Romancing the Park: Yellowstone
Intimate moments and private spots make Yellowstone a romantic wonderland — especially in winter
Many of us know Yellowstone National Park as an iconic spot for family vacations. But fewer might recognize that it’s also an ideal place for a romantic getaway — even in winter. Or maybe especially in winter.
That’s when the pace slows. The snow cover imposes a hush on the boundless landscape. And horizon-hugging sunsets and sunrises are even more spectacular.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, here are some suggestions for a memorable getaway for just the two of you.
Take an Evening Spin Around an Ice Rink
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge — the two hotels that remain open during Yellowstone’s mid-December to early March winter season — both have outdoor ice rinks. There’s no charge to use them and guests even get free skate rentals. Take a whirl under the stars, then retreat inside for a steamy mug of hot chocolate (or something stronger) and snuggle in front of a roaring fire.
Glide into the Backcountry
Yellowstone is a marvelous spot for cross-country skiing, with trails for every skill level. You won’t even have to tote your own equipment to the park, since ski rentals are available at both Mammoth and Old Faithful. Pack a lunch and a thermos of hot drinks, then set off on one of the frequent shuttles departing from Mammoth Hot Springs to the Indian Creek cross country ski trails. Another shuttle ferries skiers from Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Nearby is the Lone Star Geyser Trail, a serene, five-mile round-trip route that hugs the Firehole River. It’s possible you’ll see Lone Star geyser erupt once you arrive at the end of the trail — and maybe not another soul, making it a perfect private moment à deux.
Stargaze from Atop a Travertine Terrace
Here’s how one early visitor characterized the series of hot springs that cascade down a travertine hill a stone’s throw from Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel: “No human architect ever designed such intricate fountains as these. The water trickles over the edges from one to another, blending them together with the effect of a frozen waterfall.” After sunset, bundle up and take a stroll, hand-in-hand, along the boardwalks that wind among eye-popping geothermal features. Keep in mind that that the terraces are about a mile uphill from the hotel so be sure you’re in good shape and bring a flashlight. But on clear moonlit nights — even those with half or quarter moons — the snow’s reflection adds additional illumination to make the view of Old Faithful geyser magical. The only thing more dazzling is the sky full of shimmering stars, especially on clear moonless nights, with no light or air pollution to impair the view.
Warm up near a Bonfire
What could be more romantic than a roaring bonfire? Enjoy the after-dark fires at both Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel for a special moment under the stars.
Check into the Historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel
The Colonial Revival lakefront beauty is arguably the most romantic of the park’s lodgings. But it’s only open from mid-May to early October. So book it now as a Valentine’s Day gift for a summer visit, when you can sit in front of a panoramic window in its gracious Sun Room, order a drink, and watch the sunset with your honey. Or cuddle on a lakeshore bench in front of the hotel. Afterward, enjoy a meal in its elegant dining room. Locally sourced fare includes bison tenderloin from Montana and trout from Idaho. A tinkling piano or a string quartet enhances the ambience during the summer.
The recent renovations of the public spaces at the Mammoth Hotel have contributed to an indoor atmosphere somewhat like the Lake Hotel Sun Room. A new bar, new furnishings and nightly live piano music make this a great place to spend time with a sweetheart after a day of exploration.
Get off the Beaten Path
Doing so in winter is as simple as strapping on a pair of trusty snowshoes (for rent at Mammoth and Old Faithful) and setting off into virgin territory. You’ll likely have it all to yourselves.
How to Explore
With nine unique lodging options, including the renowned historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Yellowstone National Park Lodges allows you to have the ultimate park experience. Staying in the park is the best way for visitors to experience all it has to offer, including the exciting wildlife watching. Once the day-visitors leave, Yellowstone remains for the in-park overnight guests alone. Yellowstone National Park Lodges offer tours and activities guided by Certified Interpretive Guides that help create memorable experiences. For more information on lodging, tours, and vacation packages, visit yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311.
For a multi-day visit of Yellowstone, consider the six-day guided walking tour from Country Walkers, “Montana & Wyoming: Yellowstone,” or the six-day walking tour from VBT, “Yellowstone & Grand Teton: Walking America’s First National Park.”
For more than 38 years, Country Walkers has provided active and immersive travel experiences on five continents. They offer two distinct ways to explore: scheduled, small-group Guided Walking Adventures and independent Self-Guided Walking Adventures. On tour, guests enjoy superb local cuisine, first-class guides, fine accommodations, and authentic cultural and natural encounters. Visit countrywalkers.com or call 800-234-6900 for more information.
VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations is the value leader in active biking vacations and has been rated among the “World’s Best Tour Operators” by the readers of Travel + Leisure for six years. VBT offers more than 55 deluxe, small-group bicycling, walking, and barge & sail vacations in 29 different countries and 10 U.S. states. Unlike other companies, VBT also includes round-trip international airfare from more than 30 U.S. cities and select Canadian cities for all overseas vacations. Visit VBT.com or call 800-245-3868 for more information.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Travel Collection® and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.