In winter, Yellowstone is best enjoyed on skis. Since most of the Park's roads are unplowed, you can find solace in some of its most scenic areas—areas norrmally overrun by car-ridden visitors during summer. And one of the best places for some stellar snow-slidin' is Tower Junction, which sits 24 miles southeast of Gardiner along the Grand Loop Road's only unplowed stretch. It's about as deep in the Park as you can get by car in winter, with five Nordic routes that'll keep you busy for several visits. Whether you're looking for a mellow glide through the forest, a demanding climb with rewarding views, or even some off-trail exploration, Tower Junction delivers. Several of these trails follow the rim of the Yellowstone River Narrows, a 300-foot-deep canyon with several frozen waterfalls to view, including the namesake Tower Falls. This area is just a 15-minute drive past Mammoth Hot Springs, so you can easily visit both spots in one day.
Keep in mind that humans aren't the only ones who enjoy using these trails—as always, watch out for wildlife and keep a safe distance.
This easy ski trail follows the unplowed Grand Loop Road between Tower Junction and the Tower Falls hiking trail. You'll follow the canyon rim (A) along the Narrows of the Yellowstone River for 2.5 miles, which will put you right above the falls of Tower Creek where it spills into the Yellowstone. Here, you can stash your skis and walk down to view the spectacular frozen waterfall from below. The creek bed below the falls has some impressive ice caverns—just be careful to make sure you're on solid ground if you walk in for a closer look. After exploring the falls, you'll follow the same trail back to Tower Junction for a total of 5 miles.
If you want to tack on some miles, spin a lap on this moderate 5.3-mile loop starting from the end of the Tower Falls Trail (B). You can ski the loop in either direction—going counterclockwise will get most of the climbing over with at the start; clockwise offers a more gradual ascent with a steep downhill at the end that can be quite fast in packed conditions. On a clear day, you'll find awesome views of 10,219-foot Mt. Washburn to the north.
This moderate trail also adds distance to the Tower Falls Trail, starting from a different trailhead and joining the Tower Falls Trail halfway along. You'll park at Petrified Tree Road (C), 1.5 miles west of Tower Junction. Ski up the road to the petrified tree, then hang a right onto Lost Lake Trail at the end of the road. Cross the lake on the north (left) side, then wind through the forest on the plateau above Tower Junction, contouring through the Lost Creek Drainage, where you may need to remove your skis. Finally, follow the orange trail tags down a steep descent to the Tower Falls Trail at Calcite Springs Overlook.
If you're looking for a short romp through the woods on flat ground, this easy trail is a great pick. Starting from Tower Junction, you'll head northwest along Lost Creek (D) for a mile to Yancey Creek, then retrace the route back to the trailhead. This is a great spot for off-trail exploring as well, with many open meadows and fewer hazards to look out for (such as steep hills and cliff edges) than the trails south of Tower Junction.
The longest trail in the Tower Junction area, this is a moderate 8-mile one-way ski (or 16-mile out-and-back) following the unplowed Blacktail Plateau Road. You can ski it in either direction—the western trailhead is 8 miles east of Mammoth Hot Springs and the eastern trailhead is 300 yards shy of Petrified Tree Road. If skiing west-to-east, you'll glide through rolling terrain across the plateau (E), then dip down through "the Cut," a narrow canyon leading to a winding, moderate descent. Or, you can ski east-to-west for a sustained climb at the start.