Winter in Yellowstone 2020

Two weeks ago I took a workshop in Yellowstone National Park, a trip I've dreamed of doing for years, especially in winter. It was even more beautiful and interesting than I imagined it would be! I know there's an abundance of wildlife in Yellowstone, but to see as much as we did in the two days were out driving around was more than I hoped for. The interesting and various landscapes we encountered were also amazing - rivers, frozen lakes, geysers, snow-filled valleys and mountains.

We began our trip by shuttling into Mammoth Hot Springs to shoot there and spend the night. The travertine terraces that build up below the hot springs are quite colorful and have very interesting textures, and the steam rising from the hot water makes for an other-worldly scene.

View of Mammoth Hot Springs buildings from Upper Terrace.

Lower Terrace, Mammoth Hot Springs 
Lower Terrace, Mammoth Hot SpringsWe left Mammoth the next morning for our ride on show coaches to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge in Geyser Basin. The coaches seat 14 and have large windows so you have a good view of all of the scenery. These coaches, and snowmobiles, are the only vehicles that are allowed into the park during the winter as all but one road have 2 feet of packed snow.

Once we reached the lodge we spent the afternoon shooting in Geyser Basin. We were particularly interested in Old Faithful, and it didn't disappoint. It was an overcast, gray day so I decided to convert this to a B&W image.

Old Faithful Geyser, Geyser Basin, Yellowstone NP 


The next day we also spent shooting in Geyser Basin and the sun was out, which helped bring out the colors in the thermal pools. There are about 4.5 miles of boardwalks that meander through all of the geysers and thermal pools, which are numerous and of all sizes.


Doublet Pool, Geyser Basin 


The image below of a bacteria mat reminds me of an aerial photograph.

Bacteria mat at thermal pool, Geyser Basin.


Below, I was shooting a thermal pool from the boardwalk when I heard rumbling, and then rushing water. When I looked to my left a small geyser was erupting right in front of me! It shot at least 30 ft. into the air and lasted about 5 minutes. I enjoyed watching it until the wind shifted and it started spraying me with water, which kind of freaked me out, so I moved away from it. It was very cool to be so close to an erupting geyser!

Small geyser erupting as I'm standing on the nearby boardwalk. 


The next day we spent the whole day driving along the Firehole, Gibbons and Madison Rivers, shooting landscape and wildlife.

The Red Fox below was running along the tree line and exited the trees long enough to get a few shots. This was the first Red Fox I've seen, having only Gray Fox where I live in California.

Red Fox, Yellowstone NP 
Bald Eagle, Yellowstone NP 
Trumpeter Swan, Yellowstone NP 


We stopped for lunch at a pullout along the road, then started walking down a short road to a bridge over the river to shoot, when these two male Bison started walking down the road toward us, stopping to practice their sparring from time to time. They would joust a bit, then walk toward us, joust and walk toward us, so we gave up trying to get to the bridge and scurried back to the bus. Our driver/guide told us that Bison can run about 35 mph and can jump 6 feet!

Jousting Bison, Yellowstone NP 


A little later we were driving along this same road and saw this coyote on a snow bank eating a Trumpeter Swan and it's mate ran up to share in the meal. We watched them for at least 20-30 minutes, and it was astounding how quickly they devoured this swan!



Coyotes eating a Trumpeter Swan, Yellowstone NP 


We also saw this very interesting stand of Bobby Socks trees. The bases of the trees turn white from the minerals in the thermal water that soak into the tree, making them appear to be wearing Bobby Socks.

Bobby Socks Trees, Yellowstone NP 


Our last full day in the park was again out and about in a snow coach, this time headed toward Yellowstone Lake and Hayden Valley. The lake was frozen, with about 2 feet of ice, which is amazing to me given the size of the lake.

When we got to Hayden Valley it was extremely windy with snow drifting over the road. We stopped to eat our lunch, and then noticed these snow covered hills with the light playing across them. The wind was so fierce that using a tripod was useless and I could barely hold my ground. This is one of my favorite shots of the trip.

Snow Dunes, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone NP 


We also stopped along this river, I can't remember which one, to shoot the river from a bridge, when we spotted this otter. It came out of the river, ran a bit upstream, then stopped in some snow and rolled around before slipping back into the water. Our driver/guide said they do this to aerate or fluff their fur, which helps keep them warm.





Our last stop was to shoot Lower Yellowstone Falls, which is mostly frozen this time of year. The frozen water makes for interesting patterns and colors.

Lower Yellowstone Falls 


While shooting the falls I turned to look down the canyon behind me and the sun was breaking through the clouds, illuminating part of the canyon.

Yellowstone Falls Canyon 


I hope you can get a sense from these images just how amazing Yellowstone is. This was my first visit during the winter and I really enjoyed experiencing winter with the very cold temperatures (highs in the low 20's and in the teens overnight, though that was a warm spell) and the abundance of snow. There are also very few people in the park in the winter, which I find very enjoyable. Mostly I enjoyed the sheer magnitude of the park, the infinitely varied landscape and geology, and the abundance of wildlife. Here's hoping we can protect this park for generations to come so we can all get just a little taste of what it is to be wild.

2 thoughts on “Winter in Yellowstone 2020”

  1. Wonderful images! All of them 🙂
    Snow Dunes- Hayden Valley is full on exquisite!!!
    Thanks for sharing. The e-mail helped me tag your new images!
    Keep shooting! Dana

    • Thank you Dana! I think Snow Dunes is my favorite of the bunch. Since you live near the park you don’t need me to tell you how beautiful it is, but the park in winter just blew me away with its abundance of wildlife and the varied landscape. It just exquisite. I thought of you the whole time I was there.


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