Snowmobiling in Yellowstone
It may come as a surprise, but you cannot just show up at an entrance to Yellowstone National Park with your snowmobile and expect to get in.
To go on an unguided tour of Yellowstone, you need to apply for a permit in August through a park lottery system at www.recreation.gov/permits/250849 or 877-444-6777. Only four non-commercially guided groups are allowed in Yellowstone per day, which equates to one per park entrance.
Group permits for up to five snowmobiles cost $40/day plus a $6 application fee and are awarded in September. Any cancellations or unclaimed permits are given out on a first-come, first-served basis starting in mid-October.
If you are going on a guided snowmobile tour, you don’t need to worry about permits because your guide service will take care of all permits needed. There are snowmobile tour operators at Yellowstone's North, West, South and East entrances. Visit www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/snowmobiles-snowcoaches.htm for a complete list of authorized snowmobile and snowcoach tour operators.
West Yellowstone, Snowmobiling Capital of the World
West Yellowstone offers 400 miles of snowmobiling terrain outside Yellowstone National Park on national forest service land and has a plethora of snowmobile guides that will take you in the national park. It's truly a snowmobilers paradise and the terrain caters to all levels from beginners to expert snowmobilers.
Outside of the park, the Two Top Loop in Targhee National Forest features lots of elevation change and staggering views from the top. The South Plateau Trail in Targhee National Forest boasts considerable elevation change and access to some of the best in backcountry riding. Horse Butte Trail in Gallatin National Forest traces the shores of Hebgen Lake. Big Sky Trail in Gallatin National Forest offers great backcountry riding for aggressive sledders.
For more information about snowmobile rentals and tours, visit www.destinationyellowstone.com/snowmobiling/.
Ride a Snowmobile in Cooke City at Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance
You know snowmobiling is popular in the Cooke City area when you can only reach three of its lodges in winter via snowmobile: Skyline Guest Ranch, Big Moose Resort and Big Bear Lodge.
You can rent snowmobiles at Cooke City Motorsports, Bearclaw Sales and Services and Cooke City Exxon. All three sell technical riding gear and accessories. Ride on the 60-plus miles of groomed trails outside the park or on the Beartooth Highway, which closes to vehicle traffic in the winter. For trail tips, call the chamber at 406-838-2495, visit www.cookecitychamber.org/snowmobiling or stop in a snowmobile shop.
Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail
The Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail is a 360-mile trail that stretches from just south of Lander, Wyoming, to West Yellowstone, Montana. Arguably, it's the most complete snowmobile trail in the region, offering the sledder everything from quality groomed trails, spectacular mountain scenery, wide open spaces, to lots of opportunities to view wildlife.
Every year, snowmobilers come to Wyoming from all over the country to explore the trail, which crosses the Continental Divide several times.
In these parts, winter can last six months. To not get off the couch and out of the house to enjoy the region's trails will make for a long winter. Spanning almost 400 miles and taking sledders over high mountain ridges, and through wide open "powder playgrounds," the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail beckons. Among other regions, the trail starts near Lander, Wyo., and then ventures over Wyoming's scenic Togwotee Pass. Another great resource for local trail conditions and information about the region, is Wind River Country at 800-645-6233 or at www.windriver.org.
Plan two to four days to travel the trail, depending on your ability.
Snowmobiling in Yellowstone Country Montana
Lots of powder makes southwestern Montana a skiing haven, but it also means that the area enjoys a long snowmobiling season that sometimes stretches into early summer. Favorite snow trails north of Yellowstone include Fairy Lake Road in Bozeman and Buck Ridge Trail in Big Sky. For more information, contact Yellowstone Country Montana at 800.736.5276 or visit www.visityellowstonecountry.com/snowmobiling for a listing of snowmobile rental and tour companies.