Solitude and Wildlife in Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Every year 3 million people show up at Yellowstone, and only a tiny fraction of them do so during winter. But agoraphobia isn't reason enough to wait for the snow to fall: Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are at their peak, and the park's many geothermal features attract heat-seeking wildlife, which are easier to spot in all that snow. Besides, you can watch Old Faithful spew forth virtually alone, a vast improvement over summer months, when hordes as large as 10,000 can crowd around, looking to snag a selfie. On a clear winter day you can wander out just minutes from the newly renovated Old Faithful Snow Lodge and get lost in the pines with geese, foxes, bison, owls, and moose. Of course, if it's wolves you want, head east to Lamar Valley. (You can stay just outside the park in the town of Mammoth.) "In terms of population and accessibility, there's no better place in the lower 48 to see wolves," says Yellowstone's Rick Hoeninghausen. Plus, in winter, deep snow brings the canines down from the high backcountry for easier hunting — and viewing. Even they know enough to avoid the summer crowds.
Fly to: Bozeman, the only large airport with access to the park's western entrance.
Stay: Old Faithful Snow Lodge has deck views of the geyser, and the park offers a shuttle from Bozeman airport. [yellowstonenationalparklodges.com]