Winter in Gardiner combines the best of beautiful snowy scenery and outdoor recreation. As the northwestern gateway to Yellowstone National Park, Gardiner gives easy access to the park, Paradise Valley, and the surrounding national forests. From snowshoeing to hot spring soaking, there's plenty of fun around at this time of year. Here are some of the best activities during winter in and around Gardiner, Montana.
Visiting Yellowstone in winter is one of those experiences you just need to live for yourself. During the winter months (usually from November to April), most roads in the park are closed to normal vehicles, open only to over-snow travel. But from Gardiner, drivers comfortable with winter conditions can head into the park, through Mammoth and the Lamar Valley, all the way to Cooke City. This is the drive to take if you're dying to see some wildlife from a safe distance. Wolves make their home in the valley, and it's common to see coyotes, bison, and other critters as well.
If you're not keen to drive, or you want to go deeper into the park, a snowcoach tour could be the way to go. Head over the snow to areas like the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Old Faithful, and experience the park with far fewer visitors than you'll see in summer.
Inside the park, officials issue snowmobiling permits through a lottery system. If your name isn't drawn or you just want the benefit of cruising with professionals, you can sign up with a local outfitter and head out with a guide. You could also take advantage of the miles and miles of national forest track just outside the park to see a different side of the area.
Cross country skiing is another impressive way to experience Yellowstone or the countryside around Gardiner. Strap on your skis and explore beginner-friendly trails near Mammoth, or see surrounding spots close to town like the Tom Miner Basin and Jardine (where you'll find groomed trails). You can rent the gear you need in Gardiner, so don't sweat it if you don't have your own with you.
Gardiner is close to plenty of prime backcountry terrain for skiers and snowboarders to shred. And it offers easy access to famous spots by Cooke City, accessible through one of the park's few plowed roads, cutting across the Lamar Valley.
Snowshoeing has just about the lowest barrier to entry of any winter sport; if you can walk, you can probably snowshoe. Rent the gear that will get your feet on the snow, and set out on trails in Yellowstone or around Gardiner. With the silence of the winter environment around you, only marked by the sound of birds winging and bison snorting mingling with the crunch of snow under your spikes, you'll have a serene winter experience that's one of a kind.
When you're done with a day of adventuring, nothing warms you up and soothes sore muscles like a hot spring soak. And since Gardiner is so close to the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone, you have a few to choose from. Chico isn't far, and it's a great spot for soaking in the steam and starry night skies. Yellowstone Hot Springs sits even closer in Gardiner. Unwind and relax your cares away in naturally-heated mineral water, taking in an essential Montana activity.
To get more ideas for your winter adventures in Montana and gear up for fun, visit the rest of our blog.