Planning a trip for any national park vacation can be a bit overwhelming because hotels and activities book so fast and far ahead. Parks like Yellowstone and Glacier have such a short summer season you are limited in dates. Winter planning for Yellowstone was new to us and very different from summer trip planning. While some parks are a lot less busy in the winter, hotels and activities are more limited and book fast. There is also the booking challenge and expense of over snow transportation.
We first started talking and planning a winter Yellowstone trip in August 2021. Some of the packages offered by Yellowstone Forever (the non profit) and Xanterra (a concessionaire) were great, but very expensive. We used those as a starting point for plans and pieced together our own trip. We knew we wanted to do activities in Jackson, the Old Faithful area and the Mammoth Hot Springs area. In winter, most people enter Yellowstone from West Yellowstone or Gardiner. We wanted to fly into Jackson and enter from the South entrance.
We found out that a company called Scenic Safaris provides a snow coach shuttle from Flagg Ranch in Grand Teton National Park through the South entrance into Yellowstone National Park. They drop you off at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. They can also do pick ups at hotels in Jackson to get to Flagg Ranch.
Once we knew we could get from Jackson to the Old Faithful area, we were able to check hotel availability. The only two hotels open in the winter in Yellowstone are Snow Lodge and The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. I looked for three nights at each and found a week in January that worked out. Then I checked hotels in Jackson. We wound up staying at The Rustic Inn Creekside because we stayed there in the past and liked it a lot. It is right near downtown, the National Elk Refuge, ski slopes and has nice amenities. The Queen and King bed cabins are great.
I checked Google Flights for good flight times. We flew into Jackson/Grand Teton National Park and out of Bozeman, MT. We lucked out with great times and prices. There was only one slight time change before our January trip. Since our last hotel was Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, it made sense to leave through the North entrance and fly out of the Bozeman airport. The North and North East entrances have the only roads open in Yellowstone during the winter that cars can drive. Lamar Valley roads are open as well.
After our hotels, flights, snow coaches and shuttles were booked, we were able to plan some activities! We booked a snowmobile trip near Grand Teton National Park, dog sledding to Granite Hot Springs, a Yellowstone Canyon day tour from Old Faithful Snow Lodge and a Lamar Valley Wildlife tour from Mammoth. Xanterra has the winter day trips on their web site. We also booked a sleigh ride at the National Elf Refuge and some meals.
It was a nice change traveling without our RV. We have not been on a plane in years. I missed air travel and nice hotels! Three nights in each location was a great amount of time. The next time we plan a winter Yellowstone trip, I may add 1-2 more nights. I would have liked a little more time to ice skate, snow shoe, snowboard or go snow tubing. It was a great trip to celebrate our 25th anniversary though!
On our Instagram page are more pictures and details about places we booked and ate. If you have any questions just ask!