2020 Yellowstone & Grand Teton Itinerary
Old West Jackson sits at the edge of Grand Teton National Park. While retaining its cowboy flavor, Jackson hosts guests with panache. We spend the first night of our Yellowstone safari tour here, meeting our Expedition Leader and fellow travelers at a welcome dinner this evening.
Day 2: Grand Teton National Park—Scenic Float Trip
Nothing quite prepares you for the drama of the Tetons that rear up in a row of pointed peaks from the floor of Jackson Hole. Protected forever in one of America’s most impressive national parks, the Tetons are emblems of the West’s grandeur. Grand Teton's wildlife is as magnificent as its mountains, and we may see elk, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, bison and eagles as we traverse the park today in our specialty North American Safari Vans with double-wide pop-top roof hatches. This afternoon, float the placid Snake River beneath the Tetons’ jagged summits, looking out for moose, beavers, osprey, pelicans or even a black bear near the river’s edge. Overnight at Jackson Lake Lodge, offering a panorama across Jackson Lake to the Tetons silhouetted against the skyline.
Day 3: Oxbow Bend / Yellowstone National Park—Old Faithful
Day 4: Mammoth Hot Springs / Lamar Valley / Cooke City
Yellowstone is home to some 4,000 bison, the largest land mammals in North America, which we expect to encounter today. We stop to explore Mammoth Hot Springs and its steaming limestone terraces before continuing to the Lamar Valley in the park’s remote northeast corner. This evening, we'll take spotting scopes on a sunset search for bears and wolves. Though Yellowstone's famous gray wolves are elusive and rarely seen up close, the Lamar Valley is the best place in North America to look for them. We have the added advantage of working closely with wolf researchers in the park, who help us track them. Tonight we stay just outside the park's northern boundary in Cooke City, Montana, at the base of the glacier-scoured Beartooth Range.
Day 5: Lamar Valley Wildlife Safari
Early this morning we set out in search of wolves, grizzly bears and large herds of elk and bison in the broad meadows of the Lamar Valley. Wolves were reintroduced here to their native ecosystem amid much controversy in the 1990s. After a 70-year absence following their government-sanctioned eradication, the wolves have again flourished, supported by bountiful prey. In addition, their predatory presence has helped to right prior imbalances in the ecosystem, and as prey numbers have diminished, so has the frequency and proximity of wolf sightings. We often spy them, though, and our guides' high-powered spotting scopes bring their activities in for a closer view. The afternoon is open for a visit to the art gallery of Dan Hartman, a local wildlife photographer whose wolf images are highly renowned. Early this evening, we head back to the Lamar Valley in hopes of spotting wolves and bears before returning to Cooke City.
Day 6: Hayden Valley / Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone / Jackson
One last opportunity for wolf and bear tracking awaits in the Lamar Valley this morning. More of the park lies ahead, including Hayden Valley, a favored grazing area for large herds of bison and elk. We may also spot coyotes and bald eagles. A stop at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where Yellowstone Falls pours off a sheer cliff into a thousand-foot-deep gorge, offers the park’s most inspiring vista. We also visit more of Yellowstone's famous geyser basins, with their vivid and dynamic examples of geothermal energy on display. From bubbling mud pots to eruptions of boiling water rocketing skyward, Yellowstone’s geyser areas were one of the unique features that captivated early explorers like John Colter and Jim Bridger and prompted conservationists like Teddy Roosevelt to encourage protection of the park’s natural assets. We then follow the shores of Yellowstone Lake—the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America—en route back to Jackson, where we'll recount our adventures and say farewell over dinner at one of Jackson's fine restaurants.
Day 7: Jackson / Depart
Today, our Yellowstone safari concludes. The day is free to enjoy the town of Jackson and its many recreational activities prior to your departure. Sip a beer atop a saddle stool at the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, or ride the scenic chairlift to the summit of Snow King Mountain for a panorama of the Tetons, the National Elk Refuge and the town of Jackson below. When you're ready to depart, complimentary shuttle service is available from the hotel to the airport.
Physical Rating: Easy to Moderate
This adventure does not require a high degree of physical fitness; however, in order to get the most out of your experience, you must be able to walk at least one mile unassisted on dirt trails with potentially uneven terrain and inclines, and possibly muddy or slippery surfaces, at altitudes of up to 8,400 feet above sea level. In order to view Old Faithful, you must be able to walk 300 yards over gently sloping pavement and boardwalk. To explore Yellowstone’s geothermal basins, you must be able to walk at least one mile over boardwalk, dirt trails and undulating paved paths. Depending on the location of wildlife, each day may bring several opportunities for short walks ranging from 300 yards to one mile, sometimes on well-maintained trails or pavement, sometimes on rough, uneven terrain with some inclines. Depending on our schedule and wildlife viewing, there may be an opportunity for active guests to hike up to five miles. Due to the altitude and terrain, hikes are considered moderate in terms of physical exertion. However, a fair amount of our wildlife viewing takes place from our vehicles that are selected to enhance observation opportunities. Our days generally start quite early, often before sunrise, when wildlife viewing is at its best and other visitors are at a minimum. We stress that all activities are optional.