7 Reasons to Visit Yellowstone in the Winter

Yellowstone in the winter is an adventure traveler's paradise. You can snowmobile or cross country ski past steamy clouds drifting from blue-tinted hot springs, or go snowshoeing on paths in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Photograph bison from the safety of your snow coach and watch wolf pups play as the adult wolves lope past bison rooting in the snow for winter grass. During a nighttime snow coach tour of Yellowstone you'll see a canopy of stars overhead. Yellowstone—the nation's first national park—is a two million-plus acre playground.

  • 01 of 07

    The Landscapes

    United States, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park in winter, thermal pools
    ••• CHARTON Franck / hemis.fr/Getty Images

    Winter in Yellowstone National Park is incredibly beautiful. Steam rises from the hot springs, geysers and fumaroles; bison wander across vast snow-covered fields and drink in streams sparking with ice crystals, and Old Faithful performs for guests at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. You can see it all from a snow coach, driving a snowmobile, cross country skiing or winter hiking. You can also enjoy snowmobiling on the vast trail system just outside the park. Click on these pictures to see what Yellowstone and West Yellowstone look like in the winter.

    Yellowstone National Park Lodges (two are open in the park in the winter) has packages for adventurous travels. You'll find links to the 2010/2011 adventures below.

  • 02 of 07

    The Cross-Country Trails

    Cross Country skiing in Yellowstone National Park.
    ••• Paul Harris/Getty Images

    Yellowstone has many miles of cross-country trails threading the park. The trails are listed in a series of pamphlets available at the park's visitors centers and hotels open during the winter. Shuttles offers drop-offs and pick-ups at trail heads. Equipment can be rented in the park.

    West Yellowstone, Montana, just outside the west entrance to the park also has miles of groomed cross country and ski skate trails in the Rendezvous Ski Trails system.

  • 03 of 07

    The Snowmobiling

    Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park
    ••• Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park. (c)Lois Friedland

    Snowmobiling is allowed on specific roads in the park but only on guided tours. Snowmobiling excursions to Old Faithful are offered by several snowmobiling companies in West Yellowstone, Montana, just outside the park. Inside the park, Xanterra, the company that manages the park's hotels, offers a snowmobiling package that allows riders to spend a night at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge then ride 90 miles to Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel the next day. Snowmobilers leaving from West Yellowstone also have the freedom to explore hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobiling trails and slopes in the U.S. national forests.

  • 04 of 07

    The Wildlife

    Bison in the Winter at Yellowstone
    ••• Dennis Walton/Getty Images

    The Yellowstone Association, which partners with the National Park Service, offers a variety of animal-watching day trips and multi-day programs. The Lodging and Learning programs include overnight stays so you can see Yellowstone at dawn then view wolves, bull elks with massive racks of horns, and other animals with spotting scopes. Naturalists lead the tours to help you understand how these animals survive and interact in the park. The "Trail of the Wolf" package combines wildlife watching and snowmobiling. For more information about various packages for 2010/2011, visit Lodging and Learning Packages


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  • 05 of 07

    The Nighttime Tours

    Nighttime tour of Yellowstone in a snow coach
    ••• A nighttime tour of Yellowstone in a snow coach gives you a different perspective of the park. Yellowstone National Park Lodges

    Mist rises around you while carefully following the dark outline of your guide along boardwalks, to the tune of hissing geysers erupting in the dark. It's not the prelude to a horror movie, it's the start of an incredible snow coach journey to see how alive Yellowstone is at night. At one point during your evening's trip, the snow coach stops and everyone gets out to stand quietly and look at a star-filled sky that one can only imagine while living in a light-infused city. You'll enjoy the Steam, Stars & Winter Soundscapes tour the most on nights when the sky is clear.

  • 06 of 07
    West Yellowstone, Montana
    ••• David H. Carriere/Getty Images

    On a Saturday morning in West Yellowstone, Montana, there are more snowmobiles driving along the streets than cars. This town is primarily lodging, bars, restaurants and shops for visitors who want souvenirs or cold-weather clothing, but it's a perfect gateway to exploring the park and the Gallatin National Forest. The town edges against the park, so you can take day-trips into Yellowstone via snowmobile or snowcoach. Be sure to visit the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, a non-profit wildlife park, to watch bears tussle and wolves prowl. There's also an exstensive cross country trail system.

  • 07 of 07

    The Peace and Quiet

    Yellowstone Grand Canyon
    ••• Kelly Cheng Travel Photography/Getty Images

    Not many people visit Yellowstone in the winter so there's space to enjoy the beauty. The quiet is disrupted in the summer, when tourists from around the globe come to the summer-green landscape, vibrant with colorful wildlflowers and green grasses.  See what Yellowstone looks like in the summertime.

    For More Information...

    For more information about visiting Yellowstone, go the the National Park Service Yellowstone Web site. Lonely Planet Guidebook to Yellowstone and Grant Teton National ParksIf you'd like a Lonely Planet Guidebook to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks click on Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks Guide.