Yellowstone National Park Opens For Winter Season Tomorrow

The National Park Service has announced that Yellowstone National Park will open for the winter season beginning tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. Visitors will be able to gain access to the park via the North, South and West Entrances and travel is allowed on interior roads via commercially operated snowcoaches or on guided snowmobile excursions. Also opening for the season starting tomorrow will be the Geyser Grill, the Bear Den Gift Shop, and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, all centrally located near Yellowstone’s star attraction, the Old Faithful geyser. Other lodges and restaurants around the park, as well as its East Entrance, are expected to open next week.

Established in 1872, Yellowstone is America’s first national park and remains incredibly popular to this day. On an annual basis, the park attracts in excess of 3.3 million visitors, but only about 100,000 of them actually come during the winter. That means that travelers who venture into Yellowstone during the colder months will find a pristine and serene setting that is free from the crowds that are common during other times of the year.

I was fortunate enough to visit Yellowstone during the winter a few years back and found it to be an amazing travel experience. The place is so vast that you can spend the whole day cross country skiing, snowmobiling or snowshoeing, and never run into another person. The wintery landscapes are simply breathtaking and when intermixed with all of the geothermal activity, the park truly takes on an otherworldly look at times. Additionally, much of the wildlife that Yellowstone is so famous for is at a lower elevation and easier to spot during the winter months. Bison, elk and even wolves are common sights, although the bears are all sleeping comfortably in their dens.
Yellowstone is one of my favorite parks any time of the year, but during the winter, it goes to a whole new level. If you’re looking for a great winter escape for 2013, then definitely consider visiting the park. I recommend staying at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel or Old Faithful Snow Lodge to get the full experience.

If you do go, be sure to bundle up in your warmest clothes and pack your sense of adventure. You’ll need them both!

[Photo Credit: Kraig Becker]

Visit Yellowstone with Ken Burns this winter

Filmmaker Ken Burns and his longtime collaborator Dayton Duncan have partnered with travel company Tauck to create a series of classic travel itineraries based around his films. These trips, entitled Ken Burns American Journeys, offer travelers the opportunity to experience Civil War battlegrounds, jazz festivals, and, of course, national parks from the unique perspective of Burns himself.

In January of 2012, Tauck will give travelers a once in a lifetime chance to meet both Burns and Duncan, in one of the most magical environments possible – Yellowstone National Park. Highlights of the trip will include a visit to Lamar Valley, home to one of the most diverse displays of wildlife in North America, and an excursion to the Geyser Basin to explore Yellowstone’s famous geothermal activity. Visitors will also have the opportunity to visit the park’s interior via snowcoach, soak in the hot springs of Mammoth, and enjoy a keynote address from Burns himself. For more information on this itinerary, including pricing and dates, click here.

For those unable to make that trip, Tauck is offering another winter Yellowstone option as well. The nine-day Wonderland: Yellowstone in Winter itinerary has six departures spread out across January, February, and March, and features much of the same activities above, minus the famous documentarian.

Burns’ fabulous six-part series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea is a love letter to the amazing places that make up the national park system in the U.S. The filmmaker’s appreciation for the parks comes through in these itineraries from Tauck as well, with Yellowstone being right at the top of the list. Fans of the national parks and Burns won’t want to miss out on the opportunity to visit Yellowstone with the man himself.

This past January I was fortunate enough to visit Yellowstone in the winter myself, and I can tell you that it truly is an amazing experience. Even if you’ve been to the park before, if you haven’t visited in winter, you really haven’t seen what Yellowstone has to offer. The quiet solitude gives the world’s first national park a peaceful tranquility and the pristine snow makes it even more beautiful than it is in the summer. The fact that practically no-one visits during the colder months doesn’t hurt either.