Have you ever wondered how to see Yellowstone in winter? While Yellowstone National Park is a tourist haven in summer, planning a visit during winter is equally special.
In this complete guide for visiting Yellowstone in winter; find out how to get here, what to do, and where to stay.
Be sure to make your stay at Yellowstone in winter just as memorable as the summer.
Can you Visit Yellowstone in Winter?
Yes! While cold and less accessible, Yellowstone is still open to visitors in winter.
However, only one of the park’s entrances is open to car traffic during the winter. This is the North entrance over at Mammoth Hot Springs. While you can drive into the park from this entrance, you can’t drive to see much else in the park due to Yellowstone winter road closures. Fortunately, plenty of options exist to see Yellowstone in winter on the snow such as a snowmobile. In fact, the other entrances of Yellowstone can only be entered and accessed via snowmobile during winter months.
This limited access typically only lasts during the dead of winter from mid-December through mid-March
Where to Fly into Yellowstone in Winter
In this section, find how the best option to fly into Yellowstone in winter.
Since only the North entrance is open to car traffic at Yellowstone in winter, this makes the closest airport Gallatin Field in Bozeman Montana. It’s about 90 miles away provided you plan to drive into the park.
Typically, most visitors enter the South entrance in summer. This entrance is only about 40 miles from the nearest airport in Jackson, WY. However, if you fly into Jackson during winter – plan to enter the park by snowmobile!
Yellowstone in Winter – What to Expect
To begin, Yellowstone in winter is far less crowded than the summer. Crowds aren’t even 1/8 of what they typically are in summer. Yes, it’s very cold and getting around in the snow is much more difficult! However, you get to experience the gems of Yellowstone National Park without a mob of tourists. Now, that’s some real special peace and quiet.
Simply read on to uncover the details on what to expect at Yellowstone in winter!
How Much Snow Does Yellowstone Get?
Yellowstone is at high elevations and receives 150 inches of snow per year on average. Some of the mountain peaks and passes in Yellowstone will get over 200 inches of snow annually. Most of the Yellowstone snowfall is concentrated during winter months.
Below is a chart of Yellowstone snowfall averages per month in winter.
Yellowstone Winter Activities
Fortunately, there’s still a lot to do at Yellowstone in winter. In this section, learn about the most popular Yellowstone winter activities.
Snowshoeing – A delightful way to experience Yellowstone in winter and get some exercise
Cross-Country Skiing – Another equally good option to experience Yellowstone in winter.
Both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are great because of miles of trails the park service maintains for these activities during the winter. If you need to gear up before your visit, check with a local sporting goods store.
Snowmobiling – If you are looking to experience more of Yellowstone in winter, you will be able to cover a lot more ground on a high-powered snowmobile. The Continental Divide Snowmobile trail runs through Yellowstone which is great for purists. However, snowmobiles can only be used in the park with a guide unless you have a non-commercially guided access permit. These are difficult to get as only a few hundred are allowed in the park each day. You’ll have to plan your snowmobile experience in advance just as summer planning is done far in advance.
Tours of Yellowstone in Winter – Fortunately, there are a number of options for booking snowmobile tours at Yellowstone. These include Old Faithful Snowmobile tours, Scenic Safaris, and Gary Fales Outfitting. A snow coach can also be booked through Scenic Safaris if you prefer to relax and be driven around.
Wildlife Watching – The wildlife is still very active in Yellowstone during winter. Do note that the best places to see Bison in Yellowstone changes based on the season.
In summary, there are plenty of Yellowstone winter activities to keep you busy and keep you warm!
Yellowstone in Winter Where to Stay
Options for lodging at Yellowstone in winter are limited. In fact, only two such options exist. The first is Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins located near the North entrance. The second is the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins. Since there are only two options, they fill up fast. Book in advance.
Camping in Yellowstone in Winter
Camping in Yellowstone in winter is only for the brave of heart. The normal campsites are closed. While the park is expansive and cold, it is a beautiful experience to have solitude in winter.
In order to camp in Yellowstone in winter, you are required to get a backcountry permit. These permits are free of charge (not many people doing it!) and available through the Central Backcountry Office. Do note that group size is limited to 12 people, stay limit is three nights max at any location and campfires are not allowed.
Is Yellowstone Worth Visiting in Winter?
Yes! For starters, you will dodge the summer crowds. More importantly, you get to experience a National Park during a majestic time of year. You’ll really feel like you are in the Wild West and/or walking in a winter wonderland! So, bundle up and enjoy your stay at Yellowstone in winter!