Yellowstone, ID/MT/WY

Posted January 14, 2011 by User 1

NOTE: This article has been moved to the info section: Any further updates will ONLY show there.

Yellowstone is the world's first and likely most famous national park. The land of geysers, hot springs and steam vents, actually a large volcano, is also home to Wyoming's darkest sky. Plenty has changed since Lewis and Clark made their way to the area, namely, in terms of accessibility. The sky, however, remains virtually untouched.

Yellowstone National Park covers the northwest corner of Wyoming but extends into the states of Idaho and Montana. Grand Teton National Park is just to the south, located entirely within Wyoming. Together, along with the surrounding national forests, make up the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem which also serves as a buffer zone against cities and light pollution.

Geothermal areas, while great for viewing and photography, is less than good for telescopes. The steam released during the night mixes with the cooler air and leads to severe atmospheric turbulence in the immediate area. This makes many of the campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park less than suitable. Specifically, avoid the Norris and West Thumb area campgrounds. Mammoth Hot Springs may also see some turbulence. In terms of light pollution, the southern end of Grand Teton National Park sees the most due to the proximity to Jackson, WY. The northern half of Yellowstone National Park sees undetectable levels of light pollution.

The summit of Mount Washburn (10240'), near the center of the park, is a great place to set up a telescope if portability and energy allows. The high elevation combined with the frequent temperature inversions over the area keep the air extremely stable overhead. The trail is 2.5 miles to the summit and is accessible by bike.

Grand Teton National Park also has several campgrounds. Expect thick tree cover which exists over nearly all sites.

All campgrounds in both parks are closed in winter. Only the Mammoth Hot Springs area in the northern part of Yellowstone National Park and US 191 through Grand Teton National Park is open during this time.

West Yellowstone, MT to the west, Gardiner, MT to the north are the nearest towns to Yellowstone National Park. The nearest moderately-sized city is Bozeman, MT to the north. The nearest major city is Salt Lake City, UT about 350 miles to the south. Services are available inside the parks at the major visitor centers including Colter Bay and Old Faithful.

The Yellowstone area is well known for its cold climate and heavy snowfall. Summer highs at Old Faithful average around 60 degrees (F) and lows are around 40 (F). Winter highs are around 20 degrees (F) and lows are around 0 (F).

An entrance fee of $25 per vehicle is charged by Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, good for 7 days to both parks.

Yellowstone National Park:
Grand Teton National Park:

This is part of a series called "Dark Skies, USA" covering locations in the United States and elsewhere where the night sky is much as it was before the light bulb.


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