Tourists Drive Past ‘Road Closed’ Signs On Way To Yellowstone, Get Stuck For 6 Hours

A Cody tow truck driver was mobilized in the wee hours of the morning Thursday to rescue a family trying to get to Yellowstone. Instead, they drove past “road closed” signs and got stuck for six hours.

Ellen Fike

April 19, 20243 min read

A family was trapped for six hours in their rented Jeep this week after they missed "road closed" signs on their way to Yellowstone.
A family was trapped for six hours in their rented Jeep this week after they missed "road closed" signs on their way to Yellowstone. (Courtesy Zac Beardall)

It was around 12:30 a.m. Thursday when Zac Beardall got a call from the Wyoming Highway Patrol about a family having to leave their rented Jeep behind. 

The family had driven more than 4 miles up a snowpacked road, past “road closed” signage (that they apparently didn’t see, Beardall said), toward Cooke City, Montana, on the way to Yellowstone. 

Beardall, a tow truck driver from Cody, said the road the family was on “is a hardpack surface from all the snowmobiles going up and down, but just underneath it, it’s a very fluffy, dense snow. If you break through that hard crust, you’re just kind of planted where you’re at. The road wasn’t great, we got stuck ourselves going up.”

The family was stuck in the Jeep for nearly six hours before they were able to get a signal out to law enforcement. It could have been a much more harrowing experience had that signal not been sent out. 

But for Beardall, the incident was just a sign of tourist season kicking off in the Yellowstone area. 

Tourist Season

“This time of year, sometimes we’re getting calls to go out every day and help a stuck tourist,” Beardall told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “They might go out looking for wild horses in the McCullough Peaks. They might get sent down the wrong road and drive out into the oil patch and get stuck. We’re always going and rescuing people.” 

The midnight phone call Beardall got this week won’t be the only one he’ll get this season, or even this month. 

It took about three-and-a-half hours to get the Jeep unstuck and back to the main road, where the family happily went back on their spring vacation heading toward the North Fork Highway, on Beardall’s recommendation. 

“They’d been going to Yellowstone because their kid is in the fourth grade and has a pass to see all of the parks for free,” Beardall said. “So, I figured they could drive up the North Fork, because it’s the Yellowstone Ecosystem, so they can experience the park without being into it.” 

He also told them how to get to Mount Rushmore and Devils Tower, so they could still take in some incredible sights before the trip ended. 

Since tourist season is about to kick off, Beardall recommends anyone driving to Yellowstone (or any other national park) to be aware of inclement weather and how it could impact the route.

“Avoid mountainous areas with limited cellphone service if you’re inexperienced in the area,” he said. “Also, try to look up the roads you’re going on instead of just following the GPS. The GPS will take you into some very, very bad places around here. It’s led people into fields, into snowpack. It’s taken them down inaccessible roads. In Wyoming, GPS is sometimes more of a detriment than a hope.”

It also helps to not miss signs along the way, like those that read “road closed.”

Certain roads in Yellowstone reopened Friday, including the west entrance to Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful and Norris Junction to Canyon Village. More of the park’s roads will open next month, weather permitting. 

Ellen Fike can be reached at

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Ellen Fike