Dec 12

Yellowstone Holiday Traditions

For more than a century, day trippers and out-of-town guests have enjoyed spending the holidays in Yellowstone—an experience like no other. Park staff are on duty and ready to help visitors have a memorable experience.

From festive dinners to candlelight services, here’s your guide to holiday events in Yellowstone.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Visitor Centers at Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful are open on Christmas Day and throughout the holiday season. Visitors can stop in, share their experiences or questions with a ranger, learn more about Yellowstone in winter, and participate in ranger-led tours, talks, and programs.
Candlelight Services
: Two Christmas Eve candlelight services are held every year in the Mammoth Chapel. It was built in 1912-13 to give the Army soldiers, who protected the park, and their families, a place to worship. It continues to be a place that welcomes park employees, visitors, and area residents to participate in one of the oldest annual traditions in the park.

Tree Lighting: On Officer’s Row, a giant evergreen tree is lit for the holidays, a festive tradition going back more than a century.

Holiday Dinner: Bring a hearty appetite to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and enjoy a special holiday dinner on December 25 or December 31. Afterwards, sing holiday carols and enjoy live piano music.

Christmas at Lamar: The Yellowstone Forever Institute offers a holiday retreat each year at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch. Participants spend Christmas relaxing with kindred spirits, searching for wildlife such as wolves, elk, and bison, and taking snowshoe rambles through the snowy wonderland that is the Lamar Valley. The program includes instruction by a Yellowstone Forever Institute instructor and the main dish for a potluck dinner on Christmas Day.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day

Ring in the New Year at Old Faithful: Yellowstone offers an alternative to the usual raucous New Year’s Eve party blow-out. A blow-out of a different kind happens in the park, as visitors watch Old Faithful’s first eruption of the new year—a longtime holiday tradition. Employees and guests at Old Faithful head out to the geyser viewing area shortly after midnight to be among the few to share this special moment.

New Year’s Wildlife Watching: Visitors can close the old year and start the new one at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch with the Yellowstone Forever Institute. On this winter retreat, participants will search for wildlife on daily outings with an Institute instructor in the park’s remote northeast corner. The program ends on New Year’s Eve, but all are welcome to stay and ring in the New Year in the heart of Yellowstone.


Photos: Mammoth Chapel and Tree Ornament – NPS; Visitors outside Old Faithful Snow Lodge – Yellowstone National Park Lodges; Entrance Station – Matt Ludin/Yellowstone Forever