15 Things to Do in Winter in or near Yellowstone
Our list of top Yellowstone winter activities includes watching wildlife, swimming in hot springs, eating waffles and taking exhilarating rides.
Wyoming, Montana and Idaho get a lot of snow in winter and most of Yellowstone’s interior roads are seasonally closed. That just makes it more of an adventure. Take a look at our list of to top things to do in winter in Yellowstone National Park and beyond its borders – some of which are just fun ways to get around.
1. Take a sleigh ride near Yellowstone
Up to 7,000 elk spend their winter in the National Elk Refuge, a 24,700-acre sanctuary between the town of Jackson, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park. And when snow blankets the ground from mid-December to early April, you can see them up close from the safety of a horse-drawn sleigh. Or get a cozy view of Montana’s winter landscape by taking a sleigh ride with 320 Guest Ranch, north of Yellowstone near Big Sky.
2. Cross-country ski past geysers in Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park is a fantastic place to glide through a quiet landscape on skinny skis. Trails range from easy groomed tracks to wild backcountry routes, and concessionaires run guided trips and rent equipment. Two popular trips: the Biscuit Basin Trail, which snakes through Old Faithful geyser basin, and Blacktail Plateau Trail, a challenging route on the summer Blacktail Plateau Drive.
3. Go skiing and snowboarding at resorts near Yellowstone
Yellowstone Country has more than its share of world-class ski and snowboard slopes. Options include Jackson Hole Mountain Resort near Jackson, Wyo., along with Snow King Resort minutes from downtown Jackson; Grand Targhee Resort on the west side of the Tetons near Alta, Wyo.; and Big Sky Resort in Big Sky, Mont.
4. Watch wolves in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley
Winter is the best time to look for wolves at Yellowstone because snow makes these powerful predators easier to spot. Yellowstone Forever offers guided snowshoe tours with a wolf ecologist in the park’s northeastern region; trips include several nights at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.
5. Take a snowcoach tour in Yellowstone
With most park roads closed in the winter, the best way to see the sights (and stay warm while doing it) is a guided snowcoach tour. Several outfitters run trips out of the West, South, East, and North Entrances.
6. Go dogsledding near Yellowstone
There’s nothing quite like flying through the snowy backcountry behind a team of charging sled dogs. Say “mush!” with one of several outfitters in the area; guides handle the dogs while you sit back and enjoy the ride.
7. Go snowmobiling in and around Yellowstone
Yellowstone Country offers some of the best snowmobile trails in the country—from the 608-mile Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail across western Wyoming to the many trails out of West Yellowstone, Montana, the “Snowmobiling Capital of the World.” Ride your own snowmobile, rent one from an area outfitter, or go guided. A limited number of snowmobile parties can also enter Yellowstone National Park each day.
8. Cut your own Yellowstone Christmas tree
One of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit: Bundle up, step into snowshoes or skis, and spend the day outside searching for the perfect Christmas tree. Pick up a $5 permit, then head out into the Gallatin or Custer National Forests in Montana and Wyoming to find this year’s evergreen.
9. Snowshoe wintry trails in Yellowstone
Tromp through the silent forest, wind through geyser basins, and scan for winter wildlife—all it takes is a pair of snowshoes and a sense of adventure. Yellowstone Forever and other outfitters lead guided trips through the park and provide snowcoach assists to reach deep into Yellowstone.
10. Take a dip in a hot spring inside Yellowstone and at nearby resorts
Yellowstone’s Boiling River meets the Gardner River near Mammoth, forming a series of soak-friendly pools, even in winter (Closed in 2022). Take the half-mile trail from the 45th Parallel Bridge to reach the unique spot. Winter is also a great time to visit Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis, Wyoming—the park’s bison herd is in residence and the indoor Bath House remains open. North of Yellowstone, stay at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. Their hot springs pool is open 24-hours and features a water slide. See a list of 14 swimming places.
11. Warm up at Yellowstone’s Madison hut
Take a break from cold-weather recreation with a rejuvenating stop by the Madison warming hut. Open from mid-December to mid-March, the hut offers snacks and hot drinks. You can also warm up at Canyon, Fishing Bridge, West Thumb, Mammoth, Indian Creek, and Old Faithful, but most other sites don’t offer refreshments.
12. Camp at Mammoth Campground in Yellowstone
The park’s lowest-elevation campground at 6,200 feet, Mammoth is the only one open year-round. Sites for tents and RVs up to 75 feet are available (no hookups). The campground is located near the North Entrance and the year-round facilities at Mammoth Hot Springs.
13. Attend a Yellowstone ranger program
Park rangers lead a variety of fun (and free) programs all year, and winter is no exception. Options include guided snowshoe walks, talks on the park’s ecology and geysers, and evening programs. Check the park newspaper for the latest programs, times, and locations.
14. Ride a tram to a mountaintop to eat waffles
Corbets Cabin, located at the top of Rendezvous Peak and accessible via the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort aerial tram, serves up sweet and savory waffles with an unbeatable view. It’s worth a stop whether you’re skiing or not. Note: The tram is closed during COVID.
15. Visit a museum or casino nearby Yellowstone
Weather too nasty to explore? Yellowstone Country offers plenty of indoor delights, too. Favorite rainy- or snowy-day stops include the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming for pioneer history; the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming for fine arts; and the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana for natural history. Nearby Indian Reservations offer gaming fun at the Wind River Hotel & Casino in Riverton, Wyoming, and the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel & Casino in Fort Hall, Idaho.
Start planning a winter vacation by downloading the Winter Trip Planner for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park today.