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Driving Yellowstone national park-December-FWD Minivan-OK?

Seattle, Washington
4 posts
2 reviews
Driving Yellowstone national park-December-FWD Minivan-OK?

Hello All,

I live in Seattle and am planning a trip to YNP.

I plan to drive from Seattle - Gardiner to Cooke city and back from Dec 20-25th. Since only the north gate is open I can only drive from gardener to cooke city.

My question: I have a front wheel drive minivan(Toyota sienna) and is it OK driving in wintry conditions in YNP in a minivan? (Of course I will carry chains as a backup). I can't seem to find an AWD rental. Do I have to have an AWD or 4WD vehicle? Or are the road conditions THAT bad that a minivan is big NO. I have driven/lived in snow areas before. So am generally aware of driving in wintery road conditions.

I have heard YNP is beautiful in winter and would really love to have that experience, especially the wildlife. This will be my first trip to YNP.

For those who either live/have lived there or have driven there in winter - please suggest if it's OK to drive there in a minivan in winter or am I being paranoid?

Thanks in advance,

Vishal

9 replies to this topic
Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
34,731 posts
505 reviews
1. Re: Driving Yellowstone national park-December-FWD Minivan-OK?

Glad you found the forum.

Do you realize you can only see that one area of Yellowstone?

You cannot go to other areas like Old Faithful unless you take over snow transportation thru Xanterra which is the official lodging concession for the park. And you will need to also book lodging at the OF Snow lodge if that is your plan.

Seeing that one section is not seeing much of the beauty of Yellowstone imo. I would wait and come when you can access the entire park.

Chapel Hill, North...
Level Contributor
9,735 posts
39 reviews
2. Re: Driving Yellowstone national park-December-FWD Minivan-OK?

If you haven't already found this page it has info on winter travel in the park: https:/…visiting-yellowstone-in-winter.htm

Wednesbury, UK
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
17,190 posts
3. Re: Driving Yellowstone national park-December-FWD Minivan-OK?

Yes, dependant on road conditions you could drive the northern range route to Cooke City and back. But it’s that word dependant and we don’t have a crystal ball? My experience of it was the ice, and AWD, 4WD will be of no use if you hit an icy patch. Winter tires will be important.

I’m not sure it’s worth all the effort if your not going to take a snowcoach or snowmobile tour into the rest of the park, that is when you’ll see the real full beauty of winter in Yellowstone.

Wednesbury, UK
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
17,190 posts
4. Re: Driving Yellowstone national park-December-FWD Minivan-OK?

Plus, you timescale is very short.........4 nights.

2 days each way, leaving not a lot of time for contingency, or for exploring, even just off the road to Cooke City. There are snowshoeing and cross country skiing opportunities, etc along there.

Medford, Oregon
Level Contributor
24 posts
5. Re: Driving Yellowstone national park-December-FWD Minivan-OK?

I believe I"d stay home and plan my first visit to YNP at another time when there weren't so many unknowns about your trip!! By the time you get there it would probably be time to turn around and go home.

Jackson, Wyoming
Level Contributor
1,365 posts
6. Re: Driving Yellowstone national park-December-FWD Minivan-OK?

With all due respect to Valiantsontour AWD/4WD *IS* quite important for snow and ice whether patchy or everywhere. Front Wheel drive will of course be better than rear wheel drive in terms of turning INTO a skid but not having rear traction to aid in correction will be a SERIOUS disadvantage. Without better traction deeper snow of course becomes an issue too. Not having more points of traction is a more and ore serious limitation as conditions deteriorate.

The Chevy Astro ALL WHEEL Drive vans are pretty darn good on icey/snowpacked roads roads but 4WD is of course superior to that, especilly with a lower profile.

Wednesbury, UK
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
17,190 posts
7. Re: Driving Yellowstone national park-December-FWD Minivan-OK?

Well, the number of those vehicles I’ve seen sliding around the West Midlands on slick roads in the last two days with our first winter snow would suggest otherwise.......... but maybe they just all have crappy tyres?

Traction, and getting going, yes, braking and steering..not so much.

http://www.4x4abc.com/jeep101/safe.html

Seattle, Washington
4 posts
2 reviews
8. Re: Driving Yellowstone national park-December-FWD Minivan-OK?

Thanks everyone for taking the time to reply.

Too many variables, too little time to stay/plan/book activities.

Let me rethink my plans.

Thanks,

N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
Level Contributor
24,866 posts
112 reviews
9. Re: Driving Yellowstone national park-December-FWD Minivan-OK?

That's a good decision. Go when you have more than 2 days to spend and you are not having to drive over mountain passes in winter.

Pam

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