5 Tips for Your Winter Visit to Yellowstone
There are still a few weeks left of Yellowstone's official winter season. You can visit the northern part of the park by car, or take a snowcoach to see Old Faithful and the interior of the Park. If you’re already planning a visit, or considering a last-minute trip to Yellowstone’s winter wonderland – even just for a day – here are a few tips.
If you want to visit the Old Faithful area during its most serene season, or see other favorite parts of the park blanketed in snow, reserve a snowcoach ride from the North, South, or West entrances. If you’d prefer to tour by car, start your trip from the North Entrance in Gardiner, MT near Mammoth Hot Springs; the Northeast Entrance road between Mammoth and Cooke City is plowed all winter for wheeled vehicles.
Refer to the Yellowstone winter road map when planning your transportation. Once you decide how you will get here, then you can plan what type of fun you’ll have!
1) See Wildlife in the Lamar Valley. If you’re visiting by car, set out on the Northeast Entrance road into the spectacular Lamar Valley. Bison, foxes, and many creatures are easy to spot against the snowy white backdrop. Dawn and dusk are best times to see Yellowstone’s famous wolf packs. Services are limited in this part of the park so be sure to pack snacks and supplies, along with your camera and binoculars or spotting scope.
2) Explore a Winter Trail. Pick up a trail map at a visitor center and set off on your own adventure on skis or snowshoes. One popular trail is the mostly-level Lone Star Geyser trail (9 miles round trip) that begins at Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Or take a guided snowshoe walk with a ranger, departing Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at 2pm from Mammoth. Gear rentals are available at Mammoth and Old Faithful. Daily weather reports and Nordic Ski Reports are posted online. If you prefer boots to skis or snowshoes, boardwalks are a great way to get out into Yellowstone’s winter landscape. Check out numerous, steaming hydrothermal features from the boardwalk at Mammoth Terraces, or the Geyser Hill Loop Trail -- an easy, 1.3-mile boardwalk trail near Old Faithful Geyser.
3) Book a Tour or Class. Xanterra Parks & Resorts offers snowcoach, bus, ski, and snowshoe tours. For stargazers, an evening snowcoach tour departs nightly from Old Faithful. They even have shuttles to drop you off at the beginning of a one-way ski or snowshoe trail back to your car. Or make advance reservations to take a class with the Yellowstone Association, which offers multi-day field seminars. They still have a few spaces left for winter courses, but reserve soon!
4) Enjoy a Ranger-Led Evening Program. Winter evening programs led by Yellowstone rangers run through March 3 at the Mammoth Hotel and Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. These free programs are 45-60 min and highlight various topics of interest for the whole family. View schedule>>
5) Stop by a Visitor Center. Start off your Yellowstone winter adventure by dropping in one of the visitor centers that is open in winter (see locations and schedule here). You’ll be able to get trail maps, geyser predictions, and road and weather reports. If you are traveling with children ages 5-12, pick up a Jr. Ranger activity paper (or download in advance) and complete fun winter activities toward earning a Jr. Ranger badge. Be sure to check out the interactive exhibits at the new Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, open 9-5 daily through March 15.
The Yellowstone Park Foundation hosted a Winter Wonderland Excursion to Yellowstone earlier this month, and it was a great success! Save the date for next year's trip, February 8-11, 2013, and watch this site for details later this year. This special opportunity will be open to our 1872 Society members on a first-come, first-served basis.
All photos by YPF except for Wolf in snow (NPS) and Albright Visitor Center (NPS)