While winter may bring cold temperatures, snowy days and a resounding stillness to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, it is also undoubtedly one of the most exciting seasons to go on a wildlife safari.
Yellowstone in winter is an extreme, exclusive place. Of the 300 miles of road in the Park, only 50 miles are open to regular vehicles between the months of November to April. A private, full-day winter tour with Yellowstone Safari Co. focuses on this region, the spectacular Northern Range between Mammoth Hot Springs and Cooke City Montana, where some of the best wildlife viewing in North America can be found.
The winter season is arguably the best time for watching the most remarkable of apex predators, the gray wolf. Our naturalists follow wolf pack movements throughout the year and know the best places for an opportunity to observe them in the wild. Oftentimes wolves stay far from people, meaning the use of optics is tantamount to an incredible “close-up” experience. Viewing a pack of wolves hunt, play, feed and fight can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that few people ever imagine or forget! The gray wolves in Yellowstone also contribute to the greater story of conservation in the west, and have become a trademark for the National Park and public lands in this region.
Your exact route and itinerary will be determined by your interests, current wildlife sightings, and current weather and road conditions. Our guides are all highly experienced, with thousands of hours in the field, and will expertly tailor your safari to you and your group.
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is a region steeped in history and wildness, where nature thrives as it did prior to human settlement. On your safari you will have an opportunity to view hundreds if not thousands of large mammals including massive herds of bison and elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. Canines such as coyotes and foxes are possible, as are birds of prey such as golden and bald eagles, hawks and falcons. With the use of our high-quality binoculars and spotting scopes you might be fortunate enough to view all the hallmarks of Rocky Mountain West, surrounded by the immense and beautiful landscape all around you.
Our naturalist guides are highly experienced and enthusiastic and will tailor each trip for guests needs and desires. Whether you are hoping for a glimpse of a wolf, a walk to a frozen waterfall, or time wandering the otherworldly thermal cascades at Mammoth, we are happy to guide you on your journey, all the while providing invaluable interpretation and storytelling. Throughout the day we will provide snacks, hot beverages, a satisfying picnic lunch and every amenity you may need to stay warm and comfortable during your day of adventure.
Professional naturalist guide
Private or small group safari
Use of spotting scopes and binoculars
National Park entrance fees
This is a mixed group safari.
This is a private safari.
For all open tours, you will meet your guide at a designated central meeting location in Bozeman, Paradise Valley, or Gardiner. When you reserve, we’ll confirm your exact pickup time, based on the season. Please check your confirmation email for the full list of meeting locations and pickup times for open tours.
For private tours, all our guests are picked up (and dropped off) at their lodging location. We pick up in Bozeman, Paradise Valley, and Gardiner. When you reserve, we’ll confirm your exact pickup time, based on the season, as well as your exact pickup location.
Please allow your guide an additional 5-10 minutes before and after the scheduled pickup time in case of weather delays or traffic conditions.
Approximate pickup times include:
- 7:00AM Bozeman
- 7:45AM Paradise Valley
- 8:30AM Gardiner
Staying in Big Sky? Meet us in Bozeman for access to a wildlife safari in the Lamar Valley.
Our group thoroughly enjoyed our tour! We did the full day Winter Safari Tour through north Yellowstone and it was amazing! Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about the park and wildlife and answered all of our questions! We saw as much of the sites as we could that was open to cars during winter and got to see a lot of the wildlife! It was phenomenal! I would definitely love to go back and visit other areas of Yellowstone.
Safari Tour Gallery
Is winter a good time to visit Yellowstone National Park?
Yes! Even if you’ve previously visited Yellowstone National Park in the summer months, winter offers a completely different experience. Most of the park is closed to vehicles during the winter months but we are able to access the park through the north entrance and we travel along the northern region, open to vehicles and home to diverse wintering wildlife. Winter is a fantastic time to visit Yellowstone, and you’ll want to plan accordingly and come prepared for winter conditions so that the trip is enjoyable for you.
What animals can I see in Yellowstone in the winter?
While wolves are the main winter attraction in Yellowstone National Park during the winter, the area is home to a number of creatures, both big and small. You may see a herd of bison, elk or mule deer or you may spot bighorn sheep or mountain goats. Canids, like coyote and fox are seen during the winter as well as birds of prey, like eagles and hawks.
How can I see Yellowstone wildlife in the winter?
The winter months can be harsh, especially on wildlife. We keep our distance so we don’t stress the animals. Your guide will bring binoculars for your use as well as a spotting scope to safely view wildlife in its natural habitat. Guides generally know where to look to find wintering wildlife so a guided tour offers the best opportunities at seeing wildlife in the National Park. For the ultimate chance at spotting wildlife, we recommend opting for a multi-day tour. This gives you time over the course of several days to track and spot wildlife.
When is it the coldest in Yellowstone?
It can start snowing in Yellowstone as early as September, but the winter season typically begins in November and continues through March, with some late snowstorms in April. January is typically the coldest month, with average temps ranging from 1F to 25F daily (-3C to -18C), but temperatures can always fluctuate wildly in a day, even in the summer months. It’s important to check the forecast and always be prepared for changing conditions.
Does Yellowstone get a lot of snow in the winter?
Yes! Compared to a lot of other National Parks, Yellowstone is a snowy place in the winter time. Snow can start falling in high elevations at the end of the summer season (September) and winter really settles in around November. It will keep snowing, sometimes heavily, into March and even April. An occasional snowstorm is not uncommon in May, or even June, but that snow is usually melted as soon as the sun comes back out. The interior of Yellowstone National Park is effectively snowed in from November through April, the only vehicles allowed being over-snow vehicles. The Lamar Valley remains open via one road from the north entrance (Gardiner, MT) through to Cooke City, MT. This is our winter route and it offers spectacular wolf watching, snowy landscapes and opportunities for exploring the area by snowshoe.
What do others say about this tour?
My husband and I took our kids (11 and 13) on the one day wolf safari. It was one of the best outings we have ever had! Our guide had an incredible eye for spotting animals while driving. He would immediately find a place to stop and set up spotting scopes so that we had amazing views of the wildlife. We saw a pack of 11 wolves frolicking after a meal and were close enough to be able to hear the pack howl. We also saw big horn sheep, elk, pronghorn antelope, 3 foxes, coyotes and were closer to a bison than I would have imagined possible. He was a fount of knowledge and the kids have not stopped talking about all of the cool things we learned about the wildlife and geography of Yellowstone. He brought warm clothes (as ski gear doesn’t keep you warm enough when standing outside the car and watching wolves for 45 minutes), tasty snacks and a yummy lunch. Yellowstone is baseline staggeringly beautiful but we would never have been able to appreciate and see the wildlife close up without Yellowstone Safari.
This was my favorite part of a sister trip to Big Sky Country!
It’s hard to explain just how much I enjoyed this. I love nature, especially as I get older, and our guide made it that much more fun. He is AWESOME POSSUM. We met him in downtown Bozeman where he picked us up in a white SUV. We drove 1.5 hours to Yellowstone and man, during that drive down, he certainly filled it with all kinds of information! Never a dull moment, and trust me – I’M NOT A MORNING PERSON! Alas, he was able to point out so much wildlife and history before we even reached the gates of the park. He had so much enthusiasm, genuine, that it elevated my experience, as well as my sister’s, so very much. With the beauty of Yellowstone, you really can’t go wrong. Having someone like him by your side… takes it to another level that will make this unforgettable!
AMAZING!!! My husband and I went on a day wildlife safari and we could not have been more impressed. Our guide impressed us beyond anything we expected. He was so knowledgeable about everything we saw. We can’t wait to go back and absolutely plan on booking again.
Why You Should Book A Winter Wildlife Safari
Feb 22, 2021
One of the most common responses that I hear when I tell my summer-time clients about our winter wildlife safaris is: I didn’t even know that Yellowstone was open in the winter! Not only is Yellowstone open, but winter is arguably one of the most spectacular times to visit!
Should You Visit Yellowstone National Park In Winter?
Feb 15, 2021
If there was ever a time to plan a visit to experience Yellowstone National Park during the winter, that time is now! The most exclusive season of the year offers some of the most rewarding opportunities for travelers willing to brave the snow and ice. Whether you’re visiting Yellowstone country to ski the legendary slopes of Big Sky, Montana, or seeking the ultimate North American wildlife expedition, booking a winter safari with Yellowstone Safari Co. is an unforgettable way to add some warmth to your odyssey.