Cross Country Skiing
Cross country skiing is one of the top ways to experience the park in the winter months. From West Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, or Cooke City, you can easily embark on any winter trail. Or head deep into the park via snowmobile or snowcoach and explore cross country ski trails near Old Faithful.
Where can I go cross-country skiing in Yellowstone?
Mammoth Hot Springs
In the immediate Mammoth Hot Springs area, the Upper Terrace Loop is groomed for cross country skiers. This is a great way to see geothermal features up close. Just a little south of Mammoth you’ll find a network of trails near Indian Creek.
If you've never ridden on a snowcoach, try it! This is a great way to get into Yellowstone's Interior for a day. The round-trip ticket includes pick up and return ride to Mammoth Hot Springs. There is a warming hut available as well, a great place to have lunch, meet friends who are skiing different loops, shelter while waiting for your ride back to Mammoth Hot Springs. Enjoy views of Bunsen Peak, part of which is the neck of an ancient volcano, as well as views of the Gallatin Range (Electric, Antler, Quadrant, Holmes Peaks). In January of 1887 the Schwatka-Haynes Expedition skied to Indian Creek and camped in minus 37 degree weather their first night.
- Indian Creek Loop: Begin at the warming hut. Follow the campground road north then west through the campground along Indian Creek. The trail will turn left (south) in about .5 miles and travel through gently rolling lodgepole forest. 2.2 miles, easiest, 50 feet elevation gain/loss.
- Bighorn Loop: Begin at the warming hut. Follow the Indian Creek Loop trail for the first mile, then continue west, making a loop through rolling terrain. After the loop, turn right and ski through gently rolling lodgepole forest to the ski hut. 5.5 miles, easiest to more difficult, 320 feet elevation gain/loss.
- Sheepeater Trail: Start at the warming hut. Ski this trail alone for 5 miles, or add it to one of the other trails (Indian Creek=7.2 miles, Bighorn Loop 10.5 miles, Bunsen Peak Trail: 9.4 miles). 5 miles, easiest, 60 feet elevation gain/loss.
- Bunsen Peak Trail: The trail starts at the base of Bunsen Peak, next to the road. Ski the old road around the base of the mountain. On the northeast side of Bunsen Peak, the road becomes very steep and winding, dropping 960 feet in 2.5 miles to Glen Creek. CAUTION! Some hairpin curves, can be dangerous when icy. The trail comes out in an employee housing area. Skiers must walk to the road for a ride or walk 1.3 miles back to Mammoth Hot Springs. 6 miles, easiest to most difficult, 1120 elevation gain/loss.
If you are visiting Yellowstone via the West Entrance, there are a few cross country ski trails easily accessible right from town.
- The Riverside Trail: can be accessed on Boundary Street, just north of the West Entrance. It’s 1 mile to access the loops and then you can take your pick from the short Downriver Loop (2.3 miles), the long Downriver Loop (3.5 miles), or the Upriver Loop (1.5 miles).
To access Old Faithful in the winter, you’ll either need to book a snowcoach or snowmobile tour. Once at Old Faithful, you can rent skis from the Bear Den and explore the following trails:
- Lone Star Geyser: This 9 mile round-trip cross country ski trail is one of the easiest in the area. Beginning at Old Faithful Snow Lodge, follow the Mallard Lake Trail to the Firehole River. The trail then crosses the main road at Kepler Cascades and follows the Firehole River all the way to Lone Star Geyser.
- Mystic Falls: This 7 mile round-trip trail is moderate. Follow the Biscuit Basin Trail to Morning Glory Pool and on to Biscuit Basin. The Mystic Falls trail is at the end of Biscuit Basin. Note that you may need to remove your skis and walk the last portion of the trail as thermal warmth typically melts most of the snow.
- Mallard Creek Trail: 12 miles round-trip, you can add an extra mile by visiting Mallard Lake. The trail includes a variety of terrain and is considered easy to difficult.
You’ll need to schedule a snowcoach tour or a ski drop to access the trails near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. From the warming hut, explore the Canyon Rim Trail to Inspiration Point. This 4.5 mile trail is easy at first and difficult near Inspiration Point. The Roller Coaster Trail is a difficult1.8 mile loop; it’s name describes it well.
From Mammoth Hot Springs, you'll need to set up a ski drop to this trailhead. Wolf and coyote tracks/sign are often seen along this trail and bighorn Sheep can be spotted in the cliffs across the Yellowstone River.
- Tower Falls: Start at the road's end. The trail to Tower Falls is groomed for skating or classic skiing. The trail gradually climbs along the road (closed in winter to motorized vehicles), passing Rainy Lake and Calcite Springs. If the wind is right you may smell the sulfur of Calcite Springs long before you see it. Continue past the basalt cliffs down to Tower Store (closed in winter). You'll find picnic tables for lunch and a short trail will lead you to the overlook of Tower Falls. This trail is 5 miles total (2.5 miles one way to the falls) easiest, 190 feet elevation gain/loss.
- 1 mile Option: Continue skiing up the road and turn right into the Tower Falls Campground exit road. Ski the loop through the campground and re-emerge at the Tower Store. Turn left and ski back to your vehicle. 1 mile, through the Tower Falls Campground, easy, 50 feet elevation gain/loss.
- Chittenden Loop Trail: Ski through the campground and up a summer maintenance road through lodgepole forest. After about 2.5 miles, you will come out on the Tower/Mt Washburn Road (unplowed). Turn left and ski down back to Tower Falls and on to your car. More advanced skiers might prefer to ski the route in the opposite direction for a gentler climb and a faster downhill. 5.3 mile loop, easiest to more difficult, 900 feet elevation gain/loss.
Are rentals available?
Cross country ski rentals are available at the Bear Den within the park. There are two locations: Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs.