Yellowstone National Park is home to all manner of wonders from steaming hot springs to packs of wolves. While summer is the most popular – and easily accessible – time to visit the park, a winter trip to Yellowstone can be truly magical as well! Here are our top 5 tips for planning the perfect cold-weather vacation to this national park.
1. Plan Ahead
This advice holds true for visiting Yellowstone in any season. Due to the park’s popularity, as well as sheer size – it spans three states – a solid game plan in the summer will ensure you have access to all the amenities you need, such as lodging and bear safe food storage. A solid game plan in the winter is just as – if not even more – important. It is possible to swing by the park for an afternoon in the summer, but the area’s harsh conditions and sensitive environment make this impractical in the winter. Additionally, parts of the park do experience seasonal closures. Because of this, you’ll want to plan trip dates ahead of time and be sure the areas of the park you’re interested in are open. Inclement weather also affects roads throughout winter, with snowmobile or snowcoach the only way to traverse sections of the park in the colder months. This brings up the next tip. If you want to see certain areas of the park, you’ll likely want to book a tour.
2. How To See The Park
A guided tour of Yellowstone is one of the most popular – and practical – ways to experience the park in the winter months. Heavy snowfall typically results in the majority of the roads being closed to cars from November through May. Booking a tour, then, is one of the most convenient ways to iconic parts of the park – such as Old Faithful – in the winter months. If you’re looking for a hands-on, exciting excursion, consider booking a snowmobile tour! No experience is necessary – the speed limit in the park is 15 mph, so this is a great adventure for beginner and experienced snowmobilers alike. If you’re looking to dodge the chilly weather, consider a snow coach tour. You’ll be able to return to the warmth of the vehicle after checking out each stop! Snowcoach tours are also popular with those looking to take photographs of the scenery or wildlife.
3. What To Wear
To say winter in Yellowstone can be a bit chilly is an understatement! Temperatures in the park hover below freezing during the day and can drop below zero once the sun sets. Making sure you’re dressed for the weather will ensure you have the best possible time on your trip. If you’re exploring the park by snowmobile, the company will likely have needed gear available for rent. You may still want to take what you’re wearing underneath into consideration. Comfortable, breathable clothes, such as a long-sleeved shirt and pants are perfect. For a snow coach tour, you’ll be more sheltered from the elements. However, you’ll still want to dress warmly for exploring the various stops. In addition to a warm winter coat, you could also consider wearing thermal undergarments if you’re especially prone to getting chilled.
4. Where To Stay
One of the most important steps to planning a successful trip will be choosing where to stay for lodging! Gardiner and West Yellowstone are two popular towns that border entrances of the park, respectively. Such towns can be great options for those looking to take tours of the park, and still have access to other amenities. West Yellowstone, for example, is home to a number of shops as well as an Imax theatre. Staying inside the park is also an option, though lodging choices are highly limited in the winter. It’s a good idea to look at what you’re wanting from your trip to determine what would fit best. A couple looking for a peaceful romantic wilderness getaway may find staying at Old Faithful Snow Lodge the perfect trip. A family with young children, meanwhile, might find a town such as West Yellowstone preferable.
5. What To Bring
Once you’ve figured out where you’re staying, and how you’ll be exploring the park, you’re going to want to start figuring out what to pack. In addition to the usual packing list – clothes, personal hygiene essentials, and so on, here’s a couple of additional items you may want to bring with you! First off, bringing binoculars can be a great way to make sure you’re able to view wildlife. You’ll want to keep a safe distance between yourself and any animals. Binoculars will allow you to have an “up close” viewing without actually being up close. You may want to consider bringing hand and foot warmers as well, especially if snowmobiling.
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