With its vast expanses of snowy meadows, steaming deep blue pools and spouting geysers, there’s no place quite like Yellowstone National Park in the winter. It’s otherworldly, an almost alien landscape.
Luckily, anyone can visit this moonscape. The park opened for the winter season on Dec. 15 and will allow visitation until March 15.
The most popular ways into the park’s interior in winter is via snowcoach or snowmobile. The park has a list of all of the businesses that operate these concessions on its website. Snowmobile tours start at about $230 a day per machine. For about half that price, visitors can ride in a snowcoach — usually resembling a multi-passenger van or bus — on a trip to Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The most popular entry to the park in winter is the West Entrance at West Yellowstone, so there are more travel options there.
Lodging inside the park is only available at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, with prices starting at around $260 a night. There are also plenty of motel rooms at gateway towns like West Yellowstone and Gardiner outside the park. Winter rates are usually reduced compared to summer.
For those interested in visiting the park in winter but spending less cash, consider renting cross-country skis. The park has trail maps for skiing around Mammoth Hot Springs and West Yellowstone. By driving into the park through Mammoth on the route to Cooke City there are also ski trails around Tower and closer to Cooke City. Check out nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/skiyellmaps.htm for more info.
As with any time of the year, wildlife is present in Yellowstone. You may seek elk or bison trundling through the deep snow. This is also a great time to see wolves via the North Entrance at Mammoth. Bring your binoculars or spotting scope. Don’t mistake the occasional coyote for a wolf, they are much smaller — although just as much fun to watch, especially if they’re hunting mice.