Virtual visits: How to experience Yellowstone and Glacier remotely
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Virtual visits: How to experience Yellowstone and Glacier remotely

No crowds

Old Faithful geyser erupts on May 5 without any visitors crowding around to watch. Webcam views like this are one of several ways to visit parks during the coronavirus shutdown.

Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks are closed due to COVID-19, but thanks to the internet they’re not entirely off-limits.

Technology may not be able to replicate the spray of a waterfall or the thigh burn from cycling over the Continental Divide, but webcams, videos and online activities can let fans of Glacier and Yellowstone national parks peek over their gates and remember that these places are very much alive and ready for their return.

Glacier webcam

This view from one of Glacier National Park's webcams looks down on Lake McDonald.

The National Park Service has posted several of these offerings on both parks’ websites, and private fundraising partners have shared these and more.

“We’ve aggregated a lot of that information and worked with stakeholders” on it, said Doug Mitchell, executive director of the Glacier National Park Conservancy, which has posted a list of virtual Glacier experiences — both park- and user-generated — on its blog.

Mitchell predicts that their appeal will last beyond the pandemic.

“I think this, at the end of the day, can be a value add for us,” he said. “We can deliver the beauty of Glacier to a wider audience than might ever be able to come through the gate.”

Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald is relatively calm on Tuesday, May 5, as seen via this Glacier National Park webcam.

Here are some of the ways you can visit the wonders of Glacier and Yellowstone from afar:

Webcams: The National Park Service has webcams trained on scenic vistas and wildlife hotspots throughout its system. Visit https://www.nps.gov/glac/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm for Glacier’s webcams and https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm for Yellowstone’s. In addition, Google Maps and Google Street View will give you a bird's- or driver's-eye view of the parks.

Empty

This view from the top of the Old Faithful Inn shows the empty boardwalks around Old Faithful geyser as it erupts on May 5.

Park videos and podcasts: Both parks offer extensive online video libraries, which include raw wildlife footage, glimpses of popular spots like Old Faithful and Going-to-the-Sun Road, student-oriented lessons, and documentaries about the parks’ ecology, geology and history. Visit https://www.nps.gov/glac/learn/photosmultimedia/park-videos.htm for Glacier’s video library and https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/videos.htm for Yellowstone’s. Yellowstone National Park has also launched a series of Distance Learning Videos on its Facebook page, in which educational rangers lead tours of the park. Both parks also have audio of wildlife and podcasts available on their websites.

Mountain snow

This view from Mount Washburn in Yellowstone looks across the still snow-covered hillsides to the northeast and the Beartooth Mountains.

Visitor videos: Glacier and Yellowstone are well-represented on YouTube. In 2011, Jake Bramante became the first person to hike all of Glacier’s 734 miles of trails in one season. A hiker’s-eye view of his adventures is available on his YouTube Channel, hike734. If you’re in the mood for something lowbrow, check out the playlist “Stupid People in Yellowstone National Park!” and learn how not to interact with bison and elk.

Art experiences: If there’s an artist of any age in your family, Glacier’s and Yellowstone’s nonprofit partners have you covered. The Glacier National Park Conservancy has launched a Glacier Color Club (https://glacier.org/newsblog/glacier-color-club/) in which artist Becca Snyder leads weekly video tutorials on how to re-create the park’s vibrant hues at home. Yellowstone Forever, meanwhile, has DIY postcards, buttons and writing activities available at https://www.yellowstone.org/experience/art/arts-in-the-park-downloadable-activities/.

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