Gone are the days when you can take your own snowmobile into the park and tour at your own pace. Now you must go with a guided group.
The tour to Old Faithful leaves early in the morning. Be prepared for pickup at your hotel around 6:30am. An expanded continental breakfast of rolls, cereal, fruit, juice, milk, and coffee is served at the office. After breakfast you are suited up for the trip: snowsuit, boots, helmet, and gloves. Bring your own gator to keep your neck warm or wear a good turtleneck. Sunglasses may also be needed.
It is still dark when your group leaves on the hour ride to the south entrance of Yellowstone by van. In the Flagg Ranch area the snowmobiles are unloaded, and you have one last chance to go to the restroom and buy a snack at the little shop.
Then it is off into the winter wonderland of Yellowstone for a 100-mile trip. This day is cloudy and cold, but not bitter. The grips on the snowmobile (even the ones on the back for a passenger) are warmed, so your hands stay pretty warm. The wind, though, does bite at your face and neck.
Lots of stops are made to view wildlife and take pictures. We see waterfalls and snow-studded rivers and walk on frozen Lake Lewis. The guide is knowledgeable, and we learned some things about Yellowstone we didn't know, even though we have made many visits there in winter and summer.
We arrive at Old Faithful at lunchtime. We watch it erupt against a gray sky and head for the Geyser Cafe for lunch. We are allowed to order anything on the menu as part of our fee. It serves fairly typical fast food and is quite good. After lunch, we walk the boardwalks in the Old Faithful Basin together, seeing some buffalo, wild geese, and a coyote. There is not enough snow in the park this time to continue on to Biscuit Basin, where usually more wildlife is seen. Snow machines are not allowed beyond Old Faithful.
The return trip has several more stops. The guide shows a place where the water from a small lake flows in two different directions at the Continental Divide at Craig Pass.
It is getting dark again as we pull into the Flagg Ranch area gas station. Hot chocolate sold in the shop is a big hit! We pile back in the van for the return trip to Jackson tired and happy. Once everyone has turned in the snow clothes and picked up their belongings, the guide returns us all to our respective lodgings in the van about 6pm.
FYI--Drivers must have a driver's license because this trip is on the roads of Yellowstone.
For information and reservations, call 1-800-647-2561 or log on to the website Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Tours.