“Yellowstone offers miles of trails that lead past frosted woods, steaming hot springs and snow-packed meadows.”
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 the fourth most visited National Park are gone and the wildlife and world-famous geysers as well as the bubbling mudpots, hissing fumaroles (steam vents) and hot springs remain.
Here’s why it’s worth bundling up to visit the park from mid-November through March.
Experience the park as few others do.
In winter, with only two hotels open and park-access primarily by guided oversnow transportation, experiencing Yellowstone’s canyons, woods, wildlife and hydrothermal forces can be a much more intimate experience.
See the geysers against the snow.
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.
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.
View bison with winter coats.
In winter huge balls of snow dangle from the bisons’ beards and especially in geyser basins they get a frosty covering. That, combined with the beasts’ breath hanging in the frigid air like fire, make the formidable animals look even more impressive.
Snowshoe and cross-country ski.
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. You can learn about the wildlife and the winter ecology on guided snowshoe and cross-country tours. These are available through February.
Take a snowcoach tour.
See Old Faithful and the park’s Grand Canyon in the comfort of a snowcoach, a small bus-like vehicle equipped to maneuver on Yellowstone’s wintry roads. From the third week of December through the end of February, most park roads close and snowcoaches and snowmobiles provide much of the transportation.
Sign-up for a Winter Wolf Discovery or other Lodging & Learning program.
Learn about Yellowstone’s wolves on four-day naturalist-led programs based at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Travel to wolf and elk territory on a plowed road and go on guided snowshoe hikes to observe the animals. On other special winter Lodging & Learning programs, cross-country ski or snowshoe to experience Yellowstone. Programs are available through most of the winter season.
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.
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.
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.
For more information, visit yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/things-to-do/winter-things-to-do.
For more travel experiences available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit Xanterra.com/explore.