Winter In Yellowstone National Park

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Yellowstone National Park is one of the most spectacular wonders of the world, and we are fortunate to have it essentially in our back yard. But, did you know that in addition to millions of visitors passing through there in the summer, it is also open to the public in the winter? Except for a few weeks in the spring and fall when the park is closed to public traffic, you can experience the wonder during all seasons.

While you are making your plans to be in Big Sky this winter to enjoy skiing at Big Sky Resort or cross country and sleigh-riding adventures at Lone Mountain Ranch, consider a visit to Yellowstone to round out your trip.

xmasbook-1845You can explore the park on your own by cross country skiing into the park, and within it from one of their year-round lodging facilities; you can take a guided snowmobile tour; or you can view it from the warmth and comfort of a Snowcoach. The tours are available to various places in the park including the Old Faithful area and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. You can make it a day trip, or enjoy several days staying in the Snow Lodge or other hotel within the park. If you prefer to drive yourself, the section of road between Mammoth Hot Springs (North entrance) and Cooke City (East Entrance) is open on a year round basis.

Below is a collection of information to help you make your plans. Don’t wait, reservations for the tours and lodging within the park book early!

West Yellowstone Snowcoach and Snowmobile Tours:

Buffalo Bus Snowcoach Tour

Backcountry Adventures

SeeYellowstone.com

Yellowstone Adventures

Teton Valley Adventures

Yellowstone National Park Lodging

This winter, the National Park Service is renovating the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins, so they will be closed. However, the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins are open and currently taking reservations for the winter season. If you are looking to stay in the park for a few days, consider booking a Snowcoach to transport you to Old Faithful where you can cross country ski or snowshoe, stay in the Lodge or a Cabin, and travel back out again on a Snowcoach.

Cross Country Skiing/Snowshoeing

There are a number of companies that offer guided ski and snowshoe tours into the park, including and Yellowstone Expeditions and Yellowstone Ski Tours. If you’d like to explore on your own, check out the National Park Service information found here.

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Big Sky Dogsled Adventures in Big Sky & Yellowstone Park

blog_dogsleddingImagine the spectacular views of the snowy Big Sky wilderness that you can get from the back of a sled pulled by man’s best friend. This exhilarating and unique experience is available to adults and kids alike through Spirit of the North Dog Sled Adventures and Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures in the Big Sky area.

These experienced dogsled guiding companies offer several different packages, depending on your group-size, ability, price range, and how much time you have to spare.

Connie Sperry of Spirit of the North Dogsled Adventures says their tours are very flexible, and allow people of all ages to participate as much or as little as they want. In the many years Sperry and her family have been guiding in the Big Sky area, she says they have had guests of all ages, from 6 months to 90 years old.

To start, guides will show your group the ropes before hooking up the teams for a guided first run. After that, guests can choose to drive a team themselves or just enjoy the ride as a passenger. The sleds are driven by powerful and beautiful Alaskan huskies, and riders are encouraged to “socialize” with the dogs before the trip.

Sperry says the trail is a lot of fun, with plenty of curves. “So it’s not a flat pony ride,” she explains. On the journey, expect incredible scenery and a high likelihood of seeing some wildlife, too. Feel the wind whooshing by and listen to the panting of your furry escorts. The tour stops for a hot chocolate and cookie break and to switch drivers before heading back to camp.

Sperry began Spirit of the North Dogsled Adventures with her daughter Jessie Royer 21 years ago. Sperry and her husband took over the business entirely when Royer moved on to become a professional musher. Royer has since placed 10th or above in the Iditarod numerous times, and has competed well in many other races.

Spirit of the North offers half-day trips, which include a little over two hours of sledding time. Tours depart from Moonlight Basin at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. seven days a week. Reservations are required. They recommends that participants “overdress” for their dog sledding experience, since sledding is not quite as active as other outdoor activities, like skiing. Other items you may want to bring include a camera, water bottle, and sunscreen.

Yellowstone Dog Adventures offers half-day trips departing at 9:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Cost is $150 kids 5-12; $195 for adults.

In addition to half-day trips Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures also offers a family-friendly “Sled Dog Sampler” for those who prefer to ride with a guide for a shorter trip. The Sled Dog Sampler is $45 for kids and $85 for adults.

Both guiding companies promise gorgeous scenery and an unforgettable experience.

http://huskypower.com

www.yellowstonedogsledadventures.com

Winter in Yellowstone

winterynpThere’s nothing like Yellowstone National Park in the winter.

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.

Snowcoach Tours
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:

Yellowstone Snowcoaches

Yellowstone Vacations

Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Snowmobile Tours
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:

Two Top Yellowstone Winter Tours

Yellowstone Vacations

Old Faithful Snowmobile Tours

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

Lodging
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.

Custom Tours
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/

Big Sky’s Winter Cruising

blog_wintercruisingDuring the holiday season in Big Sky, Montana, it’s pretty likely that there will be “lovely weather for a sleigh ride together” at some point. And there’s nothing quite as wonderful as bundling up for a peaceful journey through the snowy scenery the old-fashioned way. Whether you have an hour or an evening to spare, Big Sky offers several unique sleigh-ride experiences beginning in early December.

If you would rather not brave the elements, take in the scenery on a guided snowcoach tour, which allows guests to get up-close-and-personal with Yellowstone National Park scenery and wildlife from the comfort of a vehicle that travels off-road. Continue reading for a complete list of snowcoach and sleigh ride vendors in the area.

Lone Mountain Ranch: If you’re looking for an authentic experience, reserve a spot for Lone Mountain Ranch’s popular evening sleigh ride dinner. Guests ride in horse-drawn sleigh to an out-of-the-way cabin for a prime rib dinner cooked over a wood stove. A rustic atmosphere and “cowboy entertainment” complete the experience. Season starts Dec. 5 and runs through the end of March. http://www.lonemountainranch.com

320 Guest Ranch: The 320 Guest Ranch offers sleigh rides by starlight to Mountain Man Campsite Monday through Saturday beginning Dec. 12. A horse-drawn sleigh departs for the one-hour trip at 5:30 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9 p.m. daily; and includes either appetizers or dessert. Guests are treated to ranch stories by the campfire before returning home. The 320 Ranch also offers private sleigh rides for special occasions. www.320ranch.com

Montana Dinner Yurt: Ride a snow cat to the top of a mountain for a fun and festive night of sledding, live music, and a top-notch dinner served inside a real Montana yurt. Don’t worry – it’s warm inside! www.skimba.com

See Yellowstone Snowcoach Tours: See Yellowstone offers daily tour services to Old Faithful and Geyser Basins; and Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday to the “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.” These guided tours depart at 8:30 a.m. and return by 4:30 p.m. Private tours are also available. www.yellowstonesnowcoaches.com

Backcountry Adventures: Backcountry Adventures also offers regular tours to the Canyon and Old Faithful, as well as tours for private parties. www.backcountry-adventures.com

Yellowstone Alpen Guides: In addition to its sightseeing snowcoach tours, Yellowstone Alpen Guides also offers two photography tours for guests who want plenty of freedom to stop and capture the view. Tours operate daily and include opportunities to snowshoe and cross-country ski along the way. http://www.yellowstoneguides.com

Fall Hiking in Yellowstone

Fall Hiking in YellowstoneThere’s nothing like Yellowstone National Park in the fall: cooler temperatures, evolving colors, fewer crowds, and the rare opportunity to spot young wildlife of all types. Read on for details about three not-too-challenging day hikes that will satisfy your urge to explore the Yellowstone backcountry, but still allow you to be back in Big Sky by dinner.

Mystic Falls
A trip to Yellowstone wouldn’t feel right without a visit to Old Faithful, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Extend your visit to the area, and escape the other visitors, with a hike to Mystic Falls, one of the most beautiful and accessible waterfalls in the park that is located approximately two miles north of Old Faithful. At the fork in the main trail, take a left for an easygoing route past the Sapphire Pool and along the Firehole River, culminating in a majestic view of the falls. For a slightly longer, more strenuous hike, continue on and up through the switchbacks until you reach the overlook. Here you will get a stunning view of the geyser basins, an area known for having the highest concentration of geysers in the world.

Lone Star Geyser
Head south from Old Faithful for a slightly longer, more strenuous hike to the Lone Star Geyser, which erupts approximately every three hours for about 30 minutes. Before you leave Old Faithful, check with the visitor center to see if they have a record of the last eruption so you can try to time your visit just right. From the trailhead off of West Thumb Road, hike about 2.5 miles along the river (bikes are allowed on this trail too) and make a right at the junction with the Spring Creek Trail until you reach your destination. If you’re headed back through Old Faithful, stop back by the visitor center and let them know the time of the eruption you may have witnesses so the next visitor will get in on the excitement as well!

Artists’ Paint Pots
To visit one of Yellowstone’s more unusual and colorful geothermal attractions, take this super quick and easy hike located approximately 10 miles north of Madison Junction off of Madison-Norris Road. Watch for bison, elk, and red-winged blackbirds as you cross the meadow and into the forest. The trail then loops up and around Paintpot Hill, offering views of the bubbling mud pots from all angles before connecting back to the main trail.

Be sure to follow these hiking guidelines in order to stay safe and minimize your impact in Yellowstone National Park:

• Check weather and park alerts before getting on the trail
• Carry water and snacks
• Wear appropriate shoes and layered clothing
• Pack bug spray and bear spray
• Hike at a comfortable pace and stay on designated trails

Visit these links for more hiking safety tips and details about day hiking in Yellowstone:
http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hikingsafety.htm
http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/hiking.htm