Wildlife abounds in Yellowstone National Park throughout the year; however, one of the best times to view bison, elk, moose and other creatures is during the winter months. During these cold, snowy months as icicles hang form tree branches and rainbows glisten through geysers, the animals move closer to the hot springs for warmth and come to lower altitudes in search of food – making for easy viewing as well as providing excellent photo opportunities.
Access to America’s First National Park, which encompasses parts of Wyo., Mont. and Idaho, is varied. For example, entrances like West Yellowstone are only open for snowcoach and guided snowmobile travel. The snowcoaches are heated, with full and half-day tours available, and knowledgeable guides will often pull over for photos, provide park information and answer questions throughout the expedition.
Adventurists looking for a way to combine nature and sports can cross-country ski or snowshoe throughout the park. There are hundreds of miles of trails, some groomed and some out in the backcountry, that range in altitude from 7,000’ (2,133m) to 10,000’ (3048m). Local outfitters, especially in the West Yellowstone area, also offer guided tours.
Ranger-led programs are another great way to learn about the park and experience everything that’s available during the winter and throughout the year. Plus, the majority of these programs are free! At Mammoth Hot Springs, the Mammoth Snowshoe Discovery takes visitors on a two-hour walk with a park ranger (snowshoe rental is available). Also in Mammoth, the aptly-named Evening Program, which runs from December through February, is an illustrated program that showcases Yellowstone’s wonders – from natural to scenic and cultural. A description of the program is posted in the Mammoth Hotel and Albright Visitor Center.
At Old Faithful, “Geysers Galore” is a talk held at the benches in front of Old Faithful approximately 20 minutes before the Geyser’s eruption. It reveals why Yellowstone is home to one-half of the world’s thermal features. The Old Faithful Visitor Education Center provides the times of these complimentary tours.
Of course, with so much to enjoy at Yellowstone, it’s not always possible to see everything in one day. Thankfully, the park offers a number of lodging options including the rustic Old Faithful Snowlodge and Cabins. Due to their unique locale, the lodge will collect guests via snowcoach for transportation to the facility. There’s also the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, offering full-service dining and accessibility via car from the park’s North Entrance. Both lodges are generally open from mid-December through early March, but check the National Park Service’s website for most up-to-date information, including weather conditions, lodging and live webcams of the park.
As you plan your adventure to Yellowstone National Park, check out www.delta.com where you’ll always find the best fares. Delta provides daily flights from Salt Lake City to Cody, Wyo. (near the East Entrance). Seasonal service is also available during the summer from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone Airport (WYS) where you are just seven miles from the entrance of the park when you step off of the plane.