People change the nature of the park. The yearly average of visitors is of 3 million but during the winter it drops to around 200,000. During the peak season there are traffic jams and the park rangers seem to be overworked and short tempered. No wonder, visitors think that the bears and buffaloes are friendly creatures; not a single year goes by that fatalities occur. So definitely the winter time is the best time to go with the bonus of the snowy landscapes. At this time, most of the visitors appear to be affluent.
During the winter, most of the park is closed to private vehicle traffic and except for section of the roads; the road from Gardiner (above) in the NW entrance to the park to Cooke City in the NE entrance is the only opened, weather conditions permitting. Why only this road? It is the only road that provides access to Cooke City residents as well as supplies, not to mention the school buses that bring the students to the schools in Gardiner. Cook City is the major center for snowmobiling in the winter.
Cooke City is an awesome place to be during a snow storm as seen above…the Bistro was our regular hang-out while there no better place for a Club Sandwich or homemade hot Bowl of Chili.
The Lamar Valley road is a major attraction for the observation and photographing of wolves. One difference I noticed is that during the warm/mild seasons, the majority those are tourists are mostly wolf watchers, but during the winter, photographers outnumbered all others. There were a few photography tours whose students were indoctrinated into how to behave in the park…these were well meaning amateurs spent their time telling non-tour participants where to go and not to go rather than taking photos. Some of us got cursed for wandering into the snowfields to photograph frozen creeks claiming that the areas were restricted. This is not true during the winter, only the areas a near the vicinity of the wolves’ liars when they are having babies in the spring and summer are closed.
Photographers line-up along the road searching for their award winning shot. There are so many people visiting this park during the year that I wonder if these animals are really wild. The buffaloes, elks, horn sheep and even the coyotes, walk by so close that the use of those expensive telephotos are overkill. Except for the wolves and the pumas; these I consider still wild because they hard to see or photograph.
I did go into the restricted areas of the park when the only access is by tracked vehicles run by the concessionaires in charge of the accommodations. We rented a Bombardier with a driver to take us around the park in the restricted areas of the park. Travel is only limited to the regular roads; there are also snowmobiles for group rentals and these area also limited to the main roads. We stayed in the cabins near Old Faithful.