Yellowstone in Winter—January 2010

By David Halgrimson

Although no longer offered as a current workshop, Yellowstone in Winter is a great example of the types of workshops Arizona Highways PhotoScapes does offer and…you never know, Yellowstone in Winter could return, keep watching.

For my 8th Arizona Highways PhotoScapes Workshop as a volunteer, I was fortunate to draw Yellowstone in Winter, although I wasn’t sure about the winter part. A few years prior, I had the opportunity to drive through and stay one night but this trip would be beyond comparison.

Our photographer for this workshop lived in Jackson, WY, aka Jackson Hole, a town in the Jackson Hole valley, and would meet with us the day prior to the workshop.

My fellow Photo Guide and I flew into Bozeman, MT the day before the start of the workshop, as we needed time to prepare for the workshop starting the next day. After getting our preparations completed, we had a little time to explore Bozeman and found a few places for interesting architectural photos.

This old mill was converted into a gallery

Our first day we met with our participants and outfitters and headed to Gardiner, MT where we would stay for our first night. Gardiner is right outside the north entrance to Yellowstone, and we were able to get out for an evening shoot in the Upper Terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. We needed to be careful of slippery ice and snow for the short hike but found interesting landscapes with steam rising from flowing frosted ponds.


Day two would find us heading to Cook City, MT where we would be lodging for the night. Cook City is a small town to the northeast of Yellowstone and the only way to get there in winter is by traveling across the top of Yellowstone through Lamar Valley and Soda Butte on US-212.

The weather was mild for the time of year with high temps of 25 and lows of 2 degrees Fahrenheit. US-212 to Cook City was plowed in winter and on the way we had ample opportunity for some great wildlife and landscape photography in Lamar Valley.

The road across upper Yellowstone
A Bighorn Sheep watching a Coyote cross the ridge

A big bird after a small critter
Bison were everywhere
Humans here and there

Out again on day three, we spent time along US-212 between Cook City and Tower Junction. We had snow, snow and more snow today and we found bison, coyote, big horn sheep, birds and even wolf.

We made a special stop at Dan Hartman’s home/studio. Dan is an award-winning photographer and friend of our photographer on the workshop. He gave us a presentation and allowed us to shoot from inside his home, through open windows as birds and squirrels fed on seeds and nuts.

After visiting and thanking Dan for opening his home to us, we headed out for Soda Butte and the River Picnic Area where we found more big horn sheep, wolves, and a coyote.

Wolves along a ridge about a quarter mile away

Yes, we got quite close, but quietly and slowly
Coyote on the hunt for critters under the snow

We awoke on day four with excitement for more snow and opportunities for more great photo opportunities of wildlife and landscapes. From here we switched to snow coaches for our move further south into Yellowstone; four-wheel vehicles were not allowed as the roads were heavy with snow and required vehicles with tracks vs. tires. The coaches were crowded, cold and a little uncomfortable but they got us everywhere without issue. We planned for shoots in Lamar Valley, Blacktail Deer Ridge, Undine Falls, and the Mammoth Springs Visitor Center. To add to our experience along the way, we found bison, coyote hunting for mice under the snow, big horn sheep and elk.

An early start on day five began with a shoot in the Gallatin Range where we overlooked the Gallatin mountains, found snow covered bison and took a respite from our snow coaches.

One of our snow coaches

Today we also moved to new lodging at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge near to Old Faithful, just a short walk away. Later, back in the snow coaches we went to the Norris Geyser Basin, Firehole Canyon and Firehole Falls and other places of interest.

Steam rising around the trees in Norris Geyser Basin

Day six we visited Lower Yellowstone Falls, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and Artist Point. Along the way we found coyotes, eagles, trumpeter swans, bison, frozen waterfalls, and of course, we took our group photo.

Firehole Canyon
Firehole Falls

On our final day, we spent time around the geysers near Old Faithful.

I had issues with a dirty sensor and did not get a shot of Old Faithful but managed a few shots of some of the other geysers.

Our day and the workshop ended with great praise, and it was time to head back to Bozeman…but there was one last shoot. We came upon something some in our group were hoping to see—a wolf kill. No, a wolf had not been killed but a pack of three, an alpha male, an alpha female and a pup had taken down a small elk in the river and pulled it to shore. As luck would have it, the wolves were still at the site when we came by. The elk had been pulled behind some downed trees so we did not have a great view but could see them feeding.

If you ever get the chance to visit and photograph Yellowstone in winter or anytime, do it—it is an amazing experience. It is fantastic in winter, and there are very few people around. My drive through two years prior had no comparison with the experiences during this workshop.

You might want to check out a similar workshop coming up in December 2022. This will be in Jackson WY, next door to Yellowstone: Moose in Moose, WY.

David Halgrimson is a Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes