Five miles south of Yellowstone National Park’s North Entrance is the historic village of Mammoth Hot Springs—the park’s headquarters. Mammoth is a great place to begin your Yellowstone adventure, and stopping by the Albright Visitor Center while you’re there is the perfect way to kick off your day. From free ranger programs, to trip-planning information, to hands-on exhibits, you’ll find everything you need to make the most of your Yellowstone experience.
Fort Yellowstone in Mammoth Hot Springs was built by the US Army to be their park headquarters when they administered Yellowstone in the 1890s and early 1900s. One of the buildings they constructed, in 1909, was the bachelor officers’ quarters. This transformed historical building is now the Albright Visitor Center, named after Horace M. Albright, the second director of the National Park Service. It is the only visitor center in Yellowstone that is open year-round.
The center reopened in the spring of 2015 after a major two-year renovation to make it more accessible, retrofit it for seismic activity, completely refurbish the interior, and upgrade the educational exhibits. Several of the exhibits, which were funded by Yellowstone Forever, guide visitors through Yellowstone’s cultural history beginning with its early Native American inhabitants. Other exhibits illustrate the relationships of Yellowstone wildlife to each other and their home in this mountain landscape. Visitors of all ages will enjoy checking out a life-size bison, a hands-on antler vs. horn comparison, specialty movies, interactive displays, and more.
The visitor center is your go-to source for trip-planning information. Park rangers at the desk can help you plan your time, and if you’re hitting a trail or driving out to the Lamar Valley it’s a good idea to check in with them about road or trail conditions and any wildlife activity in the area. You can also pick up a park map or a self-guiding trail booklet for the Mammoth Terraces or Fort Yellowstone. In addition, the visitor center houses a Yellowstone Forever Park Store, a backcountry office, and restrooms. Looking for wi-fi service? You’ll find it there, too.
While you’re there, be sure to check out the schedule of free ranger talks and tours that originate at the center. Programs range from snowshoe tours in the winter, to Mammoth Terraces walks, wildlife safety workshops, and evening talks that each highlight a fascinating aspect of Yellowstone.
Families traveling with children ages four and up will want to participate in the self-guided Junior Ranger Program by requesting the $3 Junior Ranger book. Children will enjoy checking activities off the list as their family explores Yellowstone, and those who complete the program will earn a special Junior Ranger patch.
The Albright Visitor Center is open 7 days a week. Hours are 8:00 am – 6:00 pm in the summer season, and 9:00 am to 5:00 pm the rest of the year.