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Yellowstone 101: A how-to guide on experiencing Yellowstone National Park in winter

January 15, 2016

First things first, you need a good breakfast and a snowcoach.

What’s a snowcoach you may ask? It’s a bus with treads. The roads are so snow covered that it would be impossible to drive a car. You also must have a guide to take you through the park in the winter. Then, make sure you have two full water bottles because even though it is cold and snowy, the air is very dry. You need layers, layers and more layers to keep you warm as you get on and off the snowcoach as well as the constantly changing weather, snow and wind chill. Make sure you have your binoculars and camera. You never know when you may spot something new and interesting.

Chris Brady with binoculars

Chris Brady looking for wildlife

Just like Yellowstone gets a clean slate of snow in winter, we started our day off with the quiet you can only experience by being in a place so remote and isolated.

people laying in snow

Having a moment of silence in a blanket of snow at Swan Lake Flats

With all of your senses awakened, you can begin your journey observing the many wonders of Yellowstone. You may see trumpeter swans, a coyote on the frozen Yellowstone River, a partially frozen waterfall in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, an American dipper in and out of the river, bison in Hayden Valley and a rarely seen black-backed woodpecker. You can hear the crunch of the snow, the bubbling of mudpots, the call of a raven and the roar of the snowcoach. You may feel the cold of the snow on your thighs when you unexpectedly step into a snow drift, and you’ll feel the difference between a friendly fir and a spiky spruce if you touch their branches.


Black-backed Woodpecker

Our guide told us about an interesting phenomenon that he called “atmospheric clarity” when we were visiting the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Yellowstone has such good atmospheric clarity because there is no air pollution or humidity that interferes with visibility. In Yellowstone you are able to make out the details of a tree miles away because there is nothing clouding your view.

canyon reflected in sunglasses

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone through Sarah’s eyes.

Today was a great first day in Yellowstone. We utilized all of our senses to experience the park and applied all of our “how-to” knowledge to be prepared to enjoy a winter day in Yellowstone. We can’t wait to see what the rest of our time in Yellowstone holds!

Sunset at West Thumb Geyser Basin

By the Coyote team: Miranda, Megan F., Mark and Chris C.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Leah Buckley permalink
    January 16, 2016 9:03 am

    I just saw you all walking around the geyser basin as the snow fell…..ahhhh….the memories!

  2. Nancy permalink
    January 16, 2016 9:35 am

    Love your blog and pictures! I want to be there, too!

  3. January 16, 2016 2:04 pm

    I’m feeling it! Thank you for letting us come along! Can’t wait to see and hear all about it. Stay safe and soak it all in for us!

  4. Carol and Randi Kaye permalink
    January 17, 2016 10:25 am

    Megan F, Wow! what an amazing sunset. I can only imagine all of the wonderful things you are experiencing and learning to take back to your classroom.

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