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Grand Prismatic from Above. Yellowstone, WY

Grand Prismatic from Above. Yellowstone, WY
If you like camping and adventures, flying to Yellowstone is a good way to explore the National Park.

Destination: KWYS
Aircraft: N4837W - AC114
Transportation: Car Rental through FBO

We took off from Oakland (CA) with a Rockwell Commander 114 at 11am after waiting for the marine layer to clear out.

On the way north, we enjoyed the nice view of Pyramid Lake (NV)

and the empty playa of the Burning Man (NV).

Then we landed at Winnemucca Municipal Airport (KWMC). It's a good stop to refresh especially on hot summer days, it's about halfway to Yellowstone. The runway is very hard to spot in the middle of the desert terrain, keep your eyes outside the cockpit to look for it. At the airport you can refuel your plane with cheap gas, and there is a very tiny FBO with AC selling all different types of ice-creams.

After an hour break, we took off and flew over the Bruneau Canyon (ID).

By the time we got to Idaho it was 6pm, the sky was overcast with clouds at 12K feet. Luckily I had my portable ADS-B receiver (the Stratux) connected to ForeFlight on my iPad and I could see weather information with cumulus clouds over Yellowstone with raising thunderstorms. So we decided to change destination and stop for the night at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport (KIDA). During the summer, typically clouds in Nevada and Idaho start building early in the afternoon, producing heavy precipitations and thunderstorms throughout the evening. The weather can change quite abruptly from clear to overcast. They recommend limiting your flights in this area to the morning hours.

The next day we woke up relatively early, took off from KIDA and within an hour we landed at the Yellowstone Airport (KWYS). One of the perks of this airport (besides the very long and well maintained tarmac) is the FBO’s campground reserved exclusively to pilots: you can mount your tent, spend as many nights as you like for free and use the FBO’s amenities.

The campground is very quiet, a short ride by car to the National Park and it’s the only campground in Yellowstone that is surrounded by fences so bears cannot get in.

At the FBO you can also rent a car. Call in advance before arriving to reserve your car.

There are not enough words to describe the beauty of the Yellowstone National Park (WY). The following pictures are a small taste of it

After four days of fun and relaxation exploring the National Park, on July 4th we departed to Oakland while celebrating Independence Day.

We took off from KWYS on the late side, around 12pm. Again that’s not recommended, better to fly early in the morning to avoid overcast skies and thunderstorms. The first thing we did was flying over the Yellowstone National park. There are flight restrictions above the park, make sure you ask the FBO. One of the highlights of the entire trip for me was the view of the Grand Prismatic Spring from the plane

and the rest of the park from above was quite spectacular too

On the way back, we flew over the Grand Teton National Park (WY)

and landed at the Magic Valley Regional Airport (KTWF). Besides cheap gas, they have a very nice FBO with AC which is ideal during hot summer days and a large kitchen area. The FBO was so comfortable that we took a rest for way too long before taking off, and cumulus clouds started to build up. By the time we crossed the border from Idaho to Nevada, the sky was already overcast with rain.

Luckily my portable ADS-B receiver turned out to be very useful once again: by looking at the radar information on my iPad, I took a long detour (see map below) and flew around clouds and rain. Then I landed for refuel at Derby Field (KLOL) where visibility was very limited due to a large fire on the mountains nearby

We hit another fire as we approached Lake Tahoe, so we had to take another detour by flying north of Reno, rather than crossing the Sierras over Tahoe. Finally we landed at KOAK around 8pm.

Here’s the full itinerary of the flight

What a fun adventure!

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