Yellowstone in Winter-A Hot Short Guide

by | HotSpots, North America

For many, good weather for outdoor exploration means summer temperatures and a clear sky. Not surprisingly, people are more likely to visit national parks during the summer. This actually makes sense in several ways. For instance, many hiking trails are closed during winter and access to must-see remote locations tends to be difficult, if at all possible. That being said, if you are looking for winter vacation ideas and you like exploring national parks, you might get excited to know that Yellowstone National Park is open for tourists all year long.

How Cool is Yellowstone During Winter?

Yellowstone in winter mode can mean snowmobile, snowcoach, cross-country ski, and wildlife tours. It can also mean exploring the park by yourself in the least crowded season. As winter approaches and the park gets ready to be covered in snow, the roads to Yellowstone close.  The only road that remains open all year round is the one between the northeast entrance and Mammoth Hot Springs. As such, visiting Yellowstone during winter means leaving the car behind and learn how to travel on skis, snowshoes, snowcoaches, and snowmobiles.

The park gets an average of 150 inches (3,800 millimeters) of snow per year in areas of lower altitudes such as the Yellowstone Lake and much more at higher altitudes. February is usually the month when it is the most likely to say “it’s snowing (./!)” while exploring the park. You might be delighted to know that during the entire winter, most restaurants, lodges, stores, and campgrounds are also closed. In this way, Yellowstone can give you the vibe of ‘remoteness’ much more than during summer. For some or many, this is pretty cool.

Things to Do in Yellowstone During Winter

See wildlife that don’t bite. Actually, some of them do bite at times, but mostly if you are not careful enough. In the winter, many animals travel in larger groups compared to the summer. Better yet, they tend to spend most of their winter time in the valleys, meaning you will have plenty of opportunities to see bison, elk, and wolves, among others. If you are afraid of grizzly bears, I don’t recommend feeling totally safe, as grizzly bears are not always hibernating during winter. It is said that the chances to spot wildlife are higher in the early morning and early evening. If you are interested in a wildlife guided tour for this winter, check here.

Bison in a snow storm


Bighorn rams are interesting

Pronghorn also live in Yellowstone


What does the fox plays?

Snow is not cold when you are a coyote

It’s hard to say what this wolf’s look means

Explore the cross-country on skis, snowshoes, snowmobile or snowcoach. Whether cross-country exploration is your thing or not, you might have suspected that Yellowstone is a good place for it. On skis, two of the most popular trips are the Biscuit Basin Trail that crosses the Old Faithful Geyser Basin and the Blacktail Plateau Trail on Blacktail Plateau Drive.

Cross-country skiing in Yellowstone

On a snowmobile, you should consider going on the Continental Divide Snowmobile trail and several other trails out of West Yellowstone. It is worth mentioning that during winter no more than 500 snowmobiles per day are allowed in the park. As such, you don’t have to worry about snowmobile traffic. Yellowstone National Park does not allow self-guided snowmobile tours, which can be seen as an inconvenience for those who want to enjoy the park by themselves.

This is how a snowmobile tour in Yellowstone looks like

While skis and snowshoes are all you need to explore some parts of Yellowstone by yourself, you might be interested in concessionaires run guided trips. These trips are particularly recommended for those who do not have much experience with winter cross-country travel and suspect they will feel insecure by themselves. Offers include winter tours on skis, snowmobiles, snowshoes, and snow coach. For details, check here.

Take a bath in a soak-friendly pool. Enjoying a hot spring during winter can be quite entertaining. The soak-friendly pools are formed where Boiling River meets Gardner River. This chilling place can be reached by going on the half-mile trail from the 45th Parallel Bridge.

Participate in a ranger program. Yellowstone National Park offers free ranger programs during winter. These programs include guided snowshoes walks and educational talks on the park’s ecology and geysers, among others. You can find more about these programs here.

Do a winter photo safari. You can do this by yourself or with the help of a guide. Among the things you may consider for photos, I suggest the frozen lakes and rivers and any wildlife you might find.

Consider Yellowstone’s Winter Packages. The park offers several packages that can make your day, including an Old Faithful Expedition Package and a Couple Winter Package. For details, check here.

Camp at Mammoth. If you understand the beauty of winter camping, you might consider Mammoth Campground-the only camp in Yellowstone that is open during winter. The campground is located near the North Entrance and the facilities at Mammoth Hot Springs. You can find more about Mammoth camp here.

Four More Things You Should Know Before Going to Yellowstone During Winter

1. If you tend to be impatient in traffic, you will be happy to know Yellowstone is far less crowded in winter compared to summer. Perhaps many people don’t actually know Yellowstone is open during this period of the year or they don’t like snow and cold weather.

2. The only lodging within Yellowstone open during winter is Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins. Access is possible through commercially-operated snow coaches. For more information, check here.

3. There are several ski resorts near Yellowstone: Big Sky Resort, Bridger Bowl, Grand Targhee Resort, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Kelly Canyon, Pebble Creek, Red Lodge Mountain Resort, Sleeping Giant, and Snow King Mountain.

Winter vs. Summer

If you have experienced Yellowstone National Park during all seasons or at least during both summer and winter I would like to know your biased perspective. Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to do a Yellowstone winter tour? Is this short winter guide hot?



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