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Safari America: Yellowstone Country

7 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices
Day 1: Bozeman, Montana
Arrive in Bozeman, an Old West town with a rich mining and trapping heritage and 40 individual properties on the National Register of Historic Places. Contemporary Bozeman, whose booming economy now features more software designers than ranchers, is home to Montana State University and offers a wide range of cultural and outdoor activities.
 
Day 2: Mammoth Hot Springs / Lamar Valley / Cooke City
Montana's legendary Rocky Mountain scenery is on display as we drive over Bozeman Pass to Livingston, then south through the Paradise Valley, following the Yellowstone River along the base of the Absaroka Range. Pointed peaks rise on either side all the way to Gardiner, where we enter Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone's unrivaled sights overlie a supervolcano, its subterranean geology shaping the park's surface in dramatic ways. Geyser basins punctuate the pine forests while boiling pools and steam vents nurture grassy meadows that fill with bison and elk, a healthy population of which have helped foster the return of wolves to the American landscape. 
 
Our first stop inside the park is Mammoth Hot Springs, where thermal water spills over white travertine terraces that have been described as a “cave turned inside out.” Strange heat-loving organisms called thermophiles live on the terraces, adding their own distinct colors to the mineral-laden evidence of deep volcanic forces. From Mammoth, we head to the Lamar Valley in the park's remote northeast corner in search of resident wildlife—wolves, bison, bears, elk, pronghorn, eagles and bighorn sheep—most active early and late in the day. Bison are prevalent along the road, and our North American Safari Trucks, with big windows and double-wide pop-top roof hatches, offer an unimpeded vantage point. Spend the night in Cooke City at the base of the Beartooth Range.
 
Day 3: Lamar Valley Wolf & Wildlife Quest 
Rising early, we set out before first light in search of wolves. As dawn illumines the Lamar Valley, our high-powered spotting scope is poised to observe wolves from a distance without disturbing their natural behavior. The valley’s rolling meadows have been the prime locus for wolf watching since these apex predators were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. Our Expedition Leaders have worked for years with researchers on site who track the packs daily, and together they provide us every opportunity to find these magnetic animals in their natural surroundings. The Lamar Valley is home to a rich array of other wildlife, too, which we expect to see even if wolves remain elusive. Later today, visit with local wildlife photographer Dan Hartman, who has spent years chronicling Yellowstone's wolves in powerful images. Dan opens his Cooke City gallery to us and shares stories of his Yellowstone adventures as we enjoy private conversation time together.
 
Day 4: Exploring Yellowstone National Park
Spend the day plumbing the park's wonders, enlightened by our naturalist Expedition Leaders. As we cross the Central Plateau, be on the lookout for large bison herds and other wildlife en route to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, a mineral-stained gash in the earth’s crust that runs 20 miles long, 4,000 feet wide and 1,200 feet deep. At overlooks above the 109-foot Upper Falls and 308-foot Lower Falls, witness where springs and steam vents have percolated through the rock walls to turn them yellow, pink, red and white over millennia. Nineteenth-century painter Thomas Moran, whose famous illustration of the canyon and falls helped drive the push to make Yellowstone a national park, claimed that “its beautiful tints were beyond the reach of human art.” Spend the night in cozy, well-appointed cabins in West Yellowstone, just outside the park boundary.
 
Day 5: Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center / Yellowstone / Yellowstone Safari Camp
This morning, visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. At this nonprofit conservation facility that offers close-up observation of wolves and bears in a natural setting, we learn about the importance of these predators to the entire Yellowstone ecosystem. These are animals that are unable to survive in the wild and serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. 
 
More park highlights are in store today including Old Faithful, Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb Geyser Basin and Lower Geyser Basin, with its Fountain Paint Pots. Exiting the park, continue into the Madison Valley and stop at Hebgen Lake, an Audubon-designated Important Bird Area where we may see sandhill cranes, herons, western grebes, white pelicans, osprey, Canada geese, mallards, wood ducks, loons, and bald and golden eagles. Skirting the Gallatin Mountains along the Wyoming/Montana border, we arrive by late afternoon at our camp in Moonlight Basin near Big Sky. Inspired by luxury African safari camps, our lakeside outpost offers exceptional seclusion in the Yellowstone wilds. With only heavy canvas to insulate us from nature beyond, we sleep in deluxe log beds inside spacious walk-in tents, with classic Western touches like antler chandeliers and Pendleton rugs that enhance the vintage ambience. Once we're settled in, we set off on a short hike with our Expedition Leader to get acquainted with the area.
 
Day 6: Yellowstone's Big Sky Region
Today is devoted to exploring this scenic corner of the Yellowstone Ecosystem, outside the park and away from crowds. Wake up to a hearty camp breakfast before setting out with our Expedition Leader for a hike in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in the Gallatin Mountains. The range provides an important part of the extensive wild lands that make up the Greater Yellowstone region, providing habitat for grizzly bears, wolves and wolverines. The terrain is typical of Yellowstone Country: grasses and sagebrush at lower altitudes, Douglas fir and Engelmann spruce higher up, and alpine tundra on the peaks. In the meadows, look for abundant elk and watch for moose in marshy areas, and keep an eye out for raptors gliding overhead. This afternoon, relax on a scenic raft float on the Gallatin River as we search for more local wildlife, including bighorn sheep in the rocky canyon. Back at camp, savor a farm-to-table dinner served in the open air, featuring specialties like local range-fed beef and fresh-caught trout. Once dusk's lingering light fades, gather around the fire under some of North America's darkest skies, with the Milky Way prominent among the canopy of stars.
 
Day 7: Bozeman / Depart
After breakfast, depart for Bozeman, following the Gallatin River north through a rugged forested canyon and out into the broad basin that holds the city. Our Yellowstone adventure concludes at the Bozeman airport. 
Map
All This Included
On this unique itinerary, experience the wonders of Yellowstone that inspired painter Thomas Moran and conservationist Teddy Roosevelt, who were moved by this striking landscape more than a century ago. The region’s volcanic geology is legendary, erupting with geysers, simmering paint pots and steaming mineral springs in psychedelic colors. A profusion of wildlife has entranced visitors since Yellowstone became the world’s first national park in 1872. Now, as then, wolves, grizzlies, elk, moose and bison traverse the open range and montane forest in the largest interaction of megafauna found in the contiguous United States. From cabins on the outskirts of the park to our luxury tented camp in the solitude of Big Sky, discover all the wonders of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
  • Accommodations
  • Meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on final day
  • Drinking water throughout the trip
  • Services of NHA Expedition Leaders and local guides
  • Airport transfer on Day 1
  • Most gratuities
  • All permits, entrance fees and taxes
Highlights
  • Experience Yellowstone Country on an exclusive itinerary featuring an Old West luxury safari camp—our base for savoring the beauty and peace of nature away from crowds
  • Guided by our naturalist Expedition Leader, witness Yellowstone's geothermal wonders, and safari in search of wolves, bears, bison and more on a broad survey of the park
  • Look for wildlife from our custom-designed North American Safari Trucks—Mercedes Sprinters with three double-wide pop-top roof hatches and large windows for viewing
Accommodations
Big Sky: Private Yellowstone Safari Camp
West Yellowstone: Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone
Bozeman: Best Western Plus GranTree Inn
Cooke City: Super 8 Cooke City
Notes
  • Group Size Limit: Approximately 14 Travelers.
  • Not Included: Travel to and from the start and end point of your trip, alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, passport and visa fees (if any), optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry and internet, etc.), airline baggage fees, airport and departure taxes (if any), optional travel protection and medical evacuation insurance.
  • 2020 dates and prices are subject to change.
  • Important Note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, our Yellowstone Safari Camp in the Big Sky region will not be operating in 2019. Our 2019 departures will stay at alternate accommodations on Days 5 & 6, though all inclusions will remain the same. Departures in 2020 will stay at the safari camp as indicated in the itinerary.
  • Physical Requirements: Easy to Moderate. This adventure does not require a high degree of physical fitness; however, in order to get the most out of your experience, you must be able to walk at least one mile unassisted on dirt trails with potentially uneven terrain and inclines, and possibly muddy or slippery surfaces, at altitudes of up to 8,400 feet above sea level. In order to view Old Faithful, you must be able to walk 300 yards over gently sloping pavement and boardwalk. To explore Yellowstone’s geothermal basins, you must be able to walk at least one-half to one mile over boardwalk, dirt trails and undulating paved paths. Depending on the location of wildlife, each day may bring several opportunities for short walks ranging from 300 yards to one mile, sometimes on well-maintained trails or pavement, sometimes on rough, uneven terrain with some inclines. Depending on our schedule and wildlife viewing, there may be an opportunity for active guests to hike up to five miles. Due to the altitude and terrain, hikes are considered moderate in terms of physical exertion. However, a fair amount of our wildlife viewing takes place from our vehicles that are selected to enhance observation opportunities. Our days generally start quite early, often before sunrise, when wildlife viewing is at its best and other visitors are at a minimum. We stress that all activities are optional.
  • Important Information About This Trip: Our Expedition Leaders, who know the Greater Yellowstone region intimately, are adept at getting our groups to less-visited areas away from the crowds. We also run our trips when the parks are less crowded, avoiding peak summer season. But, of course, Yellowstone is a very popular destination, so be prepared for a fair amount of company no matter when we travel. We operate this Rocky Mountain safari in a manner similar to our African safaris: visiting wildlife locations in the early morning when viewing opportunities are best and most tourists are still asleep.
  • Getting There & Getting Home: Arrive in Bozeman, Montana in time for a 6 pm welcome dinner and orientation, and depart any time after 1pm 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.