From November to April, the roads inside the Yellowstone National Park are covered in snow and closed to vehicles (with the exception of the North entrance to Mammoth Falls). The only way to see Yellowstone in the winter is by doing a guided tour.
There are a number of companies that offer winter trips into the park. Tours usually depart from the township of West Yellowstone and go out to Yellowstone Canyon or Old Faithful.
You have the option of choosing a snowcoach or a snowmobile tour. We chose a snowmobile tour with Yellowstone Vacations and rented a double snowmobile which cost $209 plus tax and the national park fee of $25. You can also rent a single snowmobile for the same price.
The snowmobile tour was every bit as fun as it sounds! We had a short briefing on how to drive the vehicles in the morning, and then we were off into the park for the rest of the day. Our tour took us all the way to Old Faithful and back. The snowmobiles could go up to around 60 mph and had heated seats and hand warmers to keep us from getting too cold.
Funny (but kind of depressing) story about our snowmobile tour to Old Faithful – we actually missed Old Faithful going off! We were eating our packed lunch in one of the yurts near the geyser, then we started walking over 15 minutes before it was predicted to go off. It turns out that it went off 16 minutes early, and we couldn’t wait around for the next round. Booooo.
Turtle (our tour guide, who had a super cool name) said it was extremely rare for his tour groups to miss Old Faithful, but he took us to a smaller geyser just down the road which goes off every 8 minutes so that we all got to experience a geyser erupting.
If snowmobiling doesn’t sound like your thing, then the second option for seeing Yellowstone in the winter is a snowcoach tour. The itineraries are basically the same as the snowmobile tours, but are completed in a vehicle that looks kind of like a mini-bus but with skids instead of wheels.Tour option: 7 day Yellowstone Winter Wonderland
Where to stay:
There are limited options to stay inside the national park, but there are plenty of options to stay just outside. Be sure to book well ahead if you’re travelling in peak season as accommodations can book up fast. West Yellowstone is right at the West entrance and is the closest to the park. Try the Holiday Inn or Explorer Cabins.Where to stay: Holiday Inn West Yellowstone
What to wear/bring:
Winter in Yellowstone can get super cold – January temperatures range between -17ºC to -4ºC (1ºF to 24ºF). If you’re heading into the park in the depths of winter, be sure to wear thermal underwear, a beanie, gloves, a thick winter jacket or parka, waterproof boots, and possibly snow pants if you have them.
If you don’t have some of these items, don’t panic – you can also rent gear for the trip, including helmets (which are required for snowmobile tours), gloves, a winter jumpsuit, and boots. The full gear package cost $15 to rent with Yellowstone Vacations.Check out our comprehensive guide to visiting Yellowstone NP!