Most Locals will say the winters are so quiet in Silver Gate, Mont., located at the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, that you can hear the snow fall.

And that’s not exaggerating. It’s the only time of the year where you just may feel like you’re one of the early explorers of Yellowstone in the 1800s. In nearby Lamar Valley in Yellowstone, you’ll spot wolves and bison with ease since they stand out against the snowy landscape. In Mammoth Hot Springs to the west, the steam erupting through the cold air provides a more dramatic show than in summer. And you may only see one other car on the road.

Part of the reason why it’s so quiet is because the North Entrance, which sits in Gardiner, Montana., is only park entrance open to cars in the winter. And once you drive in, the only road open to cars is the ribbon of road that unravels across the Blacktail Plateau and Lamar Valley to the village of Silver Gate and charming town of Cooke City. For those interested in reaching other areas of the park, you must leave your car behind and pay to ride a snowcoach— a van with huge snow tires — run by Yellowstone National Park Lodges from Mammoth Hot Springs.

While the park is covered with a heavy blanket of snow, there is no shortage of fun things to do and explore. From cross-country skiing, solitude-fueled scenic drives, wildlife-viewing, snowmobiling and hot springs dips, your biggest decision each morning will be narrowing down your list of daily adventures.

“You have the complete array  of sports from snowshoeing in a quiet and serene setting to pursuing speed and ultimate power with snowmobiles,” says the executive director of Colter Pass, Cooke City, Silver Gate Chamber of Commerce.

The biggest bonus to exploring the northern edge of the park? It’s renowned for its wildlife, many of which dwell in the famed Lamar Valley. Plus there are two classic Montana towns that sit at the two northern entrances to the park, filled with people who make you feel part of the family: Gardiner and Cooke City.

“If you ask almost anyone in Gardiner what their favorite time of year is, they’ll say ‘winter,’” says Neala Fugere, marketing director at the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a really special time — wildlife like bison and elk are right in town. I once saw wolves with binoculars from my office window. Plus, it’s just more relaxed in winter. Guests feel like family.”

Relish Amazing Wildlife-Watching

For an incredible 1.5-hour (without stops) scenic drive, head out of Gardiner east on the Grand Loop Road through the Lamar Valley to Cooke City. Along the way, you’ll spot herds of bison fanning out along the gentle hillsides, their ancient-looking faces frosted with glistening ice crystals. Keep your eyes peeled for wolves.

The Lamar Valley is known as America’s Serengeti because of the extraordinary number of wildlife living there. After wildlife-watching, enjoy a burger or hand-tossed pizza at the Miners Saloon in Cooke City.

Like to play in the Snow? You will have plenty! Cross Country Ski Heaven

While in Cooke City, take the Bannock Ski Trail to Silver Gate and into Yellowstone. The trail between Cooke City and Silver Gate is three miles and the Warm Creek Trail into Yellowstone is an additional three miles.

The Barronette Ski Trail is an easy 3.5-mile, one-way route down the Old Cooke City road that cuts through the heart of a conifer forest. For seasoned backcountry skiers or snowshoers, try Pebble Creek Ski Trail, a 13-mile, rated by the park service as a “most difficult” tour.

You won’t find REI or the like in Gardiner or Cooke City, aside from premium apparel for snowmobiling, so pack everything you need with you before you arrive in Yellowstone

Ride a Snowmobile

You know snowmobiling is popular in the Cooke City area when you can only reach three of its lodges in winter via snowmobile: Skyline Guest Ranch, Big Moose Resort and Big Bear Lodge.

You can rent snowmobiles at Bearclaw Sales and Services and Cooke City Exxon. Both sell technical riding gear and accessories. Ride on the 60-plus miles of groomed trails outside the park or on the Beartooth Highway, which closes to vehicle traffic in the winter.

BearTooth Powder Guides

Whether you are in search of powder skiing, cross country skiing, or a leisurely hike on snowshoes, Beartooth Powder Guides can cater to everyone’s needs and desires for winter exploration of Yellowstone National Park. The remoteness and wildness of Yellowstone in the winter makes for one of the most unique winter backcountry experiences in all the world. Beartooth Powder Guides can take you to the deep POWDER stashes of Yellowstone Park, take you on a search for coyote, fox and wolf tracks, or show you some of the amazing frozen waterfalls in the area. 

Come experience the best that the Cooke City area has to offer! It is our mission to show you around the mountains, meet any goals, and have a safe experience. With local knowledge and professional training we’ll certainly make sure you get the most out of your trip.

Every guide holds a current Wilderness First Responder Certification, has Avalanche Training and years of personal experience in the mountains.

Check out ALL the Winter Events in Cooke and plan your Yellowstone Adventure NOW!