An Exclusive Winter Wildlife Expedition Deep into Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks
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 head out into Jackson Hole in search of bighorn sheep, bald and golden eagles, coyotes, bison, mule deer, moose
and elk. After lunch at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, we head out by horse-drawn sleigh through the National Elk Refuge. Gliding across the snow that blankets the valley floor, our goal is close-up photos of the massive herd that winters here, with thousands of animals roaming the range.
Day 3: Grand Teton National Park / Yellowstone National Park—Old Faithful
A traverse of Buffalo Valley and the northern section of Grand Teton National Park offers a panorama of the Tetons rising above the Snake River. Reaching the boundary of Yellowstone, we board an enclosed, heated snowcoach
that conveys us into the silent winter splendor of America's first national park. 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 reaching the most famous geothermal feature in the park, Old Faithful geyser. 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 a crystalline veil of spray.
Day 4: Mammoth Hot Springs / Lamar Valley / Cooke City
Back aboard our snowcoach
, we head northward through the Yellowstone’s famous geyser basins to the white limestone terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs, where we may see many elk
. Our destination for the night is just outside the park's northern boundary in Cooke City, Montana. As dusk descends, an evening drive
through the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone’s far northeast corner offers our first chance to search for 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 impact of past human interactions tends to make wolves shy in the presence of humans, our Expedition Leader is an experienced tracker, teaching us about wolf behavior and how to look for them. We are also in close contact with scientists who conduct research on wolves in the region, and they will help us locate them based on recent sightings.
Day 5: Lamar Valley Wolf Safari
A full day is ours to scout for Yellowstone's legendary wolves. Reintroduced to the park in the 1990s amid much controversy, the gray wolf was returned to this native ecosystem after a 70-year absence following a policy of 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 restored more 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, though, we might see a pack test an elk herd for a weak or sick animal, or 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 enhances our observation of 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 intriguing animals in their natural surroundings. Returning to Mammoth Hot Springs, we leave Yellowstone’s frozen silence and continue up the Paradise Valley along the Yellowstone River to reach Bozeman for our final night.
Day 7: Bozeman / Depart
If your flight schedule permits, 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. 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.