Get ready – official opening of Yellowstone National Park’s West Entrance is Friday, April 15. All of the major attractions accessed through the West Yellowstone, Montana entrance will be accessible by motorized traffic. This includes Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. For those who prefer to bicycle or walk, mild weather and spring scenery await you within the gates.
Saturday April 16 marks the beginning of the National Park Week. Montana actually has four national park designations in which entrance fees will be waived April 16-24, and while it would be a struggle to cover all four of them in the same seven days, it would be worth the try:
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone was the country’s first national park, and it is no surprise that it remains one of Montana and Wyoming’s top-grossing attractions. Most people think of it as exclusively a Wyoming feature, whereas its north and west entrances are actually inside Montana (another 1 percent of the park is in southern Idaho). The towns of Red Lodge and West Yellowstone are home to many of the unique ecological and recreational attractions that draw visitors to Yellowstone.
Glacier National Park
Glacier, the country’s 10th park was established in 1910 and shares its northern boundary with Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada. More than 700 miles of trails span out across its terrain, linking ecological and cultural landmarks on both sides of the international border. Glacier, which draws large numbers of bicyclists and motorists to its beautiful Going to the Sun Road, has just started plowing its roads, and as is evident in its April 7 Flickr photos, still has a fair amount of snow.
Little Bighorn National Monument
Little Bighorn National Monument memorializes the lives that were sacrificed on both sides during the battle between the U.S. Cavalry (led by General Custer) and the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians in 1876. The monument features interpretive talks, self-guided walking tours and museum exhibits about Lakota Indian culture and the history behind this historic event.
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
Dramatic rainbow-colored ridges tower above Bighorn Lake, which is known for its year-round fishing and summer recreation. Little Bighorn Canyon’s attractions include well-preserved 19th-century dude ranches and herds of wild horses, as well as miles of hiking paths that wind on both sides of the Montana-Wyoming border.
No matter which destination you choose, spring, with its gently warming temperatures is an ideal time to see Montana’s national parks. No entrance fees during National Park Week makes the experience all the more enjoyable.