Travel Guide For Visiting Yellowstone in December

Yellowstone in December is a great time to visit if you’re looking for a unique experience! It’s surreal to see the park covered in a blanket of snow with billowing steam and mist from the geysers.

The top reason we enjoy visiting Yellowstone in the winter is the unique experience you can’t get anywhere else! Yellowstone is a destination like no other, and with limited ways to enter the park in December, you can enjoy the quiet and serenity.

Yellowstone in December Everything you need to know

This Yellowstone National Park travel guide includes everything you need to know to plan a December vacation to Yellowstone: weather, services available, what to pack, where to stay, and things to do!

We live only hours away and visit Yellowstone often. The tips we share are based on our experiences visiting the park this time of year, and specifically in December.

When planning a winter trip to Yellowstone, our number one tip is to pack and wear winter clothes so you can enjoy your time in the park!! Grab your free Yellowstone winter packing list by clicking the image below!

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Yellowstone Winter Packing List

READ all about packing for a winter vacation in Yellowstone!

Visiting Yellowstone in December

The top reason we enjoy visiting in December is the unique experience you can’t get anywhere else! Yellowstone is a destination like no other, and in December it’s even more so with steaming geysers amid a snowy landscape.

Check out these Yellowstone National Park winter pictures to inspire you to plan a trip during this time of year!

What to Expect in December at Yellowstone

Cell service in and around Yellowstone can be spotty in some parts and non-existent in other parts.

If you stay in park lodging, there are no televisions, radios, or Wi-Fi at the hotels in order to provide guests the most authentic wilderness experience. Check out our list of Yellowstone winter lodging ideas.

Because cell coverage is not reliable, it is a good idea to make proper preparations ahead of time. Print directions and reservations information prior to departure, or save them on a device that can be accessed offline.

Yellowstone Services in December

Mammoth Hot Springs to the Northeast Entrance is the only part of the park open to wheeled vehicles in the winter. The road is open up to Cooke City, Montana, after which the road is closed (no through-traffic to Red Lodge, Montana or Cody, Wyoming). Services are very limited between Mammoth Hot Springs and Cooke City, Montana.

Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt areas:

  • Albright Visitor Center
  • General Store
  • Mammoth Campground
  • Mammoth Clinic
  • Post Office
  • Mammoth and Tower-Roosevelt Service Stations – credit card fueling only 24-hours

Old Faithful area:

Canyon Area:

  • Canyon Yurt Camp
  • Canyon and Fishing Bridge Service Stations – credit card fueling only 24-hours

Warming Huts available in the winter:

  • Canyon Visitor Education Center Lobby
  • Fishing Bridge
  • Indian Creek
  • Madison
  • Mammoth Hot Springs
  • Old Faithful Yurts
  • West Thumb

Always check the Yellowstone operating hours and seasons for the most updated information.

Old Faithful in the winter with snow
Old Faithful in the winter

Yellowstone Roads in December

In December all roads except from the north entrance in Gardiner to the northeast entrance in Cooke City are closed. Be sure to read the fall and winter Yellowstone road closure dates for the most updated year-to-year information.

You can access the park from West Yellowstone and the south entrance near Grand Teton by snow coach tourssnowshoeing, cross country skiing or snowmobile tours.

Best Time to Visit Yellowstone

Check out our guide for finding the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park. Each season and month of the year will have different activities and services available.

Check out what it’s like to visit during other months in the winter:

Yellowstone Weather in December

The weather in December can be unpredictable and constantly changing. Check the Yellowstone National Park weather daily so you’re prepared for the conditions.

Average temperatures at Yellowstone in December are highs in the 30s and lows in the teens. It will be cold and snowy!

Layers are key when exploring Yellowstone in December. Reference our winter clothing guide so you can enjoy the outdoors, even when it’s cold!

Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone in the snow
Roosevelt Arch

Things to Do at Yellowstone National Park in December

Winter in Yellowstone means fewer crowds, VERY COLD temperatures, and stunning winter landscape scenes with steaming geyser basins. You’ll find many Yellowstone winter activities to enjoy in December.

Driving the one open road from Gardiner to Cooke City makes for an amazing day trip. As you drive through Lamar Valley, look for bison and elk… and if you’re lucky, you’ll see wolves, fox or moose!

The Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth remains open year-round and is a great resource for information about the park. There’s also a museum in the lower level of the Visitor Center, and rangers are available to answer any questions about closures that you may have.

You can access the rest of the park from West Yellowstone and the south entrance near Grand Teton by snow coach tours, snowshoeing, cross country skiing or snowmobile tours (more info about non-commercial snowmobile access).

Yellowstone bombardier snow coach in the winter
Yellowstone bombardier snow coach

Yellowstone Winter Tours in December

Winter in Yellowstone is not your ordinary vacation. In mid-December, the roads open to oversnow travel only via snowmobile, snowcoach, snowshoe and cross-country ski

We highly recommend booking a Yellowstone National Park Winter Tour! Many of the tours will provide hotel pick up and drop-off. Most Yellowstone winter tours do NOT include gratuity for the guide.

Yellowstone National Park may require all guests to pay the entrance fee or show your National Park pass.

We enjoyed traveling along Yellowstone’s snow-covered roads in a bomardier snowcoach. There were no streams of cars, RVs or tour buses crowding the roads. If you’ve ever visited Yellowstone in the summer, you know this is a welcome change.

snowshoeing
Yellowstone snowshoeing

Yellowstone Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in December

All unplowed roads and trails are open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Here’s a list of Yellowstone ski and snowshoe trails by region.

Canyon Ski & Snowshoe Trails: Canyon Rim, Cascade Lake, North Rim, Old Canyon Bridge, Roller Coaster

Mammoth Hot Springs Ski & Snowshoe Trails: Bighorn Loop, Bunsen Peak, Indian Creek, Sheepeater, Snow Pass, Upper Terrace Loop

Northeast Ski & Snowshoe Trails: Bannock, Barronette, Pebble Creek

Old Faithful Ski & Snowshoe Trails: Black Sand Basin, Divide, Fairy Falls, Fern Cascades, Lone Star Geyser, Mallard Creek, Mallard Lake, Observation Point Loop, Spring Creek

Tower Ski & Snowshoe Trails: Blacktail Plateau, Chittenden Loop, Lost Lake, Tower Fall, Yancey’s Hole

West Yellowstone Ski & Snowshoe Trails: Bighorn Pass, Black Butte, Daly Creek, Fawn Pass, Gneiss Creek, Riverside, Specimen

snowmobile in the winter
Yellowstone snowmobiling

Yellowstone Snowmobiling in December

The road between Mammoth Hot Springs and the northeast entrance is the only road in the park open to regular traffic all year long. All other roads in the park close in early November to prepare for the winter season.

By mid-December when enough snow accumulates on the roads, they open to “oversnow” travel only. This means the only way to visit Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and other areas in the park during the winter is by guided snowmobile or snowcoach.

In addition to the tours listed above, here’s a list of more authorized tour companies for snowmobile tours.

Hot spring at Yellowstone in the winter
Yellowstone hot spring

Geysers and Hot Springs in December at Yellowstone

Not many people visit Yellowstone in December. Finding quiet in the summer months is hard. During the winter months, Yellowstone offers miles and miles of solitude in a landscape that is unmatched by any other.

It was a welcome change to stop at popular locations like Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic and the only sounds we heard were the flowing river and bubbling hot pools.

If you enjoy a destination that offers quiet and solitude, Yellowstone in the winter should be at the top of your bucket list.

Photographer at Yellowstone in the winter
Photographer at Yellowstone in the winter

Yellowstone Photography in December

Our number one photo tip is: be prepared for anything so you can capture the moment when it happens.

In December the weather can change from day to day. There may be sun, snow, clouds, fog, and frost that will create mood. Also look for reflections when taking pictures of Yellowstone.

And we always have our camera ready to go because the wildlife you may see won’t wait for you to find the camera in your car.

The winter landscape at Yellowstone is covered in a blanket of snow. There is frost on the trees and mist rising from the geysers.

Due to the extreme cold at Yellowstone in the winter, you’ll want to make sure to have a lens warmer, rechargeable hand warmers, and other winter photography gear!

As you can image, taking pictures of the Yellowstone landscape in December is a unique adventure for any nature photographer.

We recommend you book a Yellowstone snowcoach that offers photo tours where there is flexibility to stop and take pictures at any time.

One of our favorite stops in the park was visiting Grand Prismatic where we captured the reflection of the winter landscape and rising steam in the water.

bison at yellowstone in the winter
Bison at Yellowstone in the winter

Wildlife at Yellowstone in December

The animals you see in December at Yellowstone are even more exciting to watch in the snowy landscape. Winter is one of the best times to visit Yellowstone for wildlife!

We love to photograph the contrast of the white snow against the dark hair of the animal. You’ll see the bison plow away the snow with their massive heads.

During the winter Coyotes are fun to watch mousing. They sneak around the snow to hear noise from a mouse.  When they hear it, their whole body stiffens up and they suddenly spring into the air and dive head-first into the snow to grab the mouse.

Elk, trumpeter swans, river otters and other animals can also be seen in Yellowstone during the winter.

Fiery Fall
Firehole Falls in the winter

Yellowstone Waterfalls in December

Experiencing and photographing the various Yellowstone waterfalls is always at the top of our must-do list.

There are 3 waterfalls in the park you’ll find on the northern road:

  • Undine Falls
  • Wraith Falls
  • Lost Falls

The waterfalls you can access on snowcoach tours are:

  • Firehole Falls
  • Gibbon Falls
  • Lower Falls

Yellowstone Maps and Guides at Amazon:

Yellowstone maps and guides

Yellowstone Winter Lodging

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