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Winter Wonders of Yellowstone National Park

Winter Wonders of Yellowstone National Park
By Candyce H. Stapen

Visiting Yellowstone in winter proved magical maybe even reverential. There was enough quiet to appreciate the natural wonders and the park’s spectacular setting. Whenever you plan to visit, now is the time to book. Reservations for lodge rooms and cabins in warm weather should be reserved as much as 10 months in advance. To see Yellowstone in winter, book the limited, special tours as soon as possible.

In winter the bison grow shaggy. Icicles and snow hang from their thick fur. We encountered scores of bison gathered around Old Faithful, drawn by the warmth of the more than 40 geysers and the hot bubbling pools that circle the Upper Geyser Basin. The sprays melted the snow surrounding them, creating small, almost other-worldly looking pools. Even in winter, Old Faithful still rockets steamy water 100 to 180 feet in the air with near clocklike regularity.

Instead of hordes of tourists, we saw only small groups of visitors. With few people around and snow covering most of the parking lots, Old Faithful looked even more majestic. Without the crowds, the geyser appeared as it should, a reminder of earth’s primal forces.

In winter many roads close to the public as snow blankets Yellowstone and covers many of the parking lots. To arrive at Yellowstone in winter, we rode snowmobiles from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The trip, long and noisy, proved worthwhile, but we remained in the park for just a few hours. Next time, we plan on staying overnight so that we can cross-country ski and snow-shoe through the woods.

Exploring with a naturalist who explains Yellowstone’s winter wonders adds to the experience. The Yellowstone Association offers several multi-day, Lodging and Learning courses. On their Winter Wildlife Expedition, hike, snowshoe or ski on trails. Find out about and likely see the park’s pronghorn, bighorn, bison and elk. Rates, including guided outings, four nights lodging at Mammoth, breakfasts and box lunches, snowshoe rentals and hot tub passes cost $619 double occupancy and $794 single occupancy. Available Wednesday to Saturday, December 23, 2009 to March 3, 2010. Minimum age is 12. Participants limited to 12.

The Yellowstone Association’s Winter Wolf Discovery, focuses on the history and management of Yellowstone’s wolves as well as hopes for wolf sightings while you cross-country ski or snowshoe. The package includes the same lodging and meals as the Winter Wildlife Expedition. Wolf Discovery is available Sunday to Wednesday, December 27, 2009 to February 28, 2010. Cost: $649 double occupancy and $823 single occupancy. Minimum age is 12. Participants limited to 12. The Yellowstone Association also offers additional lodging and learning programs, a great, budget-friendly vacation to make winter at Yellowstone National Park a time you won’t forget.

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