Yellowstone Winters: Things to Do and What to Expect


Winter for many people is a time to cozy up with loved ones and stay inside, but why not do something more memorable with your time? It may seem strange to spend the day outside when it’s cold, but visiting Yellowstone National Park in the winter is well worth it. In fact, it may soon be your favorite annual activity! Come witness and photograph West Yellowstone’s natural beauty with a Yellowstone winter package. Trek across the snowy landscape for a glimpse magnificent herds of Bison and Elk.

What’s so great about Yellowstone Park in the winter? Let’s start with what you can expect from the natural wonder between December and February:

What to Expect During a Yellowstone Winter

You may have to bundle up before heading out to the park, but there is plenty to do. If you plan your trip ahead of time, knowing what winters are like at Yellowstone will allow you to prepare appropriately and enjoy more of the park’s snowy activities during your stay. Learn more about what Yellowstone National Park winter access entails with the information below:


Yellowstone Winters: Things to Do and What to Expect

Yellowstone Winter Wonderland

December through February at Yellowstone is everything you picture when thinking about a gorgeous winter wonderland. Temperatures are usually below freezing – ranging from zero to 20 degrees Fahrenheit most years. Snow covers the ground, pines and mountains with an average of 150 inches per year, and is not cleared out until April. This creates a beautiful, sparkling landscape with a completely different look and feel than anything you will see in the other seasons.

Visitation Numbers

The cold weather does deter some people from visiting in the winter, but that only adds to the appeal if you do go. Over the course of the year, Yellowstone welcomes about 4 million visitors, most of which visit between May and September. If you are looking for a less-crowded, more peaceful and intimate experience, the winter is the time to visit. The average number of guests visiting during the colder months is as follows:

  • December: 19,923, or 0.69 percent of annual visits
  • January: 28,522, or 0.99 percent of annual visits
  • February: 35,645, or 1.24 percent of annual visits

To compare, the average number of visits in July is 768,936, or 26.73 percent of a year’s total, for those interested in solitude or an opportunity to connect deeper with nature, winter at Yellowstone delivers.

Road Access

Yellowstone Winters: Things to Do and What to Expect

Yellowstone Road in Winter

During the frigid winter months, many of the roads leading into Yellowstone National Park are closed, as well as some inside the park. The north entrance road south of Livingston, Montana, between Mammoth Hot Springs and Yellowstone’s northeast entrance near Cooke City, Montana is open year around to vehicle traffic. The west entrance at West Yellowstone closed on November 7th, 2016 to most vehicle traffic, while still allowing pedestrian and bicycles to enter until snowfall closed the road access, with the exception winter time access of cross-country skiers, snowshoes, snowcoach tours, and snowmobile group/private tours. Tour packages through the West Gate at West Yellowstone allow access to the Madison River Canyon, Norris Geyser Hot Springs Basin, and The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Gibbon Falls, Fire whole fall, and Old Faithful Geyser Basin.

West Gate

  • Winter: December 15, 2017 – March 15, 2018 *Open to guided snowmobile and snowcoach tours
  • Summer: April 20, 2018 – November 5, 2018

Things to Do in Yellowstone During Winter

Once you know what to expect, you can better take in the beauty of the snow-covered park and have a great deal of fun. With a variety of things to do, such as snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and snowcoach tours, a winter visit to Yellowstone is an unforgettable experience.


Snowmobiling in Yellowstone

West Yellowstone, Montana, is a commonly referred to as one of the premier locations for snowmobiling. In fact, it has been referred to as “The Snowmobile Capital of the World.” With immaculate snow trails throughout the park, you can see everything the snowy landscape has to offer, all while taking a thrilling ride in the middle of it. The winter is a great time to see “tree goblins,” or “ghost trees,” totally covered in snow, wolves, coyotes, bison, foxes and steam inversions.

Snowmobiling is available as part of guided tours in Yellowstone Park, but you may also explore the areas nearly 500 miles of groomed and forest service trails. You are welcome to bring your own snowmobiles for outside the park or rent one from a rental option nearby for inside the park.

West Yellowstone welcomes snowmobilers of all experience levels to explore its beautiful landscape every year. Last year, some of our visitors recorded their day in West Yellowstone on a snowmobile trip. Check out the fun below:

Visitor Centers

While some visitor centers are closed for the winter, a couple stay open-year around. The West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center winter hours, November and April, are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Mammoth Center near the North Entrance of the park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., beginning October and going all the way through winter.

Visitors centers are a gateway to discovering sites and activities at the park. They have interpretive offerings and exhibits, as well as activity books for kids. The information in these facilities will point you in the right direction so you can have a magnificent time in Yellowstone.

Winter Ski and Snowshoe Trails

The many miles of trails throughout Yellowstone National Park lend themselves to some incredible cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Because of the majority of the park is backcountry, traveling on the snow is your gateway to the wilderness. Depending on your skill level, you can take guided ski tours or go out on your own. The gentle and slightly rolling terrain mixed with the light powdery snow makes Yellowstone perfect for longer excursions.

Winter Snowcoach Tours

Snowcoach (Scenic)

When you’d rather be shown the many wonders of Yellowstone by a knowledgeable guide, take a heated luxury snowcoach tour. Since most of the roads are closed for wheeled vehicles, heated luxury snowcoaches are your best option for group transportation and are equipped with oversized tires or tracks designed to run on top of snow and ice. They are spacious, and include stand-up headroom and oversized windows to allow you to better see the scenery all around and take photographs. Whether getting a private tour for you group or going with other visitors, a practiced concessionaire will show you all the hot spots or recommend the best packages to help you explore Yellowstone in the winter.

For a great deal on a room and one or two-day snowcoach tour, contact Brandin Iron. The Snowcoach/Snowmobiling packages include a room, luxury snowcoach ride, or snowmobiling tour, complimentary hot breakfast, and an option for a soak in a hot tub.

Whatever you plan to do during your trip to Yellowstone National Park, the winter is a perfect time for it. The sights and activities available during the winter months are unlike anything else. If you’re ready to cross multiple adventures off your list, consider investing in a Yellowstone National Park winter package to get the most out of your trip.

Contact Brandin Iron to set up your trip for the winter season (December 15 – March 15). We love showing new faces the beauty of America’s first national park!

Contact us today!