Day 1: Jackson, Wyoming
Old West Jackson sits at the edge of Grand Teton National Park. Still 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
Nothing quite prepares one for the drama of the Grand Tetons, rearing 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 emblematic of the West’s grandeur. The wildlife of Grand Teton is as magnificent as its mountains, and we may see elk, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, bison and eagles as we traverse the park today. 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 spectacular views 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 willowed 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 glimpse 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 this afternoon there’s ample time 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
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 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 beyond the park's northern edge in Cooke City, Montana, at the base of the 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 Yellowstone's Lamar Valley. Wolves were reintroduced to their native ecosystem here amid much controversy in the 1990s. After a 70-year absence following their government-sanctioned eradication, they have flourished, supported by bountiful prey. However, their predatory presence has now 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 free 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 our hotel in Cooke City.
Day 6: Hayden Valley / Yellowstone Lake / 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 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 the 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 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, Elk Refuge and town of Jackson below. When you're ready to depart, complimentary shuttle service is available from the hotel to the airport.