Woman visiting Yellowstone in winter
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A Winter Trip to Yellowstone Should Definitely Be on Your Adventure List

Snowmobiling, wolf-watching, iceskating with geyser views—need we say more?

Yellowstone National Park is known for its captivating beauty, and also its crowds. Walking geyser basin boardwalks that meander past percolating thermal features and boiling turquoise pools—or sitting on a bench, watching the Old Faithful geyser erupt—you can hear conversations in every language from around the world. According to the National Park Service, Yellowstone receives over 4 million visitors annually, most traveling through the park during summer.

Having spent a summer working in the park in my twenties, I was utterly amazed by its diverse landscape of forests, waterfalls, and soaring mountains. However, it was only during the winter season that I truly experienced Yellowstone's vast, pristine beauty, zipping through a winter wonderland of white on a snowmobile. Not only can you take in all of the winter wildlife and iconic sights—you can enjoy that bench seat at Old Faithful all to yourself.

Ahead, we're making the case for why winter might just be the best time of year to visit Yellowstone National Park — and sharing everything you need to know to plan your trip.

The Best Way to Get Around Yellowstone In Winter

People on snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA

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While the five approaches to the park are open year-round, by mid-November, vehicle closures to park roads are in place from all but the Northern entrance at Gardiner, Montana. The NPS updates closures to vehicle traffic and other services for the winter season and spring openings, usually in March, based on annual snowfall. In mid-December, Yellowstone opens some of its roads to oversnow travel. Visitors can enter the park via snowshoe, cross-country ski, snow coach, or snowmobile.

One winter, several of my friends and I booked lodging near the park's South Entrance, rising early the following morning to snowmobile 30 exhilarating miles through the park to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. We planned our winter trip way in advance, booking our lodging and our Non-Commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program permits by mid-summer. The lodge where we stayed our first night—and rented our machines—is no longer open in winter, but outfitters offering snowmobile tours and rentals are abundant in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, 40 miles away. Yellowstone's South Entrance is just a quick jump to Grand Teton National Park.

The West Entrance at West Yellowstone, Wyoming, and the East Entrance, 50 miles from Cody, Wyoming, are open for winter travel into the park. Both towns boast fantastic visitor centers where rangers can assist you in researching and booking winter activities and winter tours in and around the park. That said, snow coaches—even those booked in Cody—enter the park only through the south or west entrances.

Winter Activities in the Park 

Herd of American Bison (Bos bison) in Yellowstone National Park Wyoming

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No matter what form of transportation you use, the abundance of animals throughout the park's expansive wilderness is eye candy for wildlife watching; from bison, elk, and coyotes to bald eagles and river otters, you will be astounded. During the winter months, bears go into hibernation, but it is not unheard of to have the opportunity for wolf-watching, especially in the Lamar Valley.

Staying at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge gives visitors an excellent hub to explore the park's beauty, with a slew of winter adventures such as snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, riding in a snowcoach, or snowmobile outings, offered at the activities desk. Destinations such as the Firehole river, its warm water giving off clouds of steam into the sparkling cold air, and the mesmerizing vistas of Canyon Village, are two favorite day trips.

Closer to home, just outside the Lodge's doors, is a gleaming ice-skating rink. And, throughout the day, guests can bundle up and head out into the frosty air to listen to one of the many NPS rangers describe Yellowstone's geodiversity as you watch Old Faithful erupt.

Where to Stay in Yellowstone In The Winter

Old Faithful Lodge in Winter - Yellowstone National Park.

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Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins, located about 90 miles from Bozeman, Montana, is one of only two locations for visitors to book a night's stay within the park. Initially built in 1911, it was renovated in the 30s, adding more modern amenities. This is a great jumping-off spot for exploring the park's northern region or walking the wooden paths through patches of sulfuric steam, exploring the area's hot springs.

The Old Faithful Snow Lodge is only accessible via snowmobile or snow coach. The stunning western architecture adheres to the park's theme of the old west but provides guests with the amenities of a full-service hotel, beginning with the warm fire-lit ambiance of its lobby where guests can check-in, peruse the gift shop, book activities such as skiing or snowshoeing its vast trail system, and grab a hearty meal in the lodge's dining room.

The Snow Lodge, built in 1999 and the newest hotel within the park, should not be confused with the iconic Old Faithful Inn, which closes its doors in late fall, its staff winterizing the building. Having spent a night here during the summer months, I can attest that this historical lodge is worth the visit, but with its creaky pipes and rattling heaters in its rooms, it is best shuttered during the bitter cold season.

Yellowstone in Winter Tips to Know Before You Go 

Sunset at Yellowstone in Winter

Getty Images, Gabriella Fernandez Martinez

The closest airport to the park is only several miles from the town of West Yellowstone. For travelers looking to fly into larger international airports, book flights into Bozeman, Montana, or Salt Lake City, Utah. The airport in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, located within Grand Teton National Park, is another option for travelers.

Don't forget to check Yellowstone weather and local road conditions before your trip. The National Park Service updates its area closures, but remember these dates can change based upon Mother Nature's whims.

Spend some researching your cold-weather packing list, too. Winter temperatures in Wyoming, specifically in Yellowstone National Park at an elevation of 8,000 feet, can be frigid, and the days are short on sunlight. Don't be caught out in the cold backcountry without the proper winter gear.

READ MORE: Best National Parks Worth a Visit in the Winter