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Yellowstone National Park Winter Splendor

Did you know you can visit Yellowstone in winter? This national park isn’t just a summer vacation destination! In fact, there are some things you can only do in the winter season!

Continue reading to learn about Yellowstone National Park winter gems.

Yellowstone National Park Winter

Why Visit Yellowstone in Winter?

There are several reasons why visiting Yellowstone in winter will make the perfect vacation!

First off, fewer people visit the park in the wintertime. This makes Yellowstone in winter a more intimate experience. Visitors will experience peace and renewal as they disconnect from screens and reconnect with nature!

Yellowstone in winter is also the only time you can take the snowcoach! The snowcoach travels throughout the park, taking visitors to see breathtaking scenery and wildlife. Since most of the roads are closed in the wintertime, the snowcoach is also your chance to safely visit all the sites within a heated vehicle!

Yellowstone in winter is also the only time you can book a snow-covered photo safari led by a guide. Book your safari on the Yellowstone National Park website!

The Mammoth hot springs are fascinating to see in person in the middle of winter. These hot bubbling springs look like frozen waterfalls that are a sight to behold. There’s also an ice skating rink on location for some downtime fun!

Snow Bison

Are you a lover of wildlife? Many animals, including elk, bison, and wolves, stand out against the stark white snow, making them easier to spot! This is also your chance to see the bison in their “winter coats,” when large balls of snow hang from their beard. This sight will make your trip a truly unique experience!

Finally, Yellowstone in winter is the only time to see geysers in snow. As Old Faithful shoots a stream of near-boiling water 100 feet into the frigid air, it quickly becomes “geyser rain.” This rain consists of tiny ice crystals and snowflakes that fall to the ground!

Camping and Lodging

The only cabins and lodging available in the wintertime are the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins. This location is accessible via snowcoach only, so be sure to plan ahead to arrive at your final destination without any trouble.


Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins, as well as Mammoth Campgrounds, are typically open in the winter season, as well. However, extensive flooding has closed both locations for the time being. Visit Yellowstone Park for more information on when they will be open for visitors.

There are several locations you can stay at outside of the national park, taking the snowcoach or snowmobiling into Yellowstone.

Kelly Inn West Yellowstone is a pet-friendly facility within walking distance of an IMAX theater and Grizzly Wolf Discovery Center. Perfect for a family vacation stay.

Travelodge by Wyndham Gardiner Yellowstone Park North is only one mile away from the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Downtown Gardiner has several restaurants and shops to keep you busy during your stay!

Clubhouse Inn West Yellowstone is a lovely three-story hotel just blocks from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park! It’s also within walking distance of downtown West Yellowstone which has restaurants, shops, and more.

Yellowstone Riverside Cottages is located at the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park. There are cottages, suites, and studios available to book a stay. Witness elk walk along the river bank from the deck of the hotel!

Winter Cottage

Lazy G Motel is a great family-friendly place to stay during your visit to Yellowstone National Park! Visit the Yellowstone Historic Center, along with several restaurants and shops in West Yellowstone.

Hibernation Station is just a few blocks away from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It’s both family-friendly and pet-friendly and provides everything you need for the comfort of your home. All cabins are non-smoking.

Transportation Considerations

Most Park Roads Closed to Vehicles

The north and northeast entrance roads are open year-round, however, most other roads are closed from December through March. Many of the park roads are accessible using snowmobiles or the snowcoach.

You can check the Status of the Roads and all about Snowmobile and Snowcoach Tours to plan accordingly for your trip!

Stick to the Boardwalks

Eleven major boardwalks line the trails of Yellowstone allowing visitors to see the geysers while still remaining safe. Visitors are cautioned to remain on the boardwalks to avoid dangerous situations. During the winter, be sure to wear traction boots as the boardwalks can become slippery with ice.

Winter Activities

Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are favorite activities of visitors to Yellowstone National Park in the wintertime. There are miles of land open for exploring with excellent views for photo opportunities.

Cross Country Skiing


Another favored activity is snowmobiling. To explore the park on a snowmobile, you will need a Non-Commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program Permit. Permit applications are due by the end of August, so be sure to plan for your trip accordingly.

Wildlife Watching

Wildlife watching is easy to do at Yellowstone in the wintertime! Not only are there many wild animals that roam freely, but the white winter backdrop makes picture-taking a cinch.

There are 10 packs of wolves that live within the national park. Bison, elk, and sometimes bobcats are seen roaming along the river’s edge.

In addition, there are a dozen different species of owl that inhabit the northern part of the park’s woods. Trumpeter swans find their way to the rivers and other moving water that hasn’t frozen for the winter.

Keep an eye out for otters, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and coyotes along Yellowstone Lake.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I see Old Faithful in the Wintertime?

Yes. In fact, it’s a perfect time to visit. The busiest time for tourists is between 10 am-2 pm, so if you plan it right, you might have this wonder all to yourself!

The combination of the hot spray of water with the freezing temperatures creates an enchanting scene of steam and ice. This makes Old Faithful in the wintertime a truly unique experience!

What preparations should I make for winter weather?

Keep in mind that temperatures usually range from 20 degrees during the day to sub-zero at nighttime. It averages 150” of snow per year, as well!

Plan to dress in layers of fleece and wool, not cotton, as cotton absorbs moisture and can quickly lead to hypothermia. All outerwear should be heavy-duty and waterproof or resistant.

It’s also quite dry in the Yellowstone National Park. Remember to pack lotions, creams, and chapstick to make your trip comfortable. And don’t sunscreen!

The snowcoach will limit you to two bags, plus a carry-on and snow skis or shoes, so pack carefully.

Is there cell service in Yellowstone?

Cell service within Yellowstone National Park is limited. While there are towers in Mammoth Hot Springs, West Yellowstone, Old Faithful, Grant Village, Lake Village, and Mount Washburn, there is no guarantee of a solid cellular connection.

When is the best time to visit to see the wolves and other wildlife?

While wildlife roams freely throughout the park, Lamar Valley is the best place to see many wild animals. This is because the cold and wind forces the mule deer, wolves, coyotes, and bison down to the open meadows along the roads to forage for food.

Wake up to Winter Wildlife tour takes place each morning, which you’ll need to register for. You’ll be guided throughout trails with the chance to see bison, elk, coyote, wolves, eagles, and bighorn. The tour includes a light breakfast.

Can I soak in the hot springs?

Unfortunately, no. The hot springs throughout Yellowstone are fragile and deadly. There is absolutely no swimming or soaking in them at any time.

There are several springs outside the park that are marked as safe to soak in if you’re willing to take a quick detour during your stay.

Wrapping up Yellowstone National Park Winters

Visiting Yellowstone in winter is a perfect time for some relaxation and soaking in the beauty of nature without fighting crowds of people. What will you do on your trip to Yellowstone National Park on your next winter vacation?

Interested in other vacation winter destinations? Visit Snow-Capped Giants: Sequoia National Park Winter Retreat to learn about another natural wonder!