We had always talked about doing “Christmas at Yellowstone.” It was sort of a bucket list trip. So we decided that now was as good of time as any – packed up my mom, the kids, and the two of us and went for it.
Here’s a rough outline of our agenda with a sampling of the 3,000+ photos we took!
Note: This post was a long time in the making. Our trip took place Dec. 16 – 24, 2017.
Day 1 – December 16
This was mostly a travel day and fairly uneventful.
We flew into Jackson, WY and rented a car. Grabbed a quick bite to eat at Snake River Brewery. And hit the road to drive up to West Yellowstone, MT.
There is a pretty decent mountain pass between Jackson and West Yellowstone (Teton Pass Highway). And Google routed us backroads to save us I am guessing 38 seconds at the risk of being lost in the wilderness if we encountered car troubles. Although, we did see the largest mule deer that we’ve ever seen.
We used the Kelly Inn as our base camp in West Yellowstone, and it got the job done.
Day 2 – December 17
The second day was about getting into the park as we were staying the next couple of nights in the park at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
We decided to spend a little extra and use the trip in as a private geyser tour (totally worth every dollar). We used Backcountry Adventures as our tour guide for all our tours.
The snowmobile tours are pretty popular. That really wasn’t an option for us with my mom and daughter. But there are some advantages to the snowcoach – mainly you’re not driving. Also, you have more sets of eyes to see things that I think you’d just motor past on a snowmobile.
We saw some awesome sights on the way into the park.
When your guide is impressed by the sights, you know you’ve just seen something cool.
The cold temperatures really highlight the thermal features.
Flocking occurs when the steam refreezes where it lands
We stayed at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Our trip coincided with the first week the park was open for its winter season and that seemed to work to our advantage as visitor traffic was pretty light for our whole trip.
Day 3 – December 18
We decided to do a day excursion from the Old Faithful area over to the West Thumb Geyser Basin on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. The trip took us across the Continental Divide via a snowcoach.
One of the interesting parts of visiting in winter is that the snow and cold temperatures really highlights the multitude of thermal features – that you probably wouldn’t notice in warmer months. All those unfrozen spots in the lake are the result of hidden thermal features.
After returning to the Snow Lodge back at the Old Faithful area, Mrs. SFTE and I rented some cross country skis from the Bear Den Ski Shop and she proceeded to pound me into the ground.
We attempted to make it out to the Lone Star Geyser, but ran out of daylight.
Day 4 – December 19
This was our last day at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. We scheduled a group shuttle back out to the West Entrance around mid-day, but that gave us some time to explore the Upper Geyser Basin in the morning.
When I tell folks about the trip, this was one of the most amazing parts (to me at least). I think we were about the only people out in the Geyser Basin this morning. Compare that to pictures during other seasons.
Day 5 – December 20
The fifth day was a trip to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
The canyon (Canyon Village area) is in the north central part of the park. It was actually easier to get there from West Yellowstone, than from the Old Faithful area. That’s why we chose to leave the park the day before. And the Kelly Inn was a little more economical than the Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
However, even from West Yellowstone, this was a full day trip. We chose to do a private tour again and we had Mr. Pierre as our tour guide again.
Our tour guide was awesome!
This was a good day (every day on this trip was a good day). It was a lot of windshield time. If you made me choose one thing to take out of our trip, it probably would be this day.
Day 6 – December 21
The sixth day was a travel day back to Jackson from West Yellowstone. But we stopped by the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center before we left town.
The drive back to Jackson was beautiful.
Stopped by the Teton Science School for a private tour. Check out their amazing programs!
And had a nice evening in Jackson.
Day 7 – December 22
We started off the seventh day with a half day wildlife tour guided by Bear Witness Safari. Highly recommended.
And did a tour of the National Elk Refuge. The weather had been pretty warm without much snow, so despite a heroic effort of our sled driver, we only saw a few elk. In fact there was so little snow, the sled was actually a wagon.
Can you find the elk in this picture? There’s at least three.
Day 8 – December 23
The eighth day of our trip was open. We stopped by Jackson Hole and drove over to Grand Teton National Park.
Day 9 – December 24
The ninth day was our return trip back to Ohio.
We’ve all said that we would do this exact trip again.
The only thing I think I would change is spend a few more days at the Snow Lodge in Yellowstone. Originally, I was thinking that you might run out of things to do here. Far from it. I could easily spend several more days here and would plan on some snowshoeing or nordic skiing trips out to some of the geysers a bit further out.