1. Travel

Top 10 Reasons to Visit Yellowstone National Park in the Winter


Yellowstone in the winter is an adventure traveler's paradise. You can snowmobile or cross country ski past steamy clouds drifting from blue-tinted hot springs, or go snowshoeing on paths in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. You photograph bison from the safety of your snow coach and watch wolf pups play as the adult wolves lope past bison rooting in the snow for winter grass. During a night snow coach tour of Yellowstone you'll see a canopy of stars overhead. The nation's first national park, Yellowstone is a two million-plus acre playground.

1. Winter in Yellowstone is More than Old Faithful

Fountain Pot Hot Springs at Yellowstone
(c) Lois Friedland

Winter in Yellowstone National Park is incredibly beautiful. Steam rises from the hot springs, geysers and fumaroles; bison wander across vast snow-covered fields and drink in streams sparking with ice crystals, and Old Faithful performs for guests at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. You can see it all from a snow coach, driving a snowmobile, cross country skiing or winter hiking. You can also enjoy snowmobiling on the vast trail system just outside the park. Click on these pictures to see what Yellowstone and West Yellowstone look like in the winter.

Yellowstone National Park Lodges (two are open in the park in the winter) has packages for adventurous travels. You'll find links to the 2010/2011 adventures below.

2. Gliding Silently on Trails Through Woods on Cross Country Skis

Cross country skiing near geysers in Yellowstone National Park
(c) Lois Friedland

Yellowstone has many miles of cross-country trails threading the park. The trails are listed in a series of pamphlets available at the park's visitors centers and hotels open during the winter. Shuttles offers drop-offs and pick-ups at trail heads. Equipment can be rented in the park.

West Yellowstone, Montana, just outside the west entrance to the park also has miles of groomed cross country and ski skate trails in the Rendezvous Ski Trails system.

3. Snowmobiling to Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park
(c)Lois Friedland

Snowmobiling is allowed on specific roads in the park but only on guided tours. Snowmobiling excursions to Old Faithful are offered by several snowmobiling companies in West Yellowstone, Montana, just outside the park. Inside the park, Xanterra, the company that manages the park's hotels, offers a snowmobiling package that allows riders to spend a night at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge then ride 90 miles to Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel the next day. Snowmobilers leaving from West Yellowstone also have the freedom to explore hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobiling trails and slopes in the U.S. national forests.

4. Watching Wolves, Bison, Foxes and -- Maybe -- A Bear or Mountain Lion

Watching a fox watch us in Yellowstone National Park
(c) Lois Friedland

The Yellowstone Association, which partners with the National Park Service, offers a variety of animal-watching day trips and multi-day programs. The Lodging and Learning programs include overnight stays so you can see Yellowstone at dawn then view wolves, bull elks with massive racks of horns, and other animals with spotting scopes. Naturalists lead the tours to help you understand how these animals survive and interact in the park. The "Trail of the Wolf" package combines wildlife watching and snowmobiling. For more information about various packages for 2010/2011, visit Lodging and Learning Packages


5. Spending the Night in Yellowstone During the Winter

Elk nibbling grass near Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel
(c) L Friedland

Just walk outside your hotel at night to see a canopy of stars overhead. During the winter only two hotels are open in the park: Old Faithful Snow Lodge and the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. In the morning, look down from your guestroom window at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and the odds are excellent that you'll see an elk foraging for grass. Staying at the Snow Park Lodge, it's a quick walk to see Old Faithful erupt.

Yellowstone National Park Lodges offers a variety of cross country skiing, adventure, snowmobiling and other packages for the 2010/2010 winter season. For more information call (1) 307-344-7311 or toll-free 866-GEYSERLAND (866-439-7375), or visiting the web site Yellowstone Park Lodges.

6. A Night Tour of Yellowstone by Snow Coach

Nighttime tour of Yellowstone in a snow coach
Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Mist rises around you while carefully following the dark outline of your guide along boardwalks, to the tune of hissing geysers erupting in the dark. It's not the prelude to a horror movie, it's the start of an incredible snow coach journey to see how alive Yellowstone is at night. At one point during your evening's trip, the snow coach stops and everyone gets out to stand quietly and look at a star-filled sky that one can only imagine while living in a light-infused city. You'll enjoy the Steam, Stars & Winter Soundscapes tour the most on nights when the sky is clear.

7. West Yellowstone is a Gateway to the Park and a Winter Playground Itself

Snowmobiling near West Yellowstone
(c) Lois Friedland

On a Saturday morning in West Yellowstone, Montana, there are more snowmobiles driving along the streets than cars. This town is primarily lodging, bars, restaurants and shops for visitors who want souvenirs or cold-weather clothing, but it's a perfect gateway to exploring the park and the Gallatin National Forest. The town edges against the park, so you can take day-trips into Yellowstone via snowmobile or snowcoach. Be sure to visit the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, a non-profit wildlife park, to watch bears tussle and wolves prowl. There's also an exstensive cross country trail system.

8. A Chance to Wear Warm Winter Clothing

Yellowstone in the winter can be very cold. Pack lots of cold-weather gear, preferably high-tech undergarments that will wick away moisture, especially when you're cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Bring fleece tops or warm sweaters that you can layer under a wind-resistant/water resistant jacket. Best to have wind-resistant and water-resistant pants, too. Take a warm hat, a fleece neck gaiter and warm mittens or gloves. Bring along a bag of the chemical hand-warmer packets that you shake to activate then stick inside your gloves or boots to keep your hands and feet warm. Don't forget your camera!

9. Makes You Want to Visit Yellowstone in the Summer, Too

Falls in Yellowstone Canyon, Yellowstone National Park
(c) D Friedland

Not many people visit Yellowstone in the winter so there's space to enjoy the beauty. The quiet is disrupted in the summer, when tourists from around the globe come to the summer-green landscape, vibrant with colorful wildlflowers and green grasses.  See what Yellowstone looks like in the summertime.

10. Information Contact for Yellowstone National Park

Falls in Yellowstone Canyon
(c) D Friedland

For more information about visiting Yellowstone, go the the National Park Service Yellowstone Web site. Lonely Planet Guidebook to Yellowstone and Grant Teton National ParksIf you'd like a Lonely Planet Guidebook to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks click on Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks Guide.

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