Yellowstone in December is a great time to visit.
Just imagine seeing snowy meadows, steaming geysers and frost-covered bison. If this sounds like a magical experience, then plan a trip to Yellowstone in December!
There are many benefits to a December vacation to Yellowstone, but there are also some drawbacks as well.
Use this guide to determine if December is the best time for you to visit Yellowstone in the winter.
Be sure to check out all our Yellowstone vacation ideas for visiting the park any time of the year!
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WHAT TO PACK FOR YELLOWSTONE IN THE WINTER
CHECK THIS OUT & DOWNLOAD: Yellowstone Packing List
→ Insulted boots – Baffin boots are amazing!!
→ Heavy wool socks – we LOVE Darn Tough Socks!
→ Base layers – it’s all about wicking and quick-drying base layers.
→ Fleece jacket – Columbia fleece jackets are our favorite!
→ Insulated jacket – you’ll need a warm Insulated jacket to layer atop the fleece jacket for the cold mornings and evenings, trust us!
→ Waterproof rain jacket – fall weather at Yellowstone could mean sun, snow or rain so it’s a good idea to also pack a waterproof rain jacket.
→ Winter hat – it gets cold in the morning and evening during the fall so an insulating hat is always a good idea!
→ Winter gloves – put some winter gloves in your pocket just in case!
→ Rechargeable hand warmers – and our favorite new find are rechargeable hand warmers in addition to the gloves!
→ Neck gaiter – when the wind blows, it will be cold so a soft fleece neck gaiter or buff will help keep you warm.
CHECK OUT OUR Cold Weather Clothing & Gear List
TOP REASON TO VISIT 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.
And with limited ways to enter the park, you can enjoy the quiet and serenity at Yellowstone during the winter.
BIGGEST DRAWBACK FOR A TRIP TO YELLOWSTONE IN DECEMBER
The biggest drawback to visiting Yellowstone in December is that 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 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 tours, snowshoeing, cross country skiing or snowmobile tours (more info about non-commercial snowmobile access).
YELLOWSTONE WEATHER IN DECEMBER
The weather in December in Yellowstone is cold and snowy.
Average temperatures at Yellowstone in December are highs in the 30s and lows in the teens.
Layers are key when exploring Yellowstone in December. Reference our winter clothing guide so you can enjoy the outdoors, even when it’s cold!
THINGS TO DO AT YELLOWSTONE 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.
HIKING IN YELLOWSTONE IN DECEMBER
You can check the Backcountry Situation Report for all pertinent information about the backcountry.
Hiking in December will require more than your hiking boots. Showshoeing and cross country skiing are the best ways to experience the trails at Yellowstone 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 GEYSERS IN DECEMBER
The geysers and hot pools are fantastic to see and photograph in December at Yellowstone.
You’ll see steam rising in the cold air, hoarfrost on the trees, and a snowy backdrop to accentuate the temperature difference.
We learned a lot from our snowcoach guide about Yellowstone in the winter!
YELLOWSTONE WILDLIFE IN DECEMBER
If you’ll be driving along the northern road from Gardiner to Cooke City, remember the parameters to keep you and the animals safe!
- Never approach animals. The animals in Yellowstone are wild and unpredictable, no matter how calm they appear to be.
- The safest (and often best) view of wildlife is from inside a car. Always stay at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all other animals, including bison and elk.
- Never feed wildlife. Animals that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed. Keep all food, garbage, or other smelly items packed away when not in use.
- Never park in the road or block traffic. Use pullouts to watch wildlife and let other cars pass. Stay with your vehicle if you encounter a wildlife jam.
PHOTOGRAPHY AT YELLOWSTONE 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.
Places to Stay at Yellowstone
Hotels and Vacation Rentals in West Yellowstone that we recommend:
Hotels and Vacation Rentals in Gardiner that we recommend:
Yellowstone Gateway Inn, Gardiner – full kitchen and comfy bed, one of our favorite places to stay!
Park Hotel Yellowstone, Gardiner – charming place to stay and loved by guests!
Absaroka Lodge, Gardiner – beautiful location with river views!
Hotels and Vacation Rentals in Cooke City or Silver Gate that we recommend:
Sunny Log Home on the Creek, Silver Gate (VRBO) – the most AMAZING location with an awesome fireplace and comfy bed!
Mountain View Cabin, Cooke City – great views and we enjoyed having a washer and dryer!
High Country Motel and Cabins – local owners who love what they do, and make you feel so welcome!
YELLOWSTONE VACATION TIPS & RESOURCES
- Yellowstone Vacation Planner & 4 Day Itinerary
- Yellowstone Vacation Ideas
- Plan a Yellowstone Vacation
- Things to do at Yellowstone
- Best Time to Visit Yellowstone
- Yellowstone Waterfalls List
- Yellowstone Summer Tours
- Yellowstone in the Spring
- Yellowstone in the Summer
- Yellowstone in the Fall
- Yellowstone in the Winter
- Places to Stay at Yellowstone
- US National Park Pass – it’s a good deal!
- Yellowstone Maps & Guidebooks