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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.