For anyone willing to brave the cold, winter in Yellowstone offers rewards and challenges, with landscapes and temperatures that will take your breath away. Highs approach 30°F (-1C) during the day, while lows can drop to -30°F (-34C) at night. If you plan to venture out, prepare for cold air, deep snow, and slippery boardwalks. And give some thought to what happens if things don't go as planned: when you're stuck outside as temperatures drop, you need to be more prepared than normal.
Food & Drink
Yellowstone’s altitude (6,000 feet above sea level or higher) and cold, dry winter air can cause dehydration. Make sure to carry and drink plenty of water (in insulated bottles so it doesn’t freeze). Some warming huts offer water or other cold drinks. Carry high energy snacks as well: the harder your body works to keep warm, the more you need to eat and drink.
What to Wear
Extreme temperatures mean that correct clothing can make the difference between life and death. Dress appropriately and add/remove layers as needed to prevent overheating or chilling. If you’re outside for extended periods of time, watch for symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite.
Snow-packed roads and boardwalks can be slippery, especially near thermal areas. People fall and hurt themselves a lot. Keep your footing by wearing traction aids over your shoes or boots.
Winter in Yellowstone offers a more remote experience than in summer, which means that help may not be close if you get into trouble. Winter drivers face a number of hazards, including black ice, snow-packed roads, and whiteouts. Drive times can be significantly longer in bad conditions. Drive carefully and only use plowed pullouts so that you can spend your time in the park watching wildlife instead of waiting for a tow truck (which may take hours to reach you).
Check our road status map before you leave (most roads are closed during winter), and make sure you have the proper winter safety equipment for your car: snow tires, a flashlight (and extra batteries), a first aid kit, a blanket or sleeping bag, booster cables, maps, and a shovel.
Skiing & Snowshoeing
Whether you are skiing a groomed trail or venturing into the backcountry, remember that you are traveling in wilderness with all its dangers: unpredictable wildlife, changing weather conditions, hydrothermal areas, deep snow, open streams, and avalanches. Read more safety and travel tips for skiing and snowshoeing.
People can explore Yellowstone’s on a snowmobile by hiring a guide or applying for a non-commercial permit. Snowmobiles must remain on groomed roads and obey all posted speed limits. Guided trips will ensure you have all the gear needed for a safe outing. If you'll be traveling on your own, we recommend carrying a shovel, avalanche beacons, a map, a spare drive belt, a basic tool kit or multi-tool, a first aid kit, a flashlight (and extra batteries), sunglasses, handwarmers, and a winter survival kit....in addition to adequate clothing, food, and water. Check our road status map before you leave since weather occasionally closes roads to snowmobiles.
Avalanches occur throughout the Yellowstone area and can be deadly. Learn how to recognize and avoid avalanche-prone terrain. The following websites offer safety information and local avalanche forecasts:
During winter, the road over Sylvan Pass may close temporarily due to avalanche danger and during avalanche control work. View the current status of park roads.
Last updated: December 13, 2017