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Yellowstone National Park is Magic in All Four Seasons

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Though seasoned adventurers may complain about the crowds, there’s a reason that Yellowstone is so famous—there’s nowhere else in America that you can reliably count on being an arm’s length away from a herd of bison at any given moment (but please, for the love of God/wildlife, try to refrain from the selfies). Though best known as a summer destination, winter, spring, and fall, are also great seasons to visit the National Park. From hiking to fishing to skiing, snowshoeing, and camping, the park is active all year round.  

Keep in mind that the park is huge, and there’s simply no way to do everything in a day. Though, of course, we recommend getting out into the wild as much as possible, inevitably you will spend a decent amount of time in your car—either in traffic caused by roadwork (a killer on winding roads), or buffalo meandering around your vehicle. 

While you’re driving around the Figure 8, be sure to check out Yellowstone radio. When we tuned in this past August, they were interviewing people who actually survived bear attacks in the National Park—which is either comforting or terrifying, depending on your perspective… and depending on whether you think you’d have the presence of mind to survive such an encounter. I, certainly, would not. 

With that in mind: pack some bear spray, attach that bear bell to your backpack, and read on for some of our favorite spots.

Eat

Old Faithful Inn exterior

(Image provided by Adobe Stock)

The ambiance in the dining room of the Old Faithful Inn simply can’t be beaten: the wooden beams, bustling crowds, and bear murals are visually synonymous with the park itself. If you’re looking for a more serene environment, Grant Village Lake House restaurant is situated right on the water. Its dramatic view of the sunset (and if you’re ambitious: sunrise) is the perfect view to start or end your day—a nightcap or cup of coffee is required. The Lake Yellowstone Hotel also offers the perfect pit stop for your last meal before leaving the park. Recently renovated, the hotel overlooks Lake Yellowstone, and the food is delicious. As a general rule, opt for the elk or the bison (when in Rome). 

Of course, any place you stop in on your exploration through the park will have its own appeal. When I visited a cafeteria for lunch in the Mammoth Hot Springs area this summer, I was greeted by a large sign on the door with a step-by-step guide on the consequences of feeding the wildlife. As if that weren’t alarming enough, a minor sign beside that warned “No Firearms Allowed.” Only in Montana.

Hot Spots

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

 N 44 33.005 W 110 24.084

Grant Village Lake House Restaurant

 N 44 23.396, W 110 33.370

Old Faithful Inn Dining Room

 N 44.4595, W 110.8312 

Sleep

Old Faithfull Inn interior

(Image provided by Adobe Stock)

The lodge at Old Faithful is a classic year-round, but with its wooden interiors and roaring fires, it’s perfect for the wintertime. The snow lodges are only accessible via snow coach (which you can take on tours to explore the springs and geysers). The original Old Faithful Snow Lodge was built in 1958 and housed a dorm, restaurant, bar, and gift shop. It became winter lodging for visitors in 1971. The current snow lodge, opened in 1999, sits largely in the footprint of the original lodge.

For those who think such luxury as a king-sized bed and private bathroom are cheating the whole roughing-it experience, the cabins at Roosevelt Lodge are a refreshing alternative. Named after the former president who loved to camp in this area of the park, the sparsely-furnished cabins are ideal for those who wish to reconnect with nature on a more visceral level.

Hot Spots

Old Faithful Snow Lodge

 1000 Old Faithful Rd, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

Roosevelt Lodge & Cabins

 N 44 54.760 W 110 24.990

Explore

Yellowstone at dusk

(Image provided by Adobe Stock)

Though Yellowstone is known primarily as a summer destination, there is no shortage of winter activities, including skiing, skating, and snowshoeing. We particularly recommend trekking through Lamar Valley to observe the wolf population if you visit this winter. Lamar Valley, located in the northeast corner of the park, is one of the more remote areas of Yellowstone and is a prime spot to see wildlife. Aside from being the top destination for wolves, it’s also home to buffalo, bighorn sheep, and river otters.

Fishing opportunities abound along the Lamar River, although you should also be sure to visit Yellowstone Lake or Madison River for lure or fly fishing. Madison River, on the west side of the park, is especially recommended for fly fishing, and fall is the best time to catch the large trout coming in from Hebgen Lake. All three fishing areas offer plenty of opportunity for solitude, so pack your boots and waders and wander down the riverbank in search of the perfect spot. Find your bliss and cast away.

Interested in walking in a wilderness wonderland this winter? Yellowstone is very underrated in the so-called off-season, and park roads are now open for over-snow travel. If you’re visiting in the winter, book a snowmobile or snow coaching tour to explore the geysers and view the park’s legendary wildlife. Snowmobile and snow coach tours are ideal for wildlife viewing.  December to February is the best time to view wolves and bighorn sheep, while March is ideal for bear spotting as they emerge from their hibernation. 

We personally recommend Old Faithful Snowmobiling: the park is less crowded in the winter season, so the view of Old Faithful won’t be obstructed by hordes of tourists. Or, you can opt for a winter safari and explore the snowy terrain via snowmobile, snow coach, or even a luxury van (a good choice for the frostbite-prone). Winter, spring, summer, or fall—Yellowstone offers some of the best immersive outdoor opportunities in the country. So book your flight and head out west. The mountains are calling.

Hot Spots

Lamar Valley

 NE Entrance Rd, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

Yellowstone Lake

 N 44 33.005, W 110 24.084

Madison River

 N 44 38 32, W 110 51 56

Snowmobile & Snowcoach Tours

 Old Faithful

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