The Very Best Opportunity to Watch Wolves & Winter Wildlife in Their Natural Habitat
Day 1: Bozeman, Montana
Our Yellowstone adventure begins in Bozeman, where we meet our Expedition Leader at a welcome dinner this evening. An initial orientation introduces us to the geography of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the wildlife we have come to search for, including the fabled gray wolf.
Day 2: Paradise Valley / Yellowstone National Park / Cooke City
Grand vistas of the American West are unveiled this morning as we travel through Montana's Paradise Valley, with the peaks of the Gallatin and Absaroka ranges rising on either side. As we enter Yellowstone National Park's northern boundary in our specialty North American Safari Trucks
with double-wide pop-top roof hatches, we are quickly immersed in a wildlife wonderland. Scout first for bison, pronghorn, elk and bighorn sheep—and we’ll hope to spy our first wolves near here as well, as they range across the entire northern reach of the park. At Mammoth Hot Springs, explore the geothermal features of the area and learn about the establishment of Fort Yellowstone near this historic park settlement. Later this afternoon, we drive east across Yellowstone's Northern Range to Cooke City, getting our first look at the prime wolf habitat we will encounter in depth over the next several days.
Day 3: Wildlife Photography in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley
Following an early continental breakfast, we're off to the Lamar Valley on an intensive search for wolves. This isolated northeast corner of the park is prime gray wolf habitat, and our Expedition Leader teaches us how to search for them. While wolves are our primary focus, we'll also get coaching on how to get compelling photos of other Yellowstone wildlife, which is abundant. The wintry tableau makes for dramatic images as animals stand out against the white landscape, and their coats are often frosted with snow and ice. At every turn, our expert guide is by your side to share tips and techniques for outstanding nature photos. Returning to our hotel for dinner, we have a chance to share our best images of the day with one another, inspired for what lies ahead.
Day 4: Lamar Valley Wolf Watching / Photo Gallery Visit
Rising early once again, return to the Lamar Valley in search of wolves. Winter is the best time to look for them, as they are readily visible against the snowy backdrop, though we will need to employ patience in our efforts to find and photograph these predators that often remain hidden. Our Expedition Leader, who has spent years observing the wolves of Yellowstone, enhances our experience with in-depth knowledge of wolf behavior and the various individual wolves known to park researchers. Head back to Cooke City for lunch and a visit to the Hartman Gallery, with a slide presentation by Dan Hartman. Dan is a local naturalist and renowned wildlife photographer whose wolf images are widely acclaimed. He'll share plenty of photography tips with us, as well as insightful observations about wolf behavior gleaned from spending countless hours among them. By mid-afternoon we return to the Lamar Valley for more wolf tracking, knowing our chances to see them are best at dawn and dusk.
Day 5: Lamar Valley Wolf Watching / Cinematographer Visit
In the gentle rays of dawn, we are in the Lamar Valley once more to look for wolves. Our Expedition Leader is in touch with park researchers as we attempt to locate the packs. Though wolves are famously elusive, we sometimes see a whole pack at once or a few individuals hunting together—always a special thrill. This evening we are joined by Emmy Award-winning wildlife cinematographer Bob Landis, a legendary filmmaker in the Yellowstone region. Bob's intimate footage of wolves has appeared on PBS Nature and the National Geographic Channel, and his personal presentation to our small group is an inspiring addition to our photography adventure.
Day 6: Lamar Valley Wolf Watching
Today we have one more opportunity to search for wolves in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone's Northern Range. This broad, glacially formed expanse of grassland laced with streams is North America’s best wolf-watching habitat. Wolves are drawn here because of the resident elk and bison herds, and by hunting in packs over snowy terrain, they are capable of bringing down large prey. Although wolves are highly wary of human presence and can be difficult to spot, our Expedition Leaders work tirelessly to find them, remaining in constant communication with local wolf researchers to monitor wolf activity and whereabouts. We might see lone wolves or occasionally a pack in search of prey. Be sure to bring your longest lens: we generally observe them at a distance, but our guides carry high-powered spotting scopes that offer an excellent vantage point on the wolves' captivating behavior.
Day 7: Scenic Flyover / Blacktail Plateau / Bozeman
This morning we have an exclusive opportunity to survey the wolves' range from the air on a 1-hour flightseeing excursion. Our custom-designed helicopter flight over the park is a special privilege. With just six travelers plus our Expedition Leader, everyone gets a window seat. We take off from the Gardiner, Montana airstrip just outside the park and retrace wildlife migration routes around the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Aerial views of Yellowstone may include the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and the famed Old Faithful geyser basin. If weather permits, we may even have a scenic fly-by of the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole.
This afternoon, explore the Blacktail Plateau, situated between Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar Valley, by vehicle and on foot. This relatively open habitat is among Yellowstone’s best winter range, frequently occupied by large herds of bison and elk due to minimal snow and often-windblown slopes. The Blacktail Plateau is frequently the site of the first post-hibernation grizzly bear emergence in Yellowstone. Mid-March may provide us this special opportunity to witness the first signs of spring in the world’s first national park. On the plateau, we will also photograph two different waterfalls, Undine Falls and Wraith Falls. By late afternoon, we exit the park and head north once again through the Paradise Valley. The Yellowstone River flows through this aptly named landscape, renowned for world-class trout fishing. The valley is also an important winter range for wildlife, and we’ll have excellent opportunities to spot bald eagles, rough-legged hawks, mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk. Reaching Bozeman once more, we share a farewell dinner together.
Day 8: Bozeman / Depart
Our Yellowstone photo safari concludes with a transfer to the airport to connect with homeward flights. Guests wishing to spend additional time in Bozeman will have the remainder of the day free to explore this historic Old West/New West town. With its rich mining and trapping heritage, it’s not surprising that Bozeman has 40 individual properties on the National Register of Historic Places. Today it is home to Montana State University and a booming tech industry, offering a wide range of cultural and outdoor activities.