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Snow Kissed Yellowstone in the Winter

Posted on Mar 7, 2012 by in Domestic, Travel | 7 comments

Hot Springs

Itinerary: Las Vegas, NV to Missoula, MT
Length: 2 Days
Cost: $345 per person, all inclusive*
Pts Earned: 3,500 (valued at $50) + Elite Qualification

They say Yellowstone is beautiful in every season and they weren’t wrong.  One of our first and most memorable trips last year was to Yellowstone National Park.  The flight was booked as  a “status run”, that is a flight booked with the sole purpose of maintaining or attaining elite status at one of the airlines.  Elite status comes with perks such as mileage multipliers, free upgrades to First Class, lounge access,  etc.  (rationale and mechanics to be covered in a later post).  This being one of our earlier trips when we had less frugal travel savvy under our belts, the price points for the flights and other incidentals are higher than our average trip today, but still quite low compared to booking your standard discount fare (average non-refundable fare alone would run you $300).  To convince me to play along with his mileage game, my husband lured me with the prospect of visiting one of our nation’s great national parks – Glacier National Park – about a three hour drive from Missoula, MT.

Alas, Glacier would have to be saved for another day, as we found out on the day of our flight that the park was still mostly closed to traffic due to weather.  Never fear, a quick internet search revealed that Yellowstone had just opened for the season and was just a hop and a skip (okay,  5 hours) away. This last minute change of plans proved to be a blessing in disguise.

The drive, though long, was picturesque, and the air was nippy and fresh.  Before my usual roadtrip crankiness could even set in, we were there.   The Yellowstone that awaited us was unlike any I had seen in pictures or on travel shows.  The only way I can think to describe it is as a sleepy giant that was slowly beginning to awaken to the dawn.   There had been incessant chatter in the car during our drive, but when we entered the park, we became speechless as we drove deeper and deeper into the snow laden valley.

View along the drive

The park was empty, save for a handful of like-minded winter travelers, and we had the winter wonderland to ourselves for the 5 brief hours we would be there.  Like kids at Disneyland, complete with the wonder and giggles, we slowly made our way from vantage point to majestic vantage point, each one different than the last.

Yellowstone River

Mammoth Hot Springs

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Prismatic Springs

Twilight marked the end of the day, and with the darkness seeping in, we grudgingly made our way back to our car and headed to our motel.  It was a short trip, but just enough to recharge our wearied spirits and inspire us to come back again.

* Total Cost Breakdown for Two People      $690
Air: $460
Car Rental: $20
Gas: $80
Hotel: $90
Food: $40
Activities/Incidentals: (fee free weekend – yay!) $-
  • Nice write up. Thanks for liking mine. Pat Bean

    • Thanks for stopping by, Pat! Love your blog.

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  • Nguyen

    Very nice pictures.   We would love to visit both parks in one trip.  Where should we fly in and stay?

    • Missoula is about 4-5 hours to Yellowstone, and 2 hours from Glacier. When we went last April (around this time), part of Yellowstone had just opened. We entered through the North Entrance located in Gardiner, MT, and stayed at a Super 8 at the North Entrance (the only chain hotel closest to the entrance). The night we got into Missoula, we stayed at a Red Lion near the airport (got it through Travelocity Secret Hotel). Like Prana said, you can use Kayak to get some ideas of what hotels are near the cities you are going to be, and then go from there. If you have a Costco membership, you can call Wyndham directly, and the discount is usually better than the AAA rate. During summer months, the West  (in West Yellowstone, Idaho) and South entrances (near Jackson, Wyoming) to Yellowstone are open, too. We have friends here in Vegas who drove to Yellowstone (one night rest in Salt Lake City, Utah). Have fun planning your trip! Let us know if we could be of any help!

  • We flew into Missoula, MT, but that was more a function of cheap fare availability than convenience.  I believe the closest airport to Glacier is Kalispell, MT.  Most national parks don’t have a lot of 4 star hotel options, so you’ll likely choose from 1-3 star inns/motels.  Check Kayak for ideas and also if you book thru Wyndham, try for a AAA or Costco rate.  Have a great time!  Stop by and let us know about Glacier – we still haven’t been there yet!  

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  • Aria

    $20 for the car rental? Is that a daily expense? I want to plan our Yellowstone trip, and your blog comes in handy. Thanks.

    • Yes, the $20 was the daily rate but I wouldn’t rely on that as I imagine rates have moved around a lot since then.