Travis Smola

What Not to Do on Your Yellowstone Visit This Summer

These are prime examples of what not to do while visiting this iconic national park.

As attendance skyrockets in our nation's National Parks, so too, do the stories of dumb behavior by visitors.

By far, no other park sees more instances of dumb tourist behavior than Yellowstone.  With that in mind, we've put together a little collection of some of the more ridiculous stories and videos to come out of the park in recent years. Some are funny, some frightening, some are sad.

Whatever the case may be, these are some of the dumbest tourist incidents of the past few years. Just think of these incidents as examples of what NOT to do when visiting the first National Park!

1. Don't be this ignorant

Unfortunately, there are a large number of people who drive through Yellowstone's gates and just don't seem to understand the place isn't a zoo.

At least one group completed a whole visit through the park in 2015 without realizing that fact if this note left at one of the lodges is any indication. The park guests complain about the bears not being trained to be in areas where visitors can easily see them.

I guess they somehow missed the signs that are literally everywhere warning visitors the animals in the park are wild!

2. Don't pet the bison

The large, lumbering bison are the most common large mammal you'll encounter when you drive through Yellowstone's gates. They are literally almost everywhere. Unfortunately, their cattle-like appearance and demeanor gets them in trouble with tourists more than any other animal in the park.

As a result, too many a dumb tourist has gotten too close. In some extreme cases, people have tried to pet them!

But a bison's temper can flare at the drop of a hat. I've seen them charge at RVs in the park before. They aren't cuddly! Leave them alone unless you want to end up like the guy in the video.

3. Stay away from large predators

Yellowstone actively encourages visitors to stay at least 100 yards away from all predatory animals, this includes wolves and bears. However, a few years ago, this video of bears on a bridge went viral as a mother bear and her three cubs find themselves on a stuck in the middle of a bridge stuck between groups of tourists on either side.

Mother and her babies were clearly terrified to be cornered by all these tourists with cameras. It's really amazing she didn't go on the defensive here. It's a good no one was hurt.

While we're talking bears, here's a reminder to not go off-trail either. A hiker was killed last year by a grizzly after going off trail. Stick with the marked paths, walk in groups and make noise to alert bears to your presence. It also doesn't hurt to have bear spray, which can now be rented in the park if you're flying into the area.

4. Leave the drone at home


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This one is a bit more on the annoying side because it could have negatively affected a feature that in essence, belongs to everyone. In 2014, a tourist from the Netherlands was flying a drone over the Grand Prismatic Spring. This spring is one of the most spectacular features in the whole park.

Unfortunately, his drone crashed into the spring. Officials were unable to locate the drone and were worried about the negative effects the device could have had on the delicate environment of the spring. Thankfully, no ill effects have been observed as of yet. But incidents like this are one of the reasons drones are now banned in the parks and why you'll see signs to remind visitors of the law everywhere now.

The incident wasn't cheap for the tourist either. In addition to losing his expensive drone, he had to pay $1,000 in fines and $2,200 in restitution.

I know your drone is cool, but it isn't allowed. Please leave it at home.

5. Stay on the boardwalks

Speaking of thermal features, the volcanic features of the park are just as big an attraction as the wildlife. And these features can be dangerous if you wander off the path. Scalding steam and super-heated water are the norm.

Still, in spite of the signs, you still see stupidity like in the videos above on occasion. These dumb tourists are not only lucky a ranger didn't spot them, but they are lucky they didn't fall through a thin crust and to a scalding death.

Several years ago, a group of Canadian men actually had arrest warrants issued for them after they walked out on the Grand Prismatic Spring. Another man was fined after trying to collect water from a feature in Mammoth hot springs. A few years ago, a man died after falling into a spring in the Norris geyser basin. Stay on the boardwalks!

6. Elk are aggressive, too!


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Aside from bison, the next most likely animal you'll encounter in Yellowstone is elk. Mammoth Hot Springs, in particular, is a spot you're pretty much guaranteed to see them. Still, every fall, the NPS has to continually warn tourists about the dangers of elk, especially during the rut!

This compilation shows you shouldn't get too close to the elk during the rut, even in your vehicle. One bull has no problems ramming multiple vehicles.

And don't discount the cow elk either. Because they will chase you and mess you up if given the chance. Give these magnificent members of the deer family some space.

7. Leave animals in distress alone

This is one of the more recent and extreme dumb tourist stories. In May of 2016, a couple of men became world famous after they placed a lost bison calf into the back of their vehicle.

Unfortunately, the baby ended up being euthanized by the National Park Service after the herd rejected it. One of the men was fined $110 and suffered untold ridicule in the incident.

Even if things sometimes look bad for Yellowstone wildlife, they may defy the odds. Such was the case with a different bison calf that stood its ground against a hungry wolf until his mother relocated him. The animals in Yellowstone are wild. They don't need, nor do they want your help.

The park is a natural ecosystem and there's a chance you're going to see the true brutality of nature when you enter. It's sad, but that's just the way it is.

Yellowstone is a spectacular place to visit and you can make a ton of memories there. If you're planning a trip this summer, don't do what the people in these examples did. You'll stay a lot safer and you won't end up on the internet looking like an idiot!

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels