Last Chance to Drive in Yellowstone Before Roads Close for Season
Yellowstone National Park is crazy in the summer.
Bumper-to-bumper traffic, big crowds in popular areas, rude tourists everywhere... yep that sounds like Yellowstone. Literally millions of people visit between Memorial Day and Labor Day; 2022 data ranked YNP as the 7th most-visited National Park in the US (down three spots from 2021). While Yellowstone technically doesn't ever close, most of the roads do.
Most roads close on November 1, 2023.
The shoulder season gives locals an arguably better experience, and the Fall shoulder is rapidly winding down. Most roads in Yellowstone National Park will close for the season on November 1, so if you're hoping for a last-minute trip to the park, you'd better go this weekend.
Minimal services in the winter.
Many shops and restaurants in West Yellowstone will soon pull their blinds and lock their doors until spring. Hotels, gas stations, and other essential businesses remain open year-round, serving snowmobilers and travelers, but many of the "touristy" things shut down seasonally. A bare-bones staff of National Park Service employees and subcontractors remain in the park.
Winter in Yellowstone offers a completely different experience.
In the heart of winter, Yellowstone National Park transforms into a breathtaking snow-covered wonderland. The iconic geothermal features, like Old Faithful, take on a surreal beauty against the white backdrop. Visitors are treated to a serene landscape, with steam rising from the geysers creating a magical atmosphere. The frozen waterfalls, such as the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, stand still in time, a testament to nature's power and artistry.
Gardiner and Cooke City are the only entrances open all year.
Two Montana gateway communities provide the only year-round road access to the Park, and both of them stay relatively busy with winter travelers visiting the park. We've always wanted to visit Yellowstone in the winter and take one of the snow coach tours. My wife and I tried booking one two years ago, and they were completely sold out (this was during the height of COVID). Reserve early if you'd like to experience the arctic beauty of Yellowstone in the winter.
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Gallery Credit: Jesse James