Field Notes

Yellowstone Winter Tours

by Monica RobinsonJan 12, 2024
A Herd Of Bison Can Be Seen Moving Through The Snow In Yellowstone

Nestled within the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone National Park unfolds across a vast expanse of over 2.2 million acres, primarily residing in the state of Wyoming. The Absaroka Range lies to the east and the Gallatin Range to the northwest, making Yellowstone a mountainous wonderland. The Continental Divide traverses through the park, contributing to the diverse landscapes and winding rivers found within its boundaries. The Yellowstone Caldera, a massive volcanic crater, is a prominent geological feature that has shaped the park’s unique terrain.

Summer is the most popular time for people to visit, but winter turns the park into a glittering winter wonderland offering adventures unlike anywhere else! There are different challenges to consider as the elevation and inland location make for potentially intense winter conditions, but with a little knowledge and preparation you can experience the best Yellowstone has to offer.

From November through May, the south and east entrances remain closed. Most of the roads are only open to commercially-guided snowcoach and snowmobile vehicles. The north and northeast entrances are the only ones open to personal vehicles throughout the year. Roads can close during heavy snowstorms if conditions become unsafe, so be sure to keep an eye on the weather. Temperatures can drop significantly into the negatives, so it is essential to wear the proper gear!

Some assume that winter is not a time to tour the park, but that cannot be further from the truth. Yellowstone in the winter is bursting with beauty and excitement, and our Yellowstone winter tours are the best way to experience it! The park becomes a pristine canvas draped in a soft, white quilt of snow. These iconic landscapes, from vast meadows to towering peaks, are transformed into a silent and serene wonderland. Yellowstone’s geothermal features, such as geysers, hot springs, and mud pots, create a mesmerizing contrast against the snow-covered terrain. Steaming vents and bubbling pools offer a striking visual treat, adding an ethereal quality to the winter scene.

While some wildlife hibernates, such as bears, others provide a unique opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts. Coyotes and foxes are often seen mousing in the snow. Bison and elk remain active on the landscape, and wolves take advantage of their weakened state to hunt. The Lamar Valley becomes a hotspot for observing these majestic creatures against the backdrop of snow-covered meadows and is renowned as a world-class wolf watching experience!

Our Yellowstone winter tours offer several ways to experience the vast, frozen park. No matter what your interests are or how much time you have to explore, there’s a tour to make your visit spectacular!

Two Mule Deer Browse For Food In The Snow Covered Sage Flats In The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Yellowstone Winter Wildlife Safari

Is wildlife on the top of your list? Focus your time on tracking, finding, and viewing wildlife as they navigate their way through the region’s intense winters. Bison plow away snow with their large heads to access the grass underneath. Many elk migrate south and to lower elevations for the winter months, but some stay through the season. Wolves are often a species that visitors have high hopes for, and winter is arguably the best time to see them! Our guides follow the current movements of the animals, so they know when and where to look which gives you the best possible chance at unforgettable wildlife encounters!

A Coyote Travels Across Snow Covered Terrain In The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Yellowstone Snowshoe Safari

Looking to get out of the car and immerse yourself in the expansive beauty of the park? For those wanting a more active experience, a snowshoe safari is an ideal way to experience Yellowstone in the winter. Enjoy a more intimate adventure away from the confines of a vehicle where you can feel, hear, and smell your wild surroundings. During this 8-10 hour tour, you will have the opportunity to encounter the region’s herbivores such as bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, and moose. Don’t forget to look upwards as many bird species fly the skies from golden and bald eagles to ravens and hawks. Draw your attention towards the ground and look for tracks in the snow. Unlike summer, the snow covered landscape comes alive with tracks and signs from animals that previously passed by. Traveling on foot allows you to be a part of the story, and the more you look the more you’ll see!

A Couple Makes Their Way Along A Snowshoe Trail In The Montana Backcountry
A Bull Moose Makes Its Way Through The Snow Covered Sagebrush Flats Of The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Big Sky Wilderness and Wildlife Adventure

Setting out from Big Sky, you will enjoy a full day of winter adventures between the beauty of Yellowstone National Park and the western charm of West Yellowstone, Montana. Venture to the Northwestern corner of Yellowstone where the Gallatin River Canyon majestically sprawls. Traverse through ideal habitat for many local species such as bighorn sheep, moose, elk, bald eagles, and more. Dive into your wild surroundings on snowshoes to explore outside of the vehicle, warm up with a hot meal in the town of West Yellowstone, and spend the afternoon exploring the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center for an up close and personal experience with bears, wolves, otters, beavers, and more. This wonderful facility, which is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, houses rescued animals that can no longer fare in the wild. This tour is ideal for those looking for a mixture of activity and relaxation over an 8-10 hour trip- a delightful variety of winter fun!

A Juvenile Bald Eagle Hunts With Wings Outstretched And Talons Ready To Snatch Prey

3 Day Winter Wolves and Wildlife

Perhaps you’re looking for a more intensive and immersive journey into the heart of Yellowstone National Park. One of our most exciting Yellowstone winter tours spans three thrilling days exploring every aspect of this magical season. Witness frozen waterfalls and steaming geysers, search for animal tracks in the snow, watch wildlife play out the drama of winter survival, and traverse the frozen landscape on snowshoes. Each trip is different based on the wants and needs of our guests, so you get to spend your time doing the things that interest you most!

A Wolf Pack Travels Across The Snow In The Lamar Valley In Yellowstone National Park
A Gray Wolf Is Easily Spotting Against The White Snows Of Winter In Yellowstone National Park

Visiting Yellowstone in the winter promises endless possibilities; an immersive journey into a unique and less-explored facet of the park provides an opportunity to witness its natural wonders and the resilient wild residents that call this incredible ecosystem home. Escape the throngs of crowds and traffic, embracing the still, quiet tranquility of this winter wonderland.

Claire Northover Is A Professional Naturalist Guide For Yellowstone Safari Company Based In Bozeman Montana
Our Expert

Claire Northover

Special Projects
See Bio