The Best Opportunity to Watch & Photograph Wolves & Winter Wildlife in Their Natural Habitat
Day 1: Bozeman, Montana
Our Yellowstone adventure begins in Bozeman, where we meet our Expedition Leader at a welcome dinner this evening. An initial orientation introduces us to the geography of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the wild denizens we have come to search for, including the fabled gray wolf.
Day 2: Paradise Valley / Yellowstone National Park / Cooke City
After breakfast, we make our way to Yellowstone National Park’s north entrance. We scout first for bison, pronghorn, elk and bighorn sheep, but we’ll hope to spy our first wolves near here as well, as they range across the park’s entire northern reach and are sometimes seen in this area. We stop at the historic park settlement at Mammoth Hot Springs, where we'll have time to explore the geothermal features of the area and learn about the establishment of Fort Yellowstone. Later this afternoon we drive east across the Yellowstone's Northern Range en route to Cooke City, discovering the prime wolf habitat we will explore intimately over the next several days.
Day 3: Wildlife Photography in the Lamar Valley
Following an early continental breakfast, we head into the secluded Lamar Valley on an intensive search for wolves. This remote northeast corner of the park is prime wolf habitat, and our Expedition Leader helps us learn how to search for them. While wolves are our special focus, we'll also get ample coaching on how to get compelling shots of Yellowstone's other iconic wildlife. At every turn, our expert guide is by your side to share tips and techniques for outstanding nature and wildlife photos. Following this exhilarating journey into the Lamar, we return to our hotel for dinner and a chance to share highlights and images of the day.
Day 4: Lamar Valley Wolf Watching / Snowshoe to Wolf Den
Rising early once again, we return to the Lamar Valley’s isolated reaches to search for wolves. Winter is the best time to look for them, as they are readily visible against the snowy white backdrop, though we will again need to employ patience in our efforts to find and photograph these elusive predators. Our Expedition Leader, who has spent years monitoring and observing the wolves of Yellowstone, enhances our experience with his in-depth knowledge of wolf behavior and the various individual wolves known to park researchers. We head back into Cooke City for lunch and a visit to the Dan Hartman Gallery, where we'll enjoy a slide presentation by Dan, a local naturalist and accomplished photographer whose wolf images are widely acclaimed. He'll share plenty of wildlife photography tips, as well as insightful observations about wolf behavior gleaned from his years among them. By mid-afternoon we return to the Lamar Valley for more wolf tracking, retreating to our comfortable lodge just outside the park once dusk falls.
Day 5: Lamar Valley Wolf Watching
In the gentle rays of dawn
we are back in the Lamar Valley to look for wolves. Our Expedition Leader is in touch with park researchers as we attempt to locate the packs. Though wolves are elusive creatures, we do sometimes see a whole pack at once, or a few individuals hunting together—always a special thrill. This afternoon holds a rare opportunity: an optional snowshoe hike to see the Rose Creek acclimation pen, the last remaining enclosure used to transition and acclimatize gray wolves to their new home range when they were reintroduced to the Yellowstone ecosystem in 1995. Acclimation pens were used to allow the wolves to become accustomed to the sights, smells and surroundings of their new habitat before being reintroduced to the wild. The very first pups were actually conceived in this location. The Rose Creek site— center of the world's most successful reintroduction of a large carnivore species—sits above the Lamar Valley and will require a gentle two-mile round trip snowshoe hike to visit.
After more wolf watching in the Lamar late this afternoon, we return to our hotel. This evening we are joined by Emmy Award-winning wildlife cinematographer Bob Landis, a legendary filmmaker in the Yellowstone region. Bob's intimate footage of wolves has appeared on PBS Nature and the National Geographic Channel, and his personal presentation to our small group will be a most inspiring addition to our adventure.
Day 6: Lamar Valley Wolf Watching
The glacially formed Lamar Valley, a wide expanse of grassland and streams in Yellowstone’s Northern Range, is North America’s best wolf-watching habitat. Wolves are drawn to this region because of the resident elk and bison herds, and by hunting in packs over snowy terrain, they are capable of bringing down large prey. Although wolves are highly wary of human presence and can be very difficult to spot, our Expedition Leader works tirelessly to find them, remaining in constant communication with local wolf researchers to track and monitor wolf activity. We might see lone wolves or occasionally a whole pack in search of prey. Be sure to bring your longest lens: we generally observe them at a distance, but our guides carry high-powered spotting scopes that offer an excellent vantage point on the wolves' captivating behavior.
Day 7: Scenic Flyover / Blacktail Plateau
This morning we have an exclusive opportunity to survey the wolves' range from the air on a 1-hour scenic flightseeing excursion. Our custom-designed helicopter flight over the park is a special privilege. With just six travelers plus our Expedition Leader, everyone gets a window seat. We take off from the Gardiner, Montana airstrip
and retrace wildlife migration routes around the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Aerial views of Yellowstone may include the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and the famous geyser basin surrounding the Old Faithful area. If weather permits, we may even have a scenic fly-by of the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole.
This afternoon we explore the Blacktail Plateau, situated between Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar Valley, by vehicle and on foot. This relatively open habitat is among Yellowstone’s best winter range, frequently occupied by large herds of bison and elk due to the minimal snow and often-windblown slopes. The Blacktail Plateau is often the site of the very first grizzly bear emergence post-hibernation in Yellowstone. Mid-March may provide us this unique opportunity to witness the first signs of spring in the world’s first national park. Our visit to the plateau also affords the chance to photograph two different waterfalls, Undine Falls
and Wraith Falls.
By late afternoon
we depart the park and head north once again into the Paradise Valley. The Yellowstone River flows through this aptly named landscape, renowned for world-class trout fishing. The valley is also an important winter range for wildlife, and we’ll have excellent opportunities to spot bald eagles, rough-legged hawks, mule deer, white-tailed deer
Day 8: Bozeman / Depart
Our Yellowstone wolf quest and photo safari concludes
with a transfer to the airport to connect with flights home. Guests wishing to spend additional time in Bozeman, will have the remainder of the day free to explore this historic Old West/New West town. With its rich mining and trapping heritage, it’s not surprising that Bozeman has 40 individual properties on the National Register of Historic Places. Today it is home to Montana State University and offers a wide range of cultural and outdoor activities.