Winter in Yellowstone National Park

By: Blythe Beaubien         January 13th, 2015

During the summer months, Yellowstone National Park is a destination for many tourists from around the world.  The geysers are popular and the animals aplenty.  But, did you know that the park is open during the winter months too?  Located a picturesque 45 minute drive from Big Sky, visiting the park during the winter is a fun and unique experience.

For me, winter in the park is the best time to be there.  The chances of seeing wildlife are increased and you’ll most definitely see bison, maybe some elk, a bald eagle and other unique birdlife.  The bears though, they’re sleeping, so no chance for that.  And for me, that’s a good thing!  Sure, it’s harder to get into the park because a lot of the roads are closed to car traffic, but there are plenty of other ways (which are more fun anyway) to visit Yellowstone in the winter. 

For the adventurous thrill seekers, you can tour around the park on a snowmobile.  There are a number of tour operators that offer guided snowmobile tours through the park.  They will plan out a route based on where you want to go, what you want to see, and how long you want to be outside.  Custom daily tours are offered through Rendezvous Snowmobile Rentals and you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the history and geology of the park, while photographing wildlife and the geothermal features that dot the park.  For more information, visit yellowstonebigsky.com

For those that want to take in the sites in a more protected mode of transportation, the snowcoach tours are the way to go.  Based in West Yellowstone, Montana, Yellowstone Alpen Guides offers daily winter snowcoach tours which take you to Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  With Yellowstone Alpen Guides, you also have the option of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing while on the trip.   The snowcoaches are classic, historical bombardiers, modernized for comfort and low emissions, and made for over-snow travel.  You can take pictures from the snowcoach and stop along the way to view wildlife.  For more information go to yellowstoneguides.com

And for me, the most tranquil way to visit the park in the winter is to either cross-country ski or snowshoes into the park and around on the numerous trails.  This is your best bet for seeing some great wildlife.  Your quite, stealth like movements on xc skis allows for sneaking up on unsuspecting wildlife.  You can capture great close up photos of the animals and the many breathtaking sites in the park.  The park has miles of trails for the adventurous skiers and snowshoers. Whether you are skiing a groomed trail in a developed area or if you prefer to venture into the backcountry, always be mindful that you’re out in the wildness and it has its dangers including wildlife, deep snow, open streams, quick changing weather conditions and the threat of avalanches.  But just be prepared, bring plenty of layers and lots of water and snacks and you’ll be ready for a peaceful day of exploring the park and untouched terrain. For a list of printable ski/snowshoe trail maps, please visit nps.gov

I encourage you to visit Big Sky and Yellowstone National Park in the wintertime.  The crowds are diminished; the wildlife abundant, and the adventures are endless.  Just don’t tell too many people how much fun you had!