By Christine Gianas Weinheimer Yellowstone Forever
Yellowstone National Park’s winter wonderland is legendary. Peaceful ski trails, excellent wildlife-viewing and epic mountain views throughout the park attract adventurous visitors. There’s something especially magical about leaving your automobile behind and traversing the snow to reach the historic Old Faithful village, which becomes a car-free zone during winter months.
The only way to visit Old Faithful and other popular destinations in the park’s interior from mid-December to mid-March is by oversnow vehicle. Options include guided snowmobile tours, concession-operated snowcoaches, or applying for a permit through the park’s non-commercially guided snowmobile access program. Visit nps.gov/yell for details and a list of companies that are authorized to provide winter tours in Yellowstone.
Several outfitters offer day tours to Old Faithful from West Yellowstone or other park entrances. If you’d like to spend more time at Old Faithful, the charming Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins offers the only lodging option. Visit ynplodges.com for hotel reservations, to arrange snowcoach transportation, or to learn about winter packages such as Lodging and Learning programs cohosted with the Yellowstone Forever Institute.
Once you arrive, you’ll find cross-country ski trails for all experience levels. Two beginner-friendly favorites are the Black Sand Basin Ski Trail (4.4 miles, round trip) that connects the Upper Geyser Basin to Black Sand Basin, and the Lone Star Geyser Ski Trail (9.9 miles, round trip), a mostly flat, machine-groomed trail that follows the Firehole River to Lone Star Geyser.
Visitors on snowshoes can enjoy any of the area ski trails, plus the 2-mile Observation Point Loop Snowshoe Trail—a snowshoe-only trail that affords amazing views of Old Faithful and the surrounding area. The boardwalks throughout the Upper Geyser Basin also lend themselves well to snowshoeing.
Visit the Bear Den Ski Shop at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge to inquire about equipment rentals, lessons, tours, trail conditions and ski shuttles. When heading out, stay on boardwalks and designated ski trails, as the ground is unstable in hydrothermal areas. Also, be aware that bison frequent all trails in the Old Faithful area.
When you’re ready to warm up, explore the interactive exhibits at the state-of-the-art Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. The center also features films, travel information, geyser eruption predictions, and a Yellowstone Forever Park Store. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the park’s winter season.
At the visitor center, check the schedule of free ranger programs offered at Old Faithful. If you’re traveling with children, also ask about how they can earn their Winter Junior Ranger patch.
The fun doesn’t end when the sun goes down. Watch a steamy, moonlit eruption of Old Faithful or go stargazing aboard a snowcoach evening tour. Bundle up for ice skating at the rink outside the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Skate rentals are free and available through the hotel’s front desk. Those who prefer to stay cozy indoors can relax by the fire in the Snow Lodge’s lobby or Firehole Lounge, or attend an evening ranger program at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center.
Visit Yellowstone.org/winter-guide for more tips for visiting Yellowstone in the winter.
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