Winter season begins in Yellowstone and Grand Teton

The winter season has kicked off in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, but limited snow in Yellowstone means that travelers will face some restrictions until more snow builds up on park roads.

Recent warm weather and limited snowfall has resulted in very little snowpack on many of the Yellowstone’s interior roads, park officials said.

Visitors will be able to take commercially and non-commercially guided snowmobile trips or travel by commercial snow coach as they normally would between the park’s South Entrance and Old Faithful.   

But commercial snow coaches with rubber tracks or large over-snow tires or other high clearance commercial wheeled vehicles will be permitted to transport visitors between West Yellowstone and Old Faithful, until additional snow accumulates.

Commercial snow coaches with rubber tracks or large over-snow tires will be permitted to offer visitor travel on road segments linking Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris, Madison, Canyon, and the northern end of Hayden Valley.

The road from the northern end of Hayden Valley through Fishing Bridge Junction to West Thumb is not currently suitable for any type of guided visitor travel.  Travel through the park’s East Entrance over Sylvan Pass to Fishing Bridge is scheduled to begin Sunday, December 22. 

Park staff members will continue to monitor conditions and weather forecasts.  Additional sections of the park will open to guided snowmobile and snow coach travel as soon as enough new snow permits. 

The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Mont., through Mammoth Hot Springs and on to Cooke City, Mont., outside the park’s Northeast Entrance is open to automobile travel all year. 

At Old Faithful, the Geyser Grill, the Bear Den Gift Shop, and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center open for the season on December 15. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and the Obsidian Dining Room open on Thursday, December 18.  

The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, dining room, and gift shop will open for the season on Saturday, December 20.   The Yellowstone General Store, the medical clinic, campground, post office, 24-hour gasoline pumps, and the Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs are open all year.   

New this winter in Grand Teton National Park, overnight lodging, dining and saloon services will be provided by Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch from December 18 through March 2, 2015. In addition, the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center will be closed through March 1, 2015. In the absence of a winter visitor center, park staff will be available to answer questions and provide park information by phone at 307.739.3399, Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

An alternative for winter visitor information about the greater Jackson Hole area— including Grand Teton and the JDR Parkway—is the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center on North Cache Street in Jackson, Wyoming. This interagency visitor center is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and offers educational and interactive displays that highlight the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and its many features. Wintering elk can be observed on the nearby National Elk Refuge from a wildlife observation deck equipped with spotting scopes.

Ranger-led snowshoe hikes begin Saturday, December 2 7 from Taggart Lake trailhead on the Teton Park Road, three miles north of the park’s Moose HQ campus. The snowshoe tours take place at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday each week. The two-hour guided walks offer an opportunity to learn about snow science and winter ecology. Previous experience is not necessary, and snowshoes are available for a rental fee of $5 for adults and $2 for children, 8 years or older. Reservations are required and can be made at 307.739.3399.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular winter activities. Most winter trails are skier tracked, but not groomed. The Teton Park Road becomes a backcountry trail in winter and is open to non-mechanized use only. In past winters, grooming operations on the Teton Park Road have been intermittent due to budget and personnel limitations.
During winter 2015, however, this winter trail will be machine groomed from Taggart Lake parking area to Signal Mountain for cross-country and skate skiing twice a week thanks to support from the Grand Teton National Park Foundation. Grooming will take place each Friday, and whenever weather and staffing allows on Mondays. For trail condition updates, phone 307.739.3682. 
Important reminder:  Snowshoers should walk adjacent to the groomed ski trail, as snowshoe treads ruin the grooved track set for skier use.  

Skiers and snowshoers are not restricted to established trails. However for protection of wildlife, park visitors are required to observe the following public closures during winter:

Closed December 1 to April 1— Static Peak, Prospectors Mountain and Mount Hunt (see the park’s cross-country ski brochure for area descriptions).

Closed December 15 to April 1— Snake River floodplain from Moran to Menor’s Ferry near Moose, Buffalo Fork River floodplain within the park, Kelly Hill and Uhl Hill.

For complete information about winter activities in Grand Teton National Park or the JDR Parkway go to Visitors can also obtain information on the park’s website at  or through the information line at 307.739.3399, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. 

Contact Yellowstone Gate at 307-213-9818 or [email protected]

About Ruffin Prevost

Ruffin Prevost is founding editor of Yellowstone Gate, an independent, online news service about Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks and their gateway communities. He lives in Cody, Wyo., where he also works as the Wyoming reporter for Reuters news service. He worked from 2005-10 as the Wyoming reporter for the Billings Gazette and has also been managing editor of WyoFile.

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