If you’ve been following along, you know that we are going on a winter vacation with our two toddlers. People seem to be questioning why we’d take a three year old and a two year old and head north into snow and ice territory. The answer is three-fold: there are fewer tourists which means I can let my minions run without having to worry about other visitors, hotels are cheaper because it’s the off season, and it’s BEAUTIFUL.
During winter, the only road that’s open to cars is the north pass that starts in Gardiner, MT and heads down into Mammoth Hot Springs. Originally, I thought we could drive through the park, take the road through Cooke City, and continue on up the 212 through Red Lodge. It turns out that this is not the case. It gets so snowy that close the whole shebanga bang after Tower Junction. At least we figured it out before we made plans. The good thing about having two toddlers is that they are small and they are easily impressed.
We booked the Comfort Inn in Livingston, MT and set off into the park. We started seeing wildlife on the drive to the park. It got even better once we actually entered the park. We saw elk, deer, and TONS of bison. Surprisingly, it wasn’t super snowy and the roads were clear.
First stop was the Visitor’s Center. It’s a cute little place with clean bathroom with diaper changing station (important for traveling with toddlers), taxidermy of animals found in the park, lots of history (did you know they used to allow people to feed the bears? I know. Crazy! Lol), and a small gift shop. They even went all-in and have the cutest bear tile in the bathrooms.
Anyhoo … we played in the snow for a bit before heading over to see the geothermal activity.
The kids really enjoyed throwing snow at each other and chasing us around. They weren’t so thrilled to get back in the car but the drive up the road but it was literally a two minute drive. The walk to the hot springs was on a wooden bridge. It was an easy, and brief, walk for both little ones. They ran back and forth on the bridge a few times and were ready to up to the other hot springs. It was cold and my partner wasn’t feeling it so we hopped back in the car and drove up the mountain until we reached a pass that was blocked from cards and could only be used with skis or snowshoes.
We turned back and decided to check out the waterfalls. The drive was short and we were able to see lots of bison.
Getting to the waterfalls was an adventure because the stairs were iced over into a small hill. I had to clutch the rail and slide down inch by inch but the view was amazing. Climbing back up was also a challenge but it was worth it. I’m glad I left the kids in the car though.
It started getting dark and with so many animals roaming the streets we decided to head back to Livingston (about 90 minutes away). It’s a good thing we did. We learned at Grand Tetons that animals are SUPER active at sunrise and sunset, apparently the animals on the north road at Yellowstone are the same. We saw lots of animals heading … wherever animals head. Lol
It was a great visit and I’d definitely take the kids back during winter. There was just enough snow and just enough adventure for my little ones to go to sleep as soon as we started driving home.