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Travelling to Yellowstone in December/January

Darwin, Australia
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Travelling to Yellowstone in December/January

Hi guys,

My partner and I are looking at travelling to Yellowstone in Winter. We are travelling from Australia and will be arriving in the US around 7 December - I was thinking of spending a week in Seattle and then heading across to Yellowstone (around 14 December). We were planning on flying in and out of Bozeman or Billings and driving in and out of the North entrance.

I am concerned that the park might not yet be open for snowmobiles/coachs. The only other option available to us is to back-track from Chicago in mid-January but it is really quite out of the way to do that. So I guess my questions are:

1 - If the park hasn't opened for snowmobiles what will we actually be able to do?

2 - How hard of a drive is it into the park if we have never driven in snow conditions?

3 - How many days should we be planning for? I was thinking of a couple of nights at Mammoth Hot Springs and a couple at Old Faithful?


Billings, Montana
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for Yellowstone National Park
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1. Re: Travelling to Yellowstone in December/January

Yellowstone Park in the winter is beyond magical. The National Park Services website for Yellowstone Park has a link that has the opening date for winter season but it is under work right now but winter season typically opens mid-December (end of 2nd to beginning of 3rd week). On the Xanterra website it looks like the first snowcoach from Mammoth to Old Faithful is scheduled for December 21 so it looks like your Montana arrival date of around December 14th will be too early.

You would be able to drive the road from Mammoth to Cooke City through Lamar Valley at that time as that road is open all year. I was going to recommend the "Wake up to Lamar Valley" Tour but it doesn't start until December 22. There might be some private tour groups that would be able to take you into Lamar Valley prior to that date. If you're interested in that I can give you some suggestions.

If you really want to experience Yellowstone in the winter and you can backtrack in January everything will be available. However, if you do that you will want to make reservations no later than this summer. While you can make reservations for lodging on-line you need to call Xanterra directly to make reservations for the snowcoach/snowmobile travel that is necessary to get to Old Faithful if you want to go there. Do not make lodging reservations on-line and then later try to get your snowcoach/snowmobile reservations. Get them at the same time. Calling Xanterra directly will also help you decide if you want to do a package deal which is really the way to go.

Xanterra's website:



Auburn, California
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190 posts
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2. Re: Travelling to Yellowstone in December/January

If you do decide to return after the park opens in the Winter, I agree with Deb1741. DH & I have done the 'Trail of the Wolf' package twice and it was magical both times. We originated our package at Old Faithful Snow Lodge (OFSL) both times and added 2 days (day before & day the after package start days). It included the over-snow transport from West Yellowstone to OFSL, I would assume the same would be included if you wanted to base at OFSL & needed over snow transport from Mammoth, but I'm not sure. You can also start your package from Mammoth Hot Springs. Take a look and the link below. As far as I'm concerned, it would be totally worth the drive back from Chicago as there is no place on earth quite like Yellowstone in Winter. It will be something you will remember for the rest of your lives.


Edited: 15 May 2013, 15:37
Yellowstone Nat...
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for Yellowstone National Park
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3. Re: Travelling to Yellowstone in December/January

<< How hard of a drive is it into the park if we have never driven in snow conditions? >>

Your first time driving on packed snow and/or ice will be an adventure! no matter where you are.


Edited: 15 May 2013, 16:25
4. Re: Travelling to Yellowstone in December/January

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