The first thing you should know about Yellowstone is that the National Parks sits on a volcanic caldera. Essentially, the whole place is a giant supervolcano and it’s not one of the happy dormant ones. The ground is constantly rising and there are thousands of earthquakes in the park every year. When it erupts, scientists speculate that the resulting impact of the toxic ash cloud would spread 1000 miles rendering the United States pretty much uninhabitable. The second thing you should know is that this place is stunningly beautiful.
Microclimates In Yellowstone
The geothermic activities that’s responsible for the hot springs, geysers and pretty much everything else awesome in Yellowstone also creates the incredibly inconsistent weather patterns within the park. You can go from driving with the sun on your face right into heavy snowfall and then into deep fog all within minutes. For a landscape photographer, this can make for some surreal and unexpected photographs.
Backcountry Camping In Yellowstone
My friend, Peter, and I decided to spend a few nights hiking and camping in the Yogi Bear’s backyard. Despite being there in June, we were told that several of the backcountry trails were still closed and snowed in while certain river crossings were not possible since the water levels were still too high. I found this strange when it was a nice and clear 70 degrees outside. We were blessed with this fair weather during our hike in to the first campsite and the next day when we went trekking around the area. This is what it looked like.
On the morning of our hike out 2 days later, I was hit with hail while trying to go number 2 in the woods. That was a great sign of things to come. It started to rain on the hike out. It wasn’t sunny anymore, but still nothing out of the ordinary.
When we passed those same hills we saw on our 2nd day hike, it was now covered with snow.
It’s Snowing In June
When we finally go to our car to drive on to the next spot, we were told that some of the roads were closed due to heavy snowfall and a rock slide forcing us to head back west to find a cabin or something for the night. The weather was gloomy for the next 15 minutes, but there absolutely no sign of show. And then as if we had crossed some invisible barrier, suddenly the scenery changed from green and gray to all white. Minutes later we were driving in near blizzard conditions. And minutes after that, it was sunny again but everything around us was covered in snow.
We made it to Canyon Village before sunset where I asked Peter to drop me off on the side of the road to do some photography. While trying to compose my shot, a couple stopped and asked what I was photographing that was worth standing crotch-deep in snow.
They offered me a warm ride back to the village after I showed them the photograph.