Our trip begins in Bozeman, Montana. We rendezvous for orientation at 9am, then set off on the two-hour drive to Yellowstone National Park. Our first stop is Mammoth Hot Springs. We stop at the visitor center, watch for the resident elk herd and get our initial glimpse of some of the park?s fascinating thermal features. This afternoon our hike leads us away from the crowds following a lesser-traveled trail through the Hoodoos, an ancient rock fall, topping off with a beautiful panoramic view of Swan Lake and the surrounding valley. While we enjoy our time on trail, our camp host is busy setting up our Signature Camp in preparation for our arrival. Once at camp, we can relax in our comfortable outdoor lounge area and sleep in spacious tents fully outfitted with cots, sleeping pads, floor coverings, lighting, and an assortment of REI camp furniture. Lunch and dinner included.
Hiking: 5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: 1,200'; Transfer: 3.5 hours.
No trip to Yellowstone would be complete without exploring the park?s fantastic geothermal features. Still considered an active volcano, Yellowstone offers a glimpse of its more volatile side in the steaming, bubbling region of the park we visit today. We begin the day with a stop at the spectacular Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the nation. The spring's brilliant rings of red, yellow, blue, green and orange are caused by microbes that live at the edges of the mineral-rich water. Later today we explore the Upper Geyser Basin, home to Old Faithful and a host of additional geysers, hot springs and fumaroles. We marvel at the crystal-clear emerald waters of Morning Glory Pool before gathering near the base of Old Faithful to watch an eruption of one of the park?s most predictable geysers. All meals included.
Hiking: 4 miles with minimal elevation gain/loss.
Today we hike along the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. As we walk above the gorge, we?re amazed by the unusual colors of the canyon?s rhyolite walls and captivated by vistas of the Yellowstone River and Yellowstone Falls below us. We also visit Artist Point and can take an optional hike down Uncle Tom?s Trail for up-close views of the thundering 308-foot Lower Falls. En route back to camp this afternoon, we pass through idyllic Hayden Valley, a prime location for spotting herds of bison grazing in the valley?s tranquil meadows. A quintessential day in Yellowstone! All meals included.
Hiking: 4?6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +300'/-1100'; Transfer: 1.5?2 hours.
We head south today toward Grand Teton National Park, its immense granite peaks visible for miles above the plains. On the first part of our multi-sport day, we hop aboard our bikes and cycle to lovely Jenny Lake, carved by glaciers and the second largest lake in the park. We have time to explore the lakeshore before jumping back on our bikes and returning to our waiting vehicle. Later, we take in the spectacular views of the South, Middle, and Grand Teton as well as Mount Moran during a scenic rafting trip down the Snake River. In addition to the awe-inspiring Teton panoramas, we watch for bald eagles, beavers, moose and bear along the riverbanks as we float by. Our time in the Tetons ends with a tasty dinner at Signal Mountain Lodge overlooking Jackson Lake. It's a perfect spot to enjoy final views of one of America?s most beautiful mountain ranges. All meals included.
Cycling: 15?18 miles; terrain: established bike trail, Elevation gain/loss: 482'; Rafting: 2.5 hour scenic float trip (Class I and II). Transfer: 4?4.5 hours.
Yellowstone is home to over 50 species of mammals including black and grizzly bear, bison, elk, pronghorn, moose and wolf. The park draws wildlife lovers from all over the world hoping to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures. We set out on a wildlife-viewing drive at dawn, aiming to reach the beautiful Lamar Valley (renowned for its density of animals) when the animals are most active. We have time to make various stops and observe any creatures we encounter interacting with their natural habitat. Later today, we hike up to nearby Trout Lake, hoping to spot otters and the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. On our way back to camp, we make a stop at Tower Falls to witness the unique rock pinnacles found above the falls and grab a treat at the general store. Additional dawn or dusk wildlife drives can be scheduled during the week based on group member interest.
Hiking: 2?3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: 200'; Transfer: 3.5 hours.
Our last hike in the park?s backcountry takes us to the summit of Mount Washburn (10,223?) for 360-degree views of Yellowstone spread out at our feet. The wide trail?s gradual ascent to the fire lookout atop the mountain and spectacular panoramas make it a great hike for the entire family. Before departing Yellowstone this afternoon, our final stop provides the perfect opportunity to experience one of the park?s hydrothermal features firsthand. We take a relaxing dip in the Boiling River, its cool current warmed to a soothing temperature by the overflow from a series of nearby hot springs. After soaking any trail grit and soreness away, we return to our waiting vehicle and transfer back to Bozeman, arriving in Bozeman by 7pm. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 7 miles, Elevation gain/loss: 1,384'; Transfer: 2.5?3.5 hours.