This post is sponsored by Montana’s Yellowstone Country Tourism Region.
Yellowstone National Park is a winter wonderland, and the towns of Gardiner and Cooke City offer plenty of activities to complement your visit to the park. From outdoor adventures to relaxing hot springs, here are the top things to do near Yellowstone in winter.
Experience the thrill of mushing through the snowy wilderness with a dog sledding tour. This is one of my favorite Greater Yellowstone winter tours. Morrison Racing Kennel offers half-day and full-day tours that take you through the Absaroka Mountains and into the heart of Yellowstone Country. You’ll have the chance to meet the dogs, learn about the history of dog sledding, and enjoy the stunning winter scenery.
Explore Yellowstone’s winter wonderland on foot with a snowshoeing excursion. Rent snowshoes at Dan Bailey’s Outdoor Company in Livingston, Park’s Fly Shop in Gardiner, or the Bear Den Ski Shop in the Mammoth Hotel in Yellowstone. Snowshoeing is a great way to experience the area’s peaceful serenity and see wildlife up close.
In Cooke City:
Woody Creek Falls (3 miles round trip)
Woody Falls is a lovely three-tiered waterfall that drops 150 feet. From downtown Cooke City, turn south onto Republic Road. There is a parking area on both sides of the road before the fenced park (don’t cross the bridge).
Snowshoe east past the transfer station and the Avalanche Park and then south to the trailhead (about five minutes or less). Snowshoe up the jeep road for five or so minutes to a trail on the left. If you continue on the jeep road you’ll wind through a bunch of old mining equipment, which is kind of cool. But, take the trail on the left and climb for about 1.25 miles to the waterfall.
Eagle Creek (mileage varies)
This Forest Service road becomes a dog-friendly snowshoe and cross-country ski trail in winter. The trail begins at the gate just past Eagle Creek Campground 5 miles from Gardiner on the Jardine Road. The road switchbacks up the mountain to offer great views of northern Yellowstone and Gardiner, Montana.
If you’re looking for a fun way to explore Yellowstone Country’s winter landscape, try cross-country skiing. The area’s trails offer something for all skill levels, from gentle beginner routes to challenging backcountry terrain. Rent snowshoes at Dan Bailey’s Outdoor Company in Livingston, Park’s Fly Shop in Gardiner, or the Bear Den Ski Shop in the Mammoth Hotel in Yellowstone (they also offer lessons).
In Cooke City:
Republic Creek Trail (3-9 miles round trip)
From Cooke City, turn south on Republic Road and park before the bridge. Ski along the road, over Soda Butte Creek, and past the junction with the Bannock Trail. Ski south along Republic Creek on a fairly mellow trail. At 1.5 miles you’ll reach a meadow, which makes a good turnaround place for a 3-mile tour.
B Bar Ranch
B-Bar Ranch is located in the Tom Miner drainage in Paradise Valley. This private guest ranch has around 20 km of groomed cross-country ski trails and 7 km of backcountry ski trails. Trails can be used by their guests for free or with a day pass. It’s a beautiful area that we love to visit. Some of the trails are steeper as the climb hills, and there are mellow trails through the wetlands. On a misty day, it feels like you are in a Russell Chatham painting.
One of the Yellowstone winter activities you will be sure to remember is the Yellowstone Lodges Ski Shuttle to Indian Creek Campground. The ski shuttle offers a convenient way to access Yellowstone’s ski trails that are beyond the plowed road. The shuttle departs from the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and takes you to Indian Creek Campground, where you can access over 30 kilometers of groomed ski trails. There is a warming hut and vault toilet.
If you are visiting Yellowstone in the winter, I highly recommend soaking in hot springs. There are two choices for hot potting (that’s what you call soaking in a hot spring).
Yellowstone Hot Springs is located about ten minutes northwest of Gardiner along the Yellowstone River. There are 4,000 square feet of mineral hot springs divided into a big pool (102-degrees F) with two smaller pools inside it (one is a cold pool at 67-70-degrees F, the other is hotter than the main pool at 104-degrees F) and a kneipp walk.
Chico Hot Springs is about a 25-minute drive north of Gardiner. Chico Hot Springs Resort is a turn-of-the-century, rustic, retreat snuggled into the Absaroka Mountains. Chico features an outdoor swimming pool and an attached, covered soaking pool. There are several lodging options, and a restaurant, bar, and grille.
Read more about hot springs in Montana.
Yellowstone is home to one of the largest and most studied wolf populations in the world, and winter is a great time to spot these magnificent animals. Companies like Yellowstone Wolf Tracker and Walking Shadow Ecology Tours of Yellowstone offer guided tours that take you to prime wolf-watching spots in the park. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about wolf behavior and ecology while enjoying the thrill of seeing these elusive creatures in the wild. Additionally, these guides are experts on all things Yellowstone and you will learn a lot about the park.
Shopping in Gardiner
If you’re looking for souvenirs or gifts, head to Gardiner’s Main Street. The town’s quaint shops offer everything from locally made jewelry and art to outdoor gear and Yellowstone-themed souvenirs.
Many shops do have shorter winter hours, so be sure to check if you have your heart set on a particular place.
Park’s Fly Shop has everything for and about fly fishing and it turns into a ski and snowshoe hub in the winter. Rent skis and snowshoes here or book a winter fishing trip. It’s the oldest business in Gardiner under continuous family ownership. 202 Second Street South
Kellem’s Montana Saddlery is a working saddle shop with tack, chaps, chinks, leather care, and horse care products. They also sell Western clothing and have a great selection of hats, belts, gloves, purses, scarves, jewelry, buckles, and Western gifts. 214 Park Street
Yellowstone Wild Gallery features the fine art photography of C. Thomas Hoff. 222 Park Street
Yellowstone Forever is the official non-profit partner to Yellowstone National Park. We stop here frequently to see the displays as well as shop for books, puzzles, and Yellowstone gifts. 308 Park Street
Cooke City Museum
Learn about the history of the Cooke City area at the Cooke City Montana Museum. The museum features exhibits on local mining, ranching, and pioneer life, as well as displays of the area’s unique geology and wildlife. It’s a great way to deepen your understanding of the region and its people. The hours vary, so call ahead.
For an adrenaline-filled adventure, try snowmobiling through Yellowstone Country’s winter wilderness.
Snowmobiling isn’t our thing, however, the vast majority of people visiting Cooke City in winter are there to snowmobile. In fact, many people use snowmobiles to get around town in winter.
If you are looking for a Cooke City snowmobile rental, try
- Beartooth Adventures/Cooke City Motorsports
- Tread N’ Trails at the Cooke City Exxon
For guided snowmobile tours, try:
More to Do Near Yellowstone
- Why Gardiner Should Be Your Winter Basecamp for Visiting Yellowstone
- Things to Do in Cooke City, Montana in Winter
- Natural Bridge, Big Timber, and Abarokee Adventures
- Visiting Red Lodge, Montana in Winter