Most of Yellowstone National Park’s entrances close for the winter season. In fact, the North Entrance is the only entrance that enables you to access the one park road that remains open to cars. That road connects Yellowstone’s North Entrance in Gardiner, Mont., to Cooke City, Mont., via Tower Junction.
But several entrances enable you to access the park by snowmobile and/or snowcoach (a park-authorized vehicle with huge tires that drives travelers to various areas in the park) to enjoy the park’s incredible winter activities.
- North Entrance in Gardiner, Mont.
- West Entrance in West Yellowstone, Mont.
- South Entrance 40 miles north of Jackson, Wyo.
- East Entrance, 58 miles west of Cody, Wyo.
During the winter, Yellowstone has a number of road closures. The only roads that are open to wheeled traffic are from the North Entrance at Gardiner to the Northeast Entrance to Cooke City. Since the Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Scenic Highway outside Cooke City also close for the winter season, the only practical way to Cooke City is through the north park road.
Say a big hello to Yellowstone’s winter wonderland hub. The North Entrance is about an 80-mile drive from the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport. It is open year round and enables you to drive right to Mammoth Hot Spring Hotel & Cabins, one of the two park lodges open in the winter. To get to Mammoth, you can rent a car at the airport. From Mammoth, drive the northern park road from Gardiner to Cooke City, Mont., in search of wolves and other wildlife. You also can arrange for guided snowmobile and snowcoach tours in the park.
Or avoid airport rental car fees and the stress of driving on unfamiliar winter roads. Take a shuttle from a couple of companies that offer shuttle services. Xanterra, Yellowstone’s lodging and dining concessionaire, has a winter season shuttle that will take you from the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport to and from Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins in Yellowstone National Park.
Reserve your spot on the shuttle when you make your Yellowstone lodging reservations. On your return shuttle, the shuttle stops at the airport and the Bozeman Holiday Inn for guests spending the night in Bozeman before catching a flight out the next day. Amazing Taxi also offers an airport shuttle service from the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport to Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins.
Dubbed the “Snowmobile Capital of the World,” West Yellowstone, Mont., sits close to the West Entrance. While there are no park roads open to private vehicle traffic from the West Entrance, you can choose from six park-authorized concessionaires to sign up for a guided snowcoach or snowmobile tour that will bring you from West Yellowstone, Mont., into the park. In West Yellowstone itself, there are hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails.
To get to West Yellowstone, Mont., from Bozeman, Mont., you’ll drive 124 miles on Hwy. 287. It’s a long, lonely road with sparsely populated towns, so be sure you are comfortable with winter mountain driving conditions (drive equipped with a shovel, blanket and supplies) before you decide to rent a car. The alternative is to reserve a spot on the Amazing Taxi to shuttle you from the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport to West Yellowstone. You can reach the staff at 406-223-5344, or email email@example.com.
The South Entrance is a great place to enter the park on a guided snowmobile or snowcoach tour if you plan on basing out of Jackson, Wyo. It’s 40 miles from Jackson, Wyo., to Yellowstone’s South Entrance, so there’s a drive involved in getting to the park. It’s a different experience than rolling out of bed in Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins or at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins and being in the heart of the action.
There are three authorized park concessionaires that offer snowmobile or snowcoach tours. Once in the park, you can snowmobile to Old Faithful and other Yellowstone sights, keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife along the way.
To get to Jackson, fly into the Jackson Hole Airport, which is seven miles from town and located completely in Grand Teton National Park. It’s serviced by American, Delta, United and SkyWest. You can rent a car on site or take a taxi or the Jackson Hole Shuttle.
Fifty-eight miles from Cody is the East Entrance. Because most of the winter activity in Yellowstone takes place on the west side of the park, there’s only one authorized snowmobile concessionaire to bring you snowmobiling in the park here. There’s no guided snowcoach option. From here go on a guided wonderland tour up and over Sylvan Pass, past Yellowstone Lake, to Old Faithful, the Lower Geyser Basin and back.
Fly into Cody via the Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody, Wyo. It’s serviced by a Delta connection operated by SkyWest Airlines through Salt Lake City and United Express through Denver.
Approximate Winter Road Closing Dates for Wheeled Vehicles
All dates are subject to change. For current road conditions, call the Yellowstone Public Road Report recording at (307) 344-2117 or check the government road report www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkroads.htm
- Oct. 10, 2017: Dunraven Pass (Tower Fall to Canyon); Beartooth Pass (US 212 to Red Lodge, Montana) closed
- Nov. 6, 2017: All roads except the road between the North Entrance and the Northeast entrance close at 8 a.m.
- The North Entrance near Gardiner, Mont., remains open year round.
- The Northeast Entrance near Cooke City, Mont., remains open year round, but since the Beartooth Highway is closed (see above), you can only access the entrance and Cooke City from within the park.
Over-Snow Travel Season
Roads in Yellowstone may be closed to regular vehicles in the winter, but many can be accessed via over-snow vehicles like snowmobiles and snowcoaches. Check out the plethora of snowmobile tour options leaving from the town of West Yellowstone and heading into the park to places like Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Approximate Opening Dates for Over-Snow Travel
- Dec. 15, 2017: Conditions permitting, the park will open at 8 a.m. to over-snow vehicles (snowcoach and snowmobiles) from Mammoth to Madison; Madison to Old Faithful; Madison to West Entrance; from Old Faithful to West Thumb; from South to Lake Butte Overlook, and from Canyon to Norris.
- Dec. 22, 2017: Conditions permitting, East Entrance Road (from East to Lake Butte) will open at 8 am.
Approximate Closing Dates for Over-snow Travel
- March 1, 2018: East Entrance, from entrance to Lake Butte, closes at 9 p.m.
- March 4, 2018: Mammoth to Norris Junction closes at 9 p.m.
- March 6, 2018: Norris Junction to Madison Junction, and Norris Junction to Canyon closes at 9 p.m.
- March 11, 2018: Canyon Junction to Fishing Bridge Junction closes at 9 p.m.
- March 15, 2018: Remaining groomed roads in the park close at 9 p.m.