Yellowstone in Winter: The Complete Guide

yellowstone in january
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Written by August Croft

Published: July 15, 2022

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You may not know just how special Yellowstone in winter is. This extremely popular National Park sees most of its visitors during the summertime, but what happens in Yellowstone during the winter season? Is Yellowstone worth visiting during the months of December, January, and February? After reading this article, your mind may be changed! 

We will discuss all of the top activities and must-see spots to visit in Yellowstone during the wintertime, as well as what wildlife is available for viewing. In addition to this, we will give you some of our expert tips and tricks as well as some insider information as to park closures so that you can plan accordingly. Let’s get started and talk about Yellowstone in winter now! 

Yellowstone in Winter

While it may not sound ideal to visit a National Park while it is covered in snow, there’s a lot to love about Yellowstone in winter.

Yellowstone National Park: WinterActivities and Information
Top ActivitiesWildlife viewing, photography, oversnow activities (snowmobiles, skiing, snowshoeing), hiking, geyser and thermal features viewing
Must-See SpotsNorthern Ridge, Lamar Valley, Hayden Valley, geysers and thermal waters, Mammoth Hot Springs, frozen lakes and rivers
Best WildlifeElk, bison, deer, wolves, rabbits, foxes, moose, bighorn sheep
Closures/OpeningsAll roads close except for one linking the north and northeast entrance; all other entrances closed as well. No camping, though some lodging remains open in winter
Tips and TricksBook a snowmobile or go on a guided tour to see Yellowstone in an entirely new light!

An Overview of Yellowstone in Winter

Yellowstone in Winter

Besides Old Faithful and a number of other thermal features, you should plan on seeing some sights that only Yellowstone in winter can offer.

Many visitors argue that visiting Yellowstone National Park in the winter time is better than visiting it during any other time of year. While you won’t want to spend very much time camping or backpacking, visiting Yellowstone during the months of December, January, and February allows you to see this park in an entirely new light. 

One of the most important things to note about Yellowstone during this time of year is the fact that you won’t be able to drive your own vehicle throughout the park. Most roads are closed to tourist traffic. But Yellowstone offers guided coaches and oversnow vehicular opportunities so that you can explore on your own or with others. You won’t miss out on seeing what you want to see in Yellowstone during this time of year! 

If you aren’t afraid of a bit of cold weather, Yellowstone in winter is a wonderful time to visit because there are fewer crowds and plenty of lodging opportunities. Many hotels and cabins remain open in Yellowstone during this time of year, giving you a romantic and cozy place to retreat to after a long day of snowshoeing or skiing. 

Yellowstone in Winter: Top Activities

Yellowstone in Winter

Many visitors argue that visiting Yellowstone National Park in the winter time is better than visiting it during any other time of year.

If you haven’t already guessed, snow activities are one of the top things to do in Yellowstone National Park during the winter season. Some of these activities include skiing, snowshoeing, or renting snowmobiles in order to see the park in a new way. You can also participate in some hikes, though many trails are closed during the winter for your own safety.

The thermal waters and geysers are particularly stunning during the wintertime, steam rising high into the frigid air. You can also hop on a guided snowcoach tour or sign up for many different Ranger opportunities so that you can see the best of the best that Yellowstone has to offer.

Finally, wildlife viewing in Yellowstone during the winter months is another fantastic thing to plan for. Many different species travel from the upper elevations and into the warmer lower valleys during this time of year, giving you more chances to see elk, wolves, and bighorn sheep. Remember that all bears will be hibernating during winter, so don’t expect to see them!

Yellowstone in Winter: Must-See Spots

Yellowstone in Winter

One of the most important things to note about Yellowstone during this time of year is the fact that you won’t be able to drive your own vehicle throughout the park.

Besides Old Faithful and a number of other thermal features, you should plan on seeing some sights that only Yellowstone in winter can offer. The lakes and rivers freeze over completely during this time of year, save for the hot and steaming springs and waters. This often leads to some beautiful ice and steam inversions for your viewing pleasure.

The Hayden and Lamar Valleys are particularly popular for wildlife viewing. Many different species congregate here to avoid the worst of the cold weather. While dawn and dusk are ideal times for seeing animals most of the rest of the year, you are likely to see wildlife in these locations during any hour of the day in wintertime.

Tips and Tricks for Visiting Yellowstone in Winter

Yellowstone in Winter

If you book a lodge or hotel stay early enough in advance, as well as a snowmobile or a guided tour, you can truly see Yellowstone in an entirely new light.

While it may not sound ideal to visit a National Park while it is covered in snow, there’s a lot to love about Yellowstone in winter. If you book a lodge or hotel stay early enough in advance, as well as a snowmobile or a guided tour, you can truly see Yellowstone in an entirely new light. Plus, there’s still plenty of recreation to be had, especially if you pack enough layers!

However, know that you won’t be able to drive your car throughout the park during this time of year, and Yellowstone only leaves the northernmost entrances open. If you are hoping to travel from the west or south, you may find that the trip is too perilous to make during this snowy time. If you are able to make it to Yellowstone National Park in the wintertime, just know that it is unlike anywhere else in the world!


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About the Author

August Croft is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on astrology, symbolism, and gardening. August has been writing a variety of content for over 4 years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theater from Southern Oregon University, which they earned in 2014. They are currently working toward a professional certification in astrology and chart reading. A resident of Oregon, August enjoys playwriting, craft beer, and cooking seasonal recipes for their friends and high school sweetheart.

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