Yellowstone - last minute. Possible?

Old Dec 8th, 2014, 02:54 PM
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Yellowstone - last minute. Possible?

Hi everyone
My hubby and I are travelling to the USA on Sunday this week. Last night we were looking around online and found a 4 night tour in Yellowstone that looked great - 4 nights - 2 at Mammoth Springs and 2 near Old Faithful. There was some snow shoeing and snow bus tours to different sites.
The tour is booked out but it got us thinking that maybe we could do something similar on our own. However we have no idea of the actual logistics of Yellowstone and of course it's winter so that makes things trickier. We've found an option of a one day private tour that we could do, as well as a one day photography tour.
We are wondering if it's possible to get from place to place without a car - are there shuttles or similar? Would accomodation still be avail and if so, where are logical places to stay for a first timer in YS?
If anyone could advise if this last minute idea is feasible, I'd appreciate it, as well as any ideas re where to stay and best things to do.
Thank you!
Cathy
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Old Dec 8th, 2014, 03:10 PM
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Yellowstone is a challenge without a car in the summer. In winter, most of Yellowstone shuts down. Finding a winter tour would be the way to go.

I was going to recommend Brushback for Yellowstone and/or Grand Tetons but it doesn't look like they operate next week. Here's a link to their website with a winter tour -
http://www.brushbucktours.com/grand-...ife-adventure/
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Old Dec 8th, 2014, 03:12 PM
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They do a four hour tour of GTNP out of Jackson.
http://www.brushbucktours.com/grand-...our-hour-tour/
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Old Dec 8th, 2014, 03:53 PM
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Access to Yellowstone in winter is limited and you can find out more with this website:
http://home.nps.gov/index.htm

Only certain accommodations within the park are open this time of year and the website above will have details. Usually Yellowstone accommodations (and all the most popular national park accommodations) are booked 9 to 12 months in advance, but sometimes you get lucky if you are willing to pay for it. I got a very last-minute suite at El Tovar on the Grand Canyon south rim in November (called the reservation line only one week in advance), but it was pricey (however very nice).

Use the "find a park" search, pick Wyoming and Yellowstone and then look for "plan your visit" information. There will be snow in the park, probably a lot, so if you drive into the park, you will need an appropriate vehicle. I don't know of any shuttles, because the park is large and most people come by car. A tour might be the way to go this time of year...

I know that winter is the best time to see wolves in Yellowstone, so you might search that on the internet for tours.

If you can do it, it will be a beautiful experience.
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Old Dec 8th, 2014, 03:54 PM
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Thanks I've enailed them as we are in the USA for 5 weeks so might be able to fit a tour in.
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Old Dec 8th, 2014, 05:48 PM
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It IS worth the time. There will not be any crowds. And, although you will not be able to drive yourselves and will need to rely upon snow coaches, it makes it almost your own private place. If you can fit a tour in, by all means do so.
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Old Dec 8th, 2014, 06:55 PM
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Thanks everyone!! I'm emailing several winter tour providers to see what is available. Appreciate your input tremendously. How far is Mammoth from the lodge near Old Faithful? Is there a way of getting from one to the other?
Seems most tours are based at Mammoth, and day trips seem to leave from there - is that the 'the' place to stay in winter?
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Old Dec 8th, 2014, 07:41 PM
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We stayed at the Snow Lodge by Old Faithful a couple of years ago in January. I think that would be preferable to Mammoth. But, tours go from both locations, and even from one place to the other.

Have you checked the park website? Here it is:

http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisi...-in-winter.htm

Also, here is a list of permitted tour guides for winter:

http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisi...nowcoaches.htm

We booked a package tour with the Snow Lodge. They picked us up in West Yellowstone, transported us to the Snow Lodge in the Park and back at the end of our stay. It included a nighttime snowcoach tour and breakfast on both days, iceskate rental, etc. Very nice.
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Old Dec 8th, 2014, 08:20 PM
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Thank you Sludick. There is availability at the snow lodge so I will give them a call. Very excited as getting to YS is feeling more of s possibility!!
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Old Dec 9th, 2014, 03:07 AM
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Yellowstone during winter will be a nice experience. I've not heard many doing that in recent times. You must be awfully brave. And yes, naive also.
Besty from my side.
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Old Dec 9th, 2014, 05:59 AM
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I wouldn't say "naive," as long as one is aware that you cannot actually drive into the park. Yellowstone is wonderful in the winter, you have the place almost to yourself, animals all over, wonderful snow features.

LakesideChick, that does bring up one of your first questions, about a car. You will need to rely upon snow coaches, as the park is closed to vehicles during the winter. But it sounds as though you already have that lined up, with a tour? Where will they pick you up to take you into the park?
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Old Dec 9th, 2014, 03:54 PM
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You can drive through part of the park in winter. The road from the north entrance to Cooke City is open all year. We did this several years ago staying at a B&B in Gardiner. The road goes through Lamar Valley which is a prime wildlife/wolf watching area.

However it seems like the OP doesn't want to drive so a tour or snow coach would be other options. During our trip we spent one night at Old Faithful and took a snow coach both ways.

Yellowstone is magical in winter. Here's my old trip report http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...and-photos.cfm
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Old Dec 9th, 2014, 04:28 PM
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This is the website for the park concessionaire (Xanterra) which operates the two in park accommodations (Mammoth and Snow Lodge at Old Faithful) that are open in winter http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/ We booked our one night at the Snow Lodge and snow coach through them and did everything else on our own.

There's also accommodation outside of the park in Gardiner (by the north entrance with vehicle access to Cooke City), West Yellowstone (by the west entrance where you need a snow coach to enter) and Flagg Ranch (by the south entrance where you also need a snow coach).
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Old Dec 10th, 2014, 05:23 AM
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Ah, I am ready to go back for another winter visit!!
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Old Dec 10th, 2014, 05:41 AM
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We stayed at Flagg ranch in the summer. It was our least favorite place on a 2 week trip.
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Old Dec 11th, 2014, 09:20 AM
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Mammoth and Snow Lodge are among the few places open in winter, if not the only ones, and a winter tour should include both.

There are a lot of day excursions from Mammoth. Take the parks sponsored ones, rather than private. They are the same except the private tours are much more expensive. I took an all day wildlife tour from Mammoth and we saw all kinds of wildlife, including a wolf who crossed the road right in front of our van.

Mammoth is a very old fashioned and basic lodge, but it's a typical early NP lodge with a nice atmosphere. The restaurant is excellent. Snow Lodge is more modern and very nice.

Travel between the two is by snow coach during the winter months.

I did winter in Yellowstone a few years ago and loved it. We had surprisingly mild weather and a lot less snow than usual -- which was a bit of a disappointment, but not a great one.
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