The best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is the winter. That’s what I’ve been told by many different people. So, I was expecting something pretty special when I went on my own winter adventure. And they weren’t wrong. It truly was incredible. With so many highlights from my holiday it’s almost impossible to pick a top three!
1.The freezing landscapes
I love the mountains and love nothing better than a crisp, cold winter day. But Yellowstone is a different winter mountain experience. The landscapes are like nothing I have ever seen. And it is cold, very cold. They say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes. In an attempt to keep the -18 degrees and lower temperatures at bay required my full ski gear and more – from thermals to ski pants and down jacket. But it was worth it. Aside from the snow-covered trees, pastures and mountains, the steam from the thousands of hot springs, geysers and fumaroles add another dimension. Trees stand laden and frozen solid beside ground that has stayed naturally unfrozen as a result the heat underneath it.
In winter it’s generally easier to spot the wildlife because they stand out against the snowy backdrop. The bears might be sleeping at this time of year, but there is so much more to see. My group was extremely lucky to have what is coined in Yellowstone as a ‘three-dog day’ – we saw fox, coyote and wolves in the same day. If you had asked me what the one thing I wanted to see before going, the answer would have been the wolves. We saw a pack of 13 through telescopes simply doing what they would do in a normal day as if we weren’t anywhere near … playing, prowling and snoozing. It was mesmerising. We also saw bison, river otters, elk, moose, golden eagles, bald eagles, bighorn sheet, mountain goats and deer, but the wolves were the stand out highlight for me.
(taken through a telescope)
Yellowstone was the first place to be designated a national park in the world for a very good reason. The geothermal features make it on of the most unique places on this planet so people naturally flock there in the summer. Winter couldn’t be more different. The majority of the roads are only open to over snow vehicles, mostly specially adapted minivans with HUGE wheels. It’s not unusual to see more bison along the roads than vehicles! Walking around the popular Old Faithful area on my own meant I had uninterrupted views across the geyser basin and could hear the volcanic activity almost grumbling beneath me. Witnessing Old Faithful and other geysers erupt around me is a memory I will cherish.
There were so many other highlights … our exceptional guides, learning to cross-country ski (I’m definitely sticking to downhill!), my first experience of snowshoeing and smoked gouda and roasted red pepper soup – delicious!