Winter in Yellowstone isn’t a season you want to miss. With the benefit of fewer crowds, a more savage landscape, and a snow-fueled paradise for wildlife, it tops just about every other season for exploring the nation’s first national park. Here’s your ultimate guide to exploring Yellowstone under winter’s hush.
Navigating Roads (or Lack Thereof)
Don’t expect to be able to drive straight to Old Faithful in the dead of winter—Yellowstone’s road situation gets pretty interesting when winter calls. Between early November and mid April, most park roads are closed to regular vehicles because the park switches to oversnow travel only (which means snowcoaches and snowmobiles).
You will find the road from Gardiner to Mammoth and through Cooke City (via Tower Junction) remains open and plowed throughout the winter, though. For up-to-date road conditions, check the National Park Service website.
Tours for Ease
When it comes to getting around Yellowstone in winter, your easiest option is with a snowcoach tour. You can find a list of approved operators on the park website, and you’ll be able to catch a tour from either Gardiner or West Yellowstone, the two most accessible entrances from Three Forks.
You may be most drawn to a photography tour to capture the blunt contrast between pure white snow and vivid geothermal features. Or perhaps you want to seek out winter wildlife in its natural habitat. You can also hop on with a snowmobile tour to see the park in a unique, adrenaline-inspiring way. Whichever way you’re leaning, there’s probably a tour for that.
Snowmobile trips, cross country ski jaunts, or snowshoe excursions are just a few of the ways to explore the wilds of the park during winter.
When it comes to snowmobiling, don’t fear the cold weather, since modern machines come with heated seats and handlebars. Plus, there are plenty of ways to bundle up for one of these guided tours. This is the fastest way to get to more remote areas, and it’s best done with a guide (unless you have your own gear and can score one of the coveted, lottery-won permits for a private group).
The Wild Life of Wildlife
Just because most bears are in hibernation and many bird species have flown south for the winter, doesn’t mean you won’t have the chance to see any wildlife during a winter Yellowstone trip. Between bison, pronghorn, wolves, and wolverines, there's plenty to see. You can join on with a wildlife-themed tour, or just look for fresh tracks while you ski or snowshoe across fresh powder.
If all else fails, make your way to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone before or after your time in the park. Here you can see rescued wildlife up close, in total safety, while you support a good cause.
Services to Serve You
Services inside the park are very limited during winter, so don’t expect to be able to snag a snack or a coffee at every pit stop. There are warming huts in operation for skiers and hikers, and some of them offer drinks for sale, but in general, you should bring whatever you think you’ll need with you. That’s the benefit of staying nearby in Three Forks and basing your travels there—there’s no need to worry about where to make dinner reservations, or whether the supermarket is open this month.
Stay in comfort at the Sacajawea, and enjoy a luxurious jumping-off point for your winter Yellowstone adventures.
If you enjoyed this blog, take a look at some of our other related articles:
- How To Plan For An Unforgettable Winter Vacation To The Headwaters
- Soak It All Up At Norris Hot Springs
- How To Uncover Headwaters History In Winter
- Where To Go Skiing Around Three Forks