When you are planning for a solo trip to any destination in the world, one of the biggest concerns is your safety. Yellowstone National Park is home to well-known aggressive wildlife like grizzly bears and bison, and hydrothermal features like geysers and hot springs.
Is it safe to go to Yellowstone alone? Going to Yellowstone alone is considered safe for both men and women. The National Park Service has put in place rules, regulations, and safety measures to keep park visitors safe from wildlife, extreme weather, and other natural dangers. Notably, many injuries, unfortunate incidents, and death have occurred in cases where people have failed to follow park guidelines.
In this article, I have outlined the possible dangers that you are likely to face in Yellowstone, whether it is from wildlife, weather, natural hazards, or getting lost. I have also indicated places where you can have reliable cell-reception just in case you want to stay ‘connected.’ Finally, I have shared some handy safety tips for your solo Yellowstone adventure.
How Safe is Yellowstone?
Yellowstone is a safe place to go. Nevertheless, the park hosts natural attractions like thermal features, rivers, cliffs, and highland areas that can lead to injuries or even death. Hence, caution and proper safety measures are required to stay safe.
Geothermal features in Yellowstone include hot springs, geysers, mud pots, and fumaroles. These are some of the most spectacular natural wonders that you will find in Yellowstone. Unfortunately, they are also in the list of the most dangerous ones.
Many people have been severely burned. Others have died for going near or beyond marked safety zones in the geothermal areas of the park. Luckily, there are safety warnings and directions on where you can view the attractions at a safer distance.
Rivers, Lakes, Streams, and Creeks
Yellowstone is home to many water areas, and so, it is evident that the park attracts lots of swimmers. While you can swim in Yellowstone, not all places are safe for swimming. Swimming is allowed in Boiling River and the Firehole River swimming area.
However, it does not stop people from swimming in Yellowstone’s many water bodies, and once in a while, someone drowns in Yellowstone.
Mountains, Rocks, and Canyons
These are potentially dangerous places in Yellowstone where falls, injuries, and deaths have occurred. Further, Yellowstone is a high altitude area with some areas being as high as over 11,000ft. It presents the possibility of altitude sickness.
Related: A Complete US National Park List
Are There Dangerous Animals in Yellowstone?
Dangerous animals in Yellowstone include bears, elk, moose, bison, wolves, and snakes. These animals attack when they feel threatened and are not likely to bother anyone who keeps out of their way. In case of an encounter, some measures can help keep you safe.
Here are some animals in Yellowstone to be aware of:
The bears in Yellowstone are mainly Grizzly and Black Bears. Moreso, there is at least one bear attack every year in Yellowstone. The bears are likely to attack if they feel threatened by you with no way to escape. Female bears with cubs may attack if they see you as a danger to their cubs.
Moose, Elk, and Bison
Moose and elk are the largest in the deer family, while the bison are American buffaloes. The three animals and especially the bison, are numerous in Yellowstone. They have some characteristics in common:
- They only attack humans when provoked
- Bulls are especially aggressive during the mating season that occurs in June-September for bison and August-October for elk and moose
- Females are more aggressive when accompanied by their young ones
Wolves and Coyotes
These two will mostly approach picnic areas and campgrounds in Yellowstone to search for food. They usually won’t attack you but may show aggressive behavior if you interfere with their activities.
Crime in Yellowstone National Park
Crime is generally low in Yellowstone National Park. However, like with any other popular places with so many visitors, incidents of assaults, pickpockets and other petty thefts are reported from time to time.
Being alone in Yellowstone doesn’t necessarily mean going to secluded parts of the park on your own, right? People with criminal intent are likely to target you if there’s no one else around.
In an incident that happened back in 2019, a woman was assaulted in a Yellowstone National Park bathroom. Only the woman and the attacker were inside the community bathrooms at the time. Luckily, the woman’s shouts alerted someone to come to her rescue. It takes us to our next question:
Is It Safe to Go to Yellowstone Alone as a Woman?
It is safe for a woman to go to Yellowstone alone. The general safety in Yosemite is not dependent on gender. Anyone who observes personal safety and guidelines set out by the National Park Service should stay safe regardless of their gender.
That said, being a solo woman traveler in Yosemite may make you anxious and especially if you are doing it for the first time. Taking a few measures into account can help reduce your worry.
I have gathered a few tips from female travelers and shared them below:
- Hook up with other women travelers with the same adventure goals in Yellowstone.
- While it is okay to want some alone time, ensure you are not too secluded from other adventurists – just in case you need to shout ‘help!’
- Gather as much information about Yellowstone as possible (as you are doing by reading this post).
- Keep relevant information and cash secure. Better yet, have back up documents and spare money with you.
- Don’t share accommodation details and other personal information with strangers that you meet on your trip.
- Trust your instincts – If you have a bad feeling about a place or a person, it is okay to act on it.
- Beware of your surroundings at all times. It will help you to know if something goes amiss.
Yellowstone experiences four seasons. Even with the definite seasons, unpredictable weather conditions are common in Yellowstone all year round. This is what you should expect:
Spring comes with unpredictable weather, which requires layering of clothing. Temperatures can fluctuate from as low as 100 F (-120 C) to as high as 500 F (100 C). Also, spring is sometimes characterized by a snowfall of 1 foot or more.
Summer brings the most comfortable weather in Yellowstone. Still, don’t expect it to be boiling. Day time temperatures usually range from 700 F – 800 F (250 C- 300 C) while the night temperature range between 300 F- 400 F (00 C- 100 C). Afternoon thunderstorms are also frequent in summer.
Early fall is as warm as summer, but towards the mid-fall, expect temperatures to drop to 400 F- 600 F (50 C- 200 C) with even colder nights. Snowstorms intensify as winter draws and sudden storms become more frequent.
The season is characterized by heavy snowfall, occasional wind, and temperatures that average at 00 F (-200C) to 200 F (-50 C). The lowest temperature on record, however, is -660 F (-540 C). At higher elevations, snow can rise to between 200-400 inches (5-10 meters). Most roads and park facilities close for the season.
Getting Lost in Yellowstone National Park
Have you heard of the story of Truman C. Evert, who got lost in Yellowstone for 37 days? Luckily for him, he was later rescued and nursed to full recovery. He recounts his ordeal in the book, Thirty-Seven Days of Peril.
Well, that was way back in 1870 before Yellowstone was preserved as a National Park in 1872.
Since then, and many years later, people still get lost in Yellowstone, and luckily, most of them have been found and rescued.
That said, it is possible to get lost in Yellowstone National Park. Thankfully, with compasses, GPS, maps, cellphones, proper preparation, and adherence to safety precautions, you significantly reduce the possibility of getting lost.
Cell-phone reception is available in over 50% of the entire park. Antennas, towers, and wireless services are installed in some locations in the park to ease park operations and to provide safety for visitors.
Five towers provide cell coverage in the park. They are positioned in Old faithful, Tower-Roosevelt, Canyon, Mammoth, and Grant Village. The signal also extends to Montana.
At the North, West, and South entrances of the park, cell reception is excellent, thanks to the towers outside the park. Finally, you can also get reliable cell reception at the Lake Hotel and the Fishing Bridge area.
In the rest of the park, you cannot rely on cell reception. The strongest signal is provided by Verizon, followed by AT&T and Union Wireless.
How to Keep Safe in Yellowstone?
Keeping safe in Yellowstone will depend on the level of preparedness, self-discipline, and adherence to safety rules and regulations in the park. The National Park Service has done a lot to ensure safety in Yellowstone.
The below safety tips will go a long way:
- Only swim in the designated areas of the park.
- Keep off areas marked to be shared with bears, avoiding thick bushes, and always have a can of bear spray with you. Additionally, stay about 100 yards (91m) away from bears and wolves.
- Stay 25 yards (23m) away from bison, elk, moose, and other animals. At all cost, don’t approach or show interest in any of these animals if they are accompanied by their young ones.
- If you plan on hiking any high ground, do it gradually to give your body time to adjust to high altitude.
- Use boardwalks and marked trails in areas with geothermal features.
- Park for all weather conditions since the weather in Yellowstone can take an unexpected turn.
For more details on safety, check out these 10 essential tips to stay safe in Yellowstone.
You can definitely go to Yellowstone on your own and stay safe. The question is when it comes down to choosing between doing the right thing or the dangerously thrilling one, what do you do? The decision you make can make the difference between a successful adventure and an unfortunate one.