Tours of Yellowstone
From photo safaris to wildlife watching, these excursions will enrich your visit
With its spurting geysers, lush forests, wild rivers and abundant wildlife, Yellowstone is, in many ways, the archetypal national park. But its size — almost 3,500 square miles — can be daunting to even repeat visitors.
How to take a deeper dive into this splendid western wilderness even on a tight schedule? Join one of the guided tours offered by Yellowstone National Park Lodges in summer. The outings are sure to spark meaningful memories.
For multi-day immersive experiences, consider booking a Lodging & Learning program. The packages combine in-park lodging with daily field trips led by instructors from the non-profit Yellowstone Forever Institute. And don’t overlook National Park Service-sponsored activities, such as the Junior Ranger and Young Scientist programs for kids and youth, and evening campfire programs for all ages.
A sampling of Xanterra’s tour options in Yellowstone:
The colorful (and aptly named) Firehole area got its name from 19th-century fur trappers. It’s a thermally charged valley north of Old Faithful that becomes even more magical at sunset. The two-hour Twilight on the Firehole tour (late May to early September) shows off the region in its best light. Bonus: Animals are more active at this time day. Later, gaze at a dazzling, star-filled night sky.
The area between Old Faithful and Madison boasts the Earth’s densest concentration of geysers. Climb aboard a 1930s-era Historic Yellow Bus for the Geyser Gazers outing (late May to mid-August and mid-September to early October). The 1½-hour exploration along Firehole Lake Drive takes in Excelsior Geyser Crater, a colossal hot spring that spews 4,000 gallons of water per minute into the Firehole River.
If you have a full day, there’s no better way to sample Yellowstone’s glories than on the Yellowstone in a Day all-day adventure (late May to early October). Covering the entire 142-mile Grand Loop Road, the tour includes Old Faithful, Lake Yellowstone Hotel, the Upper and Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Canyon Village, Mammoth Hot Springs, Fountain Paint Pots, and other spots as time permits.
Not only do the bison roam the Lamar Valley, but chances of spotting bears, elk, bighorn sheep and even the elusive wolf are promising in this animal-rich habitat. The Lamar Valley Wildlife Excursion (early June to early September) ventures into the park’s northern reaches, arriving at dusk. For early risers, the Wake Up to Wildlife tour (late May to late September) covers some of the same territory in a refurbished 13-passenger, Historic Yellow Bus. The roof rolls back for better wildlife viewing.
Getting the perfect shot requires more than just luck. And the guides of the Picture Perfect Photo Safari (mid-May to early October) not only know a thing or two about picture taking, but they’re also intimately familiar with the landscape. For instance, they’ll put you in position to capture a rainbow that appears only for a few minutes daily at a waterfall. A five-hour safari departs from Old Faithful Inn and focuses on thermal areas north of the lodge. Another five-hour sojourn leaves from Lake Yellowstone Hotel and aims for wildlife in the Hayden Valley, the north shore of Lake Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
OLD WEST ADVENTURES
Saddle up and take in the scenery on one- or two-hour horseback rides offered in a choice of two park regions (early June to early September). Or sate your appetite for scenery and food via the Old West Dinner Cookout (mid-June to mid-September). Getting there via horseback or in a canvas-covered wagon is part of the fun.
ADVENTURES ON THE WATER
View the splendor of the park from a different vantage point on sprawling Yellowstone Lake. Options include an hour-long narrated Yellowstone Lake Scenicruise (mid-June to mid-September) where you can catch sight of eagles, osprey, and other birds from aboard the Lake Queen. Or go it on your own by renting a motorboat or rowboat at Bridge Bay Marina.
For more information, visit yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311.
For a multi-day visit of Yellowstone, consider a tour with Austin Adventures, a leader in national park and active vacations for both families and adults. It has been recognized as one of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Tour Operators multiple times. For more information, visit austinadventures.com or call 800-575-1540.
For more travel experiences available from Xanterra Travel Collection® and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.