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Yellowstone Wolf Quest & Photo Adventure

8 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

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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 wild denizens 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 scenic Paradise Valley, with the peaks of the Gallatin and Absaroka ranges towering above us on either side. Entering Yellowstone National Park via the north entrance, we are quickly immersed in a wildlife wonderland. Scout first for bison, pronghorn, elk and bighorn sheep—but we’ll hope to spy our first wolves near here as well, as they range across the park’s entire northern reach and we sometimes see them in this area. We stop at the historic park settlement at Mammoth Hot Springs to explore the geothermal features of the area and learn about the establishment of Fort Yellowstone. Later this afternoon, we drive east across the Yellowstone's Northern Range en route to Cooke City, getting our first look at the prime wolf habitat we will explore intimately over the next several days. 

Day 3: Wildlife Photography in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley
Following an early continental breakfast, we're off to the secluded Lamar Valley on an intensive search for wolves. This remote 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 special focus, we'll also get ample coaching on how to get compelling shots of Yellowstone's other iconic wildlife. The wintry tableau makes for stunning 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 and wildlife photos. Following this exhilarating journey into the Lamar Valley, we return to our hotel for dinner and a chance to share our best images of the day with one another.

Day 4: Lamar Valley Wolf Watching / Photo Gallery Visit
Rising early once again, we return to the Lamar Valley’s isolated reaches to search for wolves. Winter is the best time to look for them, as they are readily visible against the snowy backdrop, though we will again need to employ patience in our efforts to find and photograph these elusive predators. Our Expedition Leader, who has spent years monitoring and observing the wolves of Yellowstone, enhances our experience with his in-depth knowledge of wolf behavior and the various individual wolves known to park researchers. We head back to Cooke City for lunch and a visit to the Dan Hartman Gallery, where we enjoy a slide presentation by Dan, a local naturalist and accomplished photographer whose wolf images are widely acclaimed. He'll share plenty of wildlife photography tips, as well as insightful observations about wolf behavior gleaned from spending years among them. By mid-afternoon we return to the Lamar for more wolf tracking, retreating to our comfortable lodge just outside the park once dusk falls.

Day 5: Lamar Valley Wolf Watching / Snowshoe to Wolf Den
In the gentle rays of dawn, we are back in the Lamar Valley to look for wolves. Our Expedition Leader is in touch with park researchers as we attempt to locate the packs. Though wolves are elusive creatures, we do sometimes see a whole pack at once, or a few individuals hunting together—always a special thrill. This afternoon holds a rare opportunity: an optional snowshoe hike to see the Rose Creek acclimation pen, the last remaining enclosure used to transition and acclimatize gray wolves to their new home range when they were reintroduced to the Yellowstone ecosystem in 1995. Acclimation pens were used to allow the wolves to become accustomed to the sights, smells and surroundings of their new habitat before being reintroduced to the wild. The very first pups in the park were actually conceived in this location. The Rose Creek site—center of the world's most successful reintroduction of a large carnivore species—sits above the Lamar Valley and will require a gentle two-mile round trip snowshoe hike to visit.

After more wolf watching in the Lamar late this afternoon, we return to our hotel. 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 will be a most inspiring addition to our photography adventure.

Day 6: Lamar Valley Wolf Watching
The glacially formed Lamar Valley, a wide expanse of grassland and streams in Yellowstone’s Northern Range, is North America’s best wolf-watching habitat. Wolves are drawn to this region 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 very difficult to spot, our Expedition Leaders work tirelessly to find them, remaining in constant communication with local wolf researchers to track and monitor wolf activity. We might see lone wolves or occasionally a whole 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, an exclusive opportunity awaits to survey the wolves' range from the air on a one-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 famous geyser basin surrounding the Old Faithful area. If weather permits, we may even have a scenic fly-by of the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole. 

This afternoon we 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 often the site of the very first grizzly bear emergence post-hibernation in Yellowstone. Mid-March may provide us this unique opportunity to witness the first signs of spring in the world’s first national park. Our visit to the plateau also offers the chance to photograph two different waterfalls, Undine Falls and Wraith Falls.

By late afternoon, we depart 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. We reach Bozeman once more to spend our final night. 

Day 8: Bozeman / Depart
Our Yellowstone wolf quest and photo safari concludes with a transfer to the airport to connect with flights home. 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 offers a wide range of cultural and outdoor activities.
All This Included
There's no better chance to observe wolves in the wild than on this rare immersion in their native realm. Our custom-designed wolf and wildlife photography intensive spends five full days in the best spot on the planet for viewing wolves—and, if we're lucky, capturing images of wolf packs living freely in their natural environment: the famed Lamar Valley of Yellowstone's Northern Range. Though wolves are elusive and typically seen at a distance, the wide-open expanses of the Lamar offer the best prospects for sighting them. Through the relationships we've cultivated with local scientists, wolf researchers and renowned wildlife photographers, we are able to offer this exclusive photo safari for a few privileged guests keen for an intimate encounter with Canis lupus. If you're looking for an epic Yellowstone wildlife photography adventure, this is it!
  • Accommodations
  • Meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on final day
  • Purified drinking water
  • Services of NHA Expedition Leaders and local staff
  • Airport transfer on Day 1 and a single group airport transfer on final day
  • Use of warm parkas and boots during trip
  • Most gratuities
  • All permits, entrance fees and taxes
  • Five full days of tracking wolves in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone's Northern Range—you won't find a more in-depth opportunity!
  • A scenic one-hour helicopter flight offers rare perspective on the scope of the wolves’ habitat, plus elk, bison and moose migration patterns
  • Meet local wildlife photographers and naturalists who share their expert knowledge with the group through exclusive private engagements
Bozeman: Best Western Plus GranTree Inn
Cooke City: Super 8 Cooke City
Gardiner: Yellowstone Gateway Inn
  • Group Size Limit: Approximately 12 Travelers.
  • Physical Requirements: Easy to Moderate. Tracking wolves in Yellowstone typically occurs in snowy, icy and/or wet conditions, and temperatures can be extremely cold, often dropping well below zero at night with daytime highs in the 30s. Our days generally start before sunrise and are very full with activities. Hikes and snowshoe excursions require moderate physical exertion. They range from one to three miles in length over level ground and slight inclines, though snow and ice may create rough and/or challenging terrain conditions. In order to view Old Faithful, participants must be able to walk 300 yards over icy, snowy pavement and boardwalk. To explore Yellowstone’s geothermal basins, you must be able to walk at least one-half to one mile over ice- and snow-covered boardwalk, dirt trails and pavement. If you opt to snowshoe, you must be able to go at least one-half mile. Maximum potential distance for snowshoeing is three miles. While much of our wildlife viewing takes place from our vehicles, participants should be prepared to spend extended periods of time outside in very cold temperatures. While travelers are not required to participate in all activities, if you should opt out of any of the day’s scheduled activities, we cannot guarantee that alternatives will be available. Travelers should be aware that activities in the park occur at altitudes between 4,810 and 7,380 feet. 
  • You will be met at the airport on Day 1 and transferred to the hotel to meet your group for a 6 pm orientation dinner. You are free to depart anytime on the final day.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Natural Habitat Adventures terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.