Yellowstone Winter Vacation: An Unforgettable Experience

Planning a Yellowstone winter vacation is a once in a lifetime experience!

This Yellowstone National Park travel guide gives you all the information you need to plan a winter trip: services and lodging available, road status, weather, and more!

Yellowstone in the Winter

It’s surreal to see the park covered in a blanket of snow with billowing steam and mist from the geysers. And that snow, frost and mist that cover the landscape and wildlife result in amazing Yellowstone winter photography.

We share what to pack, where to stay, things to do and services available in the winter at Yellowstone.

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Packing for a winter vacation in Yellowstone

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WHAT TO PACK FOR YELLOWSTONE IN THE WINTER

READ all about packing for a winter vacation in Yellowstone!

CHECK OUT OUR Winter Clothing Guide and Winter Photography Gear List

Places to Stay at Yellowstone

Hotels and Vacation Rentals in West Yellowstone:

Hotels and Vacation Rentals in Gardiner:

Hotels and Vacation Rentals in Cooke City or Silver Gate:

Visiting Yellowstone in the Winter

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 in the winter it’s even more so with steaming geysers amid a snowy landscape. With limited ways to enter the park, you can enjoy the quiet and serenity.

What to Expect at Yellowstone in the Winter

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 the Winter

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.

Yellowstone Roads in the Winter

In the winter 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.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect each month during the winter at Yellowstone:

There are also best times to visit Yellowstone for wildlife. You’ll find a list of the animals you’ll see each month of the year at the park.

Yellowstone Weather in the Winter

The weather during the winter months in Yellowstone can be unpredictable and constantly changing. Check the Yellowstone weather daily so you’re prepared for the conditions.

Temperatures range from 0 to 20 degrees F during the winter. At night and at higher elevations, temperatures can dip below 0!

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

Things to Do on a Yellowstone Winter Vacation

Winter in Yellowstone means fewer crowds, VERY COLD temperatures, and steaming geyser basins. You’ll find many things to do at Yellowstone National Park in the winter.

Snow Activities in the Winter 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 the Winter at Yellowstone

Not many people visit Yellowstone during the winter. 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 Winter Photography is Spectacular

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 the winter 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.

We were awestruck by the ice formations on the trees near the areas with hot pools and steam.

You’ll capture images that you can only get when photographing Yellowstone during the winter months.

bison at yellowstone in the winter

Wildlife at Yellowstone in the Winter

The animals who call Yellowstone National Park home 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.

Be patient and wait long enough for them to look at you and you’ll get that awesome shot of snow all over the bison’s head!

Photographing the wolves in Yellowstone is pretty tough. You’ll see wolves, but they are usually too far away to get a good photo. Most of the photos of wolves in Yellowstone are shot through spotting scopes with cell phones mounted to the eyepiece to get a snapshot.

We were lucky to see wolves ‘near’ the road when we were there. Even with the 500 mm telephoto lens we had, it was hard to get an image where the wolf fills the frame.

We didn’t get the perfect photo where the scene is sharp due to the bad light and weather, but wow, being able to see about 8 wolves in close proximity was amazing. 

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 the Winter

During the winter, the snowy landscape provides a unique setting to showcase the Yellowstone waterfalls.

A snowcoach can take you to see the Firehole Falls on your way to Old Faithful, or you can see the Lower Falls on a trip to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

You can also stop and see Undine Falls along the one road open to vehicles from Mammoth to Cooke City.

Keep your eyes open for wildlife along the rivers. We saw trumpeter swans, elk and bison as we ventured through the park.

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10 Comments

  1. Hi Jamie

    Wow! Amazing photography! I would not have ventured to yellow stone national park in winter but looking at your pictures and reading your blog… I would totally do it.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. How stunning beautiful pictures these are! I could not take my eyes off from the bison. Is that A bison or a yak? We have yaks like them in the Himalayas!

    When I visit USA, this national Park do features very high on my bucket list. Though, till date, I have only seen the spring pictures!

    1. It’s a bison (buffalo). They are amazing animals, and in the winter they stand out against the white snow. Winter in Yellowstone is amazing. We hope you can visit one day! (The Himalayas are a place on our bucket list!)

  3. This is great and very informative! Thankyou for sharing, I’ve always wanted to visit Yellowstone. It looks stunning in winter, beautiful pictures!

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