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Stephanie Keene | 01.14.2019

Yellowstone National Park will receive more than 4 million visits in 2019. In July alone, the gate at West Yellowstone will admit 140,000 vehicles shepherding 400,000 visitors. By January, the number drops to zero automobiles and one-twelfth the visits. The automobiles are replaced by snow coaches, snowmobiles, snowshoes, and skis. Long entrance queues are a distant memory, traffic jams are gone, and the little town of West Yellowstone can breathe again.

People who love the park and its ecosystem often love it more deeply in winter. Forget the image of a dreary, bone-chilling, gray landscape. West Yellowstone is in the land of Big Sky, and it receives 184 blue-sky days a year. Yes, there can be sub-zero temperatures, but the sun shines most days and the air is dry, taking the bite out of the cold and lending itself to clear, crisp views. Winters here in West Yellowstone are snowy, sunny and bright—the ideal winter destination for the outdoor enthusiast. Here is a three-day, adventure-filled itinerary for your most memorable winter getaway.

Day 1: A Snowcoach Tour

A snowcoach trip into Yellowstone National Park is a fantastic way to kick off your trip. See Yellowstone's majestic, geothermally active landscape covered in a thick blanket of snow from the warm comfort of your snowcoach. (If you have never seen a snowcoach before, envision a large modified vehicle with oversized low-pressure tires or a snowmobile-like belt that helps prevent the vehicle from being stuck in the snow.) These snowcoaches offer surprisingly smooth travel over Yellowstone’s snow-packed roads. Day tours generally run 7 to 9 hours long and visit well-known destinations such as Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in addition to making stops along the way for wildlife viewing opportunities and other park sites. West Yellowstone, it should be noted, is one of the busiest wildlife areas in the park.

On top of snowcoach trips, West Yellowstone companies also offer snowmobiling services into the park and the surrounding national forests for those seeking a more thrilling outdoor experience. Venture into Yellowstone on a guided snowmobile trip to the Upper Geyser Basin, where geysers like Old Faithful, Beehive, and Daisy erupt on a fairly regular basis. Alternatively, take snowmobiles on guided or self-led excursions on one of many scenic trails in the Gallatin National Forest and adjacent Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, the sixth largest in the United States. 

Learn more about snowmobiling adventures out of West Yellowstone here.

Day 2: Of Skis and Snowshoes

Nordic skiing and snowshoeing in West Yellowstone on day two provides a more intimate experience of the local area. Rendezvous Ski Trails offer over 21 miles of impeccably groomed Nordic trails with access only steps from downtown. Trails wind through lodgepole pine forest and to open meadows with views of white-capped mountains. Whether you are new to Nordic skiing or a seasoned skier, there is a trail for you at Rendezvous. Difficulty levels are easiest, more difficult, and most difficulty, with several trail options at different mileage for each level. You will find a wide skate track and a designated track for classic skiing.

West Yellowstone also enjoys its own official Yellowstone trailhead with the groomed Riverside Ski Trails, inviting you to ski or snowshoe along a wooded path with the otters and eagles of the Madison River. Catch the groomed Boundary Trail in the northeast corner of town to ski or snowshoe the park boundary to Baker’s Hole Campground over the flat, wooded Yellowstone Plateau. Bison from the park like to winter in the Baker’s Hole area because it is flat and provides shrubby winter browse. More snowshoeing opportunities are found in the nearby national forests with trails of varied lengths, difficulty levels, and scenery.

Learn more about cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in and around West Yellowstone here.

Day 3: Choose Your Adventure in West Yellowstone

If you packed the kids and they’re still not exhausted from two full days of winter activities in West Yellowstone, be sure to check out the community’s Kids 'N' Snow schedule. From organized ice fishing outings to sled dog rides to programs at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, the Chamber of Commerce tourism programs offer a full schedule of events—the majority of which are free. Pioneer Park, a 6-acre town park in the center of West Yellowstone, hosts an ice rink and a sledding hill to burn off ice cream sugar highs. Eighty percent of the Kids 'N' Snow participants are visitors, but the town of West Yellowstone does equally well by its youngest year-long residents. The community completed a huge capital campaign in 2017 to open the Siegel Learning Center, a young education space for the town’s Little Rangers.

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West Yellowstone

Visit West Yellowstone, the west entrance and gateway community to Yellowstone National Park. Surrounded by three national forests, blue-ribbon trout streams, and beautiful mountain lakes, West Yellowstone features lodging, dining, shopping, and family-friendly events year-round. This winter, enjoy breathtaking scenery while snowmobiling or cross-country skiing in and around Yellowstone National Park – be sure to check out our trail conditions page before heading out! You’ll also find plenty of small-town hospitality, outdoor adventures, lodging, and much more in West Yellowstone.

Sponsored by:West Yellowstone