Field Notes

Tour Yellowstone in Winter

by Monica RobinsonFeb 28, 2024
A Pronghorn Buck Is One Example of Yellowstone Wildlife You Might See On A Safari Tour In Yellowstone National Park in Winter

Yellowstone National Park transforms into a winter wonderland during the colder months, offering a unique and captivating experience for wildlife enthusiasts. While the park’s interior is closed to vehicle traffic, the northern range of Yellowstone becomes an ideal destination for winter wildlife safari tours. Join us as we embark on an unforgettable journey through the snowy landscapes and encounter the diverse wildlife that thrives in this pristine wilderness.

A Coyote's Face Is Covered With Snow While Sniffing Out Rodents In Yellowstone National Park

A Winter Wildlife Haven

The northern range of Yellowstone National Park is renowned for its abundant wildlife, and the winter months offer an exceptional opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. A diversity of species call this extraordinary ecosystem home, including some of the largest and most iconic animals.

Grizzly and black bears thrive in Yellowstone, however you will not see them in the winter months as they are hibernating through the season. Their hibernation schedules are generally determined by weather conditions, but most of them are in their dens by November, emerging again in the spring when conditions are more favorable. Many animals migrate south and to lower elevations, but there are herds that stick around in the park through the whole winter, so you can still observe them in the colder months while they paw through the snow to reach any grass buried underneath. This is good news for wolf watchers as wolves take advantage of the deep snow to chase down their large prey more easily than in summer. Wolves are lighter and grow thick fur around their paws that act as snowshoes, giving them an advantage over larger ungulates running through snow. The shorter days and white backdrop also makes them easier to spot on the landscape, making winter an ideal season to go wolf watching!

Several Bison Cluster On The Road, Blocking Traffic Through Yellowstone National Park

Wildlife Sightings

When you tour Yellowstone in winter, the northern range offers ample opportunity to encounter a variety of fascinating species. Scan the tree tops and you might spot bald eagles perched on snow-laden branches, while coyotes gracefully maneuver through the frozen valleys. Herds of bison navigate the deep snow, while elusive gray wolves traverse the winter landscape. Keep your eyes peeled for the distinctive antlers of bull elk and the occasional glimpse of a red fox hunting rodents in the snow.

Yellowstone’s valleys are vast with miles of open space and tree lines in every direction, so animal sightings, especially wolves, are often at a distance. Our guides are trained to spot wildlife from afar and they are equipped with high quality optics including spotting scopes that will give you a remarkable close-up view. Individual binoculars are also provided to each guest for the tour for your own personal use! This allows you to observe activity far from the roadside and witness wild, natural behaviors without influencing them with your presence, and to maintain a safe distance to protect both you and the animals.

Elk in the Winter

Vehicle-Based Tours

While vehicle-based tours are not permitted in the park’s interior during winter, they are available in the northern range with access through the north entrance. Knowledgeable and passionate guides lead you on an adventure through the snow covered Lamar Valley in search of wildlife. From the comfort of a heated vehicle, you can cover vast distances and explore different areas where wildlife sightings are possible. The guides provide fascinating insights into the park’s ecology, wildlife behavior, and the challenges these animals face in the winter months. If you have particular areas of interest, ask away! Guides love it when you ask them questions, and they can answer any of your queries.

A Bull Moose Makes Its Way Through The Snow Covered Sagebrush Flats Of The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
A River Otter Climbs Out Onto The Snow After A Successful Fishing Expedition In The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Snowshoe Tours

For those seeking a more immersive experience, snowshoe tours offer a unique way to explore Yellowstone’s winter landscapes. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and follow experienced guides as you venture off the beaten path, peacefully traversing a winter wonderland. Snowshoe tours allow you to access areas that are inaccessible to vehicles, offering a more intimate encounter with wildlife and the chance to marvel at the park’s serene beauty up close. You’ll even be able to find and identify exciting tracks in the snow left by wildlife that have passed through not long before you!

A Red Fox Listens For Rodents Moving Under The Snow As It Hunts In A Snowfield In The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Touring Yellowstone in winter is an exciting opportunity to witness the park transformed from the lush, green, rolling hills of the summer months, into a harsh but beautiful snow-covered wilderness. The northern range beckons with its abundant wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. Whether you choose a vehicle-based tour or opt for a snowshoe adventure, you’ll be immersed in the tranquility of the winter solitude and you’ll have the chance to witness iconic species such as bison, wolves, elk, and eagles. So, grab your camera, put on your winter boots, and embark on an unforgettable wildlife safari in Yellowstone’s northern range this season.