A fresh layer of snow and colder temperatures have put winter activities in full swing in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, with a wide range of travel and recreation options available.
Visitors to Yellowstone National Park can travel the park’s interior roads on commercially guided snowmobiles and snowcoaches from the North, West, and South Entrances. Visitors who have proper permits can also participate in the Non-commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program. Travel through the park’s East Entrance over Sylvan Pass is scheduled to begin December 22.
The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs and on to Cooke City, Montana, outside the park’s Northeast Entrance is open to automobile travel all year.
The Geyser Grill, the Bear Den Gift Shop, and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center are open for the season, and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and the Obsidian Dining Room open on December 20.
The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, dining room, and gift shop will open for the season on December 18. The Yellowstone General Store, medical clinic, campground, post office and the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs are open all year, as are the 24-hour gasoline pumps at Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Junction.
Communities surrounding Yellowstone are open year-round, and local businesses offer a wide range of winter recreation opportunities. Extensive information and assistance for planning a visit to Yellowstone during the winter is on the park’s website.
In Grand Teton National Park, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular winter activities. Many winter trails are skier tracked, but not groomed. The Teton Park Road, Moose-Wilson Road, and Signal Mountain Summit Road become backcountry trails in winter and are open to non-mechanized use only. The Teton Park Road will be machine groomed from the Taggart Lake parking area to the Signal Mountain Lodge junction for cross-country and skate skiing approximately two times per week thanks to generous support from the Grand Teton National Park Foundation. Grooming is scheduled to take place each Tuesday and Friday through March 15, 2016, though this schedule is dependent on snow and weather conditions. For grooming updates, call the road condition information line at 307.739.3682.
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.
- Closed December 15 to April 1— Snake River floodplain from Moran to Menor’s Ferry near Moose, Buffalo Fork River floodplain within the park, Uhl Hill, and Kelly Hill.
Additionally, visitors to the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway are reminded that swimming or bathing in a thermal pool or stream that has waters originating entirely from a thermal spring or pool is prohibited. “Hot-potting” is permitted in any creeks or pools not solely of thermal origin such as Polecat Creek.
Ranger-led snowshoe hikes begin Saturday, December 26. The snowshoe tours begin at the Taggart Lake trailhead at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, 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 historic wooden snowshoes are available for rent for a suggested donation of $5. Reservations are required and can be made at 307.739.3399.
A Single Day Pass is available to winter visitors at the Moose, Moran and Granite Canyon entrance stations. This winter-season permit allows a one-day entry into Grand Teton at a cost of $10 per vehicle. The single day pass is valid only in Grand Teton and cannot be used for entry into Yellowstone. Winter visitors may also choose to purchase one of the following other options for entry:
- $30 Seven-day pass valid for single vehicle entry into Grand Teton only
- $60 Grand Teton Annual Pass valid for one year entry into Grand Teton only
- $80 Interagency Annual Pass valid for one year entry to all federal land management fee areas
All park visitor centers are closed for the winter season until the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center reopens on March 4, 2016. 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 Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Another alternative for winter visitor information about the park, parkway, and greater Jackson Hole area is the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center in Jackson, Wyoming.
Backcountry users and mountaineers planning to stay overnight in the park must get a camping permit before their trip. Winter camping permits can be obtained in person at the front desk of the park headquarters building in Moose Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. During weekends and holidays, persons wishing to get a permit must call 307.739.3301. The general permit information line, 307.739.3309, will be staffed Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.