Why You Should Visit Yellowstone in December
Yellowstone in December is a great time to visit. Use this Yellowstone National Park travel guide to determine if December is the best time for you to visit.
We share 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!
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!
Check out these Yellowstone National Park winter pictures to inspire you to plan a trip during this time of year!
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Yellowstone Winter Packing List
READ all about packing for a winter vacation in Yellowstone!
- Insulted boots – Baffin winter boots are amazing!!
- Darn Tough heavy wool socks
- Wicking and quick-drying base layers
- Columbia fleece jackets are our favorite!
- Insulated winter jacket – to layer atop the fleece jacket for the cold mornings and evenings, trust us!
- Winter hat
- Winter gloves
- Rechargeable hand warmers
- Fleece neck gaiter
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.
And with limited ways to enter the park, you can enjoy the quiet and serenity while enjoying a Yellowstone winter vacation.
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:
- Old Faithful Snow Lodge
- Old Faithful Visitor Education Center
- Old Faithful and Grant Service Stations – credit card fueling only 24-hours
- 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
- Mammoth Hot Springs
- Old Faithful Yurts
- West Thumb
Always check the Yellowstone operating hours and seasons for the most updated information.
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 tours, snowshoeing, 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!
We recommend at the minimum:
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 things to do at Yellowstone National Park 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).
We highly recommend booking a Yellowstone National Park Winter Tour!
Snow Activities in December at Yellowstone
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 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.
There is no better setting than Yellowstone to enjoy fun winter activities to explore the park by snowshoes, skis, snowmobiles or snowcoaches!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Places to Stay at Yellowstone
Hotels and Vacation Rentals in West Yellowstone:
- Holiday Inn, West Yellowstone
- ClubHouse Inn, West Yellowstone
- Kelly Inn, West Yellowstone
- → CHECK OUT more West Yellowstone hotels!
Hotels and Vacation Rentals in Gardiner:
- 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!
- → CHECK OUT more Gardiner hotels!
Hotels and Vacation Rentals in Cooke City or Silver Gate:
- 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!