Yellowstone in Winter
When you say the word Yellowstone the image that comes to most people is one of summertime crowds gathering to watch the famous geyser “Old Faithful” erupting on a cool summer evening; or maybe a throng of people watching a Black bear feeding on roadside berries on a warm fall afternoon
Some might picture Bison grazing in the Hayden Valley as morning mist rises from the Yellowstone River. But very few will imagine the sight of frozen ice crystals forming sundogs over the Blacktail Plateau on a sub-zero morning in the park’s northern tier.
That’s a shame since wintertime in Yellowstone National Park is perhaps the most overlooked, most sublime time to visit. The quiet and solitude of the snow shrouded mountains and valleys is a complete counterpoint to the hustle and bustle of the summer “high season” and it’s a time when you are likely to see nature at her fiercest and most beautiful.
wintertime in Yellowstone National Park is perhaps the most sublime time to visit
Sure the bears are absent, all snugly sequestered in their winter dens, but winter is the time of the wolf, the fox, the elk, and the bison. Each knows how to survive the often brutal temperatures with amazing adaptations to the environment. Wolves, in particular, thrive when the deepening snow makes their prey less able to escape. Likewise, bobcats know that the open water of fast flowing streams will attract ducks, and muskrats, and other prey they need to survive. Watching enormous moose cross the Lamar River in -25⁰ Fahrenheit will give you a new appreciation for what it means to be wild.
While the crowds have thinned, people do still visit the park in winter in significant numbers. There is a thriving Snow Coach business which can take you deep into the park’s interior, and guided snowmobile tours will escort you to the rustic hotel at Old Faithful, where you can spend the night, or the week, watching the geyser’s mist crystalize in the arctic air and heavy frost cover the ubiquitous bison.
The northern tier of the park, and the highway there, are the only parts which remain open to year-round vehicular travel, but that road will lead you to the best wolf watching in the world – in the Lamar Valley. There you will find faithful wolf followers watching with binoculars and spotting scopes for their favorite wolf packs. Join them and you’ll see a whole different side of nature.
Watching winter envelope Yellowstone National Park is a simple pleasure that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
To see more articles from Keith Crowley click here.
Keith Crowley, www.crowleyimages.com
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