The ways to lose the crowds

Yellowstone. The name alone conjures images of grizzly bears, bubbling moonscapes and the frontiers of the Old West. But in the face of surging visitor numbers – a record 4.25 million in 2016 – you’re now just as likely to see crowds.

It’s no surprise, considering the world’s first national park has long been a wish-list staple, though it does make getting away from it all more difficult. Here’s how you can forge your own path in America’s greatest wilderness.

 

1. Go off-road

There’s an old saying in Yellowstone: 97 percent of visitors use three percent of the park. Whether or not that’s still strictly true these days, you’re definitely going to find yourself with company if you solely stick to the roads. Instead, ditch the tarmac and traipse the trails.

Try the route to Trout Lake, an easy half-mile track that’s perfect for first-timers. After a short, steep climb through dense forest, you’ll come across a lake with a surface as smooth as glass. Watch bison grazing beneath the snow-dusted peak of Mount Hornaday, and look out for black bear prints around the rim.

 

2. Avoid peak season

There are plenty of reasons why summer is a magnet for the masses – not least more reliable weather, longer days and the opportunity to try llama trekking. But you shouldn’t underestimate the crowds, particularly if you’re hoping for an escape from the hubbub. In 2016, more than a quarter of the park’s annual visitors were recorded in the month of July.

If you’re after a quiet break, try visiting another time. Spring is best for wildlife, with baby animals galore and both grizzly and black bears descending from the mountains. Winter is ideal for adventurous types, as most roads close and you’ll have to get around using snowmobiles and skis.