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bobcat in yellowstone
Yellowstone is at its best in winter. Yellowstone winters mean low visitation and high solitude. Loads of snow and cold temperatures provide a lot of things to do in Yellowstone in winter. Here’s what you need to know to plan your Yellowstone winter vacation.

If you want more guidance, hop over to my coaching page and I will create a custom Yellowstone itinerary for you.

Getting Around Yellowstone in Winter

One of the things that makes a Yellowstone winter so special is its remoteness and solitude. This is also what makes winter transportation in Yellowstone a little more of a challenge.

If you are coming in from the North Entrance in Gardiner, you can drive right in. The road to Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Junction, the Lamar Valley, Silver Gate, and Cooke City is open. From both Mammoth Hot Springs and Cooke City on, the road is closed.

If you are coming in the West Entrance at West Yellowstone, Montana, the South Entrance near Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming, or the East Entrance near Cody, Wyoming, you will need to travel in an oversnow vehicle: a snowmobile or snowcoach. The National Park Service has a list of companies authorized to provide snowmobile and snowcoach tours in Yellowstone.

Download my Winter Yellowstone Packing List so you have everything you need for a safe and comfortable trip.

What to Do in Yellowstone in Winter

1. Soak in the Boiling River

The Boiling River can be accessed from Gardiner year round. It’s an easy 0.5 mile walk on a flat path to the spot where the Boiling River and the Gardner River come together to create perfect soaking temperatures.

2. Walk or Ski Around the Mammoth Terraces

The road to Mammoth is open year round, so Mammoth is an easy place to visit in winter. Visit the newly remodeled visitor center and walk around the Lower Terraces.

If you are feeling adventurous, rent skis or snowshoes from the Bear Den (in a trailer next to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel) and ski around the Upper Terrace Drive.

3. Cross-Country Ski or Snowshoe

Yellowstone winter vacations begin with playing in the snow. There are so many trails in Yellowstone for skiing and snowshoeing. Ask at the hotel (if you are staying in the park) or a visitor center desk for a map of ski trails in the area. You can rent skis or snowshoes in Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, or West Yellowstone.

Related: Exploring Yellowstone’s Winter Wonderland With Yellowstone Expeditions

Our guide, Kayla, knew how to handle the powdery snow.

4. Wolf Watching in Yellowstone

Winter is the best time to look for wolves in Yellowstone. The elk come down from the high country in winter and the wolves follow. You can take a winter wildlife tour or do it on your own. Simply drive up and down the Lamar Valley looking for groups of people with spotting scopes. Where there are wolf watchers, there are often wolves. You may need a good spotting scope to see wolves in Yellowstone.

Related: Why You Should Hire a Guide in Yellowstone

5. Yellowstone Snowcoach Tours

Most of the roads in Yellowstone are closed in winter, but you can still get around. Sign up for a snowcoach tour from Mammoth Hot Springs, West Yellowstone, or the South Entrance. Some of the tours are focused on wildlife or photography, others allow you to ski part of the way, and some are general park interpretation. The snowcoach drivers will stop at the best Yellowstone attractions to let you walk boardwalks, gaze at geysers, and wonder at waterfalls.

6. Snowmobiling in Yellowstone

Personally, I feel like you miss out on the quiet, solitude, and peacefulness of Yellowstone in winter when you are roaring through on the back of a sled, however, many people seem to like it. Most snowmobile access to Yellowstone is via guided tours. Check the park’s website for a list of commercial snowmobile operators allowed to guide in the park. The Park Service also allows a (very) limited number of non-guided snowmobile groups into the park each day. How to apply to snowmobile in Yellowstone without a guide.

Yellowstone Winter Lodging

Wondering where to stay in Yellowstone in winter? You have a lot of choices.


Yellowstone Expedition’s Yurt Camp gets you out into the woods and canyons of Yellowstone’s backcountry. You can read my trip report here.

Winter Lodge

Old Faithful Snow Lodge is just steps from the famous geyser. The hotel is lovely, warm, and comfortable. There are lots of opportunities to ski or snowshoe from the hotel. Or spend your days walking the boardwalks around Old Faithful’s geyser basin.

Versatile Base Camp

West Yellowstone hotels are at the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park. You can drive to West Yellowstone and use it for your base for Yellowstone snowcoach tours into the park, snowmobiling, or Nordic skiing.

Historic Yellowstone

Mammoth Hot Springs was the original park headquarters and continues to be to this day and you can steep in the history at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Take a historic walking tour around Fort Yellowstone, ski and snowshoe, and walk around Mammoth’s terraces.

How will you spend your winter trip to Yellowstone? Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Top Things to Do in Yellowstone in Winter -- skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, hot chocolate, snow machines and more!

Winter is a great time to visit Yellowstone National Park. Everything you need to know about what to see, what to do, and where to stay in Yellowstone in winter.


  1. La Viajera

    I love your Boiling River video! It’s a very different and probably the most interesting kind of vlog I’ve seen. Your kid screaming THIS IS AWESOME! made me smile. I have to say though that it just looks so odd to see everything covered in snow and then you’re in a river. :p

  2. Julie Cao

    The Yellowstone looks so beautiful and peaceful in winter. The Boiling River is magical and I do know there is an outdoor hot spring there where you can soak in and surrounded by the beautiful landscapes in winter, and the water does not seems deep it is just right to the point. If I head over there, I will definitely go for it. Thanks for sharing your experience and filming the great video about your travels at the Yellowstone.

  3. James Smith

    I just watched the vlog, your kids do have a lot of energy! The boiling river looked like a great experience. I visited Yellowstone in the summer, it seems in the winter it’s a completely different place! The landscapes are incredible covered in snow. When I visited, I think I stayed outside the park in a Super 8!

    • Melynda Harrison

      It is a totally different place in winter! I wonder if it was the Super 8 in Gardiner — I’ve stayed there!

  4. Winter in Yellowstone sounds amazing. I watched both your videos and love how you do a voiceover while showing us everything rather than talking at the camera. Very different from other vlogs and I enjoy your style much more! Your kids are so precious and the yurt looks so cozy. I can’t think of a better way to take a break from snowshoeing than hopping in a natural hot pool!

    • Melynda Harrison

      Thanks for the nice words about the videos! And yes, the Boiling River is a perfect spot to warm up after playing in the snow.

  5. Yellowstone certainly looks fabulous in the winter. I like that photo of the cat tucked neatly against old tree branches covered in snow. The Boiling River is like an oasis in the desert – a welcome spot to keep the body warm from the freezing weather. You surely had a great family outdoor activity at Yellowstone.

  6. I have only visited Yellowstone in summer and it is beautiful. I never realised so much of the park was open in winter and I bet it looks stunning with the snow. It would be great to go and see the Elk and Wolves on a tour and to visit the boiling river too 🙂

    • Melynda Harrison

      Most people don’t think of Yellowstone as a winter destination, but it’s a great time to visit.

  7. A Year Abroad In...

    Oh what a beautiful place to visit all year round 🙂 I love winter with proper snow, ‘crispiness’ and blue sky and so Yellowstone looks almost ideal. Would like to visit one day. Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Wow Yellowstone seriously turns it on in winter! The most underrated season I reckon! Thanks for sharing! Amazing photos and great information!

  9. Ahhh, Yellowstone looks just as magical in the winter. It has been on my list for years and these tips are so handy. I never knew their was a boiling river, how incredible. Your photos are gorgeous, especially the photo of the Lynx.

  10. Ashley Bell

    Hi. My family and I are coming to west Yellowstone for Christmas time this year. We have a 8 year old and a 4 year old. Wondering what snow shoe trips you would reccomend? We are all very seasoned hikers. We are staying in west at the worldmark for 9 days.

    • Melynda Harrison

      Hi Ashely-
      What a great time to come to Yellowstone. Around West Yellowstone, I’d recommend the RiverSide Trails and Refuge Point. They are both gorgeous. And if you can take a snowcoach into the Park, there are some great spots around Old Faithful. Let me know if you want more specifics or help planning your trip!

      • Ashley Bell

        Great. We were thinking of snowshoeing up to tower falls from the spot the road is closed, worth it in your opinion?

        • That’s a great walk. We usually ski it once a winter. Be sure to pop out to Calcite Springs on your way up. You’ll also pass the basalt columns and have great views into and across the canyon. Plus, you get to see Tower Falls.

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