An Exclusive Winter Wildlife Expedition Deep into Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks
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Days 1 & 2: Jackson, Wyoming / National Elk Refuge / West Yellowstone
The Old West town of Jackson sits at the edge of Grand Teton National Park in the shadow of the mountain range’s jagged spires. On Day 1 of our Yellowstone wildlife tour, we meet for an informal welcome dinner and orientation. Our winter safari begins the following morning as we head out into Jackson Hole in our specialty North American Safari Trucks
with double-wide pop-top roof hatches in search of bighorn sheep, bald and golden eagles, coyotes, bison, mule deer, moose and elk. This morning, we head out by horse-drawn sleigh through the National Elk Refuge. Gliding across the snow that blankets the valley floor, our goal is close-up photos of the massive herd that winters here, with thousands of animals roaming the range. This afternoon, we head overland to West Yellowstone where we'll settle into the small town vibe and visit the Grizzly Discovery Center if time permits. This nonprofit education and conservation facility offers close-up observation of wolves and bears in a natural setting, and we learn about the importance of these predators to the entire Yellowstone ecosystem as we observe animals that are unable to survive in the wild and now serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts.
Day 3: West Yellowstone / Yellowstone National Park—Snowcoach Tour to Old Faithful
This morning, board our private snowcoach and head into America's first national 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 explore 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 encounter trumpeter swans, bald eagles, elk and bison.
Day 4: Mammoth Hot Springs / Lamar Valley / Cooke City
Back aboard our snowcoach, we head northeast through the Yellowstone’s famous geyser basins to the white limestone terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs, where we may see many elk. Our destination for the night is just outside the park's northern boundary in Cooke City, Montana. As dusk descends, an evening drive through the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone’s far northeast corner offers our first chance to search for wolves. The park is the best place in the world to view these charismatic predators, and we dedicate the next two days to finding them. Although pack movements are unpredictable, and the impact of past human interactions tends to make wolves shy in the presence of humans, our Expedition Leader is an experienced tracker, teaching us about wolf behavior and how to look for them. We are also in close contact with scientists who conduct research on wolves in the region, and they will help us locate them based on recent sightings.
Day 5: Lamar Valley Wolf Safari
A full day is ours to scout for Yellowstone's legendary wolves. Reintroduced to the park in the 1990s amid much controversy, the gray wolf was returned to this native ecosystem after a 70-year absence following a policy of government-sanctioned eradication. Since then, they have flourished, supported by bountiful prey including a multitude of elk. Yet controversy continues to surround their presence, and we learn in detail from our guides about the current conditions in which wolves exist within the greater Yellowstone area. As the wolves have restored more balance to the natural ecosystem, elk numbers have dropped, and we may not be as likely to see as many wolves as visitors did several years ago. If we are especially lucky, though, we might see a pack test an elk herd for a weak or sick animal, or spot lone individuals foraging on their own. But even if the wolves remain elusive, the winter landscape is magical, and we're sure to see plenty of other wildlife native to the park.
Day 6: Lamar Valley / Bozeman
As dawn illumines the snowy meadows of the Lamar Valley, we return once more in search of wolves. If we are fortunate to sight them, our onboard spotting scope enhances our observation of their activities from a distance without disturbing their natural behavior. Many of our Expedition Leaders have worked for years with the on-site researchers who track these wolves daily, and together they provide us every opportunity to find these intriguing animals in their natural surroundings. Returning to Mammoth Hot Springs, we leave Yellowstone’s frozen silence and continue up the Paradise Valley along the Yellowstone River to reach Bozeman for our final night.
Day 7: Bozeman / Depart
If your flight schedule permits, you may enjoy exploring Bozeman on your own today. This historic Old West/New West town, with a rich mining and trapping heritage, boasts 40 individual properties on the National Register of Historic Places. It is home to Montana State University and offers a wide range of cultural and outdoor activities.
Please note: Alternating trips run in the opposite direction, from Bozeman to Jackson.