Something special happens to Yellowstone National Park in the winter.

The snowy forests take on a mystical silence, clouds of steam billow up gently around geysers and an air of solitude permeates the pristine, snow-covered wonderland. Experience the serenity of the season by exploring Yellowstone this winter. Here’s what to keep in mind.

Is Yellowstone Open in the Winter?

A group of snowmobilers along a lake in Yellowstone National Park during the winter season.

While open to visit all year long, getting into Yellowstone in winter might require booking a one-of-a-kind experience. Since Yellowstone National Park closes its East Entrance with many other roads and services each fall, travel into and around the park requires more planning this time of year. But it’s oh so worth it.

The North Entrance, about 90 miles from the Gallatin Field Airport in Bozeman, Montana, is the only entrance open to traffic during the winter. The road from the North Entrance travels to Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins, open year-round.

Those craving a more exciting Yellowstone adventure can enter the park from the South Entrance (40 miles north of Jackson, Wyoming), East Entrance (50 miles west of Cody, Wyoming) or West Entrance (3 miles west of Montana’s Yellowstone Airport) via snowmobile or snowcoach.

Traveling To and Through Yellowstone in the Winter

A yellow bus with snowmobiles behind it amongst a snowy white landscape in Yellowstone National Park during the winter.

Traveling through Yellowstone in winter is an experience you cannot get any other time of year. Ice-capped peaks, valleys blanketed in snow and hot springs steaming against a crisp white backdrop make for an experience you’ll never forget.

However, the incredible beauty of the season comes with important considerations — preserving the park’s natural magnificence and the safety of its visitors.

Can You Drive through Yellowstone in Winter?

When looking to drive in Yellowstone in the winter visitors must pay attention to Yellowstone guidelines and regulations.

Driving in Yellowstone in November

Vehicles are prohibited in Yellowstone National Park starting within the first week of November, except on a limited stretch of road to Mammoth Hot Springs through the North Entrance.

Driving in Yellowstone in December to March

In mid-December, roads closed to traffic and open to oversnow vehicles for what is known as oversnow travel.

The term “oversnow travel” means that visitors can enter the park via alternative methods outside of using traditional auto roadways. Snowmobiles, snowcoaches, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular ways outdoor adventurers experience the park in the winter.

Imagine seeing Yellowstone’s paved (and often crowded) roads transformed into secluded, snow-covered passages to the park’s otherworldly thermal features.

Oversnow Travel Options

The oversnow travel season in Yellowstone begins when roads and paths open for snowmobiles in November and runs through the end of April. It is important to note that the snowfall in the park each winter varies, as do safe conditions for utilizing oversnow travel. A guided tour is an excellent way to navigate the beautiful (and sometimes treacherous) terrain at Yellowstone in winter.

1. Guided Snowmobile Tours in Yellowstone

From the South Entrance, snowmobile tours are available through Old Faithful Snowmobile Tours and Scenic Safaris. Snowmobile tours from Yellowstone’s East Entrance are available through Gary Fales Outfitting.

2. Non-Guided Snowmobile Tours in Yellowstone

Non-guided snowmobile trips into and around Yellowstone National Park are only available to those who acquire a permit through the park’s Non-commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program. Permits are open to anyone 18 and older, with lottery applications accepted August 1-31 and permits awarded mid-September.

3. Snowcoach Services and Tours in Yellowstone

Snowcoaches can be booked through Teton Science Schools, Inc. and Scenic Safaris. Additionally, the Yellowstone National Park Lodges provide snowcoach services from Old Faithful Snow Lodge to Mammoth Hot Springs and themed tours that allow visitors to take in the best of winter in Yellowstone.

Pro tip: While snowcoaches are a fantastic way to get around when the snow flies, they are typically very long rides, even if you are taking them from one park attraction to the next. Prepare for a minimum of four hours’ travel time, and six or more if you book a snowcoach tour.

When Does Oversnow Travel End?

Roads close to oversnow travel in early March and begin to open for regular vehicle travel in late April, weather permitting. Find current road conditions, opening dates and closing dates.

Airports: Flying to Yellowstone in Winter

One of the several airports near Yellowstone National Park that you can access during the winter.

Several nearby airports make getting to one of Yellowstone National Park’s several entrances simple any time of year. The Yellowstone Regional Airport, two miles outside of Cody, is about 50 miles from the park’s East Entrance, offering service from Salt Lake City and Denver. Jackson Hole Airport, on the edge of Grand Teton National Park, is about 50 miles south of the park and offers service from Salt Lake City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Atlanta and Denver.

Most Popular Winter Activities in Yellowstone National Park

2 people snowshoeing in Yellowstone National Park during the winter.

The stunning sight of Yellowstone in winter is well worth a visit on its own. That being said, there are plenty of ways to have fun in Wyoming state parks in winter.

Shred the powdery white snow on a snowmobile, take on the mountainside by ski, or bring the family to glide across the ice in a winter wonderland. Beat the crowds and find a peaceful view of the many animals that call Yellowstone home. Take in the outdoors and end the day with a hot chocolate and a breathtaking mountain view.

1. Snowshoeing and Cross-country Skiing

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are great ways to experience Yellowstone’s backcountry in the winter. Miles of trails winding through the vast wilderness are open for exploration on foot. Several outfitters nearby rent gear, and several companies specialize in guided trips if you’d rather not venture out alone. Yellowstone National Park provides more information on traversing the park by ski or snowshoe.

2. Snowmobiling

An extension of the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail, the trails of Yellowstone may be explored only with an authorized commercial guide or with a Non-Commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program permit. Several hundred snowmobilers are allowed daily, but since permit applications are due each year by the end of August, exploring the park in this way requires advanced planning.

Find more places to snowmobile in Wyoming.

3. Wildlife Watching

Bison, elk, river otters and other animals who call Yellowstone National Park home are even more magical to watch among snow-covered ground and steaming rivers. The intimacy a less-crowded park provides when observing wildlife amid the winter elements is something not to be missed.

Learn more about spotting winter wildlife in Wyoming.

4. Ice Skating

Imagine the thrill of hitting the ice, bundled up but with the cool mountain air on your face and the astounding backdrop of Yellowstone all around you. The park has two ice rinks: one is at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, and the other is at Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

Both are excellent opportunities to get outside, get some exercise, and make memories you won’t soon to forget.

5. Winter Sightseeing

Yellowstone has just as many incredible vistas in the cold months as it does the rest of the year, but with a twist — this is the only time you can see them in their winter whites.

The park offers a variety of wintry sightseeing tours suited to every interest, from landscape photography to a soundscape tour that is both visually stunning and music to the ears. Explore the Firehole Basin and witness the wonder of thermal waters, or get a closer look at the snow-covered Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Winter Lodging & Visitor Centers

Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins in Yellowstone covered in snow during the winter season.

Two lodges in Yellowstone are open during the winter season. The cozy Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins is open from mid-December through late February. This hotel offers equipment rentals, guides and tours. Rooms fill up fast, so make reservations as early as possible. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins is also open during the winter months.

You can also find plenty of winter cabins and lodges near Yellowstone in the towns surrounding the park, from ranches and cabins to vacation rentals and B&Bs.

While many visitor centers at Yellowstone are closed during winter, some remain open year-round, including the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center and the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth, located near the North Entrance.

Yellowstone Winter Facilities

The park’s winter facilities allow your trip to be anything you want it to be. A stay at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins comes complete with cozy music, a warm dip and a chilled cocktail.

Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins provides a rustic and elevated experience with charming details, delicious meals, and piping hot coffee. Plan your winter adventure in Yellowstone and do it your way.

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