Yellowstone National Park was the first designated National Park within the United States, and widely regarded as the first National Park in the world. Established as a park in 1872 by Congress, it was a major influence in creating the National Park Service in 1916. Yellowstone is known for wildlife and active geothermal areas. Yellowstone is a popular summer destination, but it also has some excellent winter activities. Winter in Yellowstone has tours that are fun for the entire family, lots of wildlife and small crowds, making it a great time to visit.
During the summer months roads connect the entire park, when all sites are open and accessible. However, during the winter, only some of these are accessible, either by car (in the north) or by tour (in the south).
Norris Basin & the geothermal areas
Mammoth hot springs
Old Faithful geyser
Grand Prismatic spring
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
When to Go
Most go to Yellowstone between June and September. This is the best time to fully explore the park. However, the winter months bring different activities that are enjoyable for all ages. Packed with snow, snowcoaches and snowmobiles take over for the cars and head into the park on tours. These tours are a great way to see Yellowstone without the crowds.
Scenic Drive in the Lamar Valley
From the northeast entrance near Gardiner, drive to the Lamar Valley. Alongside the road, there are several viewpoints and parking areas. This region of the park has lots of wildlife, including bison, wolves, fox, bighorn sheep, elk, and the occasional grizzly bear.
Mammoth Hot Springs
The Mammoth Hot Springs are accessible from the northeast entrance near Gardiner. There is a walking platform to view some sulfur springs up close. To best enjoy these springs, head over to the Boiling River. Driving to the park exit from Mammoth, there is a small sign reading “Leaving Wyoming, Entering Montana.” Following this sign, there are parking lots on both the right and left side of the street. Park here and walk the 0.5 mile trail down river, to a natural spring in the river.
Cross Country Ski/Snowshoe
The best area to explore in the winter by skis or snowshoe is the Lamar Valley. There are several trails which allow you to get up close to the wildlife. Another popular place for cross-country skiing is at Rendezvous Ski Trails just outside the park in West Yellowstone.
Rental costs for skis or snowshoes range from $15 – $25 per day.
Winter Snowmobile Tours
Highlighting the winter activities in Yellowstone are the snowmobile tours. Tours originate from West Yellowstone and can take you on an Old Faithful tour or Grand Canyon of Yellowstone tour. We recommend the Old Faithful tour. Stops include all the major sites in the area, including Old Faithful, Sapphire Pools, Mudpots, and Firehole Falls. The tour begins at 8:30 AM finishing at 5 PM, with a total of 80 miles.
Cost for 1 or 2 people is $209 + tax with Buffalo Bus. Clothing rentals cost extra.
Tour Companies and Rentals
**Parks’ Fly Shop (Gardiner, MT) – Rent snowshoes or cross-country skis for the day in North Yellowstone. $15 snowshoes, $20 skis/day.
Free Heel and Wheel (West Yellowstone, MT) – $25 Snowshoes, $25 skis/day.
See Yellowstone (West Yellowstone, MT) – Snowcoach and Snowmobile tours. Inquire for pricing.
**Buffalo Bus (West Yellowstone, MT) – Snowcoach and Snowmobile tours. Snowmobile tour is $215 per snowmobile (2 people can go on 1 snowmobile). $15 for full gear rental. Snowcoach tours are $135 per person.
Alpen Guides (West Yellowstone, MT) – Cross Country Ski Tours, enquire for pricing.
**Beard and Curly recommended
Visited on 1/16/16 and 1/17/16.