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Visiting Yellowstone in Winter

Visiting Yellowstone in Winter

More than 3 million people visit Yellowstone National Park each year. During this iconic park’s busiest season, the place is packed with tourists — more than 30,000 of them each day in July.

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the world. It was established in 1872 as the first national park by the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act.

Traffic jams are common within the place, and views of the most recognizable landmarks are often obscured by crowds. As spectacular as Yellowstone is, summer is not the time for true adventure lovers to visit.

Things to do in Yellowstone in the Winter

Winter is a time to cozy up with loved ones and stay indoors. But that can be boring! So here are some ideas for activities to do during the winter in or near Yellowstone:

Go Camping at Mammoth Campground

Best ski resorts in America

The first thing to do is go camping! Mammoth Campground has 85 sites and is open year-round. If you’re staying in one of the cabins on site, this option is even better—you can just walk from your cabin to the campsite.

Mammoth Campground is a great place to go camping in this winter wonderland. It’s close to Old Faithful and other geysers, which makes it easy for you to get out and see them. It also has hot springs, trails, and plenty of wildlife—including moose!

The place is one of the most popular campgrounds in Yellowstone. It’s located on the northern edge of the park, which means it’s a great basecamp for exploring.

You can hike up to Old Faithful Geyser or take a day trip to other parts of the park-like Tower Falls and Grand Prismatic Spring. It’s also close enough that you can visit Yellowstone Lake if you feel like taking a dip in some cold water (or taking your dog for a swim).

There are both pull-through and back-in sites available with water, electrical hookups, and dump stations available on site. For added convenience, the campground also has restrooms with showers, laundry facilities, and a general store where you can buy supplies like food items and firewood. 

If you want to get more active during your stay, then there are plenty of things nearby to do, such as hiking or skiing in Yellowstone National Park or horseback riding in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area.

Make sure you bring a thick sleeping bag and plenty of warm clothes too!

Go Cross-Country Skiing

Cross skiing

Cross-country skiing is the perfect way to see Yellowstone’s natural beauty from a different perspective. Tourists will feel like they have stepped into a snow globe as you glide across the iced-over ponds and rivers, admiring the wildlife around every corner.

The park has more than 70 miles of cross-country ski trails, and it’s easy to get a map from the visitor center. With that, skis and poles should not be forgotten. And if you don’t have your own skis, you can rent skis and then go for a hike through nearby Grand Teton National Park

See Related: Best National Parks in the USA to Visit

Go Snowshoeing

snowshoeing

If you’re feeling adventurous, try snowshoeing in Yellowstone! It’s more difficult than regular hiking, but it’s great for exercise and for getting acquainted with the terrain.

There are more than 200 miles of trails at Yellowstone National Park, but if you really want an experience that will bring out the adventurer in you? Try snowshoeing!

It’s an activity that allows participants to explore the park without having to worry about getting lost or injured while hiking through snow-covered terrain. This is definitely something worth checking out if you’re visiting during the winter months!

If you’re not ready to tackle cross-country skiing yet, snowshoeing is another great way to explore the park. If you’re coming from outside the park, stop by The Center at Grant Village for rentals and maps. If you’re already inside Yellowstone National Park, ask at any visitor center for information about snowshoeing trails.

See Related: 15 Best Geysers & Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park

Ride a Snowcoach or Go Snowmobiling

Snowmobiling

If you want to go somewhere farther away from Yellowstone, ride a snow coach. A place within the area offers them, and has been around since the early 1900s and specializes in off-road vehicles that are perfect for going into Yellowstone during the winter months. 

If you’re looking for something less active but still beautiful, try taking a snow coach tour of Yellowstone with local businesses. These tours take you through all kinds of amazing scenery and give you plenty of chances to stop off at different spots so you can take photos. Some companies have really affordable rates, where you won’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on one tour if all you want is a little bit of excitement for your trip.

Snowcoaches will take you on an adventure through Yellowstone’s winter wonderland. If you don’t have time for a full-day tour, stop by for a short ride as part of your visit to Old Faithful. It’s also possible to rent a snowmobile if you want to get up close and personal with the geysers!

snowmobiling in the mountain


Snowmobiling is one of the most popular activities in the park during the winter months. You can rent snowmobiles from Xanterra Parks & Resorts or visit one of the many guided tours on snowmobiles offered by Xanterra or other concessionaires.

Yellowstone hosts hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails that wind through the park’s forests and valleys. You can rent your own snowmobile from any number of outfitters outside the park or bring your own if you have one—just make sure it’s registered with the state! It’s a great way to explore the park without breaking too much sweat.

Take a tour of the park’s iconic attractions—the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs area—or go snowmobiling on one of the groomed trails that are open all year round.

See Related: How to Take an Epic Grand Canyon Road Trip

Geyser Gazing at Old Faithful (and more!)

Geyser on Yellowstone

No trip to Yellowstone is complete without witnessing Old Faithful‘s famous eruption. 

If you are looking for something fun and exciting during your stay at Yellowstone National Park, consider Exploring some of its most famous geysers by boat! Boat tours are available throughout the winter months, so don’t miss out on this opportunity!

Geyser Gazing is another popular activity during the winter months because of how much different it looks from other seasons. The boiling water and steam from geysers create beautiful ice formations on their banks that are only visible during freezing temperatures.

There are dozens of geysers at Yellowstone National Park, but Old Faithful is arguably the most famous. It erupts roughly every hour and is always a crowd-pleaser. So when it’s not blasting steam, that’s when it’s time for some geyser gazing! 

There are so many geysers here that you can visit them all day long, Check out these other beautiful geysers: Castle Geyser, Turban Geyser, and Grand Geyser. 

See Related:  Best Things to do in Billings, Montana

Indulge in Wildlife Watching

Bull in the mountain

Take a drive through the park and watch for wildlife, including bison, elk, and wolves. A great place to start is at Mammoth Hot Springs or Yellowstone Lake.

You can go on wildlife safaris, but it is possible to have more luck spotting animals if you’re cozy in your car—plus, as long as you’re driving slowly, you can use your binoculars for a better view without worrying about disrupting them up close.

The wildlife watching opportunities are endless in Yellowstone, but a few of our favorites include seeing bison and elk grazing by the river or lounging around at Mammoth Hot Springs. 

Mammoth Hot Springs also has a great moose exhibit for viewing, as well as an elk exhibit. The best time to see these animals is early morning or late evening when they’re most active.

See Related: Most Beautiful Valleys in the US

Visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody

Buffalo bill center
Image by Paul Hermans used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Cody, Wyoming, is another great place to visit during the winter months. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West has exhibits about Buffalo Bill’s life and his many adventures throughout America, including his time spent as one of America’s first celebrity cowboys.

There are also exhibits about Native American culture and history in Wyoming—so if you’re looking for something educational as well as entertaining, this museum should be on your list!

If you’re not camping at Mammoth, you can still spend time in Cody. Plan ahead, though, as it usually closes for four days during Thanksgiving week and three days over Christmas.

If you’re looking for something a little more educational than just seeing animals on your trip through Yellowstone, check out the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody. There you can learn all about Buffalo Bill himself and his life. You’ll also get some insight into how he helped transform the West into what we know today.

See Related: Best National Parks in the Midwest (+ NPS Sites)

Go on a Winter Photo Safari

horse in the snow

Yellowstone National Park is one of the best places in the world for winter wildlife photography, as it is considered a winter wonderland.

Skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers, and backcountry skiers are just some of the people who come into contact with animals every day—and they’re also often taking pictures! If you’re looking for something unique to get your adrenaline pumping while you’re in Yellowstone this season, consider getting out there with a camera or two (or three) yourself!

Yellowstone National Park is well known for its wildlife, and there are few better places to see it than during the cold months when many non-hibernating animals come out to feed. The park has an abundance of wildlife viewing opportunities, including hiking trails that lead you right through herds of bison and elk. You can even book a wolf-watching tour!

There are also plenty of spots where you can just sit and watch animals going about their business without disturbing them at all.

Yellowstone National Park has some of the most stunning landscapes around, and it’s even more breathtaking when covered in snow. You can enjoy all of the sights from your car or by taking a guided snowmobile tour around Old Faithful and the geyser basins.

The best time to go on a photo safari is in the morning before it gets cloudy or foggy later in the day. Keep an eye out for wildlife like elks who might be enjoying themselves with a little mud bath, bison that might smell a bit ripe, cackling coyotes who eat everything, and wolves who eat everything but don’t smell as bad as bison.

Get Toasty in a Warming Hut

If you’re visiting Yellowstone during the winter, you might want to stay warm with a cozy trip to one of the warming huts scattered throughout the park. These little huts have everything you need to keep warm while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. 

While you’re in Yellowstone in winter, make sure to check out the warming huts. These wooden structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, and they serve as cozy places to relax with friends or family. The huts are free, but they only operate during the winter months.

The winter months are cold in Yellowstone, so it’s important to make sure you have dressed appropriately. There are warming huts throughout the park that offer shelter from the elements and a place to warm up. You can also see some of Yellowstone’s wildlife in these huts—it’s not uncommon to see bison or elk hanging out around them during the winter.

See Related: Warm Winter Backpacking Destinations

Go dogsledding in Yellowstone

pack of husky running

If you’re looking for an exciting way to experience the outdoors, consider going dogsledding with one of the concessionaires of Yellowstone National Park, who offer guided tours through Yellowstone during all four seasons. They’ll even provide hot chocolate!

And if you want to experience winter like never before, go dogsledding through Yellowstone! You’ll get to see breathtaking views of Old Faithful and other natural wonders from an entirely different perspective—and it’s guaranteed to be a lot more fun than your average day on skis or snowshoes!

Dogsledding is a fantastic way to see Yellowstone, especially if it’s snowing or there’s been a recent storm (which means it will be even more beautiful than usual). The best part about dogsledding is that although it might be a bit expensive for an hour-long ride—it allows you to get up-close and personal with some truly majestic creatures: dogs! 

These huskies aren’t just any old mutts: they’re specially trained and raised for this purpose, so they’re happy to run alongside your sled and pull it along at high speeds without tiring out (or needing food).

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Cody, Wyoming

Take a dip in a hot spring inside Yellowstone and at nearby resorts

Mountain geyser

The first thing on our list is the obvious: hot springs! If you’re looking for an excuse to warm up and relax, nothing beats a dip in one of these natural pools.

You can get a taste of the experience by visiting one of the many nearby resorts that offer on-site hot springs. The closest ones are West Yellowstone’s Snow Lodge Resort and Old Faithful Snow Lodge (located just outside the park) or Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins (located within).

If you can’t go swimming in any of the park’s natural hot springs thinking that they are too dangerous, you can still enjoy the warmth at nearby resorts. At Old Faithful Snow Lodge, for example, there are three different pools: one indoor heated pool and two outdoor pools that range from 45-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Each pool has its own unique atmosphere; you can relax on a chair looking out onto the snow-covered mountains or play with friends in the warm water.

Just know that not all hot springs are safe for a dip. Some might literally cook you alive. Maybe check ahead of time. Just a thought.

See Related: Best Travel Insurance for Digital Nomads

Cut Your Own Yellowstone Christmas Tree

Pine forest from above

Another thing you should do this winter is cut down your very own Christmas tree! You’ll find trees available for purchase around town or at other nearby resorts. Once you’ve got your tree home safely and securely backed up on top of your car (or truck), remember to keep it watered until Christmas day when you get to decorate it with family!

A specific place to bring home a little bit of nature with you this winter, head over to Chico Hot Springs Resort and cut your own Christmas tree from their fields. They’ll even help you load it up into your car so that it doesn’t get damaged during transport and provide hot cocoa for good measure.

Attend a Yellowstone Ranger program

People walking in the snow

These ranger programs are great because they’re informative, but they also allow you to meet other people who love nature. Yellowstone’s park rangers will help you learn about the history of Yellowstone and its geology, but you’ll also have a chance to ask questions and meet new people. The ranger programs usually take place during the day or evening—they’re free, so sign up early!

The park offers ranger programs that focus on different aspects of nature each day—from geysers to birds to trees and their natural history.

See Related: Best Things to Do in West Yellowstone, Montana

Eat Waffles at Mount Washburn Lookout

West thumb geyser

The West Thumb Geyser Basin is one of the most unique areas of the park—and it also has one of the most unusual restaurants! At this spot, you can take a tram up to an observation deck, where you’ll be able to look out over the whole basin while enjoying hot chocolate and waffles with syrup made from local berries.

It is located near Canyon Village on West Rim Drive. This lookout offers stunning views of Yellowstone Lake as well as surrounding peaks and valleys. It also serves waffles during peak season!

If you want something more adventurous than regular hiking, this is the activity for you! There are two tram rides that depart from Old Faithful and travel through parts of Yellowstone National Park. The first one goes up onto Mount Washburn (10,243 feet), where you can enjoy fresh-baked waffles with whipped cream.

The second one travels up towards Observation Point (10,060 feet), which offers views of Mammoth Hot Springs and Canyon Village. Both trams are open until early May.

What to pack for Yellowstone in the Winter

People bundled up while waiting for an eruption of a geyser.

If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone in winter, it’s important to know what to pack. Even though the temperatures are going to be cold, there is plenty of fun still to be had. Here are some things you should consider bringing with you.

Dress for Winter Weather

Yellowstone in winter can get to -50 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure you’re prepared for anything. Unprotected flesh can freeze in minutes if exposed to these temperatures.

Think fleeces and hoodies. Pack extra layers like scarves, hats, and gloves. The weather can change quickly, so be prepared for anything by packing layers you can easily remove when it gets warmer or put on if it gets colder.

It’s also important that you bring water-resistant boots, which will keep your feet dry even if they get wet from rain or snow.

Wool Socks

Wool socks are a great way to keep your feet warm while hiking on snow or ice. They also dry much faster than cotton socks, which means you won’t have to worry about getting frostbite from wet socks.

It’s best to pack both thin and thick socks, wearing two pairs at once; put the thin ones on your feet first and the tick socks on top. This will provide you with an extra layer on your feet and extra comfort for all that trekking.

Windproof Gloves

If you’re planning on doing any winter hikes this year, make sure you pack some windproof gloves. You’ll be glad when the winds pick up! Mittens are best for warmth, but not so great for dexterity.

A Warm Hat

This one is pretty self-explanatory—a warm hat helps keep your head warm and protected from the elements.

Waterproof or Soft Shell Layer for Your Body

If it’s snowing or raining, you’ll want something waterproof to wear over your other layers, so they don’t get wet from the outside inwards.

There are tons of great waterproofs and water-resistant softshells on the market – make sure you pick a warm one!

Walking Shoes

Bring good walking shoes. Mid and high-length waterproof hiking boots are best. Cross-trainers will do in a pinch if you don’t want to invest in hiking gear (remember: this is only for one trip), but you’ll likely wish you brought boots as soon as you step into a frosty puddle or patch of deep snow. 

If you plan on doing any ice climbing, cross country skiing, or mountaineering during your trip to Yellowstone this winter, then bring the appropriate traction devices like crampons or skis with spikes attached so that they can dig into snow and ice when needed.

Camping Gear

If you plan on camping while visiting Yellowstone in winter, make sure that your tent has been approved for freezing temperatures before going out there. You might also want to bring a sleeping bag rated for colder weather if possible since it’ll likely get even colder at night when camping outdoors (especially if there’s snow on the ground).

You might also want to bring a tarp and tent stakes if you plan on camping while visiting Yellowstone National Park during this time frame; they’ll come in handy when there’s snow on the ground since it gets even colder at night than what’s typically experienced during the day time due to the lack of sunlight.

Consider bringing a thick ground mat, air mattress, or anything else you can think of to prevent you from sleeping on the cold, hard ground – your body will thank you!

PRO TIP: If pitching a tent on the snowy ground, dig a small hole in the snow underneath where one of the (less used) corners of your tent will be. This will act as a trap for cold air (that sinks) and help keep your tent slightly warmer.

Food & Water

During the winter, there are limited restaurants inside Yellowstone National Park, except for a few snack bars. Make sure you bring enough food and water to last you the whole time. There are also no vending machines, so don’t forget to bring any drinks or snacks you might want while exploring this beautiful park.

See Related: Epic Tips For Stress-Free Travel

Where Can You Stay in Yellowstone in Winter?

The Lodge at Big Sky

Rooms at The Lodge at Big Sky, Montana

The Lodge at Big Sky is a great location to unwind, ski, and have fun. At the foot of Big Sky Mountain Resort in Mountain Village, The Lodge boasts all the comforts of home for a winter getaway near Yellowstone. You may ski all day and enjoy a beer by the lodge fire at night. Alternatively, you can enjoy the heated indoor pool and four hot tubs before gathering up with friends on the deck to grill burgers under the 11,167-foot Lone Mountain’s rays of sunshine.

The Yellowstone Hotel

Stone front hotel

If your idea of a vacation in Yellowstone in winter is sitting by the fire with a glass of wine and a good book, this is the place for you. The hotel has been open since 1891, and it’s still going strong today. It’s located right next to Old Faithful Geyser, which means you’ll be able to enjoy the park from both inside and outside your hotel room! The rooms are clean and comfortable, and there are plenty of activities on-site, including horseback riding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.

Old Faithful Inn

Old cab inn in Yellowstone

The Old Faithful Inn is a must-visit if you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone in winter. Not only is it one of the most iconic buildings in all of the park (and, therefore, the world), but it’s also just an incredible place to stay. The historic inn has been around since 1904 and has hosted guests from all over the world—including Queen Elizabeth II herself! The rooms are cozy and full of charm; you’ll feel warm and cozy whether you’re sitting by the fireplace or taking advantage of their complimentary shuttle service throughout Yellowstone in winter.

Old Faithful Snow Lodge

Old Faithful Snow Lodge

If you’re looking for something more outdoorsy, consider staying at Old Faithful Snow Lodge. This rustic lodge is located just outside of Yellowstone National Park itself, but it still offers plenty of winter activities like skiing on cross-country trails or snowshoeing through forests filled with pine trees.

The Old Faithful Snow Lodge even has their own ski slope! If you want something less strenuous than skiing or snowshoeing, check out their ice skating rink or go sledding downhills near the lodge.

Lamar Buffalo Ranch Cabins

Wood cabins in the snow

The Lamar Buffalo Ranch Cabins are near Gardiner, Montana, just outside the north entrance to Yellowstone. Modern and roomy, each cabin can comfortably sleep up to four people and has all the amenities you’d expect from a hotel, like free WiFi and cable TV. All of these cabins have just been renovated, so you can stay in them right away if you are visiting Yellowstone in winter.

FAQ

Is Yellowstone Open in the Winter?

For the most part, Yellowstone is open every day of the year, including winter. Though winter does bring its own set of challenges, visitors can still have an amazing time visiting this beautiful park.

When Is the Winter Season in Yellowstone?

The winter season begins on October 1st every year and lasts until April 30th. During these months, temperatures drop significantly, and snowfall can be expected.

However, due to its high elevation, Yellowstone rarely receives more than six inches of snow at once, which means that visitors can still enjoy their time there without having to worry about getting lost or stuck on roads that become impassable due to excessive amounts of snow falling from above.

The snow-covered trees and the white-capped mountains are a sight to behold, and there are lots of ways to explore it all.

Why Should I Visit Yellowstone in Winter?

Yellowstone National Park is the perfect place to visit during the winter months. If you are looking for a unique experience, this is the place and time to go. The park is open year-round and has plenty of activities that are available during the colder months.

What are the best things to do in Yellowstone in Winter?

Winter is a magical time of year to visit Yellowstone. You’ll find yourself surrounded by snow-covered peaks and forests, with steam rising from geysers and hot springs.

You’ll also have the chance to see wildlife up close—elk and bison are often spotted in winter, and even wolves are known to venture out in the cold months.

Tourists can enjoy snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling, and skiing in the winter, though there isn’t much to do right now. Around the Old Faithful Village and
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel Complexes, there are also a lot of great things to do inside, like going to museums and shops. And you can always go sledding!

How Do You Get to Yellowstone National Park in Winter?

Getting to Yellowstone National Park in Winter is easy! It can only become tricky because road conditions can change quickly due to snowfall or heavy rains, but there are many ways to get there. You can fly into Bozeman, Montana, or Cody, Wyoming.

The best way to get there is by car and then drive south along Highway 89 towards Yellowstone’s east entrance. However, it can also be reached by train and bus from neighboring cities like Cody, Wyoming, and Bozeman, Montana (both of which are within an hour’s drive).

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