Winter Use

A line of five snowmobiles on a groomed road stop and look at a bison walking in the opposite direction with steam rising from the ground
The enjoyment of Yellowstone and its unique resources during the wintertime has drawn deep and passionate interest in the park since the 1930s.

NPS / Diane Renkin

 

The National Park Service (NPS) mission is a dual mandate: preserve Yellowstone’s resources, and make the park available and accessible for enjoyment and appreciation. The ways in which visitors access Yellowstone in winter can affect the park’s plants, animals, and wild character in ways more profound—and potentially more damaging – than at other times of the year. To meet its mission, the NPS has worked carefully to develop a long-term plan for winter use in Yellowstone that both protects the park’s resources and provides outstanding opportunities “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

For years, the National Park Service managed the park in winter with interim management plans in the face of repeated courtroom challenges over snowmobiles and other winter operations. The final rule, published in October 2013, established long-term management of winter use in Yellowstone and concluded more than 15 years of planning efforts and litigation.

 
Bombardiers make their way through the rocky formation called the Hoodoos on the way to Mammoth.

Winter Use History of the Debate

Winter use planning is one of the most contentious issues for park managers and visitors with the debate spanning more than 80 years.

 
 
Bison walk single-file on a path through snow

Winter Ecology

Though the wildlife and plants of Greater Yellowstone are adapted to its cold, snowy winters, surviving the winter season can be a struggle.

Snowmobilers stop to take photos of Electric Peak at a Swan Lake Flats pull-out.

Winter Use Management

The final Rule authorizing oversnow vechicle use in Yellowstone was published in the Federal Register on October 23, 2013.

 
A snowmobile tour crosses the Swan Lake area on its way into the park.

Current Winter Use Updates

The enjoyment of Yellowstone and its unique resources during the wintertime has drawn interest in the park for nearly 80 years.

 
Snowmobiles and a snowcoach line up as they pass a small herd of bison on the road.

Planning and Litigation

Learn more about the long history of winter use planning and litigation in the park.

A snowmobiler checks in at the West Entrance Gate before entering the park.

Winter Use Adaptive Management Program

The management of winter use in Yellowstone National Park permits up to 110 transportation events per day.

A snowcoach is loaded up with skis at Old Faithful for a day of cross-country skiing.

Winter Use Frequently Asked Questions

Research shows that snowmobiles and snowcoaches contribute similarly to the impacts of winter use.

Visitors watch Old Faithful erupt from the Old Faithful Inn porte cochere.

Visitor Use in National Parks

Since 2008, annual visitation to Yellowstone has increased by over 40% with about 70% of visitation occurring June through August.

Last updated: March 6, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

(307) 344-7381

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