There are few places as spectacular as Yellowstone National Park in winter with its frosty bison and boiling hot pools.
Visitors will have greater access to the park's beauty on Thursday, Dec. 15. Conditions permitting, most park roads will open to oversnow travel by snowmobile and snowcoach. Or if you are fit, don skis to plow down the roads or trails.
Annually from mid-December until mid-March, visitors travel most of the park’s roads by commercially guided snowmobiles and snowcoaches and via the non-commercially guided snowmobile access program.
Among the top things to know in winter are:
• Most park roads are closed to automobiles. The exception is the road between the North and Northeast entrances, which is open to automobiles all year, conditions permitting. Check the road status map before you leave. Drive cautiously and watch out for snowplows. Do not stop, stand, or walk in the road. Use a pullout if you need to stop for any reason.
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• Want to see Old Faithful? Park partners and concessioners offer a variety of guided trips throughout the park during winter. Authorized businesses also offer guided tours for a variety of activities.
• Services are limited. Most facilities are closed during winter. Check winter operating hours for visitor centers, stores, restaurants, lodges and warming huts. Fill up on fuel and pack extra food and water.
• Camping and lodging: Due to the historic flood this summer, the Old Faithful Snow Lodge is the only winter lodging in the park. Make reservations as far in advance as possible. Lodging is also available in nearby communities. There are currently no campgrounds open for the winter.
• Prepare for winter conditions. Winter temperatures range from zero to 20°F (-20°C to -5°C) throughout the day. Sub-zero temperatures are common, especially at night and at higher elevations. Check current weather conditions, pack proper clothing and equipment, and review winter safety tips.
• Do not approach or feed wildlife: The safest way to view wildlife is through a telephoto lens, a spotting scope or a pair of binoculars. Stay 100 yards (91 meters) from bears and wolves and 25 yards (23 meters) from all other wildlife. Animals always have the right of way. Expect to encounter bison and other wildlife on park roads. Slow down or pull over until they pass or move off the road.
• Stay on boardwalks. People have been severely injured or killed by breaking through thin ground in thermal basins or falling into hot springs. Snow-packed boardwalks can be slippery, especially near thermal areas. Wear traction aids over your shoes or boots.
• Enhance your experience. Download the free National Park Service App (and offline content) before you arrive.
• Connectivity is limited. You will likely not receive calls or texts, even in the few areas you have cell reception.
Winter travel ends in mid-March when plowing crews begin to clear a winter’s worth of snow. Roads will start to re-open to automobiles in mid-April.