Days 1 & 2: Jackson, Wyoming / National Elk Refuge
The Old West town of Jackson sits at the edge of Grand Teton National Park in the shadow of the mountain range’s jagged spires. On Day 1 of our Yellowstone wildlife tour, we meet for an informal welcome dinner and orientation. Our winter safari begins the following morning as we venture into Jackson Hole in search of bighorn sheep, bald and golden eagles, coyotes, bison, mule deer, moose and elk. Later, we stop for lunch at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson. Then, by horse-drawn sleigh we glide across the snow blanketing the National Elk Refuge for close-up photos of the massive herd that winters there, with thousands of animals roaming the valley floor.
Day 3: Grand Tetons / Interior Yellowstone / Old Faithful
A traverse of Buffalo Valley and the northern portion of Grand Teton National Park offer a panorama of the Tetons rising above the Snake River. Upon entering Yellowstone, we board an enclosed, heated snowcoach that conveys us into Yellowstone's silent winter splendor. Along the way, we stop at West Thumb Geyser Basin on the edge of Yellowstone Lake to search for and photograph moose, river otters and trumpeter swans before making our way to the most famous geothermal feature in the park, Old Faithful. Because access to the park's interior is limited to snow vehicles, we find ourselves in peaceful seclusion, experiencing the magic of Old Faithful erupting in winter’s crystalline veil.
Day 4: Mammoth Hot Springs / Lamar Valley / Cooke City
Back aboard our snowcoach, we head northward through the park’s geyser basins to the silver terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs, where we may see many elk. Our destination for the night is Cooke City, Montana. As dusk descends, an evening drive through the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone’s far northeast corner offers our first chance to explore this pristine valley in search of wolves. The park is the best place in the world to view these charismatic predators, and we dedicate the next two days to finding them. Although pack movements are unpredictable and the impacts of past human interactions can often make wolves shy in the presence of humans, our Expedition Leader is an experienced tracker and will educate us about wolf behavior and where and how to look for them in this environment. We are also in close contact with scientists who conduct research on the wolves, and they will help us locate the animals based on recent sightings.
Day 5: Lamar Valley Wolf Safari
A full day is ours to scout for Yellowstone's famous wolves. Reintroduced to the park in the 1990s amid much controversy, wolves were returned to this native ecosystem after a 70-year absence following their government-sanctioned eradication. Since then they have flourished, supported by bountiful prey including a multitude of elk. Yet controversy continues to surround their presence, and we learn in detail from our guides about the current conditions in which wolves exist within the greater Yellowstone area. As the wolves have begun to restore balance to the natural ecosystem, elk numbers have dropped, and we may not be as likely to see as many wolves as visitors did several years ago. If we are especially lucky, however, we may see a pack test an elk herd for a weak or sick animal, or we'll hope to spot lone individuals foraging on their own. But even if the wolves remain elusive, the winter landscape is magical, and we're sure to see plenty of other wildlife native to the park.
Day 6: Lamar Valley / Bozeman
As dawn illumines the snowy meadows of the Lamar Valley, we return once more in search of wolves. If we are fortunate to sight them, our onboard spotting scope is at the ready to observe their activities from a distance without disturbing their natural behavior. Many of our Expedition Leaders have worked for years with the on-site researchers who track these wolves daily, and together they provide us every opportunity to find these magnetic animals in their natural surroundings. Returning to Mammoth Hot Springs, we leave Yellowstone’s wintry quiet and continue to Bozeman for our final night.
Day 7: Bozeman / Depart
If your schedule allows, you may enjoy exploring Bozeman on your own today. This historic Old West/New West town, with a rich mining and trapping heritage, boasts 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.
Please note: Alternating trips run in the opposite direction, from Bozeman to Jackson.