In the winter months, the thick layer of snow that blankets the once lush, green summertime landscape of Yellowstone National Park creates a dramatic backdrop for the quiet solitude that awaits the park’s few lucky winter visitors. A winter day in the park is a truly magical experience; there’s steam shooting up from the hot pots surrounded by fields of white, grazing snow-crusted bison and elk and, best of all, no crowds.
For Big Sky, Montana residents and visitors alike, a winter park excursion is a must, and there are many ways to explore.
There are a few different tour operators offering half and full-day interpretive snowcoach tours through parts of the park that are closed to vehicles during the winter. The coaches also serve as transportation to Old Faithful Lodge, Mammoth Hot Springs, West Yellowstone, and Flagg Ranch. Wintertime lodging is available in some of these areas, where people stay to cross-country ski or snowmobile (see more on that below). The snowcoach is a comfortable and warm way for the whole family to experience the park in winter. Here are some vendors:
Cruise through the snowy landscape on a guided snowmobile tour to really experience your surroundings first hand with a dose of adventure thrown into the mix. Designed for all ability levels, from first timers to advanced riders, many of the trips are full day excursions that travel to Old Faithful Geyser Basin or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Here are a few of the authorized Yellowstone National Park snowmobile concessionaires:
Ski & Snowshoe Tours
A variety of ski and snowshoe tours are offered in different areas throughout Yellowstone National Park. Departing from Mammoth Hotel or Old Faithful, there are trips to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and tours around Old Faithful to Delacey Creek and Fairy Falls.
Ranger-led snowshoe trips through the Lamar Valley are also a popular way to spend the day, or try a tour around the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces with a geology talk and through the northern ranges for a wolf reintroduction tour.
For more information about exploring on your own, check out http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/skiyell.htm
For information about ranger-led programs for 2015, go here http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/rangerwinter.htm
For guided tours, check out http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/wintbusn.htm
How about spending the night in a winter wonderland? Winter lodging is available in the park at both Mammoth Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Hotels just outside the park, in West Yellowstone and Gardiner, are also open throughout the winter. For reservations and more information for all of the above programs, call (307) 344-7311 or (866) GEYSERLAND.
Want to do a little bit of everything, and have a private guide to show you the ins-and-outs of the park? Choose your own adventure with custom guided tours that can include skiing, snowmobiling, or snowcoaching. For more information, see http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/things-to-do/winter-things-to-do/winter-activities-dates-rates/