Yellowstone: The Winter Edition

{All photos by Will unless otherwise stated}

Oh hey.

Remember that time I went to the Tetons and Yellowstone to celebrate New Year’s Eve and have a little snow-covered fun? Well, apparently I then went to the OmniGames…and never got to share the rest of my stories!

So let’s get this started…

After leaving our beautiful house in Idaho, we drove back over Teton Pass and through the South Entrance into Yellowstone Park. We arrived shortly thereafter at Flagg Ranch, a lodge located in between Teton National Park and Yellowstone. From there, we caught our pre-arranged ride into the park:

Snowcoach

I’m sorry, but is that snow coach NOT the coolest thing you’ve ever seen?! You see, here is the trick with visiting Yellowstone in the winter: all the roads are closed! There are only two lodges open for visitors—the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Lodge—and none of the roads are plowed or maintained. In order to get into one of these lodges, you have to book a room and then also book a spot in the snow coach. They aren’t cheap, but it is definitely a unique way to get into the park! Our ride in took three-ish hours, but our driver was fantastic. He stopped at a few of the main sites so we got to snap a few photos and immediately begin to enjoy the park.

group

My photo. Clearly.

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Katie L and me

Instead of staying in the actual Old Faithful Snow Lodge, we had reserved two of the cabins outside. They were smaller and fairly bare bones, but they definitely served our needs. Besides, who wants to hang out in the cabins where there is a stunningly beautiful winter wonderland to explore?!

After dropping our gear in our cabins, we immediately headed over to the ski rental shop. Since we hadn’t been able to reserve cabins any earlier in the week, we only had two nights and one full day in Yellowstone. Naturally, we wanted to capitalize on it! We had booked reservations for another snow coach to drive us 9 miles into the park on Friday. The coach would then drop us—and our cross country skis!—off so we could spend the day exploring and making our way back to the lodge.

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Things never work out the way you plan, do they? We woke up Friday morning to insane wind gusts and a blizzard of snow. As we sat in the lodge, eating our breakfast, we realized that the snow was actually blowing sideways. Of course, we all love the snow but here’s the catch: only one of us {Will} was confident on cross country skis. What happened if we got dropped way in the interior of the park, sucked on the skis and couldn’t find our way back to the lodge in the blizzard?

For a change, we decided to play it safe: we canceled the snow coach and instead, chose to set out exploring the area on our own. Much more my style anyway! We geared up on our cross country skis, asked Will for some quick tips, and set out into the park!

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Trying to figure out these skinny sticks

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Still working on it…

Fortunately, we all realized the cross country skiing is fairly easy and caught on quickly. In hindsight, this was GREAT because we skied over many boardwalks that day. If any of us had been out of control, we could have easily skied right into a boiling hot geyser!

We took off down one of the many closed roads and skied towards Biscuit Basin. This initial trek out was all on snow-covered roads so it was an easy way to learn how to glide on the skis. I’m sure this will come as no surprise to anyone, but I think I’ve discovered a new hobby that I love…I’ll be looking for some cross-country skis this spring!

After exploring the Sapphire Pool in the Basin, we cut back east across the road and began to check out the main geyser basin area. Y’all, this place is absolutely magical in the winter! I’ve been to Yellowstone a half dozen times in the summer, so technically, none of these sites were new to me. However, summer always equals hordes of people and the park is far less peaceful. For this trip, the snow was silently falling around our crew as we skied and we had each geyser absolutely to ourselves. Could that be any better?!

pools

My photo! I took a pretty photo!

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The crew, crossing one of the many icy bridges

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The downside? We didn’t see any animals! Typically bison roam through the geyser area like deer during the winter since they are trying to stay warm and survive the frigid temps. Unfortunately for us, a wolf pack had moved into the area the day before we arrived and all of the bison had peaced out. Can’t say that I blame them though; I sure wouldn’t want to be eaten by a wolf.

{Kinda unrelated but a fascinating-to-me fun fact: Yellowstone has 10-ish wolf packs, but two of them are starting to hunt bison! Apparently, the son of the Alpha in one pack broke off and started his own pack. The initial pack had taught itself to hunt bison, so the son took that information with him when he started his new wolf pack. It’s the first time the park has seen information shared like this, but I also found it so amazing to literally see evolution happening. These wolves are teaching themselves new skills in order to survive!}

After completing our 5 miles of cross country skiing, the seven of us split into different groups. Jon, Katie and Brad headed back to the cabins to shower and relax before dinner. I caught up with Will for a bit to do a little ski touring around the summer lodge. It’s this massive log structure (one of the biggest in the country) that was stunning, even while closed. Naturally, I had to do a little messing around in front of the camera…

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We then caught back up with Rick and Katie L who weren’t quite ready to call it a day. First, we all checked out Old Faithful for the third time on the trip….

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Me and Katie L outside of the visitors center

At this point, Katie and I were pretty tired. We’d been skiing outside for six hours and our bodies were fairly worn and tired. We headed into the visitors center to check out some info while Will and Rick skied up to Observation Point. Naturally, after seeing Will’s photos, I was pissed at myself for not going. I totally should’ve manned up for another hour or two!

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The view of Old Faithful erupting from the observation point

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Seriously. Those views would have been so worth the extra hour or two of skiing! Sigh. At least my boyfriend manned up and took in the stunning sunset!

In short y’all? Go to Yellowstone, and do it in the winter. The park is beautiful regardless of the season, but the winter months are truly magical. There is a still quiet that fills the area that you can’t find during the warmer months, and I only wish we had been able to reserve more nights to stay longer. In fact, Will and I are already trying to figure out when we can go back to get in some more skiing! I’d love to tour more of this place!

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Have you ever been to Yellowstone in the winter or the summer?
What’s your favorite national park?

14 Comments

  • Reply Carla January 21, 2014 at 6:10 am

    I WANNA BE YOU.
    just for a few weeks.
    then Id need a nap 🙂

  • Reply Brooke @ Wreckingroutine January 21, 2014 at 6:22 am

    I’ve been in the summer a few times, but your gorgeous pictures make me want to check it out in the winter. It looks so peaceful with the place to yourself instead of battling the hordes of tour busses.

  • Reply Kayla January 21, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Looks beautiful! I’d love to go to Yellowstone, in any season!!! Maybe one day!

  • Reply Lee January 21, 2014 at 7:32 am

    OH MY GOD. I would kill to CC ski at Yellowstone! I was out there this summer and really enjoyed it. Your photos are STUNNING and I am so jealous!

  • Reply GiGi Eats Celebrities January 21, 2014 at 7:41 am

    I am from Jackson, WY – and I have NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE! EVER!! You’re making me miss home right now actually, ha!!

  • Reply Kevin January 21, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Beautiful pics! And I really liked the little tidbit about the wolf packs learning to hunt (but that is the nerd in me).

  • Reply Lynn January 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    That’s so cool about the wolves!

    I’ve been to Yellowstone in the summer, and had grand plans to go to Yosemite this winter. We’ll see if we ever actually get winter this year. I might just have to come to Colorado instead!

  • Reply Katie @k8tlevy January 21, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    The pictures make me SO HAPPY and I can’t wait to see the rest of Will’s shots! You might’ve motivated me to finally get around to finishing my own Yellowstone portion of the trip report. Also, I can’t wait to start planning for next New Year’s Eve 🙂 We’ve got a pretty awesome track record going!

  • Reply Christy January 21, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Yellowstone in the winter has been on my bucket list for quite some time! So jealous! Thanks for sharing the gorgeous pics and story!

  • Reply Kelly @ Cupcake Kelly's January 21, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    This sounds amazing and the snow coach sounds so cool!

  • Reply Cathryn January 21, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    One of the old ladies in my church is going to Yellowstone this weekend, I am so jealous and even more so now I’ve seen these photos!! Yellowstone is one of the things we absolutely have to do before we leave the US! It looks amazing.

  • Reply Karen @karenlovestorun January 22, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Yellowstone is my favorite National Park. I’ve only been there in the summer but would love to get there in the winter. Looks like you had a great time and the pictures are beautiful!
    Karen @karenlovestorun

  • Reply What I Read Episode 3: Books That Taught Me To Read | Wilderness, found January 25, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    […] from Just a Colorado Girl made me super-jealous this week with her gorgeous photos of Yellowstone in Winter. Not only did she get to see that park at a truly unique time, but THEY HAVE SNOW. I will try not […]

  • Reply My Four Favorite National Parks -Just a Colorado Gal August 24, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    […] It may seem cliche, but this park is near the top of my list….with an asterisk. It’s only favorite if you visit in the winter! […]

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