Winter in Yellowstone Park is a magical time. In fact, it’s my favorite time to visit the park. Soaking in hot springs, cross-country skiing to waterfalls, and getting a good look at the wildlife that has come down from the mountains are some of my top things to do in Yellowstone in winter.

Winter at Yellowstone is a time of low(er) visitation and high solitude. Loads of snow and cold temperatures can mean it is the perfect time to take your Yellowstone winter tours.

Here’s what you need to know to plan your Yellowstone winter vacation.

bobcat in yellowstone

Keep reading to create your own custom itinerary for visiting Yellowstone in the winter.

Getting Around Yellowstone in Winter

One of the things that make winter trips to Yellowstone National Park 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.

old bombadier snow coack

Best Things to Do When Visiting Yellowstone National Park in Winter

Here’s the quick-list of things to do on your Yellowstone winter visit. Keep reading for all the details on each activity and Yellowstone winter lodging.

  • Soak in a hot spring
  • Walk, ski, or snowshoe around the Mammoth Terraces
  • Become a Winter Junior Ranger
  • Cross-country ski or snowshoe
  • Watch for the Yellowstone wolves and other wildlife
  • Enjoy one of the snowcoach tours Yellowstone is famous for
  • Join a Yellowstone winter photography tour (or go on your own)
  • Snowmobile Yellowstone
walking on boardwalk in snow in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Winter Lodging

Unwind in the comfort of a winterized cabin or lodge. Relax by a warm fireplace after a day of exploring the park, cozying up and enjoying the serenity of the winter season.

Wondering where to stay in Yellowstone in winter? You have a lot of choices. As I mentioned for visiting Yellowstone, winter is my favorite time of year. That’s mostly due to the park itself, of course, but also because I love the cozy winter lodging in Yellowstone.

There’s nothing better than playing in the snow all day or wildlife watching and then coming back to a roaring fire or Finnish sauna. Hot cocoa (and stronger drinks), and good food await Yellowstone’s winter explorers.

Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful are the only areas of the park with facilities open in winter (lodging and dining), except Yellowstone Expedition’s Yurt Camp, but you can only go there as part of their Yellowstone in winter packages.

Adventurous Winter Lodging Yellowstone

Yellowstone Expedition Yurt Camp 

Yellowstone Expedition’s Yurt Camp.

Staying at the yurt camp gets you out into the woods and canyons of Yellowstone’s backcountry. You can read my trip report here. This is my favorite of all the winter tours of Yellowstone. The trip is both rugged and full of creature comforts. It’s like winter glamping in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Expedition drives you to their Yurt Camp in a snowcoach and you stay in little “yurtlets” modeled after ice fishing huts. Don’t worry, they are warm and the beds are comfy.

The staff makes the best meals and guides you on a day of skiing or snowshoeing in the most spectacular winter wilderness in the world (my opinion).

Watch the video or read about it and see if this is the way you want to visit Yellowstone Park in winter.

Cozy Winter Lodge in Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins 

The Snow Lodge just steps from the famous geyser. The hotel is lovely, warm, and comfortable — it’s the iconic Yellowstone lodging in winter. I’ve stayed at the Yellowstone Snow Lodge a handful of times and always loved it.

Both Christmas at Yellowstone Snow Lodge and New Year’s Eve are special experience. A giant Christmas tree and decorations make the lobby seem even cozier. Special holiday meals are available in the dining room.

For a little less expensive option, stay in one of the Yellowstone cabins rather than the lodge.

There are lots of opportunities to ski or snowshoe from the hotel. Or spend your days walking the boardwalks around Old Faithful Geyser Basin.

Read more about visiting Old Faithful Geyser in winter here.

The only way to get there is via snowcoach or snowmobile, and you need to plan both your transportation and your lodging at the same time. You should make your reservations in the Obsidian Dining Room, too. It fills up quickly and there is nowhere else to eat at the Snow Lodge.

The concessionaire that runs the Snow Lodge can organize Yellowstone winter packages that include lodging, transportation, dinner reservations, and even day tours. Make your reservation here.

front of building - old faithful snow lodge in Yellowstone

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins

Mammoth Hot Springs was the original park headquarters and continues to be to this day and you can step in the history at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. You can drive there through the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana and drive through the park to Silver Gate and Cooke City.

Take a historic walking tour around Fort Yellowstone, ski and snowshoe, and walk around Mammoth’s terraces.

Mammoth Hot Springs winter activities also access to many trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, walking; ice skating; and more. Many Yellowstone National Park winter tours start at the hotel.

Make your reservation here.

Winter Camping in Yellowstone

For the hardy, and experienced, Yellowstone winter camping is an option. The only campground open in winter in Yellowstone is the Mammoth Campground (Temporarily CLOSED due to 2022 floods). It’s open to tents and RVs on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you prefer backcountry winter camping in Yellowstone Park, you can get a free permit. Plan to ski or snowshoe into your destination and camp in the snow. Check the park site for info on winter camping Yellowstone.

Versatile Yellowstone Base Camp

There are several Yellowstone gateway towns that have lodging open in winter. See my post on the best places to stay near Yellowstone for details on additional lodging for Yellowstone winter trips.

Yellowstone Winter Lodging in Gardiner, Montana

Best Western By Mammoth Hot Springs

For a more standard accommodation near Yellowstone National Park, try Ridgeline Hotel at Yellowstone (formerly the Best Western By Mammoth Hot Springs) in Gardiner. The Ridgeline is just what you’d expect from an Ascend Hotel – flat screen TVs, WiFi, clean rooms, a swimming pool, and free breakfast.

See more reviews and the best deals on a stay at the Ridgeline Hotel at Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Winter Lodging in Silver Gate, Montana

Lamar Valley Cabins

Every autumn, my friend and I stay in one of these cozy Yellowstone cabins. Our friend Jeff built both of the Lamar Valley Cabins himself and they were designed and decorated by his wife. They are comfy, but roomy; cozy and well appointed. My favorite thing is to wake up and gaze at the mountains out the bedroom window.

There are two choices for lodging near Yellowstone Park in the Lamar Valley Cabins: The Lamar (this is where we usually stay) and the Silver Falls.

  • The Lamar sleeps six in two bedrooms and a window bed on the upstairs landing.
  • The Silver Falls sleeps six in three bedrooms.

Both have patios for grilling and gorgeous views. Read more about our stay at the Lamar Valley cabins.

person walking up to cabins for rent near yellowstone

Yellowstone Winter Lodging in West Yellowstone, Montana

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.

Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone

The staff at the Explorer Cabins will organize a tour into the park or get you set for hiking, rafting, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or ice fishing nearby. And the bonus is, when you get back to the Explorer Cabins you can roast marshmallows around campfire.

The Yellowstone camping cabins are clustered in groups of five, making it ideal for extended family or a group gathering.

Each private cabin boasts stylish décor, fine linens, a flat-screen TV and a kitchenette for whipping up your favorite meals. WiFi is available in the cabins and throughout the property. Dog-friendly cabins are available. Find more reviews and the best deals on the Explorer Cabins.

Yellowstone National Park Winter Activities

Soak in a Yellowstone Hot Spring

One of the best things to do in Yellowstone in winter is soak in a hot spring

The Boiling River

Sadly, the Boiling River is CLOSED indefinitely. Keep reading for other hot springs near Yellowstone. 

The Boiling River can be accessed from Gardiner or Mammoth Hot Springs 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.

The Boiling River is the only front country (no long hike) hot spring that you can soak in. We visit at least once or twice a winter and love watching the ice float down the river, American dippers “fly” underwater, and elk graze in the sage across the river while we soak in the hot water. Here are all the details to add the Boiling River to your winter tours of Yellowstone.

While there aren’t any easily accessible hot springs in Yellowstone for soaking, there are two commercial hot springs located north of the park.

Yellowstone Hot Springs

Yellowstone Hot Springs is our new go-to since the Boiling River is closed. It offers a rejuvenating and unique experience within the Yellowstone ecosystem. Situated just outside the park in Gardiner, Montana, this geothermal gem allows you to soak in mineral-rich waters while surrounded by breathtaking mountain scenery. The pools vary in temperature, catering to different preferences, and provide an excellent opportunity to relax after a day of exploring the wonders of Yellowstone National Park.

Chico Hot Springs

Nestled in the scenic Paradise Valley near Pray, Montana, Chico Hot Springs provides a historic and inviting retreat. Surrounded by the Absaroka Mountains, this resort features natural hot springs with two open-air mineral pools. You can unwind in the soothing waters while enjoying a drink from the poolside bar. Chico is a popular destination for those seeking relaxation and a touch of Montana’s charm, and it’s a place we have spent a lot of time at!

Bozeman Hot Springs

Bozeman Hot Springs, located west of Bozeman, Montana en route to Big Sky or West Yellowstone, offers a modern and family-friendly hot springs experience. With a diverse array of pools, including hot tubs, a cold plunge, and a lap pool, Bozeman Hot Springs caters to various preferences. The facility is known for its well-maintained amenities and is an excellent stop. We prefer the outdoor pools to the indoor pools, and do note that they use chlorine in the pools.

There are many more hot springs in Montana and hot springs in Idaho to add to your visit!

Walk, Cross-Country Ski, or Snowshoe Around the Mammoth Terraces

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

three people looking at the Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone in winter

If you are feeling adventurous, rent skis or snowshoes from the Bear Den (inside the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel) and ski around Upper Terrace Drive. You’ll pass cool hot spring features like “Elephant’s Back” and “Orange Mound.”

Become a Winter Junior Ranger

Yellowstone National Park has a special Junior Ranger program just for winter, in addition to their regular Junior Ranger program. Add this to your Yellowstone trip planner to get a little more out of your winter visit to the park.

The Yellowstone Junior Ranger programs are for kids (and the young at heart, they say) ages four and older. Pick up the booklet ($3) at the Albright or Old Faithful Visitor Centers. In the case of the winter program, you’ll need to check out at backpack (free) containing tools for winter measurements — a thermometer and hand lens.

The program is self-guided and we always have a blast doing the activities with our kids. It’s a great way to learn about the winter environment and the critters that are adapted to it.

Expand your knowledge with ranger-led programs. Participate in guided snowshoe tours, wildlife talks, and astronomy presentations, gaining insights into the park’s winter ecology and the wonders hidden beneath the snow.

winter junior ranger program - ranger talking to kids at old faithful in yellowstone

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. Cross-country skiing is my favorite thing to do in Yellowstone National Park in winter.

Ask at the hotel (if you are staying in the park) or a visitor center desk for a free map of ski trails in the area or check online.

There are different maps for ski and snowshoe trails in the following areas: Mammoth, Tower, Northeast, Canyon, Old Faithful, and West Yellowstone. 

If you are staying in West Yellowstone, Montana, see my post about cross-country skiing in West Yellowstone outside the park boundaries.

You can rent skis or snowshoes in Gardiner, Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, or West Yellowstone.

a woman and two kids cross country skiing at old faithful in yellowstone

Related: Exploring Yellowstone’s Winter Wonderland With Yellowstone Expeditions

Go Ice Skating in Yellowstone

There are ice skating rinks at both the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. They are small rinks, but offer free ice skates to use. We love when the fire pits are blazing the music is playing (ask at the hotel desk if the fire isn’t lit).

boy ice skating at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone National Park

Wolf Watching in Yellowstone

Winter is the best time to look for wolves in Yellowstone National Park. The elk come down from the high country in winter and the wolves follow. You can take one of the Yellowstone winter wolf tours 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. And you’ll need a huge lens to get good photos (or a phone adapter for your scope.)

Related: Why You Should Hire a Guide in Yellowstone

wolf close up from Yellowstone winter tours wolves

Day Trip or Overnight at Old Faithful 

We think Old Faithful is extra special in winter and love to witness the majesty of Yellowstone’s most famous geyser erupting into the snowy sky. Imagine the awe-inspiring geyser reaching heights of 180 feet, its plume contrasting beautifully with the pristine snow.

You can visit Old Faithful on a day trip via snowmobile or snowcoach tour from West Yellowstone, Mammoth, or the South Entrance. 

Even better, spend a few nights at the Old Faithful Snowlodge (see above for details) and really get to know the area.

While you are there, delve into the park’s history and geology at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. Discover fascinating exhibits and learn about the geysers, hot springs, and other natural wonders that make Yellowstone unique.

Read more about visiting Old Faithful in winter.

front of a wooden hotel in Yellowstone -- the Old Faithful Snow Lodge

Dog Sledding in Yellowstone

Experience the thrill of mushing through the snowy wilderness with a dog sledding tour. This is one of my favorite Greater Yellowstone winter tours. You can’t dogsled in the park, but you can enjoy this iconic winter sport not far from Yellowstone.

While there are other dog sled kennels, these are the two outfitters I have gone dog sledding with.

two people dog sledding in Island Park in winter

Morrison Racing Kennel offers half-day and full-day tours that take you through the Absaroka Mountains and into the heart of Yellowstone Country about 30 minutes north of Gardiner. You’ll have the chance to meet the dogs, learn about the history of dog sledding, and enjoy the stunning winter scenery. These dogs are part of a real racing team and participate in races when they aren’t pulling tourists around. Some of the dogs that I went out with will be in the Iditarod!

Between Big Sky and West Yellowstone, Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures lets you mush your own team of dogs or ride with a guide. You get to meet the dogs and hang out around a fire with a hot drink.

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.

When you are in the snowcoach, Yellowstone opens up in front of you. Not only is it the best way to get to the park’s interior, you get to see Yellowstone in all its winter solitude and beauty.

If you are planning on staying at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge (see the lodging section above), you’ll need to show you have transportation to get there.

big yellows snowcoach tours Yellowstone with a boy in front

Yellowstone Winter Photography Tour

There are plenty of winter photography tours to choose from. I’d be happy to plan a photography-specific custom Yellowstone trip for you.

If you are more spontaneous, just head out around dawn and dusk for the best photographs of Yellowstone. One of the best things about photographing in Yellowstone in winter is that you don’t have to get up too early or stay out too late — days are short here.

For Yellowstone winter photography inspiration, check out Tom Murphy’s book — The Spirit of Winter. He’s a local photographer who has probably spent more time in Yellowstone’s backcountry in winter than almost anyone. His images are gorgeous and breathtaking.

There are a few good books for where to photograph in Yellowstone Park, but they are more suited for summer visitors. If you pick and choose, you will find some useful information.

Winter photography in Yellowstone December

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.

The good thing about snowmobiling Yellowstone National Park is that the Park Service requires New Best Available Technology, which keeps emissions lower than the old 2-stroke snow machines.

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.

snowmobiling Yellowstone Park

Yellowstone Sleigh Ride

Experience the magic of a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Sit back and relax as you journey through the snow-covered landscape, enjoying the romantic and unforgettable winter scenery.

While you can’t actually go for a sleigh ride inside Yellowstone National Park, there are three options near West Yellowstone and Big Sky that I have tried. 

Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky offers a sleigh ride dinner to a charming, rustic cabin where you are served a gourmet Western dinner. It is a dreamy experience. Cowboy singers/storytellers provide the entertainment. Lone Mountain Ranch Sleigh Ride Dinner

The 320 Guest Ranch on the Gallatin River between Big Sky and West Yellowstone does a one-hour appetizer sleigh ride. The horses pull you to their Mountain Man Campsite where you will get a cup of wild game chili, cheese and crackers, popcorn, hot beverages, adult beverages, ranch stories by a bonfire, and sleigh ride back to front office. 320 Guest Ranch Sleigh Ride 

man driving a sleigh with two horses through aspen trees near Yellowstone

At Parade Rest Guest Ranch near West Yellowstone, we took a lunch sleigh ride through sagebrush and aspens, followed by salads, chili, and cornbread in their cozy lodge. The dinner sleigh ride is followed by a five course prime rib or ½ chicken dinner. Parade Rest Sleigh Ride

Visit Yellowstone Winter FAQs

hot springs and frozen trees yellowstone

Is Yellowstone open in winter?

Yes, Yellowstone is open year-round, 24 hours a day. However, most of the roads in the park are closed to everything except oversnow travel in winter.

Yellowstone’s winter season runs from mid-December through mid-March. (The road closures start around the beginning of November and reopen in April, depending on weather and road conditions.)

Is Yellowstone worth visiting in winter?

I think it is well worth visiting Yellowstone National Park in the winter. As you can see by scrolling up, there are so many Yellowstone winter activities. And while the park isn’t empty, there are many fewer people than the rest of the year.

What is there to do in Yellowstone in winter?

There is a lot to do in Yellowstone Park in the winter. Scroll up for all the details.

  • Soak in a hot spring
  • Walk, ski, or snowshoe around the Mammoth Terraces
  • Become a Winter Junior Ranger
  • Cross-country ski or snowshoe
  • Watch for the Yellowstone wolves and other wildlife
  • Enjoy one of the snowcoach tours Yellowstone is famous for
  • Join a Yellowstone winter photography tour (or go on your own)
  • Snowmobile Yellowstone

Can you drive through Yellowstone in winter?

Most park roads are closed to automobiles during the first week in November and will begin reopening mid-April. The road from the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana through the park to Cooke City, Montana is open year-round.

To reach Old Faithful, Norris, Canyon, or other areas within the park, you must use an oversnow vehicle (snowcoach or snowmobile). Scroll up to get the details on doing that.

front of snowcoach Yellowstone Park winter

What Yellowstone entrance is open in winter?

The North Entrance (Gardiner) is open year-round to automobile traffic, as is the Northeast Entrance (Silver Gate- Cooke City), but you can only access the Northeast Entrance through the park in winter.

The West Entrance (West Yellowstone), East Entrance (Cody), and South Entrance are open to oversnow traffic, but you must be on a guided snowcoach or snowmobile tour or have a self-guided snowmobile permit (see above article for how to make those things happen).

You can ski, snowshoe, or walk through any Yellowstone National Park entrance.

How cold does it get in Yellowstone in winter?

You should be prepared for cold during a Yellowstone Park winter. (See my packing list for what to bring on your Yellowstone holidays in winter).

The northern part of the park, especially around Mammoth Hot Springs, is usually the warmest part of Yellowstone, though it can get well below zero F, there, too. While these average temperatures for Yellowstone in winter don’t seem that cold, trust me, it can get a lot colder. At least, that’s been my experience.

  • High/ low for Yellowstone in December: 26° / 4°F ( -3°/ -16°C)
  • High/ low for Yellowstone in January: 28° / 3°F (-2° / -16°C)
  • High/ low for Yellowstone in February: 31° / 4°F (0° / -15°C)
  • High/ low for Yellowstone in March: 39° / 10°F (4° / -12°C)

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

More Tips for Visiting Yellowstone

Winter Adventures in Yellowstone National Park: A local’s perspective on the best things to do in Yellowstone in winter — how to get around, what to do, and where to stay and eat. See Yellowstone at its prettiest and least crowded. #Yellowstone #WinterTrip #NationalParks #Montana #Wyoming
What to do in Yellowstone National Park in Winter: A local’s guide to Yellowstone in winter. Includes where to go, where to sleep and eat, what to pack, and how to experience Yellowstone in its best season. #Yellowstone #WinterTrip #NationalParks #Montana #Wyoming

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.