I’ve always wanted to visit Yellowstone National Park in the winter. There’s something romantic about riding through Yellowstone on a snowmobile or guided snowcoach to an isolated snowy wilderness. Gliding along the sparkling snow, you can view an abundance of wildlife, spot steaming geysers, and get lost in the stark quiet among the trees. Minimal people, minimal technology, and maximum solitude.
Although I have not been lucky enough to experience Yellowstone in the winter, I’ve compiled some information to help others in their planning. Beginning in early November, Yellowstone prepares for winter and closes down roads that lead into the park’s interior. Only the north and northeast entrances are open to cars. Always check road conditions on Yellowstone’s website before traveling there.
When it comes to winter lodging within the park, there are only two options – Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins and Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins. The other options for lodging sit outside the park’s boundaries. Within these two Yellowstone hotels, there are a few places to dine. In Old Faithful Lodge, the Obsidian Dining Room, Geyser Grill, and Bear Paw Deli are all open in the winter. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel’s dining room is open all winter long. All of these restaurants are vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free friendly.
Winter in the park involves plenty of outdoor fun. Activities include cross-country skiing, snowmobiling (with a permit or tour group), snowshoeing, ice fishing, and guided tours.
Snowmobiling seems to be the most popular activity within the park. There are over 300 miles of groomed trails for riders to explore. If you choose not to go with a guided tour and rent/bring your own snowmobile, be sure you are up to date on Yellowstone’s new rules regarding snowmobiles. Permits are required for snowmobile operators and are granted via a lottery system in September. This is to limit the number of snow vehicles on the grounds. Yellowstone has also enforced snowmobile pollution controls, speed limits, nighttime closures, and guided, single-file entry into the park. Each snowmobile driver needs to have on them a current driver’s license and have completed the free Yellowstone Snowmobile Education Certification online training course. You must have both the license and certification to be allowed to drive in the park. For more information on Yellowstone’s snowmobiling rules, click here.
For those skiing, the park offers ski shuttles to and from the cross country ski area. There are also some excursion companies that offers cross country ski tours of Yellowstone, complete with heated cabins. Snowshoe tours are also available by the park and outside outfitters. You can also snowshoe the Rendezvous Ski Trail system, a popular place to tour on your own. Rangers also lead snowshoe walks and nature talks during the colder weather. Yellowstone ski and snowshoe trail maps can be found here. For more information about the park’s tips regarding skiing and snowshoeing, click here.
Another way to tour Yellowstone in winter is by Snowcoach. Snowcoaches are basically buses that can travel on snow. They operate from December 15 through March 15. Hop aboard and join a snowcoach tour to Old Faithful and the Geyser Basins, as well as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Snowcoaches are heated, but you will obviously need winter gear on once you step out of the vehicle to take in the sights.
For any other information regarding visiting Yellowstone National Park in winter, please follow this link. I’m thoroughly amazed by the National Park Service’s ability to run a national park throughout winter conditions. The logistics of a smoothly run park must be extremely complex, when roads are snow-covered and transport in and out is limited.
Visiting Yellowstone in the winter is an adventurous and exhilarating vacation. Plenty of wildlife, clean air, and open space await you.