Hidden Yellowstone Wildlife Safari
7 days with Natural Habitat Adventures Rating:
Day 1: Jackson, Wyoming
Old West Jackson sits at the edge of Grand Teton National Park. While retaining its cowboy flavor, Jackson hosts guests with panache. We spend the first night of our Yellowstone safari tour here, meeting our Expedition Leader and fellow travelers at a welcome dinner this evening.
Day 2: Grand Teton National Park—Scenic Float Trip
Nothing quite prepares you for the drama of the Grand Tetons that rear up in a row of pointed peaks from the floor of Jackson Hole. Protected forever in one of America’s most impressive national parks, the Tetons are emblems of the West’s grandeur. Grand Teton's wildlife is as magnificent as its mountains, and we may see elk, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, bison and eagles as we traverse the park today in our specialty North American Safari Trucks with double-wide pop-top roof hatches. This afternoon, float the placid Snake River beneath the Tetons’ jagged summits, looking out for moose, beavers, osprey, pelicans or even a black bear near the river’s edge. Overnight at Jackson Lake Lodge, offering a panorama across Jackson Lake to the Tetons silhouetted against the skyline.
Day 3: Oxbow Bend / Yellowstone National Park—Old Faithful
Moose are our objective this morning as we search the willow-covered bottomlands of Oxbow Bend just east of Jackson Lake. The slow-moving water provides habitat for fish that are food for other wildlife, too, and we may spy river otter, beaver, muskrat, osprey, bald eagles and American white pelicans. Entering Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, established in 1872, we get our first glimpses of the geothermal features that dot the landscape. We also learn about fire ecology as we drive through recovering areas once ravaged by wildfires. At Old Faithful there’s ample time this afternoon to see the famous geyser erupt and to walk among the fumaroles, mud pots and hot springs nearby.
Day 4: Mammoth Hot Springs / Lamar Valley / Cooke City
Yellowstone is home to some 4,000 bison, the largest land mammals in North America, which we expect to encounter today. Bighorn sheep may also be on display near Mount Washburn. We stop to explore Mammoth Hot Springs and its steaming limestone terraces before continuing to the Lamar Valley in the park’s remote northeast corner. This evening we'll take spotting scopes on a sunset search for bears and wolves. Though Yellowstone's famous gray wolves are elusive and rarely seen up close, the Lamar Valley is the best place in North America to look for them. We have the added advantage of working closely with wolf researchers in the park, who help us track them. Tonight we stay just outside the park's northern boundary in Cooke City, Montana, at the base of the glacier-scoured Beartooth Range.
Day 5: Lamar Valley Wildlife Safari
Early this morning we set out in search of wolves, grizzly bears and large herds of elk and bison in the broad meadows of the Lamar Valley. Wolves were reintroduced here to their native ecosystem amid much controversy in the 1990s. After a 70-year absence following their government-sanctioned eradication, the wolves have again flourished, supported by bountiful prey. In addition, their predatory presence has helped to right prior 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 their activities in for a closer view. The afternoon is open for a visit to the art gallery of Dan Hartman, a local wildlife photographer whose wolf images are highly renowned. Early this evening, we head back to the Lamar Valley in hopes of spotting wolves and bears before returning to Cooke City.
Day 6: Hayden Valley / Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone / Jackson
One last opportunity for wolf and bear tracking awaits in the Lamar Valley this morning. More of the park lies ahead, including Hayden Valley, a favored grazing area for large herds of bison and elk. We may also spot coyotes and bald eagles. A stop at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where Yellowstone Falls pours off a sheer cliff into a thousand-foot-deep gorge, offers the park’s most inspiring vista. We also visit more of Yellowstone's famous geyser basins, with their vivid and dynamic examples of geothermal energy on display. From bubbling mud pots to eruptions of boiling water rocketing skyward, Yellowstone’s geyser areas were one of the unique features that captivated early explorers like John Colter and Jim Bridger and prompted conservationists like Teddy Roosevelt to encourage protection of the park’s natural assets. We then follow the shores of Yellowstone Lake—the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America—en route back to Jackson, where we'll recount our adventures and say farewell over dinner at one of Jackson's fine restaurants.
Day 7: Jackson / Depart
Today, our Yellowstone safari concludes. The day is free to enjoy the town of Jackson and its many recreational activities prior to your departure. Sip a beer atop a saddle stool at the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, or ride the scenic chairlift to the summit of Snow King Mountain for a panorama of the Tetons, the National Elk Refuge and the town of Jackson below. When you're ready to depart, complimentary shuttle service is available from the hotel to the airport.
All This Included
When President Theodore Roosevelt first encountered Yellowstone's wondrous geology and abundant animals during a visit to America's first national park in 1903, he proclaimed it “absolutely unique in the world.” Embracing natural beauty as a shared social asset, he championed the idea of national parks, building a priceless legacy for generations to follow. In the northwest corner of Wyoming, two of America's most treasured parks offer an immersion in scenery and wildlife unparalleled in the Lower 48. This classic small-group safari through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons takes us into the domain of elk and bison herds, moose, coyotes, foxes, bald eagles and, of course, bears and wolves. From plains to peaks, Yellowstone Country still works strong magic.
Grand Teton National Park: Jackson Lake Lodge
Yellowstone National Park: To be determined
Cooke City: Alpine Motel
Jackson: Lexington at Jackson Hole
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