Cross Country Skiing in Yellowstone National Park

Jan 10

Cross Country Skiing in Yellowstone National Park

One of the best ways to explore Yellowstone National Park during the winter is by strapping on some cross-country skis! Yellowstone boasts world-class cross-country skiing and abundant wilderness trails, and has a variety of terrain suitable for everyone from beginners and families to seasoned skiers!

Thanks to its diverse geography, even first-timers who are afraid to strap on a pair of skinny skis can enjoy the powdery snow, breathtaking scenery, and native wildlife. After all, where else can you ski and see bison, elk, and maybe even wolves along the way? Yellowstone also offers a unique opportunity to tour geysers and hot springs from the ski trails. The features are most dramatic in winter when they are dressed in all their steamy glory. Have we piqued your interest to ski Yellowstone? If so, here’s a quick guide to help you get started.

Planning your ski trip

Yellowstone Winter Travel

The first thing to know when planning your Yellowstone ski trip is that the majority of roads in Yellowstone are only open to motorized oversnow travel beginning in mid-December through mid-March. That means you can’t drive your normal vehicle on almost all roads, and instead must take a snowmobile or special oversnow coach.

A group of cross-country skiers near Orange Spring Mound on the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces in Yellowstone.

While you plan out which trails to take (see our Trails section below), take into account the road restrictions and how you’ll get to the trailhead. A great option is to book a ride on ski shuttle in advance through our partners at Yellowstone National Park Lodges. These shuttles run just to get adventurers like you into the interior of the park! Or, if you’d like to take a guided ski trip, check out the Ski Programs section below. Whether you plan your own travel or go with a guide, figuring out how you’ll get into the park is a great first step!


Yellowstone Winter Lodging

If you’re planning on making your ski trip a multi-day adventure, plan to book your lodging in advance! With roads closed to cars in the winter, access to hotels in the park is limited. During the winter months, the only in-park hotels open to guests are the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.

Another option is to stay outside the park in the surrounding communities of Gardiner and West Yellowstone.

And for the extra adventurous (and prepared), consider a winter backcountry camping trip! Learn more about winter backcountry camping before you go.


Yellowstone Ski Clothing & Equipment

Bear Den Ski Shop counter in the Old Faithful Snow LodgeIf you don’t have your own cross-country ski gear, that’s OK! There are many places to rent skis when you get to the Yellowstone area. Some of the easiest and most popular places to rent are right in the park at the Bears Den Ski Shops. There is one inside the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and another at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. These shops will get you in gear with rentals, and even offer beginner lessons!

Remember that it’s not only skis you need to worry about — be prepared for rapidly changing weather. Dress properly and know how to layer for severe winter temperatures.

Top Yellowstone Ski Trails

The best part of planning is scoping out your trails! The park’s trails are broken up into six different regions: Canyon, Mammoth, Northeast, Old Faithful, Tower, and West Yellowstone. The National Park Service offers in-depth descriptions of trails, including average time to complete them, on their website.

Here are just a few of our favorites for beginners at Yellowstone Forever!

  • Mammoth: Beginners will enjoy the 2.2-mile Indian Creek Loop, which is not groomed, but is tracked by skiers. Another good option is the 1.5-mile Upper Terrace Loop, which passes several hydrothermal features. Start on the left and travel clockwise for the easiest routes.
  • Tower: The Tower Fall Trail is a fantastic route for skiers of all levels. You can park your vehicle at the entrance to Roosevelt Lodge at Tower Junction, and ski the snow-covered road 2.5 miles to Tower Fall.
  • Northeast: If you’re hoping to spot wolves on your winter trip, Lamar Valley is your best bet. Bannock Trail (2 miles) and Barronette Trail (3.5 miles) each parallel and connect to the Northeast Entrance Road on both ends.
  • Old Faithful: The Lone Star Geyser Trail is a favorite choice for an easy, groomed trail. The trail is flat most of the way and follows the Firehole River for 2.5 miles to Lone Star Geyser. Be sure to check at the visitor center for estimated eruption times. Or hop on the Upper Geyser Basin Trail right at the Old Faithful Inn to see several geysers and hot springs on your way to Biscuit Basin (2.5 miles one-way).

Yellowstone Ski Maps

Check out these ski maps available for download from our partners at Yellowstone National Park Lodges.