found at the following picnic areas: Grant Village, Snake River, Cascade, Norris Meadows, Bridge Bay, Yellowstone River, Nez Perce, Spring Creek, and Old Faithful’s east parking lot. At all other picnic grounds, fires are forbidden, but portable camp stoves are allowed.
If possible, leave your pets at home. For obvious reasons, pets in Yellowstone must be leashed and are forbidden in the backcountry, on park trails, on boardwalks, and in thermal regions. All pets, regardless of size, must be kept at least 100 feet from roads and parking areas, and it is against the law to leave any pet unattended or tied to a park object.
Smoking is strictly forbidden in all of Yellowstone National Park’s public areas, visitor centers, and ranger stations. In addition, smoking is not allowed in thermal areas. Ashes from cigarette butts could potentially ignite sulfur deposits, resulting in dangerous and even lethal gasses. For the safety of yourself and other visitors, refrain!
Snowmobiles must be registered in accordance with state law, and all snowmobile operators must possess a valid driver’s license. Noise from snowmobile exhaust systems must register under 78 decibels in order to gain entry to the park. Snowmobiles must also stay on designated roads and follow all posted speed limits. The maximum speed limit is 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour).
Although some of Yellowstone’s springs may look inviting, appearances are deceiving; most of the park’s hot springs can cause second and third degree burns - even death. For the safety of all visitors, swimming, soaking, or simply dipping your feet in thermal attractions is forbidden. The only exception is the “Boiling River” near Mammoth. Here, runoff from Yellowstone’s springs provides a naturally warm soaking spot that is open year-round from 5 AM to 6 PM.
Visitors are also discouraged from swimming in Yellowstone Lake. The lake often possesses hazardously cold water temperatures, and unpredictable area weather can create dangerous conditions. If you have any questions about swimming or soaking in Yellowstone, contact a park ranger.
Although Yellowstone features more than 350 miles of highway (564 kilometers), most roads are routinely jam-packed full of summer traffic. Drivers are urged to use caution at all times as many of the roads are narrow or steep with some featuring sharp drop-offs. Slow-moving vehicles or drivers interested in looking at Yellowstone’s wildlife and scenery must use the park pullouts so as not to interrupt traffic flow.
Drivers are also reminded to watch for wildlife, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. Drive defensively, wear seat belts, and always obey the posted speed limits. Speeding tickets in the park are notoriously hefty, and rangers continuously patrol the roads.
For many park tourists, Yellowstone’s wildlife is unlike anything they have ever seen. As tempting as it is to approach the animals for a perfect picture, park law mandates that no individual may approach a bear within 100 yards and must keep a distance of at least 25 yards from other park wildlife. Feeding wildlife and making artificial animal calls are also prohibited. While viewing wildlife, keep in mind that if your presence causes an animal to stir, you are most likely too close. Always maintain a safe distance for your protection and that of the animals!