2020 Yellowstone & Grand Teton Photo Itinerary
Day 1: Jackson, Wyoming
Old West Jackson sits at the edge of Grand Teton National Park. Still retaining a cowboy flavor, yet with a touch of New West sophistication, Jackson hosts guests with panache. Tonight, we meet our Expedition Leader for a welcome dinner and overview of the many outstanding photography opportunities that lie ahead.
Day 2: Grand Teton National Park
Fall is entrancing in the Tetons as we search the sagebrush flats for harems of elk and the riparian corridors for moose. This afternoon we take a scenic float trip down the Snake River in search of eagles, beaver and moose, capturing superb shots against the ever-present backdrop of the Tetons rising from the floor of Jackson Hole in a near-vertical row of jagged points. Nearly as appealing a subject as the wildlife are the historic barns and ranch cabins, backed by the summits dusted with fresh snow. In the early evening, we photograph the sunset over the iconic range. Our overnight accommodations are at historic Jackson Lake Lodge, in full view of the peaks.
Day 3: Yellowstone National Park — Geyser Basins
There’s no better light than dawn for outstanding photography, and we rise early to capitalize on it. Setting out in our specialty North American Safari Trucks with double-wide pop-top roof hatches, sunrise shots of the Tetons and wildlife of Jackson Hole inaugurate our day. After a hearty breakfast, we travel north into the world’s first and most famous national park, storied Yellowstone. The park’s unique geyser basins are our focus today as we explore the geothermal features of Upper, Midway and Lower Geyser basins on foot. We’ll also have a chance to photograph legendary Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Hot Spring and the scenic Firehole River.
Day 4: Yellowstone's Northern Range
We head to Yellowstone’s northern edge today to explore the limestone terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. The area around Mammoth often provides a unique encounter between wildlife and human development as elk congregate in the town each autumn in order to browse on the lush grasses growing around the historic Fort Yellowstone buildings. We may take a short hike to photograph an abandoned wolf or bear den, then spend the early evening hours searching for wolves in the Lamar Valley.
The gray wolf was reintroduced to its native habitat in Yellowstone National Park in 1995, amid much controversy. After a 70-year absence following their government-sanctioned eradication, the wolves have flourished, supported by bountiful prey. However, their predatory presence has now helped to right previous 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 them in for a close-range view. Dawn and dusk are the best times to spot these elusive predators as they hunt for elk and other game in the open expanse of the valley.
Day 5: Lamar Valley Wolf Search / Beartooth Plateau
Dan Hartman, a renowned local wildlife photographer from Cooke City, Montana, known for his extraordinary wolf shots, joins our group in the field today. We return to the Lamar Valley in the early morning hours, looking for wolves and bears. Our guides are in close contact with local wolf researchers who help us track the park's most elusive predator. The valley is also home to pronghorn antelope, bison, coyotes and many birds of prey. Later we visit the Hartman Gallery to see some of Dan’s work. Early this evening we thrill to some of the most dramatic mountain vistas in North America as we ascend the famous Scenic Byway to the top of Beartooth Plateau. Charles Kuralt called it the most spectacular road in America, and it’s easy to concur: high alpine lakes sparkle in the waning light as quaking aspen shimmer gold, surrounded by an intensely rugged granite landscape.
Day 6: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River
Traversing the Lamar Valley once more, always on the lookout for wolf sightings, we head south into Yellowstone’s wild interior, crossing Dunraven Pass. Our destination is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, immortalized in countless paintings and photographs for more than 150 years. We’ll explore various vantage points from which to the photograph the canyon, with 308-foot-high Lower Falls the highlight. There’s time this afternoon to capture a few last images of wildlife and landscapes as we follow the shores of Yellowstone Lake en route back to Jackson.
Day 7: Grand Teton National Park
Today offers our last opportunity to photograph the impressive Teton Range and wildlife of Jackson Hole. Photographers have made careers shooting this landscape, and it's no wonder. We'll take the time to explore a variety of perspectives on the range. This afternoon we may have the opportunity to visit the Teton Raptor Center, a rehabilitation facility located on the historic Hardeman Ranch in Wilson, Wyoming. Owls and hawks that have recovered from injuries but are unfit for the wild provide the unique opportunity for some close-up wildlife images. We return to Jackson this evening for a farewell dinner.
Day 8: Jackson / Home
There's free time this morning to enjoy the town of Jackson and its many art and photo galleries prior to your departure. 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.