Natural Habitat Adventures

Yellowstone: Ultimate Wolf & Wildlife Safari

Ultimate Wolf & Wildlife Photo Itinerary

Itinerary Map
This specialized photo itinerary, which is limited to 12 photographers, includes one extra day in the heart of Yellowstone. Your Expedition Leader is both a naturalist and a photo pro adept at coaching photographers of all skill levels. Ask all the questions you want, and get personalized advice to improve your images. Our small group size means quieter, closer photography encounters plus flexibility to adapt to changing conditions in order to maximize photo opportunities.

Please note: Alternating trips run in the opposite direction, starting in Jackson and ending in Bozeman. All inclusions are the same.


Day 1: Bozeman, Montana
Arrive in Bozeman and transfer to our hotel in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Fast-growing Bozeman was originally built upon mining and ranching, but today its economic base includes a booming tech industry, Montana State University and an expanding tourism sector. This evening, meet your Expedition Leader at a welcome dinner.

Day 2: Paradise Valley / Mammoth Hot Springs / Northern Range / Cooke City—Hartman Gallery

Depart early this morning, traveling in specialty North American Safari Trucks to follow the Lewis & Clark Trail over Bozeman Pass to the Yellowstone River. We spend the morning in the Paradise Valley in search of rough-legged hawks, eagles, mule deer and pronghorn antelope. The ragged heights of the Absaroka Range provide a dramatic backdrop for landscape photos. En route, look for wintering bighorn sheep in Gardiner River Canyon. Stop for lunch at Mammoth Hot Springs, with time to photograph the thermal activity as super-heated water flows over the white limestone terraces, which some observers describe as a "cave turned inside out."

Toward evening, we enter Yellowstone’s Northern Range, the best place in the park to search for wolves. We often spot coyotes, elk and bison against the snow-mantled landscape. Our day concludes in our destination of Cooke City, just outside the park boundary, with a presentation at the Hartman Gallery. Owner Dan Hartman is a renowned Yellowstone wildlife photographer and local naturalist whose wolf images are widely acclaimed. He'll share slides, insights and observations about wolf behavior gleaned from countless hours in their presence, as well as tips for pursuing photos of wolves and other wildlife.

Day 3: Wolf Quest in the Lamar Valley 
As the sun breaks over the frosty meadows of the Lamar Valley, we rise early to look for wolves. The broad glacial valley offers wide-open vistas of a sublime landscape, and if wolves are present, they are likely to stand out against the snowy backdrop. Be sure to bring your telephoto lens: if we are fortunate to spy wolves, they are often at a distance. We'll also have the opportunity to obtain images via digiscoping, with coaching from our Expedition Leader. Other wildlife is abundant, and we're sure to come away with some exhilarating images, including shaggy bison with heavy coats encrusted with ice. As the light wanes by mid-afternoon, we turn our focus more closely on wolf tracking again, knowing our chances to see them are best at dawn and dusk.

Day 4: Lamar Valley / Norris Geyser Basin / West Yellowstone
Dawn illumines the snowy expanse of the Lamar Valley, and we return once more in search of wolves. An onboard spotting scope is always at the ready, allowing us to observe the wolves' activity from a distance without disturbing their natural behavior. Many of our Expedition Leaders have worked for years with on-site researchers who track the packs daily, and together they provide us every opportunity to find these charismatic animals in their natural surroundings.

Leaving the valley, we travel southwest across the park to reach our next base in West Yellowstone. Aboard a chartered snowcoach, traverse Yellowstone’s wild interior, accessible in winter only by over-the-snow vehicles. Along the Madison River, a lower-elevation corridor with abundant winter wildlife, we find excellent opportunities for photos of bison, elk and winter birdlife, while large bison herds are often spotted on the Central Plateau. We'll hope for more wolf sightings, too, though they are less frequent here. Stop for photos at the hottest geothermal feature in the park, Norris Geyser Basin, flowing with acidic waters that create unique color patterns. The world’s tallest active geyser is found here—Steamboat Geyser—though its timetable for eruptions is highly erratic.

Day 5: Snowcoach Tour to Old Faithful
This morning, board our private snowcoach and head into the park for an all-day adventure in the Old Faithful region. Because winter access to the park interior is limited to snow vehicles, we enjoy a peaceful opportunity to witness the magic of Old Faithful erupting in a crystalline veil of spray. But the park's most famous geyser isn't the only attraction. This basin surrounding the Firehole River holds the highest density of geothermal features in the world, with opportunities to photograph more geysers, hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles. Because of the warmth provided by the steam vents and bubbling mud, wildlife congregates in the area during the winter—we'll hope to photograph trumpeter swans, bald eagles, elk and bison. Return to West Yellowstone for the night.

Day 6: Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center / Grand Teton National Park / Jackson
Rise early for a sunrise photo shoot on the open landscape outside West Yellowstone. Following a hearty breakfast, visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, an educational facility that houses rescued animals unable to survive in the wild for various reasons. Get close-up photos of these magnificent predators and learn how they are helping to product-test items like bear-resistant food bags, bear-proof trash cans and other items to help keep wild bears out of trouble. Leaving West Yellowstone, we drive south to Grand Teton National Park, stopping for a snowshoe outing along the way and our first views of the Teton spires. More great shots await as sunset casts alpenglow on the jagged range, providing an incomparable backdrop for wildlife such as elk, bighorn sheep and moose.

Day 7: Jackson Hole—National Elk Refuge
Our winter safari continues into Jackson Hole, the broad, open valley at the base of the Tetons, in search of bighorn sheep, bald and golden eagles, coyotes, bison, mule deer, moose and elk. Back in town, stop for lunch at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, featuring more than 5,000 pieces by 550 different artists. The American collection from the 19th and 20th centuries is particularly strong, recording European exploration of the American West. Many of these works predate photography, making them vital representations of the frontier era in U.S. history. This afternoon, board a horse-drawn sleigh to glide across the snow-covered National Elk Refuge where we get close-up photos of the massive herd that winters there, with thousands of animals roaming the valley floor.

Day 8: Jackson / Depart
After breakfast, the day is yours to explore the town of Jackson before you depart. Take the hotel's complimentary shuttle to the airport to connect with individual flights home.
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