Skiing and Snowshoeing in Yellowstone

Skiing and Snowshoeing in Yellowstone
Skiing and Snowshoeing in Yellowstone
Skiing in the Hoodoos, Mammoth Hot Springs; Photo by Neal Herbert

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Skiing and snowshoeing are excellent ways to experience the unique beauty and solitude of a winter in Yellowstone. The trails in Yellowstone offer a wide range of scenery, terrain, and difficulty.

Before venturing out into Yellowstone’s winter wonderland, make sure you have properly planned and are prepared for the challenges brought on by extreme cold and deep snow.

 

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Be Prepared When Skiing and Snowshoeing

• Let friends or family know where you are going and when you plan on returning. Do not travel alone.

• Evaluate your party’s capabilities and plan your outing so that everyone will enjoy it. Also know your equipment’s capabilities and weaknesses, and be prepared to make repairs.

• Exertion in dry mountain air can dehydrate you. Carry and drink plenty of water, and bring high energy food.

• Be prepared to set up an emergency shelter. Bring a first-aid kit, space blanket, extra clothing, and headlamp.

• Carry and know how to use a map and compass or other navigational aid.

• Protect yourself from the intense winter sun. Use sunglasses or ski goggles and sunscreen.

 

Winter Hazards

• Check weather and avalanche forecasts. High winds and snow can create dangerous whiteout and high avalanche conditions where route finding may become difficult.

• Do not leave designated trails in hydrothermal areas. Avoid getting close to geysers, hot springs, or mudpots. You may fall through overhanging snow ledges or thin crust.

• Know how to recognize avalanche terrain and avoid known avalanche paths. Avalanches are more likely to occur during or after heavy, fresh snowfall, high winds, or extreme temperature changes.

• Take preventative measures to avoid the dangers of cold weather. Stay dry and learn how to recognize the signs of hypothermia and frostbite—they can set in quickly.

• Bears may be active at any time of year—be alert for signs of bear activity.

 

Etiquette

• Do not walk on showshoe or ski trails.

• Snowshoe parallel to the ski track.

• Yield to faster skiers or those going downhill.

• Detour around wildlife—do not approach. For detailed information on winter trails, routes, and winter safety, contact the Central Backcountry Office or request a Winter Backcountry Trip Planner (available online or from any visitor center)

 

Ski and Snowshoe Trails

Yellowstone offers a variety of enjoyable and challenging trails for skiing and snowshoeing throughout the park. Track is set on a few trails, others may be groomed, and all unplowed roads and trails are open to skiing and snowshoeing.

Equipment rental is available in several communities around the park; and ski shop services, including lessons, rentals, and repairs, are available at the Bear Den Ski shops at Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful.

Brochures with general trail maps and trail descriptions can be obtained at visitor centers, ranger stations, and ski shops. Some suggested trails are also listed below. One-way or round-trip skier shuttles may be offered to specific trails in the park for a fee.

 

Northern Range Trails

In winter, Upper Terrace Drive becomes a groomed 1.5-mile loop ski trail. You’ll have views of the steaming lower terraces and historic Fort Yellowstone. This is a hydrothermal area; please stay on the trail.

The 6-mile Bunsen Peak trail (one-way) follows the old road; it is steep and has sharp turns. Along the trail, you will have views of the Gallatin Mountains and the Gardner River Canyon.

Blacktail Trail begins 8 miles east of Mammoth and follows an unplowed 8-mile road (one-way). Enjoy vistas of meadows surrounded by mountain peaks, and look for elk and bison scattered throughout their winter range.

Tower Fall trail begins at the parking area southeast of Tower Junction. It follows the unplowed Tower-Canyon Road for 2.5 miles up a gradual slope past Calcite Springs Overlook to Tower Fall. Great views of the Yellowstone River Canyon, occasional bison, bighorn sheep, and bald eagles.

 

Old Faithful Trails

Lone Star Geyser Trail is a moderate 9-mile trail (round-trip). It begins at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and takes you to Kepler Cascades. From there, follow a groomed service road alongside the Firehole River to Lone Star Geyser. The geyser erupts about every three hours from a 12-foot high cone. Beginning skiers should return the same way; more advanced skiers may choose to return via the steeper Howard Eaton Trail.

Take a shuttle to the southern end of the Fairy Falls trailhead, leading to one of the most spectacular ice-encrusted falls in the park. Be alert for falling trees in areas of burned forest. Return to Old Faithful on the trail next to the road until you reach Biscuit Basin Trail, which crosses the Upper Geyser Basin and Morning Glory Pool for an easy 11-mile round-trip.

 

West Yellowstone Trail

Riverside trail begins on Boundary Street and heads one mile through forest to the Upriver and Downriver loops. Both loops provide scenic views of the Gallatin Range and Madison River. Total distance varies from 2 to 9 miles, depending on your route.