Yellowstone Forever supports projects that enhance Yellowstone's visitor experience, including education, recreation, safety, and accessibility.
From colorful canyons to pristine alpine meadows, Yellowstone’s trails cover more than 1,000 miles of breathtaking scenery. Yellowstone Forever provides resources to ensure the park’s trails continue to be a safe and inspiring way for visitors to connect with wild places.
Visitor Experience PROJECTS
Trails Restoration Program
Yellowstone is known and loved for its natural wonders, and a favorite way for visitors to enjoy the park’s beauty is by recreating on its 1,000+ miles of trails. Unfortunately, many of these trails are in desperate need of restoration. Through this project, park staff will identify, restore, and repair Yellowstone’s beloved and heavily used network of trails, continuing partnerships with the Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps and Montana Conservation Corps to maximize accomplishing work during the short labor season. With a sizable maintenance backlog, funding challenges, and record numbers of visitors, support from Yellowstone Forever continues to be an essential part of collaborative trail restoration and youth engagement success.
- Funding Needed: $200,000 Annually
Norris Geyser Basin Museum Exhibits and Canyon Amphitheater Improvements
The Norris Geyser Basin Museum is one of the park’s original trailside museums built in 1929-30, and is a National Historic Landmark. The current exhibits in the museum were designed and installed more than two decades ago using methods of the time. Unfortunately, the silk-screened text has rubbed away, and photos attached by adhesive have fallen off. In 2010 and 2012, the worst portions of the exhibits were refaced as a temporary fix. However, the original exhibits are still in rough shape and need to be replaced. In addition, the electrical and screen systems in the Canyon Campground Amphitheater are outdated, and the screen system frequently malfunctions. This project will enrich each visitor’s experience in the Norris Geyser Basin and Canyon Campground by replacing both the technical systems and the exhibits in the museum.
Visitor and Wildlife Safety Education
Managing the coexistence of people and wildlife in Yellowstone is more important than ever before. The park has experienced a significant increase in visitation since 2015, leading to increased tragedies including grizzly bear-related fatalities and bison gorings. This project will provide support for seasonal park rangers and volunteers to conduct the following programs:
- Wildlife and Visitor Safety Education Program, in which roving park rangers provide information at wildlife-related traffic jams and other locations where wildlife and visitors are in close proximity
- Wildlife Education and Safety Demonstrations conducted by rangers on topics like bear spray, safe hiking and camping practices, and proper food storage
- Elk Rut Volunteer Corps in Mammoth Hot Springs to reduce elk/human conflicts during the autumn rut
- Funding Needed: $100,000 annually
Campground Bear Box Program
Preventing bears from obtaining human foods is the foundation of Yellowstone National Park’s grizzly bear management program. Grizzlies that become conditioned to human foods often become more aggressive toward property or people, and must be removed from the park population out of concern for human safety. The most successful, proven method to prevent this situation has been providing visitors with bear-proof, food storage boxes at roadside campgrounds. With past contributions from Yellowstone Forever, as well as funding from other public land agencies, bear box installations have been completed in multiple park campgrounds. However, 1,324 bear boxes are still needed to complete installation in the park’s five largest campgrounds at Mammoth, Canyon, Bridge Bay, Grant, and Madison.
- Funding Needed: $1,500 per Box/$82,500 Annually
Bilingual Rangers for Chinese Visitors
Yellowstone National Park has experienced a significant increase in the number of Chinese visitors over the past three years. However, many cultural and language differences affect the ability to ensure these visitors enjoy the park safely. Chinese visitors traveling by bus may not receive adequate safety information from their drivers and guides, while those traveling in smaller family groups may lack an interpreter to explain park rules at all. The park has increased Mandarin Chinese signs and materials, and recognizes the need for bilingual rangers to help visitors understand the dangers of stepping off boardwalks in thermal areas or getting too close to wildlife. This project will support the funding of five bilingual (Mandarin Chinese/English), seasonal park rangers to work in the park’s busiest areas.
Visitor Center and Wayside Exhibit Modernization
Yellowstone’s visitor centers and wayside exhibits serve millions of visitors each year, and attendance data suggests that each visitor encounters at least three exhibits during their visit. Exhibits at nine visitor centers provide self-paced learning opportunities through technology, reading, viewing, or discovery through touch or audio. In addition, nearly 400 wayside exhibits offer safety messages and important information with visitors regardless of the time of day. All of Yellowstone’s exhibits must meet professional and National Park Service standards; they must be ADA compliant, and have the ability to engage visitors of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, and cultures through universal graphics and language translations. This project will help keep exhibits throughout the park in good working order maintain acceptable appearance, and update content.
Trailhead Information Displays
Yellowstone’s trailhead displays offer an important opportunity to set the stage for each visitor’s backcountry experience. They help orient roughly 20,000 annual, overnight, and backcountry visitors—as well as countless day users—by providing critical messaging about regulations and bear safety. Currently, trailhead displays across the park vary in terms of design, maintenance, and information. This lack of consistent messaging may cause visitor confusion, inconvenience, or safety problems. The purpose of this project is to design and construct professional-looking trailhead information displays at 90 trailheads within the park. Each display will be similar in layout, providing users with an area map, information on backcountry regulations and safety, and a space for rotating informational signs that convey seasonally changing conditions.
Inter-Agency Workshop to Support Regional Transportation Planning
Yellowstone National Park has experienced a dramatic escalation in the number of visitors in recent years, reaching a peak of 4,257,177 visits in 2016. This influx of visitors is seriously straining the capacity of park roads, pathways, space at popular attractions, and parking, as well as the park’s efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions from vehicles. An event is needed to bring together multiple stakeholder groups, including transportation management experts and representatives from government, nonprofits, and private industry, to discuss the challenge of increasing visitation on a regional scale. This project will provide for an inter-agency workshop, Innovations in Mobility throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, for stakeholders to work together toward identifying future solutions.
Mammoth Campground Improvements
The popular Mammoth Hot Springs Campground is the only Yellowstone campground open year-round. Its high visibility along the North Entrance Road also causes strain on its comfort station, which is used by general visitors as well as campers. Due to high visitor use, many of the campground’s facilities and equipment need upgrading, replacement, or repair to make them more accessible and keep services up to par. This project will upgrade the office to streamline the check-in/check-out process, improve ADA accessibility for campsites and bathrooms, and upgrade transportation equipment for camp hosts. A better-maintained campground will provide a safer and more comfortable place for visitors to stay while enjoying Yellowstone.
Yellowstone Visitor Use Analysis
Over the past decade, visitation to Yellowstone has increased by close to 40%. In order to better manage this dramatic surge, the National Park Service is studying data on park visitors to better understand who they are, how they move through the region, and what they value. This study will help the park identify the volume of visitors to various park and Yellowstone-area attractions, as well as demographic characteristics of those visitors, by capturing data from mobile devices. Findings from the study will help park management make decisions about communication with visitors, development of traffic management systems, visitor-use planning, and other strategies to cope with increasing visitation while maintaining positive visitor experiences.