A visit to Yellowstone National Park was at the top of our ‘US Must Do’ list when we started to plan our trip. But when we pushed our US arrival date back from autumn to winter it occurred to us that it might not be possible to get into Yellowstone due to snow making accessing the park off limits to us in our conventional rental car.
But as luck would have it, a calm patch of a few days with little snow, meant that we were able to get into the town of West Yellowstone, which borders the western entrance of the park, and from where a number of companies offer snowcoach and snowmobile tours into the park during winter.
We signed up with Yellowstone Alpen Guides for their one day snowcoach Grand Canyon of Yellowstone tour.
Snowcoaches are passenger vehicles built to travel over snow and ice. They come in various types. Ours was what is called a bombardier, named after the Canadian company which first made them back as early as the 1940s.
John, our guide, picked us up at our hotel in West Yellowstone at 9.00am and off we went in our early model bombardier.
After heading into the park is wasn’t long before we spotted our first bisons.
And soon after that a group of coyotes which had been feeding on an elk carcass.
And evidence of wolves.
And some pretty hardy swans.
We drove along the Gibbon River.
And stopped to admire Gibbon Falls.
A quick pit stop at Canyon Village Visitors Center.
Yellowstone has over 10,000 thermal vents and springs. The park sits on a supervolcano and evidence of its presence is steaming up through the ground all around the park. For a close look we went to Mud Volcano.
And Dragon’s Mouth Spring.
And the Chocolate Pot.
We then followed the South Rim Drive along the Grand Canyon stopping for views of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River.
And the Upper Falls (click to play video).
And many other beautiful spots.
And yet more bison.
It all ended too soon at 5.00 pm when John delivered us back to the comfortable and interestingly decorated Stage Coach Hotel.
What a fabulous day.
So, don’t dismiss the idea of visiting Yellowstone in winter. In fact, with its fewer tourists and incredible winter vistas it might just be the very best time to go.
Ken and Cally
Note: We were very impressed with Yellowstone Alpen Guides and our guide for the day John was excellent. Price $US149.95 per person.