Zephyr Adventures completed a 4-night, 5-day cross-country ski and snowshoe tour in Montana and Yellowstone National Park in February. Sub-zero temperatures and tromping through the woods may not be some peoples’ idea of a good time but the rich,
inviting beauty of seeing Big Sky country in all its glory and with just a fraction of the tourists you see in the summer was worth bundling up for. It certainly warmed everyone’s sense of adventure and love of nature.
Our tour group of 11 (all women!) hailed from all different parts of the country – some had visited Yellowstone before and others had not. Visiting the Park in the winter is almost an uncanny experience – there just aren’t a lot of people who tour in the winter months! 2+ million people visited Yellowstone during June, July, and August in 2012. By comparison, just a little over 31,000 people visited in February in the same year. The difference in winter is remarkable: the trails are quiet, snow blankets the geothermal landscape, and the animals can easily be seen. And boy, did we see animals last month in Yellowstone!
The following list of furry critters (do bison qualify as “critters”?) is not exhaustive of what we saw in the Park’s winter wonderland, but our animal highlights included:
- Bald Eagles
- Trumpeter Swans
- Wolf – tracks
- Bear – tracks
- Weasel – tracks
Coyotes were out and about, yipping and roaming along Yellowstone’s waterways and trails; we saw several elk soaking up the sun on warmer days; Trumpeter swans, the only bird that migrates into the Park during the winter, holed up in eddies in the Madison River, looking for aquatic life to munch on.
Two of our guests and I even had the opportunity to share our cross-country ski trail with a bison…
Some of our group visited the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone on the 4th day, before or after skiing at Rendezvous. They had a chance to see grizzly bears and wolves who were rehabilitated from accidents in the wild or abandoned at birth and see these majestic animals up close and personal. Listening to the wolves at the Discovery Center howl at night and just down the road from our cabins outside of the Park on a clear, starry Big Sky evening was amazing.
Who knows what we will see and experience on next year’s Winter Yellowstone Adventure. Bigfoot sneaking around through the trees? Probably not…but I know there will be lots of animals, beautiful vistas and geothermal activity that is truly unique to the Park’s 2.2 million acres.
You’ll have the chance to join in on daily snowshoeing and/or cross-country skiing, and awesome camaraderie as we experience a true winter wonderland.