Wild Yellowstone Explorer

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Itinerary

Itinerary Map
Day 1: Bozeman, Montana
Situated in the Rocky Mountains at the edge of Yellowstone National Park, Bozeman is a historic Old West/New West university town with a rich mining, ranching and trapping heritage. We spend the first night of our Yellowstone safari tour here, meeting our Expedition Leaders and fellow adventurers at a welcome dinner this evening.

Day 2: Paradise Valley / Yellowstone National Park—Mammoth Hot Springs
Big Sky Country awaits as we follow the Yellowstone River south toward the park and through Montana’s renowned Paradise Valley. Flanked by the Absaroka and Gallatin ranges, Paradise served as the inspiration for the popular television series "Yellowstone" with its expansive meadows, broad river and surrounding serrated peaks. Famed for its diverse and abundant wildlife, the valley is home to herds of elk, bison and pronghorn roaming the lush grasslands, while elusive grizzlies, black bears and wolves prowl the forested slopes of surrounding mountains. Look for a range of raptors, including bald and golden eagles, and osprey.

Entering Yellowstone National Park through the gateway town of Gardiner, we arrive at Mammoth Hot Springs. Here, thermal water spills over travertine terraces that have been described as a “cave turned inside out.” Heat-loving microorganisms called thermophiles add distinct colors to the mineral-laden formations. Formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, this landscape provides an ideal introduction to Yellowstone’s geothermal phenomena, while prolific grazing elk are among the first of many wild animals we will see.

Day 3: Lamar Valley Wolf and Other Wildlife Safari
Rising early, we set out in search of wolves, grizzly bears and large herds of elk and bison in the broad meadows of the Lamar Valley. Located in the park’s remote, northeastern corner, the valley is often referred to as “America’s Serengeti” due to its abundant and diverse wildlife. It is also considered one of the best places to see wolves in the wild. In 1995, the federal government reintroduced wolves into Yellowstone amid much controversy. After a 70-year absence following their government-sanctioned eradication, the wolf population has flourished, supported by bountiful prey. In addition, their predatory behavior has helped restore balance to the ecosystem. But as prey numbers have diminished and wolf hunting outside the park has increased, the frequency and proximity of wolf sightings has decreased. We often spy them, though, and our guides' high-powered spotting scopes bring their activities in for a closer view. In the afternoon, we visit to the art gallery of Dan Hartman, a local wildlife photographer whose wolf images are highly celebrated. Afterward, we return once again to the Lamar Valley in hopes of spotting more wildlife before returning to Gardiner for the night.

Day 4: Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin
Today we delve deeper into the park’s remarkable geothermal features. From bubbling mud pots and steaming thermal pools to geysers that rocket boiling water skyward, these natural phenomena have long enchanted visitors. The park’s geothermal landscape is a testament to the powerful forces shaping the earth’s crust. Early explorers like John Colter and Jim Bridger revered these natural wonders, and the captivating geothermal activity inspired conservationists like Teddy Roosevelt to protect the park’s natural assets. At Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the United States, we witness the shimmering rainbow hues created by heat-loving microbes thriving at the edges of the mineral-rich water. We also stop to witness the park’s most famous geyser, Old Faithful, with ample time to watch it erupt and to walk among the nearby fumaroles and hot springs. Traversing more of Yellowstone, learn about fire ecology as we drive through recovering areas once ravaged by earlier conflagrations.

Day 5: Bozeman / Depart
While our Yellowstone wildlife adventure comes to a close this morning, we will have a final chance for wildlife viewing as we make our way back through Paradise Valley to Bozeman. If your flight schedule permits, you may enjoy exploring this lively western town and surroundings on your own.

Physical Rating: Easy to Moderate


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