Fairy Falls Trailhead Temporary Parking Area
Visitation in Yellowstone has increased 21% from 2014, and at even greater rates in the focal park corridor from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful. Due to increasing popularity from social media and guidebooks, demand to visit the Midway Geyser Basin area, in particular to view Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, has grown at particularly high rates. This has led to extensive challenges related to parking and traffic congestion, visitor crowding, safety, resource impacts, staffing, and park operations in the Midway area and the surrounding corridor.
The existing parking areas in the Midway Geyser Basin are inadequate in size for the amount of vehicle traffic currently visiting the area. This has resulted in visitors parking on the road shoulders, parking off-road, or foregoing a visit to the area altogether. Parking along road shoulders and off-road, as well as the proliferation of social trails, has resulted in extensive erosion and resource damage. There has also been numerous near-misses between cars and pedestrians as people cross the road or walk along narrow lanes. In addition, the situation has created extensive traffic congestion in the area resulting in traffic and emergency response delays.
To alleviate some of the parking issues and congestion, the park is proposing to construct a 3/4 acre temporary parking area for approximately 74 passenger vehicles near the existing Fairy Falls Trailhead. The parking surface would be gravel and within the perimeter of a previously disturbed area where the "Freight Road" used to be and would not impact any nearby thermal features or wetlands. A grader and loader would be used to remove approximately 2" of topsoil to prepare the area for gravel. This project would require about 600 cubic yards of gravel. The equipment would be staged in a vehicle turnout immediately south of the construction area. At the northern end of the area, 5 lodgepole pines < 6-inch DBH (diameter at breast height) would be removed. A barrier would be placed along the perimeter of the parking area to prevent off-road parking and impacts to the adjacent resources. The park is proposing that this project would be completed by early summer.
As a part of this project, the park would implement monitoring protocols to collect data on transportation capacity, visitor behavior/crowding, and resource impacts, both before and after the opening of the trailhead and parking area. This data would be compared to previous years' data and will assist the park in determining the effectiveness of this parking area and whether more analysis should be done to formalize this into a permanent parking area. If the parking area is not an effective solution to meet the purpose and needs of this project, the park would return the affected area to a natural condition.
Park monitoring information, and the re-vegetation plan, can be found under the Documents tab on the left side of this page.
Morgan Warthin (307) 344-2015
***Yellowstone National Park is seeking public feedback on the proposed Fairy Falls Trailhead Temporary Parking Area Project***