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  • 10 Reasons To Visit Yellowstone In Winter 11

    Insider Tips for Enjoying Yellowstone in Winter

Are you planning a winter getaway? Instead of heading south to escape the snow, embrace it and spend your winter vacation at Yellowstone National Park!

Winter is beautiful in Yellowstone National Park. Blanketed by snow, the 2.2-million-acre park exudes a mythical beauty. The abundance of warm-weather visitors that make Yellowstone one of the most visited national parks are gone, and the wildlife and world-famous geysers as well as the bubbling mudpots, hissing fumaroles (steam vents) and hot springs remain.

Still not convinced about visiting Yellowstone in winter? Here are nine great reasons to start planning your winter vacation in Yellowstone.

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Experience the Park as Few Others Do

With only two hotels open this time of year and park-access primarily by guided oversnow transportation, experiencing Yellowstone’s canyons, woods, wildlife, and hydrothermal forces can be a much more intimate experience. During the winter at Yellowstone, you can truly escape from it all and enjoy peace. Yellowstone is a quiet haven where you can relax and renew body and spirit. Give your smartphone and laptop a rest and spend some time reconnecting with nature and the great outdoors instead.

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Geyser Gazing

The contrast of the grayish-white steam of the geysers against the snow and the stunningly blue skies creates a heightened sense of the Earth’s powerful forces. In winter when Old Faithful, the geyser that regularly shoots sprays of water more than 100 feet in the air, erupts, the near-boiling water hits the chilly air forming “geyser rain.” Watch as these tiny icy crystals and flakes fall to the ground.


  • Check with the NPS for updated predictions for when eruptions are expected.
  • Bring a pad to sit on while you wait for the show.
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Spot Animals Easily

Against the snowy background, the elk, bison, wolves, and other animals become relatively easy to spot and you can also see their tracks in the snow.


  • A premier viewing spot is Lamar Valley in the park’s northern region. You’ll also find serious wolf watchers here along the roadsides behind powerful spotting scopes. Watch for bison herds trudging through the unfettered landscape, their breath steamy in the frigid air. Bison often convene near the park’s thermal features for an impromptu steam bath. As in other seasons, wildlife is most active at dawn and dusk.
  • Stay at least 25 yards away from bison, elk, and pronghorn, and 100 yards or more from wolves and bears. (During warm winters, bears have been spotted as early as February.)
  • Most park roads close to regular traffic during the winter (usually from early November to early April).
  • If you do drive outside the park or on the one park road that’s open to private vehicles from the north entrance in Gardiner, Mont., through the Northern Range of Yellowstone to Cooke City, Mont., make certain your vehicle is equipped for winter conditions. And slow down: Bison and other wildlife often take to the pavement.
  • It’s easy to go car-free in winter. Snowcoaches shuttle visitors between Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs and venture into territory beyond on guided outings. And on the Lamar Valley Wildlife Tour a rubber-tired mini-bus departs in the early morning from the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and includes a breakfast snack and boxed lunch.
  • Pack essentials, such as binoculars; a foam-rubber mat to stand on and prevent the cold from penetrating your soles; a thermos filled with a hot beverage; and food to fuel your wanderings. (You can order boxed lunches from the Mammoth Hot Springs Dining Room.)
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Snowshoeing, Ice-Skating, and Cross-Country Skiing

Outdoor activity options are endless. If you enjoy an active vacation, you’re in luck. Yellowstone offers miles of trails that lead past frosty woods, steaming hot springs and snow-covered meadows.  You won’t soon forget gliding within sight of a bison herd or striding near elk tracks. Explore a trail on skis or snowshoes, such as the Lone Star Geyser trail that starts at Old Faithful Snow Lodge and is a total of nine miles roundtrip. You can learn about the wildlife and the winter ecology on guided snowshoe and cross-country tours. Guided snowshoe tours are available daily from Old Faithful Snow Lodge, and private tours and instruction are available from both winter hotels. Equipment is available for rental from Mammoth Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

Snowshoeing Tips:

  • Join like-minded souls on an Old Faithful Snowshoe Tour. The three-hour trek maintains an easy pace on mostly flat terrain, and ventures into forested wonderlands and along the Firehole River. Or rent a pair of snowshoes at Mammoth or Old Faithful and go it on your own or with a ranger-led hike.
  • Dress in layers so you can shed outerwear as you warm up. Moisture-wicking fabrics such as silk, wool, and some synthetics, are best.
  • Tote plenty of water.Gators — waterproof leggings worn over the lower pant legs — prevent snow from getting into your boots. You can even rent a pair in the park.
  • Sunscreen — even on cloudy days — is essential. So are sunglasses.
  • Protect your phone by tucking it into a waterproof case that allows you to take pictures through the plastic.
  • Carry a foam rubber pad to sit on.

Ice Skating Tips:

  • Ice time is free, and if you’re a hotel guest, you can borrow skates.
  • Work up an appetite for dinner by taking an evening whirl around a lighted rink.

Skiing Tips:

  • Ski shuttles operate three times daily ferrying visitors from Mammoth Hot Springs to the Indian Creek Cross Country Ski Area. Another shuttle carries skiers from Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
  • Join a group for a full-day ski tour in the park’s spectacular Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone region. A shorter five-mile guided tour hugs the Fire Hole River.
  • Pack snacks. All that exercise is bound to make you hungry.
  • Follow the recommendations outlined for snowshoeing.
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Take a Snowcoach Tour

So how do our visitors get around during the winter months? By snowcoach, of course! Equipped with tracks, sometimes with front skis or four oversized low-pressure tires, the snowcoach moves on top of the snow and offers passengers great views of park scenery with guided touring of Yellowstone. Don’t forget – even though our snowcoaches are heated, sightseeing stops during your journey mean that warm footwear and layered clothing should be worn.’ See Old Faithful and the park’s Grand Canyon in the comfort of a snowcoach. During the winter season, most park roads close and snowcoaches and snowmobiles provide much of the transportation. One of the most unique things about Yellowstone in the winter is that travel within the park is very limited – since most roads are groomed for over-snow vehicles only.


  • Bring your camera. The coaches’ panoramic windows are photo-friendly.
  • Pack a small bag with snacks, drinks, and other essentials.
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Go on a Winter Photo Safari

The contrasts of clear blue skies, snow-blanketed fields, steamy geysers, and woolly animals make for memorable images. Shoot these striking scenes on your own or go on a guide-led photo safari to learn tips that improve your technique. Book the Frosty Fun package, our base package that offers value and convenience for those who want to chart their own snowy course.


  • The pros get out early to take advantage the morning’s dramatic light.
  • Leave the details to the experts by booking an all-day Winter Photo Safari along the Firehole and Madison River corridors. Instruction and lunch are part of the tour.
  • Dress in layers and wear warm boots with thick soles. Consider wearing thin, rubber tipped gloves while shooting and slip a pair of mittens over them afterward.
  • Keep your camera cold and your batteries warm. If your camera is warm the lens will fog up when cold air hits it. Batteries drain more rapidly in cold weather, so tuck extras (along with mobile devices) in a pocket or other warm place.
  • Protect your camera lens when visiting geyser basins; silica in thermal features bonds to glass and plastic.
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Enjoy the Mammoth Hot Springs Area

The travertine terraces formed by the hot springs bubbling through the limestone look like frozen waterfalls year-round. With fewer visitors, take your time admiring the formations then ice skate for free on Mammoth’s rink.

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Book Lodging on Shorter Notice

Not everyone can plan nearly a year in advance. For summer, it’s not unusual for certain dates in Yellowstone’s lodges to be booked many months in advance. Except for Christmas week, winter is the one time of the year when you can find rooms even on short notice. Stay cozy in our lodge accommodations. Curl up in front of a warm fireplace with a great book or play a board game with your family. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel* provide cozy public spaces, great dining, and gift shops packed with items for everyone on your list.

Ready to start planning your Yellowstone winter vacation? Explore the many ways you can experience winter in wonderland. There are so many things to do in Yellowstone in winter!

*Mammoth Hotel food service and lodging is closed for winter 2022/23. The gift shop and lobby are open.