Yellowstone in Winter

“How to Survive at -27 F: Hand Warmers, Keep Moving, Surprise Hot Chocolate”

Our day began with a sunrise hike to Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin. It was an absolutely beautiful morning with pre-dawn light tinting the sky blue and pink. We were graced with an eruption of Old Faithful at 7:47 am against that spectacular background.

Old Faithful eruption just before dawn

As we walked across the Firehole River to Geyser Hill, we measured a temperature of -27°F. We made short stops to look at geysers and hot springs, but kept ourselves moving so we wouldn’t get too cold. As we walked past Lion Geyser, we were surprised as it started to erupt! We turned around, and in the opposite direction, we watched as the sun peaked out of the far ridgeline between lodgepole pine trees. In temperatures this cold, whenever we walked through steam from a thermal feature, the moisture in the air froze to our hair and clothing, and even our eyelashes.

Angie’s hood provided the perfect site for rime ice to form!

Shortly after departing from Old Faithful in our snowcoach, we stopped to hike to Black Sands Pool through about a foot of snow. Near the rim of the spring, where heat from the hot water below had melted any snow away, we laid down on the obsidian gravel covered ground. We were able to feel thumps in the ground below us caused by small steam explosions underground.

Our next stop was Midway Geyser Basin, where the huge amounts of steam produced by Excelsior Geyser coated the trees in rime ice. The lodgepole pines looked like the trees in Whoville! We took another weather measurement and the temperature was 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit while the wind chill was -17.5 degrees Fahrenheit, quite balmy after our frigid morning!

Ice-covered trees at Midway Geyser Basin

As we traveled north towards Mammoth, we got to stop at a warming hut where they served hot chocolate and snacks. We even got to use the bathroom in a heated building (every other bathroom up until this point had been in a pit toilet which had no heat or light).

Styling and profiling while waiting in line for the pit toilet

The brief moments of warmth and luxury still paled in comparison to the splendor we experienced among Yellowstone’s most famous geothermal features. Tomorrow, we head to the Lamar Valley again to look for more of Yellowstone’s other most famous features, the wildlife.



  • Pam Winterrowd

    5 months ago

    Geysers are always amazing to watch, but that shot of Old Faithful is just stunning. And to have Lion go off, what a treat! And 13 wolves and their interactions with bison! What an incredible adventure this is for you guys. I’m definitely living vicariously this week (except for the unheated pit toilet). Looking forward to each awe-inspiring blog entry. And Angie, you rock the hood!

  • Steve Prentice-Dunn

    5 months ago

    Thanks for all the updates. It’s great to follow your journey!

  • Tonya Dobson

    5 months ago

    Excellent pics from what looks like a fabulous day. Angie, love the hood with rime ice! I’m thinking perfect for a new banner pic for the Yellowstone in Winter Institute.

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