Each year millions of visitors flock to Yellowstone National Park to capture some of nature’s most astounding moments. The first rumble of a geyser eruption. The bugle of a distant elk in the morning fog. The jaw-dropping views of water crashing over Upper Yellowstone Falls.
However beginning in early November the park slowly begins to transform into one of the most magical seasons in Yellowstone. Park roads begin to close under a blanket of snow and the crowds begin to dwindle around Old Faithful’s seating area. It’s winter in Yellowstone; the one time of year you don’t want to miss.
“5 Ways to Rock a Winter Visit to Yellowstone”
1. Take a snowcoach tour.
In fact, if you want to see Old Faithful and other interior areas of the park and you don’t feel great about a snowmobile or your own skills on skis, snowcoach is the only option for your Yellowstone visit. Guided snowcoaches are monitored and permitted through the park service to ensure follow visitor regulations and are equipped to keep you safe in winter conditions.
These are not your historic noisy, smelly bombardier trips anymore. Our snowcoach tour came equipped with large wildlife viewing windows, a toasty heater, snacks, and a local tour guide that was stockpiled with information about the park.
2. Get lost in the steam of The Grand Prismatic Spring.
Even on warm summer days the 160ºF water of the Grand Prismatic Spring creates an erie billowing cloud of steam around the tourists who brave the boardwalk out to this famous Yellowstone geyser feature. Now drop air temperatures to the average January high temperature of 25ºF and wander out the the spring. You’ll find yourself lost in a colorful, sulfury dreamland unlike anywhere else on earth.
3. Wildlife watch from your snowshoes.
Snowshoes allow winter visitors up-close access to Yellowstone’s wildlife, who savor the winter months as an escape the crowds and traffic of June, July and August. The Yellowstone geyser basin is one of the best places to see bison and elk who flock to the warmer ground and open water. It’s possible for the patient (and lucky!) visitor to even spot one of Yellowstone’s famous grey wolves moving silently through the snow. Check out ski and snowshoe maps here: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/skiyellmaps.htm
4. Brave the drive to Mammoth Hot Springs.
While guided tour is the most popular way to enter the park, visitors can still brave the snowy roads to the Mammoth Hot Springs entrance on the north side of the park. The visitors center remains open and offers ranger-led snowshoe hikes and evening programs in the Mammoth Hotel.
5. Cross-country ski to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Hop off your snow coach, strap on the skis, and then set off for one of the most majestic sites in Yellowstone. All unplowed park roads are open to skiing in Yellowstone and two main trails are set for getting the best views of the snow-covered falls and canyon. The Old Canyon Bridge Trail and the Canyon Rim Trail to Inspiration Point offer easy to moderate trails available on many half, full and multi-day ski trips. No lodging is available at the canyon, but many of the tour agencies share warming yurts in the area.