Discovering the Magic of Winter in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, the first-ever national park, is a true natural gem that captivates visitors year-round. While many people flock to the park during the summer months, there is a hidden magic that can only be experienced in the winter. From the stunning snow-covered landscapes to the incredible wildlife sightings, winter in Yellowstone is a truly enchanting time, and should definitely be on your bucket list!

Soda Butte Creek and Mt. Norris viewed from the confluence with Lamar River

Soda Butte Creek and Mt. Norris viewed from the confluence with Lamar River

Rangers are on Staff Year-Round

When you think of the National Park Service, you might envision beautiful landscapes, adventurous hikes, and park rangers guiding visitors through nature. And while all of that is true, there is a group of dedicated individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes, especially during the winter months when most parks are less crowded. There are about 300 employees who keep Yellowstone National Park running smoothly during the off-season!

While the peak summer season in Yellowstone National Park employs about 750 people, the winter months bring a different set of challenges and responsibilities. These dedicated people ensure that the park remains accessible, safe, and well-maintained for the few visitors who brave the colder temperatures. Winter employees of YNP take on a variety of roles. From education to law enforcement, emergency medical services, and backcountry operations, visiting Yellowstone National Park in the wintertime would not be possible without the help of these hardworking folks! 

Crevice Mountain Patrol Cabin: southwest corner

Crevice Mountain Ranger Patrol Cabin: Southwest Corner

Wintertime Recreation

Exploring Yellowstone National Park in the winter is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Besides the obvious, finding stunning landscapes to ooh and ahh at, this winter wonderland is perfect for fun-filled wintertime activities.

In Yellowstone, you can explore this snowy paradise through snowshoeing and backcountry skiing. Strap on a pair of snowshoes or skis and venture into the park's vast wilderness. Not only is this a ton of fun, but it is a very practical option! Oftentimes, YNP is covered in a deep layer of snow that is difficult to travel through without the help of snowshoes or a pair of skis! If that is not your vibe, you can grab a sled, or lace up your skates and glide across frozen lakes and ponds, surrounded by the stunning beauty of the park. There is so much fun to be had in Yellowstone National Park in the wintertime! 

Fall views of the Galatin Range from the Sepulcher Mountain Trail

Views of the Gallatin Range from the Sepulcher Mountain Trail

Winter Wildlife Activity

Although the bears hibernate during winter; bison, elk, mule deer, moose, wolves, and coyotes roam the park. As the temperatures drop and snow blankets the higher elevations, the animals instinctively migrate to the lower areas in search of food and shelter. The vegetation and milder weather in the lower elevations make it the perfect place for them to survive in YNP during the harsh winter months!

Do note, however, that most roads into the park are closed during the winter due to impassable conditions. This being said, the road between the north entrance in Gardiner, MT, to the northeast entrance in Silver Gate/Cooke City, MT, stays open to travelers year-round. It's important to note that road conditions are constantly changing. It is always a safer and more memorable experience to take snowcoach tour - Yellowstone National Park Lodges offers them daily from Mammoth to Old Faithful and vice versa from 12/16 – 3/3!

wildlife in yellowstone during the winter

Coyote Resting in the Sun in Lamar Valley

Winter Weather & Conditions

There is something truly magical about experiencing Yellowstone National Park during the winter months. The snowy and cold conditions transform Yellowstone into a winter wonderland, offering a unique and unforgettable adventure for those brave enough to embrace the cold!

One of the most unique sights in the park during winter is the formation of rime ice on the trees. As temperatures drop, moisture in the air freezes onto the branches, creating a display of delicate ice crystals. The park becomes a winter wonderland-like landscape, with every tree branch showing a sparkling coat of ice! Don't forget to bundle up when visiting YNP in winter. Sub-zero temperatures are typical during the off-season, and have even reached as low as -66°F! Brr!

Rime ice on trees in yellowstone national park

Snowy Conditions at Norris Geyser Basin




Written by: Alexa Jorgenson, MGC Content Creator

Photography by: Yellowstone National Park Flickr

Blog Cover by: Averi Thompson, MGC Graphic Designer

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