If you’ve seen Yellowstone National Park, you realize why it’s special: gurgling mud pots, erupting geysers and wildlife you might only see there in the wild.
You also likely know that visiting Yellowstone in the summer means navigating hoards of visitors jostling for space on boardwalks, RVs, motorcycles and cars choking the roads and bison and bear jams so long you can’t actually see the animal, but instead are forced to sit in traffic as though in rush hour in a big city.
Winter in Yellowstone is a totally different experience. If you’ve planned your Jackson Hole vacation for winter, you should include a stop in Yellowstone National Park.
The park is accessible only by snowmobile, snowcoach, or on foot or skis in the winter.
Snowmobiles and snowcoach tours can take you to some of the park’s most famous spots like Old Faithful, where you’ll admire the wonders of Yellowstone with only a handful of other intrepid visitors.
Winter transforms the landscape. Ice hugs the edges of thermal features and waterfalls. Snow-covered bison crunch through the snow. Boiling pools steam in the cold air. Yellowstone morphs into an almost brand new park and experience.
While most facilities in the park don’t open until mid-December, trips fill fast and you’ll want to book in advance, especially if you want to stay inside the park at one of the winter lodging options like the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
You can drive yourself to a gateway community like West Yellowstone, Montana, or book a Jackson Hole wildlife tour, which can make arrangements to get you to the park, as well as show you the winter wonderland.
Be sure to bring your cross-country skis or snowshoes when you visit the park in winter. If you are staying inside Yellowstone, you’ll want to further explore on foot to immerse yourself in this quiet landscape. You can also start a winter outing on foot or ski from the park’s gateway communities and venture in as far as you feel able. Just don’t forget to dress in layers and appropriate clothing and carry gear like water, snacks, a headlamp and other emergency supplies. The weather can change quickly and Yellowstone in the winter isn’t a place you want to find yourself unexpectedly stranded.